Here at Mathematics, we work with media companies. It’s no secret that SEO for publishers is becoming more difficult. As time marches on, an increasing number of brands spend incrementally larger sums of money deploying cutting-edge SEO strategy, making for some stiff competition. All the while, Google is quietly moving the goalposts in mysterious directions. TL;DR – optimising your publication’s site for search engines is becoming the kind of dark art you feared it was when you first made SEO attempts of your own.

It’s daunting for everybody. So, we’ve tried to narrow down some fool-proof techniques to adopt in 2019; the kind which are guaranteed to help this year, not mere suggestions (though there are some of those suggestions at the end of this entry, too). Here are some tips that allow us to optimise pages without heavily infringing on journalistic content. As such, the emphasis here is on technical SEO, as opposed to what can be done with copywriting.

So, without further ado…

The SEO techniques publishers must consider in 2019:

  • Schema tags/structured data: schema markup helps search engines return more informative results. Google uses this to generate ‘rich snippets’; small pieces of information that are formatted clearly in search results. For example, in publishing, schema tags around an author’s name should, in theory, cause that article to rank higher than a mention of the name in a body of text without any schema tags. Think of them as indicators of importance.
  • Mobile-first indexing: you’ll know that this means the mobile version of your site becomes the starting point for Google includes in their index, and the foundation for determining rank. If your mobile and desktop rankings are the same and you’re happy with your SERP ranking, nothing to worry about. If your area of work dictates that you prioritise mobile, then do the following:
    • Make sure your mobile version features all the high-quality content of your desktop. In fact, make sure your mobile version features everything the desktop version does, including structured data, equivalent metadata and Twitter cards
    • If you’ve only verified the desktop version of your site, be sure to add and verify the mobile version
    • Implement mobile switchboard tags
  • Page speed: optimise your URLs, keep those images small. ImageOptim is an incredibly straightforward way of making your image files as small as possible before compromising quality. Page speed is a key ranking factor, so this is tremendously important.
  • Improving existing content to ensure Google recognises that it responds to the search intent of the user directly. Journalists can incorporate this into their workflow by writing the best stuff they can, while ensuring their headlines don’t exceed 55 characters and their metadescriptions don’t exceed 300 characters. CoSchedule’s Headline Analyser is an excellent way for journalists to stay on top of this, aiming for a score of 70 or higher. Developers can help too with well organised schema tags/structured data.
  • On-page SEO for NLP (Natural Language Processing): NLP is the name given to Google’s capability to help it better understand the information on your page. NLP concerns the clarity and structure of your writing, and the relationship between words. Develop an understanding of NLP, incorporate it into your writing workflow, and Google will love you. Here’s a crazily in-depth rundown explanation of NLP and how to deploy it.
  • Google Correlate: a terrifyingly useful tool. Enter the keyword you want to rank for, then, shift series to, say, -2 weeks, which means you will be given a list of terms people search for two weeks before they are likely to type in your keyword. Essentially, you’ll be able to predict – with a degree of accuracy – what users are going to search for. Obviously, this is gold for planning content. One for Charlie Brooker, this.

Also worth considering:

  • Voice search! This won’t necessarily proliferate in 2019, but it’s worth keeping an eye on and planning for. Here’s some tips for the voice search ‘revolution’.

Easy! Sort of. Some of these are more obvious than others, but we reckon that incorporating these into your SEO strategy for 2019 will be a big help. We expect that your competitors will be taking similar steps, too, so better get cracking.