Follow this simple but effective tip from GateHouse Media’s search expert to win in SEO

Name: David Stone

Title: Senior Manager, Search Strategy and Content Distribution, GateHouse Media

Tell us a little about your background and what you do in your current role:

I work for Gatehouse Media and I’m the Senior Manager, Search Strategy and Content Distribution. I build and execute the SEO game plan that informs our technology and editorial teams on how to best optimize content for search engines.

Why is SEO so important for news organizations today?

Search engines have been one of the top channels to distribute content online for a long time. With social numbers softening, a lot of publishers are looking to search for growth. Also, because of the high user intent you’ll often see higher percentages of new users and pageviews per session. I think it’s a more valuable click.

Do you believe that more dependency on search and less on referrals like social media, is healthier for media companies?

I believe media companies should always build a site so amazing, that people find it and want to come back to it. Building your digital platform on quality content, great UX and speed.  With that said, we will always be looking for other distribution channels, Social and Search are still two of the biggest.  What we shouldn’t do is get the idea that it’s free lunch, because there’s no such thing.  We must ask ourselves, what are doing with that click, to get that user into our digital ecosystem?

Is there is a single best practice news organizations should put into place around SEO? If so, could you give us an example on how to do that?

Write headlines/page titles for what people are searching for. It’s simple but it still matters to Google.

People search for literal and descriptive text in Google, not editorialized headlines. It’s so easy and yet difficult to operationalize. If you’ve been writing newspaper headlines for print for 10 years, it’s a hard switch to make.

The best part of my job is to work with newsrooms and change one or two words in a headline, then report the improved search rankings and traffic after. It feels like a magic.

What are newspaper readers searching for online?

For our business, users search people, places and things.  What happened or what’s the thing?  Who did it or who did it happen to? And where did it happen?

How can SEO strategies be used to help news organizations during breaking news events?

Be first, be fast and apply SEO best practices. For a big breaking news event, Google knows you’re a local authority.  If you can get out in front of competitors, you can be there when the search volume jumps up.