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From the Editor’s Desk: SEO for journalists

Whether you’re writing a journalistic piece, a press release or a blog article, search engine optimization – aka, SEO – has become an important element for any online content. You not only have to choose your words carefully, but you also have to place them with an equal amount of consideration so that search engines pick up on those keywords and rank them accordingly.

I’ll save the technicalities for another day (or take a look at my visual interpretation). Instead, here are a few SEO best practices for journalists and PR pros:

  1. Include your keywords in the title and title tag, if possible.
    Your headline is the first thing that search engines look at to determine relevancy. If your article is “tips for traveling to Europe with children,” that could be a title in and of itself. Certain root keywords – like “travel,” “jobs” and “recipes” – are hard to rank for if used by themselves because so many other websites want to rank for the same keywords. Try to be as specific as possible in order to lessen the chance of your competitors appearing on the same search results. 
  2. Include your keywords in the ALT-Tag of images.
    For SEO, images can function just like words, so it’s in your best interest to make them searchable and associate them with the same keywords that you inserted in your headline (if applicable). Another added benefit:  ALT-Tags will indicate those keywords in case the image fails to load properly. Keeping with the example above, if you included a photograph with you copy, be sure the ALT tag of your photo is descriptive and keyword-relevant. Instead of “filename123.jpg,” a more effective alternative might be “family vacation Venice Italy.”
  3. When location is a primary consideration, insert keywords and include links that are specific to that area.
    Any location-specific content should be reflected in the keywords for your article or release in order to maintain the integrity of your SEO tactics and to increase your chances that your content will be found in search results. Let’s say you’re writing a review on a new hotel. The Los Angeles location just opened and the corporate headquarters is in New York. Which location do you use as a keyword? For SEO purposes, you use “Los Angeles” (to be exact, “new Los Angeles hotel”) simply because that’s what your article is focusing on and that’s what your readers will search for. The same goes for phone numbers, addresses and any other location-specific information.
  4. Turn your keywords into anchor text for links.
    Throughout your article, sprinkle your keywords, but make them link-able to enhance SEO. 
  5. Make your content shareable.
    Search engines also pay attention to how shareable your content is:  Links, tabs, icons and buttons that lead your readers to further engagement with them.

No matter what your content is about, writing with good SEO practices will help your articles to be found by new readers and ranked within search engine results. SEO and good writing often go hand-in-hand anyway. Many journalists already have an affinity for SEO because they write with keywords and phrases in mind. But they also have to concentrate on the “focal points” of their story to maintain relevancy for the audiences that they write for. The science of SEO can only take content so far; it’s got to be a good story that is of interest to your target audiences for it to be effective and meaningful to them. So, write for SEO, but always keep the reader in mind.

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