Tag Archives: technology

SEO for Journalists: How to Increase Visibility to Your Stories Naturally

SEO for journalists demystified: Learn everything you need to know about how to increase visibility to your online articles and more in this informative blog by Katie-Leigh Corder on SPJ.As journalists, we are expected to adapt to many different and rapidly changing technologies and techniques in order to increase views, shares, clicks, etc. which attract users to our online articles and websites. At the same time, journalists don’t want to fall into the ‘clickbait trap.’ Still, journalists need to prove that their articles are engaging readers, and that’s where search engine optimization (SEO) can help.

What is SEO?

Think of SEO as free visibility for your site if you do it right. Many people assume SEO is purely marketing or ‘robotic’ writing and doesn’t relate to what they’re trying to accomplish with their online presence; however, that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.

According to Internet Live Stats, “Google now processes over 40,000 search queries every second on average (visualize them here), which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide.”

Knowing that people are increasingly searching for practically everything on search engines, how can you become more involved and benefit from these searches? How can you dive into this technical world of optimizing your content while keeping your journalistic ethics in check?

Here are the main areas of SEO in which every journalist should have a basic knowledge so they can implement in their online stories:

Keywords

One of the most important areas of SEO involve keywords and queries—basically what people are searching for and how popular those searches are in search engines. Let’s say you live close to Pueblo, CO, and wrote a news article about a developing wildfire. Obviously, you want people to read your article especially since other local outlets will be ‘competing’ to break the story first. To increase your chances of visibility and higher ranking in search results, you’ll want to conduct keyword research.

Not so long ago, Google had a really awesome, free tool called Keyword Planner that gave you the average monthly searches of keywords; however, instead of an exact number, such as an 170 average monthly search volume, it now gives you a range, such as between 100–10,000—that are ultimately useless for our purposes here. Because of this, I would recommend using limited, free tools or biting the bullet and purchasing an account with Moz or other sites that include keyword research capabilities.

The goal of keyword research is to understand how many people are searching for keywords that are related to your article’s topic. The higher the searches and lower the competition, the more likely your article will receive better visibility and visits. Other tools involve typing in queries in Google and seeing what Google suggests under your search as well as related searches near the bottom of the first page of the search engine results page.

You can find more specific queries people are searching for—called longtail keywords—through Ubersuggest and Answer the Public; sites that are really helpful in determinning what people are searching for.

After choosing a keyword or two that people are researching, then you can move forward to the next section.

On-Page Optimization

Learn everything you need to know about on-page optimization for the pages on your site to increase visibility to them with this awesome infographic from Moz.
Image from: https://moz.com/learn/seo/on-page-factors.

After writing a great article and conducting keyword research, you want to make sure all of your hard work doesn’t go to waste. By inserting those keywords into certain areas on the back-end of the page, you are following the main ‘rules’ of SEO. Here are the seven areas of a page you should focus your SEO efforts on:

