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The future of news from experts in the industry

SES LogoThe show was immense and the experts were out in full force, so I’m going to go out on a limb to state that the best, most informative session at Search Engine Strategies San Francisco 2010 was “News Search Optimization.”  Moderated by Newsforce CMO Dana Todd, the panel included Brent Payne, SEO director at Tribune; Topher Kohan, SEO manager at CNN; Eleanor Hong, lead editor, SEO at; and Allison Fabella, SEO and social media manager at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  News, as we know, is changing and agile communications companies are recognizing the need to optimize their content for search and social, local reach and mobile platforms.

The resounding opinion of the panel was to address any SEO issues you may have so that you leverage the full potential of your historical content.  That means reviewing analytics to see what worked in the past, checking free tools such as Google Analytics or Yahoo! Web Analytics, or paid tools such as Omniture or Webtrends.  Depending on how content is created, it may also mean working with editorial teams to ensure steps are being taken in the workflow of content-authoring to strategically formulate titles, embed links and optimize multimedia.  Everyone on the panel agreed that involving editorial team members in monitoring is a great way to foster a strong workflow that includes SEO.

Success in SEO comes down to popularity, authority and relevancy.  That said, there are several ways to rank news stories in search engines:

  • Local to source: search engines prefer to serve local search results
  • Freshness: timely news is becoming increasingly important
  • Quality or trustworthiness: authority of your company or website
  • Reader preference: search engines consider user behavior when serving personalized results
  • Citation: original source attribution (which sometimes is not 100% accurate)

The key to building long-term SEO success is through content creation and backlinking.  But how do you create quality backlinks that pass authority to your website’s relevant pages?

  • Send press releases for your news and embed links to relevant content on your website.
  • Start a corporate blog and link to internal pages on your website.
  • Share your news on sites and encourage others to share as well.

The results can be phenomenal:

  • can generate more than 19,000 links in less than an hour for popular stories, even a less impactful story can create up to 57 links in 24 hours.
  • Getting celebrities like Alyssa Milano to share content on Twitter resulted in 512 inbound links in 24 hours for a story Brent Payne posted

But all of the best practice advice up to this point is common knowledge.  What about the future?  Topher Kohan from CNN broke down his own SEO strategy into the following:

Things to try now:

  • User experience optimization: Apply across your website and with each piece of content you create. Search engines use web analytics metrics, such as bounce rate, to gauge relative content quality.
  • Video content: Insert within a standalone video player or, better yet, wrapped in the context of an article for better indexing across content types. Article-embedded videos that rank on search results pages will yield higher article views.
  • Multimedia sitemaps: They’re not just for web pages anymore. Include news articles in news sitemaps, include images in your sitemaps and video in video sitemaps.

Things to try soon (4-8 months):

  • Semantic markup:  Microformats will set you free.
  • User-generated content: Example: outranked all the major news networks for the first 90 minutes after a plane crash occurred in Texas.

Try later (1 year):

  • HTML5: This enhanced version of HTML should unite video formats across the board within the next year, provided all browser developers get on board.
  • Yahoo and Bing are merging and will represent between 10-12% of online traffic
  • Testing: You must test to ensure you (at minimum) keep up with your competitors

Search Engine Strategies San Francisco was a great show, with lots of great actionable insight.  Stay tuned to the Marketwire blog for more in the coming weeks.

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