Video tutorial: SEO tips for hyperlocal publishers
For the Destination Local Action Research in Audience Analytics project, I've presented two online video tutorials to help hyperlocal publishers make the most of and be more strategic with their website content.
The first is on SEO, or search engine optimisation. This tutorial covers the fundamentals of on-site SEO, including effective techniques and some of the current tools/plugins available, and how hyperlocal publishers can make the most of these in order to be audience-friendly and search engine-friendly. In effect, giving your content the best chance of reaching the biggest audience possible.
Search engine optimisation is the practice of giving your content the best possible chance of being discovered by people via search engines. It’s about making sure search engines can find the content on your website, and then understand it well enough to show it to people when they’re looking for it (or something similar to it). It’s also about publishing the kind of information that people are looking for in the first place.
There are some knock-on benefits to this. Your website should be more accessible, it should provide a better user experience to readers, and you’ll also be required to think about (and serve) the needs of those readers.
In the online video tutorial below I lay out the basics of SEO for hyperlocal publishers, and below is a short summary and links to useful tools and resources.
On-site / on-page SEO
There are two aspects to this. Firstly, you need to make sure your site is set up properly, and then each time you publish a new post you should be running through a short checklist of optimisations. At the site-wide level, your website should be well-coded, mobile-friendly, with human-readable URLs. This side of things can get technical pretty quickly, but if you’re using one of the big blogging platforms like Wordpress, Blogger, or Ghost then you shouldn't have too much of a problem here.
On a day-to-day basis, you should ensure that the main subject of each of your articles is mentioned:
- in the titles;
- in the main body of the article itself; and
- in the URL.
All of this should give search engines enough guidance to understand what the article is about.
You can take this a little further. If you have images in your article then you should use the alt text webaim.org/techniques/alttext/ to describe their content. If you have embedded videos or audio then you might want to consider adding a transcript. It might not always be appropriate, but bear in mind that the more words there are on the page, the more search engines will be able to understand what the article is about.
Finally, although it’s a common journalistic practice, don’t use vague or generic terms (or punning titles). To take an example, ‘Local MP to open shopping centre’ is less likely to be found via a search engine than, ‘Caroline Parry MP to open Paramount Square Shopping Centre’.
Off-site / off-page SEO
The more links you have to your website, the more search engines will see it as being a good source of information, and something that they should show to people looking for relevant information. I won’t go into more detail on this here, except to say that you really want those links to come from good quality websites that are similar to your own. A flood of new links from poor quality sites in unrelated areas can look like you’re trying to trick search engines into seeming authoritative.
People tend to use a search engine when they’re looking for information about something in particular or have a problem that needs solving. So think of the people, places, sports teams, events, local services, and local issues that are prominent in your area. Keeping a close eye on your website analytics will show you which topics are of interest over time. Ask yourself this: Which ones are still popular long after they were published? Chances are those visits are coming from search engines. Also bear in mind that a lot of news stories are relevant for a relatively short period of time. Is there content you could create that will last for longer?
- Make sure you cover the basics - a well-coded website with articles that leave plenty of hints for search engines to understand what they’re about.
- Add content that will be relevant over time and isn’t just part of the ongoing, short-lived news cycle.
- Put yourself in the mindset of people in your area who are looking for information. How can you help them and, once they’ve found your site, how might you turn them into a regular reader?
- Use the free tools that are available. Google Search Console www.google.com/webmasters/tools/home in particular is an unsung hero. And Google Trends (.uk and .com) www.google.co.uk/trends/, and Google Trends Datastore googletrends.github.io/data/ are also great tools to understand which search terms are trending.
- Get carried away. You want to build an audience of humans, not robots.
- Get bogged down in the detail of SEO. Consistently doing the basics should be good enough to positively impact on your website and content.
Recommended tools and resources
- Use Google Search Console www.google.com/webmasters/tools/home and (to a lesser extent) Bing Webmaster Tools www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster to find out how your site is being seen by the big search engines. If there’s anything that can be improved then they’ll let you know.
- Try GTmetrix gtmetrix.com/ to see what you could do to make your website load faster.
- If you’re self-hosting Wordpress then use a plugin like Yoast SEO wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-seo/ or the All in One SEO Pack wordpress.org/plugins/all-in-one-seo-pack/ to unlock some extra features.
- For even more help and information, check out Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
You can find me on Twitter at @ChrisUnitt.