  1. Headline
    First and foremost, the page title of a news article is very important. Not only must you engage users to click on your article, but you must make sure it accurately represents the presented information. It should also include keywords that will increase its ranking in search engine results. But it’s easier than you think.After determining your keywords you can simply plop them as close to the beginning of the headline as possible. For example, let’s say ‘Pueblo Wildfire’ is a trending and breaking news story. People around the area and in the state are searching for ‘Pueblo wildfire’ to stay up-to-date with developments. One way you could approach this is by including ‘Pueblo Wildfire’ into the forefront of your engaging title: Pueblo Wildfire Consumes X Acreage in Less Than a Day.
  2. URL
    Not only should the URL be short and concise, but you should place your main keyword into the URL, as well. For example, using the keyword from above, you could create a custom URL such as: domain.com/pueblo-wildfire-acreage. Mind you, your site may default to adding category names, tags, and/or dates in front of the customization; however, Google has dropped the requirement for news articles to contain numbers in their URLs.
  3. Meta-Title
    Meta-title (aka page title) and headline are sometimes interchanged with one another. The meta-title refers to the title that a user will see if he or she hovers the mouse over the page’s tab, as we can see in the example below:
    This is where you can see a page's meta-title if you hover over the page's tab in your browser.Like the page title, you’ll want to include your keyword near the beginning of the meta-title. Also, you’ll want to include branding in it, such as the example above (usually found at the end of your meta-title): “KRDO.com | …”This is what your meta-title will show up in a Google search results page, using the same example from above:This is what your page's meta-title will look like in search results.There are character limits you should follow. According to Moz, “Google typically displays the first 50–60 characters of a title tag, or as many characters as will fit into a 512-pixel display. If you keep your titles under 55 characters, you can expect at least 95% of your titles to display properly.”
  4. Meta-Description
    Another item to focus on is the meta-description, or the brief description that shows up underneath URLs in search results:This is what your page's meta-description will look like in search results.Include keywords in the description but acknowledge these are most useful for click-through rates, so you’ll want to include between 150–160 characters and make it as unique and descriptive of the page as possible, see Moz for more details.
  5. Images
    In addition to correctly sized images for social-media purposes and showcasing an interesting visual, you’ll want to make sure two elements behind the image are included: the title and alternative tags:

    • Title Tag
      The title tag isn’t important for SEO purposes, but if a user Pins the image then the title tag will—most of the time—fill the description text area. Also, including a title tag ensures your page is Section 508 compliant for those that use screen readers, or if the image doesn’t load correctly, then that text will still show up to describe the image.
    • Alt Tag
      The part of the image that IS crawled by search engine bots is the alternative tag (alt tag). YYou’ll want to ensure your keywords are included in this tag along with an accurate, natural-sounding description of the image—write as a human, not as a bot. Your images will stand a better chance of showing up in image search results, as well.
  6. Body Text
    Ensure your researched keywords are included within the body text of your article, as well. You’ll want to write as you normally do, but include the keywords a few times throughout your content, which is necessary to increase visibility to your article.
  7. Tagging and Categories
    If the site you’re contributing to is a large site or has lots of past articles, then it’ll probably have a variety of tags or categories to help with organization and search. The tags and categories you choose to better describe your article will help define the URL at times as well as where it is within the site. This also helps with SEO as it gives a better idea of the covered topics in your article.

Sharing

After completing your research, refining your article with keywords, adding engaging images and titles, and publishing it, you’re ready to share it on your site’s social media accounts! Ideally, users will click on the article, engage with others—and not try to bite each other’s’ heads off, and, most importantly, share it on their walls for others to interact with. You’re increasing the visibility of the article and the company’s brand, which is a great indicator that people are visiting your article to read about that certain topic.

Linking

  • External Linking (link building)
    Google will see your site as reliable and trustworthy if other equally trustworthy sites link to you. Think of it as a vote of confidence … one that will increase your site’s rank and visibility.Using the Pueblo wildfire as an example, you write an article with great stats, interviews with locals and professionals, and included great visuals. You use highly searched for keywords, include an engaging title, and share it on social media. Now let’s say another reporter who works at a media outlet farther away from the wildfire wants to write about it, as well, and loves your article. The reporter decides to link to your article from his/her article to give a more localized feel for his/her article.With more external sites linking to pages on your site, Google will see you as a trustworthy source and move your page up in rankings for certain queries.
  • Internal Linking
    Another way to increase visibility to the pages on your site—and to make it easier for Google to crawl your site—is to link to other, already published pages within your site that are relevant to the page you are working on.Let’s say there was a past wildfire in your community that you reported on a while back, and you want to reference it in your story about the current wildfire, so you bring up the past wildfire and link to it. This allows users to not only learn more about wildfires in the area, but allows Google to crawl your site better and give ‘SEO juice’ to both your current and past wildfire articles.

The number one factor in ranking and visibility is the quality of your content. Make sure your content is accurate, sounds natural, and doesn’t lead your audience on.

