Most journalists now work for organisations that have a digital presence and thus publish their work online, either themselves or with the help of the digital desk. Traffic numbers are being looked at as performance indicators by the organisations or journalists often are pretty interested in knowing how their stories perform online.

For the digital desk, more so if there’s a breaking news desk, real-time analytics, such as either the popular free tool Google Analytics or  a paid ones such as Chartbeat, are essential to decide on whether a story needs continued play or needs to be relegated to lower section of the landing pages. If traffic is slipping, tweaking of the headline and teaser text helps bring the story back in play. That is SEO, but not quite.

Traffic from search engines, is considered the “healthiest”. Search engine traffic often display far better time spent of the page and less bounce rate, thus making the overall traffic figures look better.  Social Media platforms being the other channel that drives traffic. In the Indian context at least, Google News continues to play an important in the news teams efforts. If real-time analytics is relied on for the placement of stories, especially in landing pages (home page or section pages), the article is likely to get better direct traffic as well.

Tweaking the headlines, giving keywords since Google News still expects keywords, and tweaking the headlines are done routinely and for top stories probably more than once. These editorial chores are equally common in print, for instance, albeit for different reasons. Nevertheless, these common tasks sometimes is viewed with exasperation by the desk. The exasperation is not wholly unjustified. If the search engine behaves consistently to their inventions then I’m many would glad undertake such tweaks.

SEO can be almost as real-time as analytics, but journalists can largely keep an eye on analytics dashboards rather than something like this:

The SEO folks should keep an eye on sensor like this and take step to ensure there is no negative impact on traffic because of tectonic algorithmic shifts in search engines (read Google).

What that also means is SEO is not set in stone.  It also means that processes that newsrooms evolve to have SEO Editorial synergies will also change or evolve. Synergy should mean that a story that is published has a fair chance to thriving online.

There are some quick and simple rules that can easily implemented by the desk. For example:

The headline of a story is often is of the Title of the page, especially in the full article page. Often the full headline is given when the story is published. So the opportunity to “optimise” it for SEO is possible. Many news sites have restricted opportunities for the full headline to be shown, so a short version of the headline is displayed. I haven’t seen or heard of any negative impact from such a process, except murmurs by the desk that they have to give two headlines each time a story has to be published. The justification of it is, landing page click throughs are largely from human beings, which means an attractive headline helps. The article headline is the one that appears in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), which thus must be a good job, for posterity.

The prevail recommendation for titles is:

Title:
Maximum length: 60 characters or 575 pixels
Minimum length: 30 characters or 285 pixels

Organic Results:
Average title length: 50.19 characters
Average description length: 154.86 characters

The hardline format would be:
Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | News Org Name
That’s probably possible for a landing page, but I don’t see how that will work for a article page. Nevertheless, it is here just to give a sense of what is expected. The more important keyword should be towards the left the beginning of the headline.
Meta descriptions are usually the teaser text of the story. The recommended size is between 430 and 920 pixels (approximately 70  charters and 155 characters). But 117 characters works best for mobile phone users.
Keywords are important too, despite Google Search not using them. Nevertheless, since Google News use them, it helps to use the meta keyword functionality. Some news organisations have stopped using them, which can be the direction in which things might be headed. The concern though is that keywords often are used interchangeably as tags. This can and should have severe implications  SEO.