Search Engine Optimization
"What we’re trying to do is serve the reader, not serve an algorithm. The inverted pyramid of journalism is going to guarantee you’re going to get your keywords up high in the article anyway."
Chris Peacock, Vice President and Executive Editor, CNN/Money.com
Publishers are insatiable for search engine optimization. "It’s one of the key things for all content sites because so many people use the search engines," says Chris Peacock, vice president and executive editor, CNN/Money.com. "And while the home pages do a good job of surfacing the content that is relevant on any given day, the search engines can take users deeper into the Web site."
Peacock says he’s got one person, the director of audience development, who, among other responsibilities, is the point SEO person, acting as a liaison between the editorial, technology and business departments to standardize the prioritization of naming conventions and deployment. "The kind of people who make for very good search engine optimizers have a human Swiss army knife quality," says Peacock. "Meaning that they understand the content so they have the editorial chops.
They know the technology, so they understand how a page gets created, the structure of a Web site and how you create that structure to optimize for search, and the business development chops to create the right relationships." SEO, says Peacock, is best undertaken during the initial deployment of a site or a redesign or upgrade. "If you can frontload all our optimization ideas into a major initiative like a redesign you’ll be in much better shape than trying to graft them on after the fact," he says, and adds that SEO is not a "set it and forget it" operation. "It’s something that needs to be addressed on an ongoing basis."
Tactics and Process
"What we’re trying to do is serve the reader, not serve an algorithm," says Peacock, who adds that seeding content with relevant keywords to impact a page’s ranking on search results is counterproductive. "The inverted pyramid of journalism is going to guarantee you’re going to get your keywords up high in the article anyway," he says. Site maps aren’t just a visitor resource.
Search engine spiders crawl them to fully realize the layout of the site. Mini site maps can help, too. When constructing special sections that tie into a special magazine feature story, for example, outlining the contents of that section will help with both user and spider navigation. The robot.txt file assists the spiders in determining which pages should be crawled and which shouldn’t. Content that is user facing, such as magazine content, can be highlighted using these files to be sure it gets crawled. Conversely, content related to company info and press pages, for example, can be blocked from crawling. Reach out to other like-minded Web sites. "Look what happens in the blogosphere where there’s informal networks of sites linking to each other," says Peacock. "It creates a lift in the search rankings. Even within our companies, CNN/Money and AOL work well together sharing content and directing traffic for our mutual benefit."
Five Tactical SEO Tips
1. Dedicate a Point Person SEO lies at the juncture of editorial, IT and business roles, says Peacock. Have a full-timer at the center who has the chops to understand how each works and facilitate SEO standards between all three.
2. Strength in Numbers Reach out to like-minded Web sites to co-host content or share links. Notice how blogs link to each other, creating an informal but powerful network of sites that creates a measurable lift in search results.
3. Put the Robots to Work The robots.txt file can help facilitate how search engine spiders crawl your site by directing them to the pages you want them to crawl, and keeping them away from the ones you don’t.
4. Leverage a Site Map Site maps may be convenient for users, but search spiders use them to visualize the full depth of the site. Mini-site maps in special content sections are helpful in this regard as well.
5. Name Drop Frequently Do you have notable names writing for you? Leverage name recognition by creating an author index. Recognizable, and thus, sought after names can boost your results in a search.