In July 2007 the Telegraph decided to change the traditional publishing workflow for production of the website. The changes included taking a web first publishing model. Journalists were also encouraged to publish their own articles. Alongside this an SEO team was set up and their goal was to get every content item optimised for search and indexed by the three main search engines.
At this point the publishing model looked something like this:
The process began by getting senior editorial staff behind the plan. Without this the project would’ve been mainly academic. A high level plan was proposed to these staff so they knew what was to follow. Firstly the definition of publishing best practice was defined. From this the technical aspects of SEO could be incorporated into the content management system [CMS]. These two elements work together to deliver the opportunity to have every piece of content optimised for search engines.
Following on from this two training tracks were designed to train the editorial staff. The first was web publishing best practice and the second was the concept of SEO.
Simplified web publishing model:
As these new techniques began to be incorporated into the publishing cycle so the role of the SEO had to evolve. Publishing quality and best practice is a moving target as are keyword patterns. By embedding these skills into the process giving near instant feedback on publishing the team was able to cover the three main high-volume publishing areas, News, Sport and Finance.
This role not only provided publishing support and keyword research it also started to provide trend information and feedback on Google News positioning. Trend data was driven from sources such as Twitter and Google News most popular but also on site sources such as internal search and [more recently] Google Analytics real time.
SEO input into the publishing cycle:
After many trials and experiments the process has matured into solid SEO that is incorporated into the publishing workflow. The daily morning SEO report defines the agenda. A review of Google News, trending topics and keywords and how well the Telegraph is doing is the benchmark for the day.
Three news conferences through the day, 9/12/4, inform the department heads by highlighting SEO and publishing issues, defining opportunities, refine keyword strategies and report how well things are doing. The editor is present at the news conferences and this makes it a very effective forum for achieving publishing goals.
Trending data is constantly being feed into the publishing desks. This helps take advantage of more opportunities and also highlight what different audiences are seeking out. This type of information can also be gleaned from historical sources and data mining provides valuable insight to repeating events.
As news events solidify keyword research can be used to optimise topic pages as these are created. A calendar is used to plan events to ensure topic pages are optimised and published in plenty of time to allow the SEO to build up. Keyword research can be done with many different tools but usually starts with Google Insights and then to Wordtracker for repeating topics.
All of this is evaluated through publishing standards. Optimising a story maybe let down by a number of factors but these are what we evaluate against:
- Headline [keywords to the left, full names]
- Abstracts [repeating keywords and expanding on the headline]
- Promotion [are the stories highlighted on the right pages]
- Links [are the right links on the story to recent and relevant content]
- Publishing time [has the story been published at the right time]
- Pictures [keywords on picture filename, caption and alt text]
- Sections [is the content published in the right section]
Through all of this it is acknowledged that it isn’t a perfect model as it is difficult to monitor every piece of content, so not always 100%. Having so many publishers can lead to some rigid rules. Through the process of continued improvement the model does work well and does allow rapid and high volume publishing.
Richard Underwood is Head of SEO at Telegraph Media Group which includes web properties such as Telegraph Jobs and travel. You can follow him on Twitter @rich_underwood and Google+ richard.underwood101