SEO for publishers: 8 rules every magazine and newspaper publisher should know

Timo Lamour

Whether you are a small trade magazine or a large national daily newspaper, you have to constantly make sure that your content is found.

Whether you're a small trade magazine or a large national daily newspaper, you need to constantly make sure your content is found.

Even if it takes some time - search engine optimization (SEO) is still an extremely effective strategy for publishers. In fact, a survey found that SEO continues to be a top priority for publishers.

In reality, however, rising in Google's search results is easier said than done. It requires patience and a clear strategy.

In this article, we look at eight basic rules for publishers' SEO strategies. If you follow these rules, with a little patience you can rise up in the search results and find new readers.

Why should publishers care about SEO?

Before I present the eight rules, it's important for me to tell you why SEO is so important for publishers.

This is where a crucial change in mentality is taking place. It's about reducing your dependence on social media by giving SEO a higher priority. You shouldn't write off huge platforms like Facebook and Twitter as traffic sources, of course. However, algorithm changes that are completely out of your control can quickly kill your organic reach on these social media platforms.

Also, of course, you should be concerned about the quality of your articles in order to engage your audience. The facts need to be right and the content should be presented accurately. At the same time, your team also needs to be strategic when it comes to keywords and other SEO-related elements. In doing so, your archive can be a great way to get your company's SEO rolling.

"Our magazines have been around for years - so we have such a huge database of good content that should have a long digital life, of course. And SEO is the way to keep it alive."

Sara Wilkins, Digital Editor at for Egmont Publishing

What matters? Both your current and potential readers use search engines to do research. The fact that Google is one of the most popular sites on the Internet today is well known. So why not hit your readers right where they are every day?

Better yet, SEO is cost effective. As long as you're strategic about keyword selection and continually create quality content, it won't take you too long to see the first positive results. After all, articles that rank highly on Google or other search engines like Bing will guarantee you visitors to your website around the clock.

SEO for publishers SERP screenshot

SEO basics for magazine and newspaper publishers

Let's now dive into eight SEO rules that every magazine and newspaper publisher should know and follow. If you follow these rules consistently, you will see some extremely positive results in your company's search results.

Concentrate on your readers

One of the most common mistakes that publishers make is that they try to please Google. They then focus on taming the Google algorithm and do everything they can to optimize their articles accordingly.

Unfortunately, this strategy is ineffective. Google has made around 50 algorithm changes in the last five years. Those media companies that have tried to outsmart Google's algorithm have struggled to keep up with the numerous changes. Instead of following this strategy, publishers should focus on their target audience. Google's main task is to make search results more human. So if you pay attention to your audience and offer them added value, you help Google achieve its own goals.

Publishers who are successful manage to slip into the role of their readers. They understand the behavior and expectations of their readers. Moreover, quality is more important here than quantity. The goal is to understand the way readers consume your content and then give them what they want. This way, you will see a significantly higher engagement with your content, a lower bounce rate and a higher dwell time.

Pages that offer a high level of user satisfaction tend to have a better chance of being ranked higher in the search results.
So my first tip is to pay less attention to the Google algorithm and more to delighting your audience. A positive user experience not only influences reader satisfaction, but also has a direct impact on search engine optimization.

There's nothing to optimize for with BERT, nor anything for anyone to be rethinking. The fundamentals of us seeking to reward great content remain unchanged.

- Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) October 28, 2019

Google's Danny Sullivan on the Google BERT update.

Structure your website and content

Much of the general information about SEO for publishers focuses primarily on things like keyword strategy. However, technical SEO is an extremely important and often underestimated prerequisite for your content to be found. In particular, it is important to structure your website and content in a way that is suitable for search engines. A clear and well-structured website makes it easier for search engines to crawl the pages. An efficient crawling structure enables search engines to discover and index all relevant content.

A hierarchical structure with clearly defined categories and subcategories not only makes it easier for users to navigate, but also enables search engines to better understand the thematic relevance of individual pages.

If the website has a clear URL structure, this can also have a positive effect on the ranking. This is because a clean and meaningful URL structure that contains relevant keywords can improve the understanding of the page for search engines.

And not to forget: The internal links. Internal linking is often underestimated, but it is a powerful SEO tool: meaningful internal linking between different pages and articles on the website not only promotes user-friendliness, but also helps search engines to understand the relationship between different content. This can help to strengthen the authority of certain pages.

Simply put, a well-structured website not only has a positive impact on the user experience, but also significantly influences the way search engines interpret, index and rank content. There are many reasons why Google and Co. can penalize your posts and push them down the search engine results pages (SERP). These can include issues such as a slow website, too many pages to crawl, constant errors appearing on your website and much more.

Therefore, you need to pay special attention to the technical aspects of your website. Above all, make sure it is quick and easy to crawl. Also consider influencing factors such as pagination, internal linking, categories and tags as well as sitemaps.

When it comes to content, make sure it's high-quality posts that are well-structured for SEO. Of course, you should also optimize your content for relevance and readability. By the way, black-hat SEO tips from the past, like keyword stuffing, are a waste of time and haven't worked for a long time.

