Podcast / Scale / Episode 5

Getting started with SEO for Publishers

Head shot photo of Vahe Arabian from State of Digital Publishing guest on episode 5 of Scale

You don’t need us to tell you how important SEO is to any organisation. But for publishers, as this week’s guest Vahe Arabian will tell you, it’s more of a fine art. When grappling with breaking news stories and competing live with multiple other media outlets, he shares his insights into how to win on the publishing SEO battlefield. Vahe is the founder of State of Digital Publishing, a veteran SEO & Content strategist for publishers and an explorer of digital media and technology trends.

About Vahe Arabian

Vahe is the founder of State of Digital Publishing, a veteran SEO & Content strategist for publishers and an explorer of digital media and technology trends.

Show Notes

[00:00:05] Stewart: Hi there and welcome to Scale a podcast for Modern Media. I am your host, Stewart Ritchie, the founder and lead developer at Powered by Coffee. Powered by Coffee is a web and software development team focusing on technology issues facing the media today. Scale is a podcast about how technology impacts the media and how the media impacts technology in return, everything from ad tech and privacy to hosting and content management.

We’re interested in what’s happening today, what’s happening tomorrow, and where we might end up in the future.

[00:00:36] Stewart: today we’ve got a great guest view. We’ve got. Vahe Arabian from the State of Digital Publishing a great sort of publisher community and a focused publisher SEO or search engine optimization specialist. Vahe, do you wanna tell us a little bit about yourself, about State of Digital Publishing all of that.

[00:00:54] Vahe: Thanks for, thanks for allowing me to be a guest on your podcast. First of all I think, yeah, you having a good intersection of different people from what I’ve seen so far. But essentially instead of digital publishing, it’s our vision, our mission is to help the publishers develop sustainable business models.

And what we’re trying to do is we’re taking two sides. Part of the consulting side is For publishers that are looking for audience growth and they’re looking for ways to sustain the growth through SEO and, and improving the editorial operations. And looking at tech group areas like Google News, SEO, we help them through that through a various range of solutions.

And then we have our own digital, which you allude to. We have our own digital media publishing community, and we are looking to grow out our SDP brand as a name, right, as a market research publisher to provide the statistics, to provide the digital technology trends around, like, for example, what the next TikTok is.

Or any other thing that we are learning from, from our experiences. Provide those resources to digital publishers.

[00:01:56] Stewart: Okay. So I think, let’s start first principles cuz you know, it’s a podcast, you never know who’s listening to. It might be someone’s first day on the job. What is SEO? The most basic of

[00:02:08] Vahe: Yeah, for sure. SEO is pretty much the out of the process of how to look at improving your visibility for search. And I guess the way that you should look at it is essentially there’s two projects. You have to always take a user first philosophy and approach. So, With the whole point of search entities to find relevant information or queries that people are looking for information on.

That’s obviously, that’s, that’s the very basic version of the explanation. But what, which, what you try to do is you look at the technical factors, the content factors and both of ’em essentially work together because what Google does is they go through the web and such as this, go to the web, find pages on the website, and they try to collect the information that’s most relevant to that query to then deliver it to the search results.

[00:02:53] Stewart: Mm-hmm. ,

[00:02:53] Vahe: that’s, that’s the very basic foundations it was built on. Now it’s a lot more dynamic. So, there’s even like looking at the opportunities like image search where you can literally upload your image. The image Google Lens, and it will give you the best result for that video discovery and Google discover and like, and trying to provide personalization towards what you’re searching for so that Google’s trying to predict what the next search you’re doing to be able to make that more of an answer.

Sort of base engine. So yeah, that’s, that’s the nutshell, the whole process of this. Yeah,

[00:03:29] Stewart: yeah, of course.

Cool. So I mean, I think from my world and my understanding, there’s two. Kind of takes on seo. And from my background history, I have done more or been involved more with what I would call commercial seo, which is kind of how you described SEO in general.