You don’t have to be a SEO expert to implement these strategies into your online content, and the more you practice these tactics, the easier and more natural they’ll become. At the same time, as technology and online methods continue to evolve so will SEO. It’s a good idea to stay up-to-date with where SEO is going to ensure your efforts are paying off (see my earlier post about the best sites to follow for SEO and other technical updates).

Learn everything you need to know to get started with SEO in Moz’s beginner’s guide to SEO.

This blog post was originally published in the Society of Professional Journalists’ First Draft blog network.

Attribution of top image: By Periodicoelcolombiano (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

6 Low- to No-Cost Ways to Learn New or Improve Existing Skills

This post was published on First Draft, the Society of Professional Journalist’s Generation J’s Committee blog: blogs.spjnetwork.org/genj/2016/09/12/low-to-no-cost-ways-to-learn-tech-skills/

Education never ends for journalists especially those on the techy side. Understanding trendy technologies,  social sites, and learning new, necessary skills are all part of the job.
If you're looking for ways to learn how to use new technologies, then you'll love the blog post, 6 Low- to No-Cost Ways to Learn New or Improve Existing Skills.
But learning new or improving existing skills can be really expensive, right? Not if you know who to follow, what to learn, and how to find such opportunities:

  1. Stay-up-to-date with the latest technology and media news.

    By keeping up with the latest tech news and state of the media, then you’re less likely to be caught by surprise. One way to do this is by maintaining a semi-active Twitter presence and following related companies on LinkedIn to see most recent updates. There are many amazing sites that report on new technologies or the state of the media that you should follow. Here’s my take on four of the best media and tech news sites every digital journalist should know.

  2. Day-long workshops.

    Society of Professional Journalist's Journcamps.

    If you’re looking for a full day of training in the latest trends and technologies in journalism then you’ll love Society of Professional Journalists’ JournCamps. These events start with all of the attendees listening to a broad and relevant topic or issue in the media world. Afterwards, there are a total of four breakout sessions throughout the day where you can choose two sessions to take that cover specific topics.

    The Online News Association offers free sessions in their ONACamps, and check out the National Council for the Training of Journalistsresources, as well.

    Attending such low-cost workshops with top-of-the-line media experts is an amazing deal and experience.

  3. Volunteering increases your chances at finding a job. Learn why journalists should volunteer their skills to nonprofits.

  4. Volunteer your skills.

    Did you know those who are unemployed and volunteer have a 27% better chance of finding a job versus those who don’t? This is one of the many positives of volunteering your journalistic skills to a nonprofit whose mission you believe in. Not only does it allow you to learn new skills and become more experienced in existing ones, but you’ll also increase your network and improve your overall health.

  5. Free or low-cost apps for your smartphone.

    Smartphones are becoming more and more vital in the reporting world from professional lenses to video production applications. Practicing with such apps can definitely increase your expertise with them;Smartphone journalism requires knowledge of useful apps and more. if you’re reporting from the field and catching real-time video, you’ll be ahead of the curve. One of the free video apps for Android is KineMaster, which basically gives you a condensed production studio on your phone—from filming, planning, editing and publishing.

    Check out other top Android video editing apps recommended here. If you’re an iPhone user, check out some of your recommended video apps here.

  6. Online training in specific skills.

    Moz logo.
    Along with keeping up with the latest trends and news, finding sites that specifically train you in a desired skill are bountiful and extremely useful:

    • Moz offers countless trainings and blog posts about search engine optimization (SEO) and social. Diving into the SEO and understanding how it interconnects with other areas of a website is a very technical skill to undertake, but will vastly increase your knowledge and make you more competitive. Not only will you learn how SEO relates to a website and user interest, but you’ll have a deeper understanding of how the entire Web is connected.
    Google News Lab logo.
    • From teaching yourself HTML to C++, you’ll find it all in free coding sites, such as Codeacademy. Learning such skills will help you be more competitive and worldly in your skills. Here’s a great blog post about “45 of The Best Places to Learn to Code for Free” if you are looking for other sites.