Use keywords for the search

Keywords are one of the most important components of SEO for publishers. There is no way around it. If you select meaningful keywords for a particular article, you significantly increase your chances of ranking highly in the search engines. And here again, readers play an important role. By analyzing keywords, publishers can better understand what their target group is looking for. This makes it possible to create content that meets the needs and interests of readers.

Google processes 3.5 billion search queries per day. That's 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. While many publishers still rely heavily on social networks to share their content, studies have shown that organic search outperforms social networks by 300%.

Optimizing content for SEO is a process. The fact is that many readers use search engines to find answers to specific questions. For example, Men' s Journal was able to achieve very good rankings with relevant niche keywords within six months.

"Publishers need to think deeply about how they design their content."

Abby Sjober, Assistant Director of Audience Development at Vogue.

Optimize for mobile users

We live in a world where many people spend several hours a day on their cell phones. A recent study shows that 50% of all internet traffic is done via mobile. Google search has also been quick to adapt to this, offering features such as AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) and Progressive Web Apps.

As users increasingly move from PC to mobile devices, you need to ensure that your website is optimized for mobile users. The best solution for this is to invest in responsive design. Although many think that mobile-friendly and responsive design are the same thing, responsive design is specifically about dynamic content that adapts to each device. Images, spacing, text - everything is automatically adapted to the different mobile devices.

Therefore, you should definitely make sure that your website is optimized for mobile devices. After all, for the search engines, this is an important factor that will be reflected in your ranking.

Remove duplicated content

It can be tempting to create several websites. In some circumstances, it may even make sense to create different websites, each containing very similar content. For example, to target certain segments of your audience more precisely.

However, I strongly advise against pursuing this strategy.

Duplicate content is harmful from Google's point of view. It is also confusing for both users and search engines. If you produce copied content to manipulate search engine results and siphon traffic, search engines like Google will penalize your website. This will do more harm than good.

Instead, rather than creating duplicate content, focus on creating one great website. It's less work and will bring you more SEO benefits.

Google Retails results after merging six old websites into a single website.

Optimize images

Many news websites do not own the rights to the images they publish. Instead, these sites most likely license their photos from Reuters, Getty Images, or other agencies.

You may not realize that you can optimize your images. However, there are numerous things you can control. This way you will make your website faster and more pleasant for your users and this will also satisfy the search engines.

For example, compress and resize your images. Make sure that the source files are not larger than the required format. Even if it appears that the image is small, huge images in the background will slow down your website significantly. As a general rule of thumb, try to make your images smaller rather than larger. This will help you have a fast and efficient website.

If you want to make your images SEO-compatible, you should also make sure that your images are

  • are named descriptively,
  • correspond to the correct file type,
  • and have optimized alt attributes.

Promote sharing on social media

Page views from social networks are extremely important in both SEO and non-SEO contexts. There are several reasons for this. Shared articles help build communities of interest and lead to word-of-mouth referrals. At the same time, sharing on social networks can also build backlinks to your website, which is a crucial aspect of successful SEO. At the same time, social networks have an indirect influence on the ranking of websites. By sharing content on social media, publishers can increase their visibility and reach. More visibility can lead to more people coming to the website, which in turn can have a positive impact on SEO. Likes, shares and comments on social media are signs of user engagement. Search engines can see this as an indicator of relevant and engaging content, which can have a positive impact on rankings.

A good way to encourage article sharing in an SEO context is to use plugins. Look for visually appealing plugins that encourage your readers to share and comment. Another tip: Articles that trigger strong polarizing or negative emotions in your target group are shared particularly often.

Social sharing is important in SEO for publishers image

Note subscriptions

Last but not least, don't forget to consider your subscriptions when focusing on your SEO work. It may seem counterintuitive, but SEO is an important way to reach potential subscribers. While Google isn't necessarily a big fan of paywalls, it's still easy to find even paid content that ranks highly.

Flexible sampling is key here. Why? Well, it's extremely important that you provide Google search users with a limited amount of free content (at least three articles per day) before the paywall kicks in. This way, as a publisher, you can get all of your content indexed by the search engines.

Google even has a recommendation for a balance between free and premium content. The company has published a study that says user satisfaction drops when paywalls are displayed more than 10% of the time. Be careful when approaching this limit, as you might alienate users who don't know your content well yet.


You might think that SEO isn't as important to publishers as it used to be. You might also think that journalism just doesn't work that way. Still, SEO plays an important role for many publishers in attracting new subscribers and readers.

Speaking of which, today's reader is usually someone who thinks critically, likes to participate in online discussions, and likes to use Google to learn more about a particular topic. This behavior is not going to go away - even though a lot of the attention right now is focused on reaching readers through social networks.

So I recommend you implement the SEO tips above. Stay consistent and experiment as needed. I am confident that this way you will achieve great results in the long run in terms of your Google rankings and new organic traffic.

Are you interested in advanced SEO techniques like automatic linking of your articles? Then read more about our content intelligence tool here or contact us if you'd like a free consultation.

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Kevin Kallenbach
Head of Sales