Where at business, we’ll say I want to find customers searching for following things than I don’t wanna pay for ppc. I want something longer term with more value. So I’m going to try and work out what those searches are, what those intentions are, and then create page. On my side to answer those questions.

So there’s a part of that is content of like, do you have the actual thing the search engine’s gonna find and read that they can recommend, but also the technical side of making that as easy as possible for the search engine to understand. For my limited understanding of publisher seo, that’s much harder because particularly with a breaking news story, there’s no real way of anticipating.

How or what someone is searching for or giving a time to index. So it seems to me like a very, very different discipline to do publisher seo, SEO for news than it is to do SEO for a commercial site. Does that, does that sound about the right understanding

of it?

[00:04:42] Vahe: A hundred percent because basically, like I was alluding to before with news, there’s different surfaces like I was talking about before, about image and video being the next sort of like commercial trend thing, but mm-hmm.

[00:04:54] Stewart: like you said, like top stories is different based in itself in terms of what factors, like there is a c principles of , but then there’s other things on top of that, like the. Cover the coverage of the news article or who the original sources are and stuff like that. And with that you have to, it’s a lot more competitive.

It’s a lot more narrow to and also a heavier focus on your Ads on, and Whether or not you’re, you’re seen as a trustworthy source because ultimately that’s like the more, and, and there’s, that’s also the lucrative, there’s a more lucrative side of, of publishers here as well. Because like particularly for news SEO and Top stories, because we publishers here as well, like, there’s different types of publishers, whether it’s magazine or news media or, or subscription only.

And a lot of people might rely just on Evergreen, which is gonna be the same thing as a upload that has a lot of resources, which a lot of people are becoming. Publishers anyways these days and content creators. But particularly on the news side there’s a lucrative of opportunity. Like if you are constantly getting triggered in top stories, then you’re naturally gonna get you’re gonna naturally earn links that reputation, that trust, because you are seen as the original source for that news coverage.

So you, to your point the predictability of those new stories. There’s, there’s definitely tools out there, like Google Trends. There’s a lot more enterprise solutions as well that can, you can use to track your keywords to, to anticipate trends uprising trends. And that’s what technology’s helping to make that a bit more predictable.

But at the end of the day, you gotta just go down to the basics of your journalism practices to be able to really be seen as a credible news organization or, or,

of course. Then I think, yeah. So you mentioned there are kind of a, another split with that of like news seo. So how do you do that work for some, whereas always breaking stories, maybe they’re going through 20, 30 releases a day versus someone who, what was the term used?

Was it long teal or organic where the content or evergreen, more of a niche blog that is like tutorials and things like that. So do they, do you feel like there are different approaches for, for those kind of organizations?

[00:06:58] Vahe: The whole, I think I wouldn’t like sorry. There’s a fundamental approach that we take in core topic pillars and clusters, and basically that means like, an approach where you identify your, your key areas of expertise or key topics and then within that, supporting content around that.

So for example, if you have a news entertainment website and you are covering around the latest Disney streaming news, Part of the searches around the entities around that might be a particular show, like the upcoming, the Star Wars what’s it called? I, I put my foot in my mouth now that I don’t know the names, but just


[00:07:32] Stewart: can, there’s always a Star Wars thing coming. It could be anything, who knows?

[00:07:37] Vahe: Or the, or the next Marvel TV series. But basically all those things like for example help build. The subject around Disney streaming. And to answer to your question, right, with any news or evergreen, you still have to show like the cluster that all the related stories instead of like just doing random types of, of news content, because otherwise then you’re not gonna be able to develop your aid, your expert, your authority and trust.

And yeah, basically that on that continuous coverage is what’s gonna help you with the, the news point of view with Evergreen, which we always advocate to our news publishers anyways, is to help build up your benchmark for your traffic. That’s gonna be what’s gonna be there for the longer period instead of that one hit sugar hit that lot of publishers get from top stories.

