Can SEO Help Save the Publishing Industry?

Publishers Share Tips on How to Do That

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At the Search Engine Strategies conference in San Jose, WebProNews attended the session on how SEO can help save the publishing industry, a quite interesting topic, considering the controversy the industry has been experiencing of late. Do you think SEO can help publishers save their businesses? Share your thoughts here.

The session looked at challenges, tactics, and opportunities unique to online publishers. It covered solutions for technical obstacles, duplicate content and CMS issues, writing keyword rich headlines, training the editorial staff and updating the publishing culture from print to online. Essentially, the session was designed to educate participants on how to save jobs by leveraging SEO, driving traffic, and putting ad dollars back in publishers’ pockets, as described by SES.

Liesel Kipp Liesel Kipp, VP Global Head of Product Management at Thomson Reuters shared four tips:

1. Show the value of SEO
2. Data is the key to your success
3. Set goals and show how you will beat them.
4. Evangelize, evangelize, evangelize.

Kipp says Reuters was able to increase its visitors by 500% in 5 years, and that you have to constantly talk about search and SEO. According to Kipp, relationship building is critical, and you should talk about your successes and failures.

Ulli Muenker

BusinessWeek Search Marketing Manager Ulli Muenker offered some more tips on the subject:

1. Spread the SEO Excitement  in Editorial.

– Get the high level buy in
– Find SEO champions in the editorial team
– Create peer relationships to overcome skepticism


– Show projected traffic increase
– Show competitor’s search traffic results
– Demonstrate the before and after effect of page increase

2. Conduct Regular Training


– Run regular individual and small group training sessions
– Train the trainer for new hires
– Engage external SEO editorial consultant


– Limit group training to 10-12
– Create a relaxed environment with cookies, lunch and learning
– Give them what they need to learn

3.  Make Editorial Part of the Success

– Create SEO friendly article headlines.  Online headlines are different than print headlines.  Write straightforward headlines. No puns, sarcasm or jokes online. It just doesn’t work! Just bring in keywords so that people understand the message.

– Write sub-headlines under the headline. Write keyword rich sub headlines. Include keywords, synonyms and derivatives.

– Use keyword-rich link text. Use keywords when linking to other internal pages. Check connecting landing page’s keywords.

Allison Fabella

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution SEO Manager Allison Fabella offered these tips:

- Location, location, location. In your section’s front load your title tags with Location such as "Cobb count News / ajc.com.  The same goes for meta descriptions, url’s, and headlines and sub-headlines. Also, use H1 and H2 tags.

– It is so critical that your CMS is setup to be able to implement these tips. This is key to your success. There are a lot of CMS’s out there… make sure your SEO team approves. Once you purchase your CMS, make sure you stay involved. This may make you unpopular. Also, make sure your sitemaps are part of your requirements.

Sitemaps are your newspaper’s best friend. Site maps help get along structural road blocks built into bad site architecture. Use both web sitemaps and news sitemaps (Google News). Group your sitemap into different sections. In each sitemap include no more than 50,000 stories. Also, follow sitemap protocols. They make a less than perfect sitemap more perfect!

Brent Payne Tribune SEO Director Brent Payne talked about Twitter for media companies. He said there are 4 account types that publishers should set up. They are:

RSS feed – Do not follow people back from this account, follow your own accounts.

Get your celebrities involved. Make it a job requirement to have a Twitter profile. Most of our broadcast personalities are required to make 4-5 social connections per day.

Let employees Tweet. "I am an example of that. I have the second highest Twitter account of employees at the Tribune." Talk to them about legal issues and ground rules but encourage them to do that. Understand that mistakes happen from time to time. But do not officially endorse these twitter accounts as official voices of the company.

- Building a persona. Tribune created the colonelTribune, which is actually tweets from 4 or 5 of us. Create a character that your audience can connect with personally. Spend time to create a decent avatar. This is our best twitter account with 300,000 followers!

Payne says you then need to promote your Twitter profiles. One way to do this, that the Chicago Tribune did, is to recreate your masthead with the Twitter names of writers instead of the actual reporters. He also says to use the Twitter directories, and to use big ones like Twellow and Wefollow.

Engaging the locals, he says (Twellow’s feature TwellowHood is a great way to find the btw – my words, not his ). He suggests having a Tweetup and inviting top journalists or TV personalities and top referrers and bloggers. He also recommends taking a lot of pictures for "longer promotional shelf-life". "Don’t buy the alcohol," he warns though. Trouble could arise.

Marshall Simmonds

Finally, Marshall Simmonds of the New York Times and Define Search Strategies says to define "the almighty tag." He says they ask their editors to "enhance" titles for SEO. They want to see links off the domain in order to become a resource and an authority. He also said journalists didn’t have linking in their head, and that it’s ok to link out.

