Three SEM Tips for Big Media Sites

If you’re a large media brand, your traffic, especially your search traffic, is probably high. But how’s your traffic growth? In other words, your bosses might ask: “What have you done for us lately?” Today’s column points out three tips for larger content publishers, including what they can do to increase visibility and properly utilize the assets they’ve spent years developing.

Pay Attention to the Entire Keyword Curve

If you’re in any sort of news organization (hard or soft news, entertainment, sports, etc.), your target keyword spectrum many include any of the following term types, as well as many more (note: roman type denotes an actual term, and italics denote a variable. I’ve added examples where appropriate):

  • News
  • Brand news (“wired news,” “npr news”)
  • Segment news (“sports news”)
  • Name news (“brett favre news”)
  • Name (“steve jobs”)
  • Name plus topic (“bill richardson withdraw nomination,” “mylie cyrus movie”)
  • Event/product (“detroit auto show,” “shamwow”)
  • Event/product plus topic (“iphone sales 2008,” “pushing daisies episode guide”)

And that’s just the beginning. For your particular audience, what’s the most popular synonym for “news”? Just because you’re the site owner, don’t assume you know. It could be “news,” “articles,” “updates,” even “gossip.” And that’s just “news,” which typically corresponds to text. Don’t forget “videos,” “blogs,” “podcasts,” “pictures,” and every other conceivable online micro-medium.

Get Your Content Indexed Rapidly

One reason local newspaper sites are having a hard time performing well for national and world news search is because they frequently use wire stories. A news organization using a wire story is similar to an online vendor trying to sell TVs using nothing but manufacturer catalog copy. If you don’t have something extra on your side, you’re lost.

Big media outlets have inverse challenges. All the original content and reporting in the world doesn’t help if you’re not getting your content crawled and indexed expeditiously. Original content gets search clicks only when it’s indexed.

One way to improve crawling time is a smart RSS program. Don’t judge the success or failure of your RSS feeds only by subscriber numbers and FeedBurner stats. A smart RSS program is also built around the philosophy that RSS is a tool that can dramatically speed up crawling and indexing processes.

Almost two years ago, I wrote a column detailing the ways that publishers should include RSS to enhance their visibility. Since then, the landscape has improved, but not dramatically. I still see plenty of sites with copious RSS feeds but little evidence that the database is pinging engines to come fetch the new content.

Another helpful tool for rapid crawling and indexing is the XML site map feed. Too many sites have XML feeds that are too sparse and updated too infrequently. The bottom line is that engines are coming to fetch that feed daily. What URLs have you added since the last fetch?

XML feeds are also helpful in minimizing (although not necessarily entirely avoiding) duplicate content issues. Suppose you have a story named /news/2009/c09134.asp. But due to your content management system, you have three tracking versions of that story:

  • /news/2009/c09134.asp?from=rss
  • /news/2009/c09134.asp?from=email
  • /news/2009/c09134.asp?from=feature_splash

Ensuring that only the original URL goes into the XML feed is a great way to give engines insight into what you consider the authoritative version of the URL.

Comments on Comments

In both my personal and work-related searching, I’m always impressed when I can solve a problem or find critical information from article comments left by interested, articulate readers.

Most content publishers now understand that posting a new URL is not the end of the publishing process for the content, but the beginning. Social-media sharing links and comment boxes, for example, are now de rigueur for publishers of all sizes. But exactly where the comments reside is still a contentious issue, one in which user experience and finance often butt heads.

From a monetization perspective, there’s a chicken/egg argument here that is almost two decades old. Publishers earning revenue on a CPM (define) model want to maximize page views, so putting the comments on a separate URL, as the does works toward that goal. But if your readership is particularly intelligent (like the Economist’s is), the algorithmic benefits of intelligent comments will eventually drive more traffic to the article in the first place and keep your visitors happier too. If you’re TMZ, on the other hand, your mileage may vary.

Ensure that your comments have a dedicated RSS feed so your readers’ input can be crawled and associated with the article’s URL as quickly as possible. And don’t forget to ping.


I have another three tips, including a primer on interior linking, for a subsequent column. I also invite you to share any questions or suggested topics in the comment section below.

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