To stand out in today’s online world journalists and publishers need to have a strategy that pulls in their intended target audience. Traditional journalism has had to reckon with the force of digital disruption. To compete in the current media climate journalists and publishers have to do more than increase quality and output of content.

The era of waiting on consumers to come find the news articles that interest them is behind us. These days journalists have to market their stories to their preferred audience, make their audience care and reel them in using digital content marketing tactics. One of the most commonly recommended of these strategies is called search engine optimisation (SEO).

“Search engine optimisation is the process of optimising specific website URLs to rank for keywords that users may search in search engines, such as Google. It is an online marketing strategy that focuses on getting organic traffic, rather than paying to advertise a URL in the search results,” says Janke Schreiber, SEO manager for digital marketing agency SEOPros.

The aim should be to ensure that your content is easily found or ranks higher than your competitors in searches on Google search or Google news as well as to drive more traffic to your publication. 

One way to do this is by using the right keywords. Schreiber says publishers should do keyword research and add on-page SEO elements to all their online content. But she cautions against overpopulating a page with keywords in an attempt to fool search engines.

She also advises that web developers ensure that a website is user-friendly and has a fast load time, for example by compressing large images and optimising alt text. In addition she says, “Add useful links to articles and update outdated content. Creating evergreen content is important”.

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One local newsroom which has made SEO an essential part of its strategy is The Daily Vox, a youth-focused news portal. Acting editor Fatima Moosa says the publication employs SEO as part of its strategy. “We use keywords for each piece that goes up on our website. We also make use of tags for each piece. The site is hosted on WordPress which provides assistance with ensuring SEO optimisation … We have also started using meta description.”

Moosa says the publication has seen a boost in organic traffic over the years due to these efforts. 

Do’s and don’t

Schreiber cautions against taking these shortcuts to gain an SEO advantage:

  • Do not use any ‘black hat’ SEO techniques. Slow and steady wins the race.
  • Do not copy content. Be original and add value.
  • Do not stuff a page with keywords in an attempt to fool search engines.

These are her tips for being successful at SEO:

  • Do in-depth keyword research and build your content strategy on data.
  • Optimise for the best user experience.
  • Do a competitor analysis to determine what their strengths and weaknesses are compared to yours.
  • Dedicate a specific page to a specific topic. Optimise a page only for the list of allocated or related keywords.
  • Create a content strategy that serves your audience.
  • Hire an SEO consultant to audit your website to ensure that it adheres to Google’s best practice standards.

The role of the journalist continues to evolve, but SEO is there to assist in ensuring content reaches more eyes on more devices than ever before. Publishers and media startups must take note. Ignore it at your peril.




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