    Google provides excellent training resources for its tools, and you can become certified in some of them (I recommend the Google Analytics one). Every journalist should know the basics of Google Analytics and be able to translate the metrics; however, some Google tools depend on what types of skills you want to learn. For example, Google recently developed Google News Lab, which includes various tools for journalists, such as Google Trends.

    adobe-tv-logo

    • If you want to create interactives or other types of visuals and have access to Adobe programs, then check out Adobe’s awesome training videos! Understanding widely used Adobe programs such as Premiere Pro and Photoshop, is extremely useful for any type of journalist. Check out the training videos here. Also, if you’re still a student, or still have access to your student email, then you can register for the student and teacher rate for only $19.99 a month for The All Apps Plan.

  7. Curriculum being taught at top journalism schools.

    What courses are future journalists being taught in the top journalism schools? Keep an eye on what courses are leaving, staying, or going and then compare it to new technologies, trends, and events. From there, you can decide if you should train in specific areas. When I entered UNC-Chapel Hill’s journalism school, the sequences changed to more technical ones. Instead of following news writing as was my original plan, I chose the ever-changing world of multimedia and learned numerous technical skills.

It’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies and the state of the media, but it can feel overwhelming at times; however, you’ll discover the types of training and frequency that fit your desires and schedules throughout your career.

First image at top from Jeremy Keith (Flickr: Device pile) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Embrace the Evolution of Digital Journalism

Why journalists should embrace technological changes and adapt to them without frustrations.

Newspapers are dying. Clicks are a must. Sensationalize headlines. Cause a media frenzy on Twitter.

From the start of the printing press to drones and virtual reality, it’s evident through history—printing press, telegraph, phones, TVs, computers, social media, etc.—that technology dictates the format of and access to news.

Earlier this month, Pew Research Center published an article on “5 Key Takeaways About the State of the News Media in 2016,” and the following stats reveal how quick and unpredictable technology is in the world of journalism (I mean, who saw podcasts coming back in full swing?):

  1. “2015 was perhaps the worst year for newspapers since the Great Recession and its immediate aftermath. Daily circulation fell by 7%, the most since 2010, while advertising revenue at publicly traded newspaper companies fell by 8%, the most since 2009. At the same time, newsroom staffing fell by 10% in 2014, the last year for which data were available.”
    Besides being scored as having one of the worst career outlook, newspaper reporters are struggling not only to make end’s meat in new advertising strategies and dealing with the ongoing ad blocking fiasco, but they’re also trying to adapt to new formats, keep pace with a highly adaptable audience, and beat out other publishing companies in terms of acquiring clicks, engagement, and other areas. It’s a boxing match with one side having the upper hand … and, unfortunately, it’s not the newspaper world at this current moment. But, as podcasts came, went, and are returning, I wouldn’t be surprised if print and newspapers will one day do the same.
  2. “Digital ad spending went up 20% last year, and mobile advertising now tops desktop, but journalism organizations have not been the primary beneficiaries. There was explosive growth in mobile advertising, which increased by 65%…”
    If you don’t have the clicks and impressions to prove that your site is attracting users, then how do you convince advertisers that it’s worth purchasing ad space? Along with the (above mentioned) issue of ad-blockers, this is a troubling area in the journalism world. Instead of directing frustrations at ad blockers and their users, there may be a solution that doesn’t punish users who use these legal apps in order to control their personal browsing experience.
  3. “Local television news revenue is relatively steady at $18.6 billion – at least for now.” 
  4. “Driven in part by a highly competitive presidential primary season, cable news saw its viewership jump 8%, to an average of 3.1 million viewers in prime time.”
    Local politics and community impact a person more than state or national issues—even though voter turnout at local elections is depressing—so the above stat on local TV news isn’t a huge surprise; however, the cable subscriptions continue to decrease with one in seven Americans becoming “cord-cutters” especially among those under 30.
  5. “Podcasting continues to experience audience growth–though this includes both those podcasts focused on news and those looking at other subjects. About one-in-five U.S. adults ages 12 or older (21%) listened to some kind of podcast in the past month, up from 12% six years ago, and 36% have ever listened to a podcast, up from 23% in 2010.”
    This is the format that surprised me. Podcasting was the ‘thing’ years ago, and then the media type slowly faded, but now they are back at what seems like full force!


