How to optimize your news site • Yoast

If your website is all about news, there’s a lot you can do to optimize it for search engines (and your users in the process). In this post, I’ll address some things you need to keep in mind, specifically when optimizing your news website.

First of all, let’s be clear about the meaning of ‘news site’. If you have a construction business with a news section on your website, that isn’t a news website. It will be a lot harder to get into Google News, and your news might not be indexed as quickly as news on a website that focuses solely on news, like the Huffington Post or The Guardian. Google says this about it: “Google News is not a marketing service.” So, you’re probably better off sending your press releases elsewhere 🙂

WordPress? News SEO!

If you’re using WordPress, you’re in luck! We offer a plugin that takes care of a lot of the things mentioned in this article. The News SEO plugin for WordPress creates XML News Sitemaps, so Google knows about new articles on your site as soon as possible. It also helps you optimize some of the more advanced XML News sitemap options, like stock tickers. Be sure to get that plugin if you’re serious about your news website.

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

AMP is important for every website, but with the huge amount of people checking news on their mobile devices, you should definitely make sure it’s done right on your news site. AMP’s goal is to show articles instantly on a mobile device, instead of loading the full-blown desktop site, or all the fancy things we created in our responsive website. AMP strips all the design and fancy stuff, and focuses on delivering the main content ASAP.

AMP WordPress plugin banner

There’s a WordPress plugin by Automattic to create Accelerated Mobile Pages. Be sure to read our posts on AMP and definitely check out this post Joost did about Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for WordPress for more information about the subject.

Crawl speed

You want your news indexed and indexed fast by Google. There are several things that can help with this. You obviously optimize site speed, but also make sure that XML sitemaps are available. Note that a news sitemap isn’t like your regular XML sitemap. Google has some guidelines for that:

  • Your news sitemap can only contain news from the last two days (and articles will remain in the news index for 30 days).
  • Update your news sitemap continually with fresh articles as they’re published.
  • The limit for URLs per news sitemap is 1,000 URLs.
  • Don’t create a new sitemap per new article, but rather, update your existing sitemap.
  • Don’t use the Google Sitemap Generator to create a news sitemap. Feel free to use our News SEO plugin for that.
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More information about Google News sitemaps here.

Crawl speed will also be improved if you consistently post new articles on your news website. If Googlebot finds new stuff on your website with every crawl, it’ll come to your website more often. This also means you need to have a solid hosting server, so your website is up every time Googlebot visits your site. That very Googlebot might actually cause downtime, in case it visits your site too often and your server is crappy. Read more about fixing this here.

One more thing. If you serve excessive, unneeded content to that Googlebot, it’ll waste valuable crawl budget on less valuable pages. Optimize site structure, be sure to block unwanted pages via robots.txt or robots meta, and obviously, avoid duplicate content at all times.

Site structure of your news site

We’ve done a post on site structure for blogs, that largely applies for news websites as well. On your news website, you’ll have articles on one side, and taxonomies, like categories and tags, on the other. Be aware of that second structure, as it might be more important than your articles that come and go. Optimize these taxonomy pages to your very best effort.

Marieke told you about these steps:

  1. Evaluate your categories
  2. Add sub-categories and tags
  3. Add pagination
  4. And again: Get rid of outdated content

Read more: The site structure of a growing blog »

Update your article as news comes in

You want to publish news as soon as it finds you. Be sure to do so, and update your article during the day to make sure you keep bringing the right, current news. You don’t need to add a new article per update – in fact, please don’t. Google News wants you to keep a permanent link for your news article. What you should do, is update the title of your article, as that will tell Google your article was updated. This allows you to grow for instance a news article about an event during the event itself, so you’ll always have the latest news in the article that is already in Google News by then.

Let’s ask the expert

Martijn Scheijbeler - TNW - news website expertI asked Martijn Schreijbeler, former Director of Marketing at The Next Web, what he considered the most important thing when it comes to running a decent news website. This is what he told me:

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What makes SEO different?

“You ever wondered what makes SEO different for publishers than it is to, for example, eCommerce stores? We have the same issues as they have, increasing search traffic, making sure pages don’t have duplicate content. Although our lives are a little bit easier as we don’t have to worry about content marketing with a 15-people strong editorial team.
In our case, we have to worry even more about the speed of our users with new supporting technologies coming up, like Google AMP, Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News which all have their ways to support content on another platform.”

These are interesting times. I totally agree that it’s not just speed or structure that matters. You should always be aware that your audience uses a wide variety of apps, on multiple devices, to read your news. Martijn already mentioned a number of these, but what about Flipboard, smartwatches and Nuzzel. You have decisions to make. Do you want to serve the full article on all these apps and devices, or would you rather have people click to your website? Do you have sufficient social reach to leverage the ever growing number of apps that recommend news, based on your social followers and influencers? You just have to keep up with developments and find out what your target audience wants you to optimize for.

In conclusion

There are a lot of things to consider when you’re running a news website and want to use, for instance, Google News to the fullest. In this article we’ve told you about AMP, crawl speed, updating your titles, site structure and our News SEO plugin.

Technological developments go fast. I am sure that as soon as we all fixed AMP for our websites, something new will come along. We should always keep thinking about our websites and news sites in particular, as (speaking for myself) these are the sites we visit most on mobile devices. In a variety of apps, let me emphasize that again. It pushes us to make our websites adjust to new screen sizes, fit into new apps and make news sites blazing fast.

I hope this article will give something to think about, something to work with. As always, I am eager to learn from your experiences. Drop me a note on Twitter or leave a comment below!

Keep reading: Social Media strategy »

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