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Building a Slack-based tool to improve SEO for your newsroom

Search is ubiquitous in our day to day life and journalism needs to get better at it

Search is ubiquitous in our day to day life and journalism needs to get better at it. Most readers reach us via search. 

According to Pew, 65% of users come to news they want to read from search. When the News Media Alliance, a trade group that represents newspapers in the U.S. and Canada, did a study by researching the top Google Trends for a month, they found that 39% of the queries pointed to links to news sites. They also found that 40% of the traffic went to news sites on those top trends. For as many users who bookmarked our homepages on their browsers, there are three times as many who find us from a search term.

My RJI Fellowship project is to build a slack based tool to help you improve the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of your news content. 

The inspiration behind this project came about from questions we had when we saw other outlets outranking us on stories and we started asking “why?” Why did one of our stories not rank as highly in search as a competitor? After grabbing all of the data from the pages, the answer was clear: our story was missing relevant SEO information that the other publication made more easily available in search. 

So this project is to answer the question, what if we can do this at scale — comparing anything we might aspire to compete with? This project centers on comparing and using similar content from other news sources to see what yours may be lacking to become more findable by readers. From there you will be able to take that information, modify your story and adjust your newsroom’s best practices to optimize the reach of all your content. 

By the end of this project any newsroom will be able to use this tool. And I’ll build it without asking for any special privileges or access to data you otherwise wouldn’t give the public.

Next steps 

I’m starting with research. I’m building a survey to break down the top line information and distill it into Slack use cases. This fellowship is about being transparent while helping you access actionable information and resources, so I will look for every opportunity to share insights, but also the ability to interact with the data.

But first, I need your help.

I will ask what standards you built up for your news content best practices and I’ll compare it to other contributions, so I can build great use cases for the tool I’m building. Before that step, I’m looking for newsrooms to actively test this tool while I develop it, please fill out the form if you would like to be a part of the testing! 

When this project launches, a journalist or newsroom will be able to add it to their Slack workspace and use it at any time to compare SEO information of their news content against other news sources. 

Creating impact, for you

The most impactful projects I have been a part of have helped lower the barrier to entry for users. We need to make the lives of our journalists simpler: and we will do that by putting the best information at their fingertips.

The other lesson is that training is never the end of learning. Especially in a space as ever changing as SEO — we need to make sure our training evolves as well as tools we use. How are we ensuring that we are living up to the standards we set for ourselves? The best practices we set with our staff, how we evaluate and update them and most importantly, how do we share the impact of those best practices with our newsroom staff, so that they know how, what and why it is important to our content and our communities. 

In our economy for news, search is a gateway to future subscribers. They are all just one click away from finding us and learning how we can serve their needs. 

It is time we make tools that make writing better SEO simpler for journalists, where we can scale a bottom-up solution that will reinforce our best practices.


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