So the approach is the same. It’s just the. . I guess the timing and the life, the shelf value of that content is gonna be different, but they all sort of, yeah, that’s the, I will say that that’ll be difference, but yeah. Okay. And, and I think, sorry, just quickly as well, just top, top level as well. Like a news, a news publisher’s objective’s gonna be a bit different from a a general publisher, like a magazine publisher, like with a B2B and niche, but B2B and Niche Magazine publisher, their call.

Less about the size of your audience and more about the quality of your audience and being able to generate high quality lists for early generation. So yeah, Evergreen’s gonna be important about that. So they can get a sustainability, well for maybe for news publishers. It’s gonna be more focused on around advertising revenue.

So the, the more concurrent traffic they get at that point of time to see the stories or to see their feature pieces, it’s gonna help. Get the advertising partners they’re looking for and they reach the, they’re looking for. So it also plays around different objectives you’re trying to achieve. Course, that makes

[00:09:26] Stewart: complete sense.

So that’s then like, I think be useful to look at a, a hypothetical, I suppose, where, say you were a traditionally print magazine and you’re going online for the first time and you’ve had, you’ve done a couple of months, maybe a year or two of just publishing your content and running it. , you know, effectively a nice blog.

Where do you start with thinking about SEO for that kind of publisher? What are, what are their first steps for starting to go from our editorial processes? We write the content and we publish it to, we write the content, we optimize around it, and we publish it. And in fact, there may be a step before that of like, how do we plan what that content is gonna be for the search engine to, in.

Generate interest from readers? Is that a very broad question?

[00:10:15] Vahe: No, it’s not. And it ties back to the approach, which is the whole planning, the planning that you have to do. So I guess you move away from the concept of keywords, the topics, and you understand generally, auditing your content that you’ve had.

Like with magazine publishers, they have a real square strength in the history of their content, which they can digitize and bring online and reformat it. So I guess you have a review of all the content, see what topics you’ve generally covered and, and start with your topic and keyword research to identify what are the.

Clusters and, and that can then make up your key pillars you wanna define for your, for your website. Sure. The pillars if to simplify in some aspects that that could translate into a category that could translate into a, a taxonomy or a tag. So you can start planning those things out and where that’s gonna sit on your website.

And then ultimately there’s a, once you do that research, then it’s. Mapping out and planning those things in advance, particularly for the evergreen content. So, consider what content’s gonna be evergreen focused information or what’s gonna be promotional, like we call that promotional in the sense that it’s gonna naturally earn links because for example, a list that’s gonna feature a top list, go for example, where my feature business endeavor then link back to you.

And then you’re gonna have the conversion focus content, which is gonna be more of. Tactical or technical or conversion focused content. If you plan all these things with the pillars that you’re building and the cluster around them in advance, then you can then just design your workflow to just go and create that content, create the briefs around them using softwares, which is like the optimization checks before you go live, and then you start just doing that consistently create your content, fly.

and then go ahead and put in some measures in a place where you evaluate the performance of that content and, and then determine from there like, okay, for this niche or section pillars, I see that the search landscape is changing every three or four months, so I need to govpack and revisit that content refresher and reoptimize that content.

That’s one of the other biggest things that publishes also Under utiliz or don’t appreciate as much because if you as much as you’re trying to grow your amount of publishing over time reusing that content that you have at the moment makes your growth a lot more fast. It makes it much faster.


[00:12:29] Stewart: there was a few pieces of terminology in there I think might be worth, worth, break and down a little bit. Pillars cluster. Topics. I know like topics seem self explained. I just wanna make sure that you’re not using it in a different way than someone else might understand. And then the next one up, I think that I’ve heard before, but not necessarily everyone would think of is a content flywheel.

So let’s start with what you mean by cluster.

[00:12:53] Vahe: A cluster is a, a subtopic that is part of the main topic. So for, for example, if we’ve got.

Again, sorry, back to the, back to the movie stuff. Okay, so the topic let’s say we’ve got Batman for Batman, the movie or Batman, the concept, right? You’ve got that’s the pillar, that’s the subject focus. And then you’ve got your classes, which might be Bruce Wayne, it might be Robin, it might be the Batmobile might be.

