SEO of news websites is interesting. Headlines and intros need to be catchy and short for readers, yet they are generally too short, and don’t properly include search phrases.

The BBC has acknowledged the issue, and has made changes to the way it lists stories on its pages by including another data entry point for stories - longer headlines for the web.

Rather than having a headline as say: “Doctor ‘responsible’ says Jackson”

They will include the full names: “Janet Jackson blames doctor for Michael’s death”

An example from todays news: short headline for home page: “Match-fixing claims ‘stun’ football body” long headline for story: “Match fixing inquiry probes 200 European Football games”

quote=BBC]The new longer headlines will be up to 55 characters (with spaces) and will aim to include any key words which we might expect a search engine user to type in when searching for news about that particular topic.

Questionable page titles

However, the titles of the BBC pages are still around the wrong way. See the title of the Matchfixing item - Match fixing inquiry probes 200 European Football games.

<title>BBC News - Match-fixing inquiry probes 200 European football games</title>

The page title has “BBC News” at the front, and if you look through the website, all the pages have the same issue. BBC News should arguably be at the end? However, since the BBC is such a powerful website, it is able to get ranked high/top despite doing a few things “wrong”.

The opportunity exists for them with the more competitive phrases on niche areas. Changing the title around the other way could be enough to ramp up the rankings and traffic a reasonable amount.

Then again, they are still likely to get the traffic based on their branding - people will click through to results lower than first given the brand recognition of BBC.

Opening paragraphs

The other opportunity is the opening paragraph. To achieve best results, the opening paragraph needs to include the search phrases. Yet the opening paragraph is another of those conundrums - for usability, it must be short and catchy, for SEO, it must include the search phrases.

Why I am interested?

One of my latest clients Impact PR, writes press releases for clients.

Questions considered include:

  • “How to write press releases both for the public, and for the search engines”.
  • How to republish press releases to have them both unique content, and to get them ranked for relevant search phrases

The press releases themselves might be written for more the sensationalist news angle. Yes, they certainly can be written to also include search phrase analysis, and including those words in the press release. But the sensationalist angle is still very important.

However, the republishing on your own website might achieve the search engine exposure. You can include search phrases in the page title and a unique opening paragraph that uses the search phrases and introduces the press release. Unique words before and after first mention of the main search phrases of the page.

Your page gets a unique opening paragraph as distinct from the publishing of the press release in the media.

It is good to see that the BBC has acknowledged SEO in the creation of its pages. I am interested that it has not gone what I consider the full way. In its acknowledgment of SEO it is providing a good role model for other news websites to themselves consider SEO, and do even a better job than the BBC.