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University Web Developers

HI Everyone,

We are in the process of building out a redesigned website for an university alumni magazine. A question has come up regarding SEO best practices for publications in general and specifically for a online university magazine. I figured this would be a great place to harness the wisdom of the crowds and come up with some creative solutions.

To clarify: we are covering all the basics in terms of  website design best practices, but wanted to explore issues related to publications, since there is an assumption of more dynamic/fresh content and the concept of "issues" where 90 % of the core content is turned over with every issue.  Any links or tips from your personal experience would be much appreciated. I'll post anything I find in my own research.

Thanks!

--Jake

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SEO, Accessibility, Valid XHTML overlap in some ways, so make sure you follow those standards.

Don't worry about meta keywords, search engines don't weigh those into the results like they use to.

Have useful alt="" and title="" on images, links, because search engines like bing will use those.

Overall, content is KING. If you have certain keywords within your content multiple times, it will help you show up better in search engine rankins.

Also, another thing, try to use URL's that have the name of the article or subject in the URL, so instead of domain.com/news?id=203, it'd be better if it was domain.com/news/best_seo_tips_ever_written

It is also good that content will be changing periodically, search engines love websites that is updated regularly.

Hope some of this helps.
Ideally, the headlines of your articles should also be search engine friendly, i.e they should work without the body of the article to pull some readers viewing them as they are listed in search results.

It's better to avoid smart or funny headlines and use keyword-rich headlines. But, it might be too much to ask your mag editors ;-)
Thanks Brad and Karine--good stuff. In my research I haven't found a lot of advise that veers too far from "normal" best practices for Website design, so I really appreciate your help. Karine, I think you are definitely onto the right mode of thinking, which is to educate creative contributors and non-technical editors so they can keep SEO in mind as part of their day-to-day thinking.
The more content you have (the more stories you have online), the more authority Google can ascribe to you and the more chances you'll have for high rankings on long tail search terms. So avoid deleting anything, and don't change URLs on old stories either, to avoid losing authority and breaking links. Make the date of publication prominent in headlines and title, so that nobody can fault you for providing old information five years later. You can assure them these were the very latest facts, back in the day

After a while, magazine stories could lose "Google points" because of datedness or lack of timeliness. Here's a strategy that's even better (but much harder to implement) than prominent publication dates: keep adding fresh internal links to old stories. Find a way to automatically link to current stories on the same topic if you can. The story itself may not be current, but your stories can still remain some sort of authority hub for their topics. Few things can turn off readers and discourage linkers more than to give them a story that they know is outdated without giving them any easy way to find updated information.
Thanks Michael. Very good points. This university does have a large archive of past issues that they'd like to import into the new CMS environment (Drupal) once it's up and running. We are bracing ourselves for an initial drop off in traffic as we'll inevitably lose some legacy links and the search engines take time to re-orient themselves to the new site structure. As you advise, we will definitely be looking into strategies for dynamically linking articles using tags to leverage articles in back issues.

I also asked Amanda Evans, an SEO specialist that we often partner with for her thoughts; here's what she recommended:

"They are probably looking for advice as they write new content/articles but there’s usually a bigger issue that online publications fall into so I’ll address both.

Optimizing Articles
Most importantly, make sure the editorial staff considers the target keywords as they are writing the articles. For example, if they are writing an article about fruit and mentioned apples, oranges and bananas but never included the word “fruit” in the article search engines wouldn’t find that article for searches on fruit. So its important to know the target keywords and pay attention to how often they actually appear in the article.

Also, if there’s a shortened article description that appears on the website or as the meta description, that description needs to include the target keywords.

Topic Pages
The biggest pitfall online publications fall into is poor or missing topic pages. People search by topics not by articles. So they need a set of good strong pages that house all the articles from that online publication relating to a particular topic. Those pages should be optimized as follows:
* All the appropriate title, meta description & ALT tags that are unique & relevant to the topic area
* Header tags which reflect the main topic area
* Topic area keyword within the URL structure
* Links from external sites going into those pages. Many online publications have lots of links going to their home page but are missing links into the topic areas.
* Links from within the site including in the footer and sitemaps."

Amanda is great, by the way, Her firm is called Illumniated Marketing http://www.illuminatedmarketing.com/ -- highly recommended for those who are seeking an outside SEO consultant.
Jake: A couple other tips that were adopted by major publications:

1) First, Karine is right about funny and creative headlines: Avoid them if you can. If it is an article by an author and you can't change the headline on the page itself, change the title tag so that it is a more descriptive headlines. Search engines look at the Title Tags first. Ideally, it should match the headline on the page - but sometimes you just can't.

2) With headlines, try to contain them in < h1 > tags - search engines view content within those tags as essential text. You can always use CSS to customize the look further so your headlines look more customized.
3) Finally, when your CMS writes title tags, the name of your publication should go AFTER the headline and not before. Ideally, the most important keywords should appear at the beginning of your title tags for better indexing in search engines. The name of the publication is secondary (sorry, but it's true). You'll notice most major newspapers follow this format.

Best of luck to you.
A strong internal link structure will not only benefit your SEO goals, but also your users.

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