How can journalists learn SEO and why do they need to?

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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can help an article appear higher in a Google search and bring more readers to a publisher’s website. It has also become an important skill for journalists but with each publication you tackle differently, it can be hard to know what to focus on.

Some of the SEO tools and software used by news organizations are too expensive for a freelancer, but there is still a lot you can do to improve your SEO skills from home if you’re looking for the opportunities you need.

[Read more: What publishers need to know about the latest changes in Google search]

SEO journalists don’t usually write about a specific topic or area. Malvika BadenSEO journalist said to a bunch of headlines. “Anything people search for, we write about. It could be something in the news, or quick one-off searches. There’s a framework for it, but it’s very diverse.”

She adds that working with SEO can be a great way to jump-start your career because it allows you to “experiment a bit with different different topics” which can help you discover a talent or passion at a tempo that you hadn’t thought of before.

Said journalists often make great copywriters in search engines Jill Starley Grainger, journalist and chief content officer at Proof Content. She explained that as long as you understand the parameters, it’s no different than working with any other feed. The quality of writing that journalists can provide to clients helps them perform well, as readers spend more time dealing with high-quality articles.

DIY training

If you are looking to build your skills and knowledge, there are many free resources online. The Beginner’s Guide to SEO, from Moz, is a comprehensive compilation of almost everything you need to know. The first few chapters may be all you need to develop an understanding of SEO.

If you need a more practical, test-based introduction, the Digital Marketing Essentials course from Google Digital Garage is free to access as well. It is business oriented but still useful and a good introduction to SEO. If you have a budget for journalism training, take a look at NCTJ’s Journalism Skills Academy or very special search engine optimization (SEO) skills of media professionals.

Knowing the most important SEO terms and their meanings is a great place to start. In most cases, you will get a list of key phrases for you to write down or include. Keywords and key phrases are the terms that people enter into search engines.

“You need to figure out which is more important and try to create a headline around it,” Starley-Grainger says. Making headlines and subheadings SEO friendly helps pages and sites rank higher on Google and other search engines.

It’s also not about the words on the page, the links are also important. If your article page does not contain any links or other pages that the reader clicks on, it is known as a “clogged page” and you will not stand a chance of getting to the first search results page.

Search Engine Optimization Tools

Although you may not be able to access the tools that large organizations can provide, there are still free tools that will help you hone your SEO skills. Google Trends can help you discover keywords and phrases that are currently trending, while Google Keyword Planner will help you choose the right keywords if you are looking for something specific. You can also analyze keywords using tools like Ubersuggest and Answer the Public to see what people are searching for.

Keyword Sheeter is another tool that pulls a lot of Google autocompletes for any search term and helps you discover topics you might not have thought of.

Finally, there is no topic that does not have a dedicated newsletter, and SEO is no exception. Check SEO for Google News and WTF Is SEO? These are two great messages that help publishers understand the topic.

As you start your SEO journey, don’t forget the most important rule: always write for people, not search engines. Not only is that the whole point of good journalism, but Google is also quick to identify and cut back on “enhanced” content.

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