A couple more interesting items Simmonds shared include:

– "We pushed back our registration wall to 8 clicks and crawlers to 5 clicks. Google quit crawling the New York Times in 2005. Yahoo crawled our registration page 5 million times. They literally kept crawling it."

 – "If you are not keeping in constant communication with your IT Department they are going to screw it up. It is a constant issue. There is also the problem with template roll-backs. We put a lot of check lists in front with the IT Department. This goes for marketing as well. The Ad Department is eventually going to try to sell an advertisement that is going to hurt search traffic as well."

That about does it for that session. Some very interesting tips on SEO education for publishers. Stay tuned to WebProNews for further coverage of the Search Engine Strategies conference.

Is lack of strong SEO tactics a big contributor to online publishing woes? We’d love to know
what you think.

Can SEO Help Save the Publishing Industry?
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  • http://www.tod-converter-mac.com/ tod

    I’m afraid not.

  • ShoeMaker

    I don’t think it can save.

    Tania Gi,

  • http://www.blogadscamp.com blogadscamp

    With SEO, people can publish more and get more feedback on their publication. That can sure help save the publishing industry .

  • Anonymous but Real Life Publishing Executive

    So, does SEO help? Sure, everything helps. Does it help a lot? Not enough by itself in my experience.

    My income is tied to making the right marketing choices and analyzing them by income generated. I’ve been using SEO and cpc for many years, and I know that search engines alone cannot possibly bring in enough income to run a publishing company. Less than 5% of our income comes from search engines and pay-per-click combined. We spend tens of thousands of dollars a year on Google Adwords.

    Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn combined make up less than 1% of our income despite tweeting an average 10 times a day for more than 9 months.

    My job is to test everything, then evaluate. But I only get paid if I win. I cannot live in a dream world.

    Are there things that do work? Yes, but they are not cheap and there is no magic formula that works for everyone. That’s why there are marketing people. If free advertising worked fast enough, there would be no need for us.

    You must … Test. Test. Test.

    And no one should be allowed to lead seminars on social media until they’ve made their first $500,000 online that way. I know one company that holds seminars when they haven’t used social media for more than 120 days and their own web traffic has dropped 80% in the past year.

    Don’t worry about the book publishing industry. The smart ones will survive. Good books will survive too. Those who can make the paradigm shift into a new digital online world will do just fine.

    • http://www.toysonwheelsvariety.com Walt

      Totally agree with you and I am glad you have told it like it really is. It certainly is refreshing that someone finally told the TRUTH.
      If more people would do their homework and stop trying to take shortcuts with get rich quick schemes that don’t do anything but make the wrong people richer a lot of unnecessary time, energy, and money would be saved. But most importantly there would be less Junk out there and the scams would lessen.

    • http://www.chucklinart.com Chuck

      … sometimes quality counts. Search engine traffic is the highest quality traffic out there because it’s people searching for what your publication has to offer. I hope for your sake that you mis-typed when you said:

      “Less than 5% of our income comes from search engines”

      Maybe less than 5 percent of your traffic comes from search engines, but a much greater percentage of your income should be coming from them. If I run a fly fishing publication, I may have a few loyal readers who will pick up the magazine, but are they really as valuable to me as someone searching for, “best fly fishing rods?” That person coming from a search engine is very close to buying, and you should be monetizing on that traffic at 10 times the rate you monetize on other types of traffic or you have no business working in the marketing profession.

  • http://www.anilkumarsingh.com Anil Kumar Singh

    Nice tips from Publishers who knows what is best for their websites.

  • http://www.culinaryschoolfinder.com CulinarySchoolFinder

    Its 2009 – almost 2010, and they are just getting around to “educat(ing) participants on how to save jobs by leveraging SEO, driving traffic, and putting ad dollars back in publishers’ pockets”.

    Um, a little late to the party by say 10 years, dontcha think?

    Good luck with that!

  • http://www.olegyakupov.com Oleg Yakupov

    You should use these technologies carefully and wisely.

  • http://medianowonline.com/news yusuf kirmani

    I think a extraordinary SEO can save publishing idustry. But every business person can’t hire their services. Actually Internet Marketiers created a fobia about SEO. If you are going to hire any SEO for your company you must read Google’s report about SEO in webmaster area. No one can deny that SEO’s are playing very important role in publishing but please don’t make any hype about it.

  • http://www.seo-works.com Peter (IMC)

    The problem is not whether or not SEO can help the publishing industry, but if the publishing industry wants to be helped by SEO.

    There is a fundamental problem with the publishing industry. They do not get exited by numbers alone. But SEO and SEM in general, is a numbers game.

    A marketing director needs visuals to show of to his or her directors. A sheet full of numbers without any hot good looking visual material just doesn’t get you many points.

    Even though they are in the end judged by the end result in numbers, a complicated presentation about numbers doesn’t do it in many companies.

