Results Take TIme, Metrics Saves Jobs. Newspaper and magazine SEO is all about the fundamentals and often like turning a battleship around in bathtub. Achieving buy-in with executives, CMS managers, associating content with keywords, training and "excitement" were reoccurring themes among this storied panel of experts. After Danny Sullivan kicked off SMX East, New York 2008, today's Moderator was Alex Bennert, In House SEO, Wall Street Journal.
Marshall Simmonds, Chief Search Strategist, The New York Times
The New York Times is a big family, including About.com Seventeen.com, TV Guide, HP, Time.com and Sports Illustrated. They have extensive experience in China. The New York Times is 100% in house. For other properties they work with, NYT provides services range from consulting, strategy, execution and support.
Marshall asks, "What stage in the life cycle" is this site, in terms of SEO. To begin there is no one size fits all approach to SEO. The New York Times had a registration wall. It all began with "sitting people in a room and teaching them about SEO, helping them understand what their role is. "Establish a knowledge and expertise base for success. Achieve buy in, which happens at the executive level. Ask , who are you, what is your core strength. Find any kind of success that they've had in the past. Case studies of competitors success is a very useful tactic.
Create An SEO Culture
Research, Google Trends, Insights, Keyword Discovery, Wordtracker, Site stats, successful and unsuccessful searches. Know the CMS quirks and languages. "Best practices may not apply. Best practices apply as in any facet of SEO. "What we're trying to do is extend beyond the confines of the New York Times" CMS. "We like to ask the questions that readers should be asking." Marshall says to give everybody the tools including analytics. He likes to create "ah ha" moments in teaching SEO.
If you're not diagnosing what the CMS does or does not do, it's going to fail. If you don't give the team fields (SEO attributes like HTML Title Tag) that need to be adjusted then you won't be able to pick off the hanging fruit. Look for the small wins to where you can turn the tide in your favor so far as getting by at the basic levels. Where you have executive buy in, you may not have the ears of the CMS folks for technical integration.
Ad networks and commerce are great places to get data to achieve systemic buy in. Branding and popularity are also benefits. Remember that the results take time and metrics saves job. Customize analytics reports for the receiver. Ultimately every CEO is going to do ego searches on Sunday over coffee. Ranking is OK to talk about but not the "be all and end all" because users might not be digging in that place.
Julie Rutherford, Marketing Director, Washington Post posed the question: "SEO Evangelists vs. Formalized Project, which delivers better bag for the buck?" Julie helps with brands such as Budget Travel, Newsweek, Slate, Sprig and other brands. They have lots of opportunities to practices SEO. They first stared SEO back in 2003. They had done some basic testing, started link building with major directories, brought in consultant to do cross-company training and started regular meetings and updates. In 05' they moved to harder projects including topics index, site maps and site structure.
Then they had to move towards a business reality of justifying SEO as a "cross disciplinary" project that required departmental evangelists. SEO requires "executive/C-level buy-in to unlock resources for heavy duty projects. She stressed that SEO is not an exact science and good business justification is required to fully move SEO through your organization. Metrics and tracking are, as always, key.
"On the ground evangelism and formalized project processes, gaining evangelists among the design, editorial, production, marketing, technology, PR and product managers are roots for SEO Success. "Marketing in our case was really the central" part of SEO success for the Washington Post team. "We had a lot of success by "really really" working with our product management groups, as regard CMS and other aspects.
Establish council or SWAT Team, get a project manager, insist on accurate reporting, enable and empower evangelists to uncover their own metrics, regular company updates with winds and metrics and reward performers. Follow up on business justification with executive buy in and provide tools/incentives for self management.
Ulli Muenker, Search Marketing Manager, BusinessWeek, spoke about launching a new SEO program and winning over editorial. She spoke of empowering and "winning" the editors and content creation folks after achieving executive buy in. from the business perspective, this is about marketing and product development, which spawns SEO efforts. The variables are product management, analytics, user experience, partnerships, marketing, technology and web design.
The first step is to get the high level buy in from editorial. Show potential traffic increase compared with competitors' and search traffic. Comparing to competitors is usually a great way to achieve buy in. Then find an SEO champion with influence over various groups/departments in editorial.
Take the time to demonstrate "the importance" and effects os SEO before and after page optimization." Look for the eye opening "wow" (second wow in this post). Step 3 is to speak the "SEO excitement" in all editorial's groups and departments. This demonstrates how their individual articles get more exposure. Show them "what's in it for them." She kept referring to word of mouth SEO buy in as "SEO fungus," LOL.
Conduct training by running regular individual and small group sessions. Use metrics to illustrate competitors' rankings and traffic. Create peer relationships to overcome skepticism and make writers knowledgeable about SEO so they become evangelists.
SEO Techniques For Editorial
Priority #1 is headlines. Editorial doesn't always know that the article headline is the title tag and therefore the listing in Google. Online headlines are different than print headlines. Main points to edit include being straightforward: no puns, sarcasm, jokes, and abbreviations. Include keywords that you want to rank for and create headlines that are fully understood on their own, without sub-headline or image.
The second priority is creating a keyword rich sub headline and copy beginning. This can also be used as the meta description. Step 3 and 4 are about creating a good internal linking structure and keyword rich copy without making it "sound dumb." Gain the editorial teams trust. You can help them get more explore in Google. Try to understand their mindset, especially a print mindset. Build relationships, set up regular training session and create excitement and buzz around SEO.
Eric Papczun, Director of Natural Search Optimization. Erik preaches a "Two-Pronged SEO Approach for Publishers"
Static Optimization Strategy means long term optimization around static local keywords. Specific audience profiles are developer for users who interact with each of the site's landing pages.
Profiles if readers and their interests drive the content mapping process, which mates each page to a targeted query. Keywords are then categorized by audience interests For instance a "sports junkie profiles," uses phrases like Cleveland Indians and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A restaurant Seeker profiles uses "Cleveland dining and finds their property, "Cleveland.com"Ask, "what keywords do my audience profiles use on the engines?"Then drill down into the subcategories like, fine dining or other niche.
Let this drive your decisions on the type of content you'll like to have out there. Think of these as "Content Magnets," which can be created to attract a specially targeted profile. Think about your sweet-spot. "Make editorial decisions on what to write, research-based and without being "too clever." Optimize headlines and tags. Use search data to validate your keyword decision and increase the "search shelf-life" of the story. Use Google trends to show the ebb and flow of cultural news interest. If the keywords remain hot, write separate stories under different URLs optimized for those keywords. This can extend your shelf-life.
Get into Google News by having original content. Keyword optimize the URL, be literal with your headlines using H tags and write balanced copy. Optimize your images and captions and keep them near the articles. Supply a frequently updated Google news feed and monitor it. (Google. prefers inline HTML 4:3 images above 12K). Keep fresh, keep constant, separate your stories into new news, breaking news and other divisions. Finally he suggested that we "own our stories."
Marty Weintraub is President of aimClear, a Duluth, Minnesota Search Marketing agency.
Quick correction, the NYT does not own "Seventeen.com, TV Guide, HP, Time.com and Sports Illustrated" those are client of our consulting group, Define Search Strategies. The New York Times does own About.com.