So all these things are concepts or, or things that help build up the main subject, which is your pillar. And basically the pillar, what that means is like, it’s, it’s where it’s gonna all be housed. It’s where it’s gonna all sit on your website. So usually with publishers, they use their category as a way.

Create that section on their website, and then they have all that content that they’re publishing around those clusters, housing within that category.

[00:13:52] Stewart: So as to then, I guess, change that again a little bit. So you

[00:13:55] Vahe: owned a Publica

[00:13:56] Stewart: publication focusing on content for small business owners, the pillars might be Seals, marketing, hr, or is it, are they too broad?

Do they need to be split down again, or is there any real limits?

[00:14:11] Vahe: It all depends on the, your cap. Like it’s all depends on the subject depth and the amount. You can also cover around that. Like you wouldn’t wanna, like for bigger publishers, like for example, we did that exercise with small business trends back in the day and they’re at the point where they’re getting over a million, 2 million users per month because they’re all mature, they can afford to grow more broader and cover sales marketing as their.

Pillar, pillar categories, but, and then the sub. And then when you go onto their categories at the moment they have the different functions of advertising or different functions of marketing, like social media marketing or stuff like that. But if you’re more of a niche publisher, just really focus more on the areas that you are strong in, and then define your pillars and classes that way.

Otherwise, you, you’re not gonna be able to develop your topic. You’re not gonna be able to develop your authority.

[00:14:59] Stewart: Right. So the driver of how many pillars is really more. What resources do the content team have to make, make those be good? So again, is it better, I suppose then that follows on. Is it better to have a few that are really good pillars versus one or two that are good or three or four that are pretty, pretty shaky?

[00:15:19] Vahe: Exactly. It’s all, yeah. It’s better to have a few that are good correct. But, but at the, at the same time have that new one of the other things you can incorporate that to give you stuff, the option to keep growing is like how you define the Euro structures and stuff, like how you define the neural structures.

So for example, like some of our publishers that don’t have subcategories, like the, the articles aren’t in subcategories. That doesn’t define your pillars and clusters and how Google interpret. Sort of the, your topic authority or how they perceive you for that subject. It’s a placement and everything else, but if you have a single level, your structure and you know that you’re gonna ramp up significantly over a couple years time, rather than going to the process of changing the structure every time to then dilute your seo, you can keep it more flexible by having it on a flat Euro, for example, and, and then change the category in the back end.

Site evolve.

[00:16:14] Stewart: Okay. So because my, my assumption would be that that was primarily communicated to Google through this and other search engines through the site structure. So me in forward slash category being the pillar, subcategory being the cluster, and then the, the topic post B. You’re saying that that’s, that’s not so much the guess, but that’s good to know.

So how do you communicate that to Google if it’s not Sorry, just rotted away with

[00:16:38] Vahe: questions though. No, that’s okay. I. There’s a perception like site, your structure doesn’t mean site structure or site architecture Sure is. There’s different functions on the website itself, so at your menu, your footer.

Where, how your, the click depth, so where, how people can access the article from the homepage to the different sections across the website, the internal linking, all those things are much more of an important factor that gives Google an indication of how well you cover topics and how your strength in, in a particular area.

Then a euro itself, like the individual euro for an article name and optimizing that. That’s important, but that’s all relative.

[00:17:21] Stewart: That’s interesting. Good to, good to know. Cause I always thought it was the URL structure was how that was told. But again, I’m, I’m not, it’s

[00:17:29] Vahe: funny, but like No, it’s, I mean the funny thing is like, you see, like I see bigger enterprise publishers, right?

They have like tag pages like, like for example, entertainment celebrity sites where Michael v, Michael V. Jordan News, for example, they, they four slash target that’s ranking. It gets a lot of. and it’s not even really optimized as well, but the fact that they have all that content housed in that and it’s not having that sub stop site structure, the site structure isn’t reflecting in the music article shows that they understand about that because of how the other factors are playing into the, to, for the website.