    Besides that, SEM is always a combination of the very technical and marketing, and unfortunately, those 2 worlds hardly ever fit in one brain. So you have 2 completely different worlds trying to reach the same goal with totally different methods.

    In rare cases there are people that understand a bit of both worlds and in even rarer cases they are in the right position in a company to make the 2 worlds work together.

    When you do have the lucky situation of these 2 worlds working together, the end results are amazing.

  • http://www.Search-OPtimization.com Gerry Grant

    Yes SEO and social medias marketing can save the publishing industry. As a matter of fact online is part of the publishing industry now. About four years ago the Orange County Register hired my firm Search-Optimization.com because they had only about 9,000 visitors per month to their web site, a zero page rank and horrible search results. Search-Optimization.com did a complete analysis of the site and produced a search optimization-marketing plan for them. At the time they were a perfect example of everything a newspaper could do wrong including blocking the spiders from their content. I recently spoke with an executive from the Orange County Register and they told me they now get over 3 million visitors per month.

    They were slow to adopt my changes but one employee, Mark Robertson, kept at it and changed the course of the dinosaur. He recently left them and is running www.ReelSEO.com. Today you can see a lot of the suggestions I made as a routine part of what they do. I recently reviewed the Power Point that I prepared for them and they are not doing everything that could make them more revenue.

    Adopt or die is what I would tell the publishing industry. The $60,000 they paid Search-Optimization.com was money well spent. Hire search optimization pros, pay them well and listen to their suggestions.

    Gerry Grant

  • http://www.crearecommunications.co.uk Sarah Edwards

    I’m not sure if it can save, but it can definitely help. Online media marketing is the way that standard advertising and marketing techniques seem to be evolving, and SEO is so closely linked to this that it must be able to benefit publishers.

  • http://www.zygella.com zygella

    All that I can say is – interesting. This all comes down to testing over and over again.

  • http://www.neotericuk.co.uk James


    This is an extra ordinary article liked it very much SEO’s demand

  • http://www.cdnsol.com SEO

    We can’t say that SEO can save publishing industry instead it is more better that it can help publishing industry. But when it has been done in the right way.

  • http://seowebtechinfo.blogspot.com/ SeoWebTechinfo

    “Smart SEO do promotion Smartly. They do not misguide visitor.”
    I feel that it is because of SEO that website owner started realizing the value of promoting sites and making page interactive.
    Good SEO professional always test what is more helpful to that particular website.
    Surely SEO is going to be helpful to Publishing Industry.

    Very helpful and useful article.


  • http://www.tag44.com Tag44

    Thanks for the post and for sharing the wonderful info on this blog. Keep it up…!!

  • http://optimizer.ecordia.com Sean Jackson

    While the panel brings up great points, the key is the ability for the editorial department to embrace “basic” SEO techniques. The last thing an editor wants to do is to re-write something for SEO purposes.

    Evangalizing the benefits is one way but is an uphill struggle, especially for older editors that don’t care.

    We see this challenge in our own predictive content analysis application at http://optimizer.ecordia.com. Scoring and providing ideas for editors to improve their content is not the problem (a technical challenge we have overcome).

    The key to any technology adoption is the willingness of the the editorial team to enforce the process.

    The areas that we have seen benefit from SEO on the editorial side is when the editorial team does not publish anything that is not scored for SEO. This creates an incentive for writers to consider SEO objectives at inception. A big part of this focus is on editor training.

    While the benefits in publishing for SEO are obvious, technology alone can not solve the problem. Processes and enforcement of compliance can build the culture of adoption over time – which in turn leads to the adoption of SEO across all aspects.

  • http://mediachandler.com/ johnny chandler

    Thanks so much for the great information you provide. I often come to webpronews to learn about hot new sites. Always some great information for a new developer.

  • http://www.signature.eu.com/ Online Marketing Company Kent

    Good post, the challenge facing UK publishers is cashflow. Many online newspapers we’re cross subsidised by the advertising revenue generated from the “print cousins” but with ad revenue down and smaller independent newspapers merging or closing, the question being asked is should we be giving it away at all?

  • http://www.bikeshopcastlehill.com.au Home Solar Power Systems

    Very informative. SEO is a good option to save the publishing industry.

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  • http://planet-gamefree.blogspot.com/ Guest

    i dont know it’s

  • http://homesteadwebsitebuilder.com/seo-ebook/ Homestead Website SEO eBook

    What’s the point of publishing if basic SEO is not applied to an article? There’s no value in being number twenty in the SERPS.

    The simplicity of doing a little keyword research upfront can narrow the margin tremendously.

    I’d much rather be popular than not and SEO is my ticket to the top.

  • http://bestinformationseo.blogspot.com/ bestinformationseo

    I Like this topic and Interesting Information Here

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