SEO can be taken up at different levels in a news organisation; but the people who matter the most are those who work in the newsrooms handling copy. While an organisation can create a multi-dimensional SEO strategy, the easiest, and perhaps the most practical way of going about it would be to invest in adding SEO elements to the news room copy-editing workflow.
In the newsroom; there could be different legacy situations – a print-heavy newsroom handling the online work – to varying extents; or a dedicated newsroom to handle the online product (considering only the print angle for now). Most likely the former, because online operations are tied to the print workflow in many places.
So how can be SEO elements be incorporated into it?
First, who are the folks who deal with online headlines in the newsroom? If they are the print people, are they aware of SEO? Do you have a standard way of incorporating SEO elements into the workflow?
Think headlines. There’s plenty of advice to be had from different sources, a recent one being this article from Journalism.co.uk titled ‘How to: write great headlines that work for SEO’.
Does the newsroom have the tools to research the keywords relevant to the headline in question? Is it possible to fix the search context for the story?
Don’t neglect the usability factor while writing the headline. Usability expert Jakob Nielsen had the following points to make about headlines – and I think they are important: headlines should be ‘rich in information scent’, ‘clearly summarizing the target article’ and ‘front-loaded with the most important keywords’; and ‘understandable out of context’. (Link to his article: World’s Best Headlines: BBC News.)
What if your CMS makes the headline the title tag almost identical? How is this to be taken into account when the headline is framed? Here’s a fairly good Search Engine Land article on this very topic: Writing HTML Title Tags For Humans, Google & Bing.
Does the story have a hierarchy of other headlines or sub-heads? Can SEO elements be incorporated into these?
I think the starting point in the news rooms could be the headline and the title tag, before any of the other SEO stuff is tried out.