Reads on SEO for Community Radio

This profile appeared in the June NFCB newsletter. You can subscribe here.

For some, search engine optimization was a buzzword from the early 2000s. However, more than ever, search engines are curating our experiences online. Using algorithms, users can find information they hear about on radio, television and elsewhere. The ubiquity of the Internet is getting more station leaders like you thinking about how you can leverage your station’s online presence more effectively.

If the technical parts of websites and search engine placement feel foreign, think of what a station has online in the lens of search intent, or the intention of the person searching online for information they find relevant to particular factual or transactional need. For example, Jane Public saw something on the news about the death of Grumpy Cat and she goes to Google to search for stories about the late feline meme sensation. Jane Public’s intent is to find factual details about the story from a source she finds credible. The goal of a publisher, like a radio station providing online content beyond its stream, is to appear in a variety of searches.

For some, drawing traffic has become an exhausting, even exasperating, exercise in overlong headlines that attempt to explain the whole story, or verbiage meant to entice or infuriate. As the BBC Academy says, SEO today is not about clickbait and cheap traffic. If people are already searching for information on a subject, they are already engaged. In fact, they are invested enough to search for a term before they even arrive at your site. How you connect with them is what matters.

Radio is still regarded as trustworthy by audiences and a credible news source, regardless of party affiliation. For stations, those new web visits mean potential revenue, new relationships and collaboration. And, if the Boston Globe, which recently acquired more digital than print subscribers, is any indication, our futures are most assuredly intertwined with technology.

How can you apply evolving search methodologies to boost your community radio endeavors? Here are a few reads to help.

  • A massive number of online audiences get content from Google News. With more than 500 million visits and people staying an average of five and a half minutes on the site, Google News in fact drives a lot of traffic to publishers. How can your station’s original news content be featured in Google News? You can submit your station’s website to Google News Publisher for inclusion into the Google News platform. There are technical and individual page requirements such as URL structure, accessibility and layout guidelines.
  • If the Google News Publisher makes you dizzy, never fear. Barry Adams gives common sense suggestions for media organizations dipping their toes into SEO. “It’s always important to understand that Google isn’t human and doesn’t understand language in the same way that humans do. Puns, jokes and wordplay don’t work with search engines. It’s an old-fashioned machine system that needs signposting.”
  • Not sure how to best write and structure your station’s website posts for search? CityLab’s Jessica Lee Martin wrote a brief, best practicesdocument that sums what you need to know about headlines, your URL, article body and those critical first 100 words.
  • But, if you want to be extra mercenary about it all, Axios has a data-based look at what stories tend to perform best on which platforms. “Politics, for example, is the No. 1 show in town on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, while it gets smothered on visual-heavy platforms like Instagram and Pinterest.”
  • Given the volume of programming from a radio station, there are numerous opportunities to transcribe an interview or discussion panel broadcast on air for purposes of website publishing. Radio shows like Democracy Now! do just that: posting transcripts of segments, which generate website traffic when the terminology used in the interviews appear in a search. Many tools online for transcribing radio are free and low-cost. They include Otter, Temi and Trint.
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