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#Tip: Some background reading on SEO for mobile

February 24th, 2014 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists, Traffic

If your news outlet is thinking about ways to tailor its search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy for mobile, this post on Search Engine Watch on six top tips for producing successful SEO for mobile is a good place to start. The content is geared towards the retail sector, but the lessons are still valid for others to consider.

If you want to look into the subject in more depth it’s also worth taking a look at this post by mobile marketing experts mobiThinking‘s on the best mobile SEO practices to drive traffic to your mobile site. It gives special focus to considering how mobile SEO is different, before giving tips on making it local, social and fast.

If you’re more of a visual learner there’s also a handy video from Hubshout on how to conquer mobile SEO.

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#Tip: Study finds headlines with 60 to 100 characters perform best

August 12th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists, Traffic


Outbrain, a content recommendation service, has analysed how headline length impacts engagement and has found that headlines with between 60 and 100 characters get the most click throughs. (It is worth noting that this study looks at paid links.)

Outbrain, which acquired analytics platform Visual Revenue earlier this year, analysed eight months worth of click through data on more than 100,000 English headlines for paid links that ran in Outbrain’s network.

The post explains the findings:

We found that moderate length performs best, with engagement declining as headlines approach either the shorter or longer end of the spectrum. As you can see in the graph below, headlines with 60-100 characters earn the highest click-through rates and these rates decline as headlines decrease below 60 characters or increase beyond 100 characters.

These headlines are longer that the BBC-recommended lengths, which was 55 characters when this post with tips on headline writing was published in September. Back in 2011 Econsultancy proposed a 65 character rule.

The Outbrain research found that 16 to 18 word headlines perform best.

When measuring headline length by the number of words, rather than characters, we found the same pattern of results. The highest click-through rates were again achieved at moderate headline lengths, with 16-18 word headlines performing better than headlines of any other word length.

It is also interesting to note this research by Outbrain on positive superlatives, and how ‘best’ and ‘worst’ do not appear to be compelling to readers.

On a related note, Visual Revenue, the analytics tool which is now part of Outbrain, provides news outlets with a tool for A/B headline testing. Half of the readers see one headline, half an alternative headline and then the one that proves to be the most engaging is then adopted and displayed to all readers.

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#Tip of the day for journalists: BBC News advice on headline writing for SEO

September 6th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Search, Top tips for journalists

The BBC Internet Blog has a post on search engine optimisation in BBC News.

Martin Asser, senior product manager, news & knowledge, BBC Future Media, shares advice that he gives BBC journalists.

I have given colleagues a four-point checklist for their headlines as the most effective way of making that happen. (As long as they follow the basic principles of journalistic storytelling, the rest should take care of itself.)

The points are:

1. Use words that people would use in search in order to find the information being provided

2. Avoid words that people would never use in search to find that content

3. Put the most searchable elements at the front

4. Proper names are often used in search, so – following rules 1 and 3 – names should be included in the headline and if appropriate at the front.

It is worth reading the full post, which expands on the points. It is also interesting to note the maximum length of a BBC headline is 55 characters.

Asser states:

Journalists are given 55 characters (including spaces) to express their creativity, a length chosen because it equates to the space allocated for the page title on a Google search results page.

And it’s worth reading to the bottom of the post for the hedgehog headline.

Also see our guide on how to write headlines for SEO. runs a one-day course in SEO. Details are at this link.

If you have a tip you would like to submit to us at email us using this link.


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#Tip of the day from – Facebook guide to improving page search rankings

Facebook has produced a video – in collaboration with Distilled – which aims to teach “the basics of SEO” and help users improve the ranking of Facebook pages when searching online, which could be of use to news outlets and journalists with pages on the social network.

See the full guide here.

If you have a tip you would like to submit to us at email us using this link.

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Online publisher sees traffic increase with fewer articles

May 29th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Magazines

Marc Thomas is an online magazine publisher based in Cardiff and the creator of Plastik magazine. In a blog post today  he says he noticed his site’s traffic went up when he published fewer articles:

At some point, a website hits a critical mass of articles which means publishing less frequently doesn’t matter for site stats.

