According to Joy Gugeler, getting your magazine read online means you must stop thinking print. She should know. Gugeler, a former book editor, is now the editor-in-chief of Suite101.com, where she oversees 1500 paid writers that collectively attract over 8 million monthly readers, mostly through search engines. At the Magazines West conference last week in Vancouver, Gugeler used the experience she's gained at Suite to offer tips and tools for driving Web traffic. Using the knowledge gained, we've distilled Gugeler's presentation into ten golden rules for search engine optimization.
1. Articles should be 400-600 words per page.
Try editing your mammoth print pieces into two or three smaller articles. You'll be trippling its Web value while preventing reader fatigue.
2. Title articles transparently, thinking about search terms.
Titles are what sell your article to search engines. Robots don't understand “cute.” Calling your new atomic chilli recipe “Some Like it Hot” will only attract the occasional pervert. Call it what it is: A Recipe for Atomic Chilli.
3. Write leads for news feeds and RSS.
Many Web nerds use software such as RSS to monitor their favourite sites, informing them of a new article or posting. Typically, only your lead will show up in their browser, so you have to make it stick.
4. Use short paragraphs: 50 – 75 words.
It's hard to read online. Smaller paragraphs with one clear focus are easier to digest.
5. Use bold subheadings that contain keywords.
Web readers spend less than ten seconds on an article. “Use subheadings to break up long copy and to indicate where you're changing tack,” Gugeler says. “These should contain strong keywords, be in Upper Case and bold.”
6. Bulleted/numbered lists make for easy reading on screen.
People love lists, especially on the web.
7. Optimize for 1-2 keyword/phrases and variations.
Vary the phrases you use to describe the focus of the article. “This will cast a larger net and catch readers who approach the topic differently,” Gugeler says. “Use proper nouns, places, names and brands that feature in your article.” You can't be too specific.
8. Input your top 6-10 tags for reference.
Loose keywords, or tags, are hidden behind the text in the html coding. Search engines use this to index the site. Again, be specific. Don't put your publication’s name or byline—the Google bots already have those.
9. Embed links to related onsite articles (anchor).
Like a well-designed shopping mall, you want to keep people in your grasp for as long as possible. Provide links to other articles on your site. Use keywords rather than writing out the entire URL.
10. Attach a clear and appropriate colour photo, properly credited and captioned.
Just like in print, people love looking at good photos. In the end, Web publishing is not that different from what's done on ink and paper. Quality still wins out—you just have to package it right.
- Web editing tips from the CSME luncheon [MastheadOnline]
- Web 2.0 myths that hold us back (and why they're not true) [MastheadOnline]