    Image above from: buzzsprout.com/learn/what-is-a-podcast

    I recently started listening to podcasts and see the immense benefit of listening to various interests—in my case true crime and comedy…weird combo, right? I’m very curious to see how podcasts fair in reporting breaking news stories.


Those in both digital and traditional media discuss how to break into this insane, fast-paced online journalism world all the time. It seems that in order to be successful, one must acquire every single digital skill out there, such as web design/development, interactivity, search engine optimization (SEO), and others. I’ll share my story as I went from a news reporter intern at my hometown’s local paper to a SEO and social media specialist at an eCommerce and niche interests company:

From early on in high school, I wanted to be a news reporter, specifically an investigative reporter. I was on my school’s newspaper for three years and was editor for two and had the opportunity to intern at the local newspaper, The State Port Pilot, before attending the University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism.

When I was accepted into the school my sophomore year, they had completely revamped the sequences and curriculum. Originally, I was on the news writing track, but I changed to—what may have been one of the best decisions of my life—to the multimedia track. Before entering this field, I had rarely touched a video camera and was a novice at coding and social media. In the School, we were required to take news writing and editing classes as well as ethics and media law classes, which should be a requirement for all professional journalists to take.

Needless to say, taking the multimedia track introduced me, and my fellow now-alumni, to the world of videography, graphic design, interactive web design and development, Adobe Flash—which I’m quite glad is slowly disappearing into oblivion—and photography. Now imagine taking all of these different skills, and compiling them together into a real, interactive user experience—you wouldn’t necessarily want to compile all of these various components together as it would overload the user, but you know what I mean. My mind opened from merely writing and taking still photographs, to exploring the digital world and seeing what type of medium best fits a story (video, photos, only writing, etc.).

Regardless, I learned basic and intermediate skills needed to be a novice; however, nothing prepares one for real-world projects and demands. My first gig was at the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development where I was a contractor in communications. This position introduced me to the intriguing world of STEM journalism. From producing videos on air, climate and energy research to soaring in web development and management, I found my strengths and weaknesses: Coding and video had become more natural to me, yet writing—the very thing I set out to do in life—was my weakest point. It took me a while to accept this self-realization but, looking back now, it almost seems fit.

From there, I dived deeper into coding by becoming the Web Managing Editor for Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society and its award-winning magazine, American Scientist—check them out: They have actual, long-form science that’s still science and not Buzzfeed ‘science!’ From there, I learned more content management skills, taught myself the basics of animation, improved my skills in videography, and became well-trained in social media. But I wanted more technology, more in-depth coding, more analyses…

That’s how I found my current gig at F+W Media as a SEO Development Specialist, which required a cross-country move from NC to Colorado with my husband, cat, betta fish, about 10 houseplants, and some tedious-to-move items. Now I know—and continue to learn—the ins-and-outs of SEO, structure of websites, Google tools, and analytical technology.

When I look back on my life, I’ll always remember how the historical change of technology affected where I wounded up. College assisted me immensely by introducing me to the world of digital journalism—as well as a slap in the face in terms of how unmerciful technology, online comments, and viewers can be; however, real-world experiences and finding the motivation to teach myself various areas that would help me along in my career were most rewarding.

In the end, you have to be flexible and accepting of current and upcoming technologies. Technology won’t adapt to you, and users won’t wait for you to catch up with their expectations of technology. Only YOU can read through coding books, websites, and stay up-to-date with current technological trends and how they will affect the way we report stories and events. And, honestly, I think that’s the biggest issue today in media: Journalists must be comfortable in adapting to and adding new technologies to their repertoire, and they should be optimistic in doing so. It gives us journalists the opportunity to hit our stories home in new, maybe even better, ways that really touch the emotions and discussions of users and readers everywhere.

*Photo used in header from: haylena.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/old-school-or-new-traditional-vs-online-journalism/