There was a point, say about July last year, when I had to work really hard to get people to visit Plastik Magazine. While it was popular, I needed a couple of thousand unique users monthly to be able to attract any kind of commercial interest (advertisers, sponsors, big names).

However, back in January, I made a conscious effort to publish less frequently but publish better stuff. I imagined that I might publish one article a day, five days a week. What actually happened is that on a really busy week, I published three or four articles in total. Then, in quiet weeks, I might publish one small piece or nothing at all.

Weirdly, my traffic went up.

Thomas theorises this might be due to a critical mass of articles and a heavy investment in SEO, but is seeking other theories or similar stories. Read the full article and get in touch with him here.

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#Tip of the day from – how to write headlines for SEO

Mashable has a post on bad, good, better and best practice when writing headlines for SEO.

The advice is at this link. runs a one-day course on SEO, a practical guide to getting your work found. The next one takes place in June.

Tipster: Sarah Marshall

If you have a tip you would like to submit to us at email us using this link.

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Tool of the week for journalists – Searchmetrics Essentials

February 14th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Search, Tool of the Week

Tool of the week: Searchmetrics Essentials

What is it? A tool to test your news site’s SEO and social rankings

How is it of use to journalists? Searchmetrics is a paid-for tool to allow you to see your site’s SEO and social rankings. used it to discover the top 10 Twitter and top 10 Facebook stories of 2011.

Full access costs around £150 per month but you can now have limited access for free with last week’s release of Searchmetrics Essentials.

Type in your domain name and you will be able to see your SEO ranking. For example, typing in shows we are number one search result for “journalism jobs” and number one for “journalism”.


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#jpod: SEO success stories – the LA Times on its traffic hike

September 2nd, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism, Podcast, Traffic

The Los Angeles Times is the only major US newspaper to have a website that is increasing in traffic year-on-year, according to the site’s senior editor.

In this podcast technology correspondent Sarah Marshall speaks to Jimmy Orr, managing editor of the about how appointing SEO chief Amy Hubbard has led the site to record traffic. As well as discussing Hubbard’s day-to-day role, Orr offers his advice on SEO strategy and outlines his optimism for the news industry.

We also hear from SEO expert David Amerland on how the different strategies of the Guardian and the Mail Online have resulted in traffic success and how other news organisations have struggled to move from print to the online world.

This podcast is the second in a two-part series on headline writing and SEO.

You can find a guide on how to get to grips with SEO as a journalist, how to write great headlines the work for SEO and more from David Amerland on the state of the UK newspaper industry.

You can sign up to our iTunes podcast feed for future audio.

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#jpod: Does SEO kill the carefully crafted, clever headline?

August 26th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Podcast, Search, Traffic

For some time within the industry there has been an often lively debate about the impact of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) on online news. Just recently the Los Angeles Times took on a new SEO chief, whose job it is to build newspaper headlines fit for the internet, by ensuring they’re web-friendly and searchable.

The new role has been credited with contributing to a 65 per cent rise in traffic from search and a 41 per cent jump in traffic from Google compared to this time last year, according to a report by the Nieman Journalism Lab.

So does SEO’s demand for keywords really take the art out of headline writing?’s technology correspondent Sarah Marshall speaks to SEO consultant Malcolm Coles and Duane Forrester, senior product manager at Bing to find out more.

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Point to Point: Why SEO shouldn’t get the blame for boring headlines

The Point to Point blog has an excellent article about how witty headlines and SEO can go hand-in-hand. Dominic Litten explains how many news sites have the ability to put the SEO-friendly headline in a separate field to the witty headline.

For many journalists, SEO = headline + keyword stuffing. It’s all they know. However, if journalists really want to know and understand how SEO can help them and their publications they should worry a lot less about the importance of headlines and focus on their company’s sitemaps, site architecture, endless duplicate content, internal linking and the like.

Litten goes on to say:

We get the love for your headlines, we’re just over it. SEO didn’t kill the cute headline, the click did. The sheer volume of content, growing exponentially and shared on social media, rendered the witty and non-descriptive headline useless. We consume media so radically differently than we once did, so why are some  journalists clinging to out-dated best practices?

The full article is at this link.

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