February 9th, 2009
There are few things that can affect your site’s traffic (in a positive or negative way) as much as whether your material is optimized for search engines. Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) makes good stories rise to the top of Google. Without it, your work can be buried.
Journalists generally are not experts in SEO, so we should turn to people who know what they’re talking about. One of the best, in our opinion, is Kate Morris. Pay attention: What she says can make a big difference for your site.
Please give us a short bio.
I have to talk about myself? Okay, it all started on a windy night … oh, short huh? Well when it comes to internet marketing, I got started as an intern working in paid search for BusinessSuites, a client of my then marketing agency employer. I worked with Apogee search as an intern afterwards and soaked in all I could about SEO. I’ve been in-house in multiple places since then working in general marketing, PPC, and SEO.
Where do you work and what are your official duties?
I have settled as the Director of Client Strategies at New Edge Media, a Dallas SEM agency. It’s here that I get to really focus on SEO, PPC, Social Media, writing and educating/meeting people.
What is search engine optimization?
Search Engine Optimization to me is the science and art of molding a website to entice customers to buy, search engines to index and rank, and partners to engage. It’s a blend of technology and art. Coding on one side and usability on the other. I consider both to be integral parts to SEO.
How did you get into social media? Don’t tell it it’s just because of SEO. (Joke.) Are there any problems with being an SEO expert and trying to do social media?
Well first off, I never consider myself an expert. I rather see myself as a jack-of-all-internet-trades. I think SEO experts in their pure form (technology-based more than marketing) might have a hard time getting into the social media space because it more about marketability rather than technological modifications. What I do believe is that most people who are considered “SEO Experts” are really internet marketing experts at heart and would have no problems moving into social media. Understanding the intent and needs of the end user is the basis of all marketing.
Now, how did I get into Social Media? Being social. (Hey, I didn’t say because of SEO.)
How does Google PageRank work?
First off let me say that people really do need to take PageRank with a grain of salt. PageRank does not indicate how well your site will do in the rankings. Rather it gives you an idea of what Google deems as the importance of your site to their end users. So major sites like Google, Yahoo, The Chicago Tribune, and Austin American-Statesman are highly relevant to a wide base of users. If you are in a niche business, don’t think that having a PR 4 is bad. In a niche, that is actually really good. And in all this remember that what we see (Toolbar PR) can be largely different than the number that Google uses internally.
Let’s talk about link strategies. What are some basic, basic SEO rules of thumb your typical overworked news producer can abide by?
Rule #1 – Use your in-house writers, ask for specific stories.
Rule #2 – Link between properties. You own these high PR sites, use them! But only do it where it makes sense. Otherwise it’s a form of linkspam.
As far as news site structure, which sites have the best SEO consistently?
I am slightly biased, but the Statesman and Tribune do a fantastic job of site structure. I’d love to hear from other properties and why they like theirs better. But really, I am rarely on whole news sites. I rather pick up stories from social sites and gadgets.
Going to blow up your spot a little bit. Not too many folks know about the rel=”nofollow” tags, but it’s one of the most powerful tools in SEO. What is it, and how does it work?
Rel=”nofollow” tags are something that Google started to recognize a few years ago as a way for people to link out to sites but note that they didn’t place any trust in the site, therefore restricting the link juice. This was largely for use with blogs when people left comments and linked back to other sites. Owners couldn’t keep up with how many sites were being linked back to, and this was a way to say “we are not sure what’s there and don’t vote for the relevance to what we are talking to on the referring page.”
It still is used that way to this day, but can also be used — Matt [Cutts] don’t shoot me — to sculpt a site’s navigation. Sometimes there are pages on every website that are not relevant to search results, but are linked to from the most popular page. About Us, Login, and Terms of Service are all examples of pages that people want to see but are not relevant to product searches.
Are there any rules of thumb when it comes to tagging content? In fact, when this interview is posted, how would you tag it?
The tags I would add are: kate morris, seo, social media, nofollow, news, new media, pagerank. I take what I figure people might be searching for and this might help. Kinda like categories, but more keywords.
Tags added, thanks! Any other pointers for our readers?
For those people working in old media I would say use what you have. You have content, relevance, and traffic built in. Those are the top three things that any business online works for. It is what every SEO wants at the start. Old media has that. Use it to it’s full extent, but be smart about it. Don’t let SEO interfere with your writing, but educate your writers. Let them write the content for the readers, and let SEO perfect the code and tags. Blend the two worlds and you will come out on top.