So if that helps, gives you context on the example. Have a look at the website. Yeah, I,

[00:18:11] Stewart: well, I imagine those are the most heavily optimiz. For that kind of transient traffic as well, which is really good to know. Yeah. Cool. So then we’ve, we’ve talked about kind of hybrid looking to pillars and clusters and topics.

The next one there was the content flywheel which is a term I’ve heard in content strategy for large scale organizations that are planning websites that have, you know, a thousand, 2000 pages that will always be updated, your big enterprises, but not in a media space. Do you wanna tell us a little bit what you mean?

You mean about that? .

[00:18:41] Vahe: The fundamental truth is that you need to get the, there’s there’s a proliferation of content. There’s a lot more content being published every day exponentially, and you need to cut through. So, and that’s because of the nature of how we are living and the nature of the web evolving.

So, we are not the quantify will. , like your editorial like mechanism to be able to start, think about how you’re gonna set up your workflow and your planning of your publishing, of your content so that you increase the quality of your publishing over time and doing that effectively. It’s not like, like you, we’re not trying to say suggest like, publishing dozens of billion pages just for the sake of gaming Google search.

But over time the more you’re gonna be able to cover a subject, it’s gonna be able to. better structure and develop your authority. So yeah, that’s, that’s, sorry to answer this question. It’s just more of that mechanism that and planning and approach you take to continue to grow that.

[00:19:36] Stewart: Okay, so I mean, thing with a flywheel is that it gets faster and faster.

It never really loses momentum, but it feeds on itself. So is that kind of the goal of like, you’re creating some content and then you are revisiting it to, you know, create derivative content that follows on as more information is added? Or always updating the kind of parent pieces so that Google is like, oh, this is,

[00:19:59] Vahe: you know, all of the, all of the above.

Stuart and I think. , like I was saying, like when you’re gonna think about your pillars and clusters, you break it down to three areas. Which one’s gonna be the information, the traffic driver ones, which one’s gonna be the promotional? Promotional or linkable content pieces, which can then link to the other ones, and that’s gonna help make that grow quicker.

But ultimately you want those pieces to then go to more of the content pieces that are gonna help drive business outcomes. So for example you might cover a lifestyle publication. You might do an information about how to. The best way to do the shaving. How to do shaving, for example, information.

Sure. Promotional might be the best. Shavers, men shavers. The conversion one might be a review of, of a specific shaving product. So those pieces, like the listable, the brands, you might see that those pieces are gonna be linked to. It’s still gonna drive traffic, but not as much as the traffic, as the informational one.

And then ultimately, you wanna direct that. To the, the review piece. Cause that’s what’s gonna help with the affiliate links in that it’s gonna generate you more revenue and, and then allow you to reinvest that into other content areas and content pieces and build that up more quickly. Great.

[00:21:09] Stewart: That was all very clear.

Thank you very much.

[00:21:11] Vahe: Then I think,

[00:21:15] Stewart: how do you feel about more and more content. Generated by artificial intelligence is quote unquote ai. As we are recording this my Twitter and LinkedIn is filled with chat g p t and people being simultaneously wowed by how, by what it can produce. And another’s just dumbfounded at, it’s like it’s just created something that passes itself off as accurate.

sounds accurate, sounds confident, but is inaccurate. And obviously this is like fairly big topic within news and media of like, okay, how, how can we create more content that is valuable? Do you see a, a place for it within within publishers as well? It’s a deep question. I know, but,

[00:21:59] Vahe: It’s, it’s an important one as well because the helpful content update, like it really slammed a lot of the lifestyle publishers.

In September and October, I think as, so basically it’s all for whenever, whatever’s programmatic that is gonna involve repetitive things that isn’t like Google has a rubric in the, the guidelines and in that it is something that’s current important that is gonna make a difference to someone’s life.

If we’re gonna give, if we’re gonna allocate ai g pt, g p t chat, which is I think the evolution of G P T three and other, other tools that are there, like Jarvis, which is gonna spit out content, if we’re gonna add it to that it’s not gonna add value to people’s life, and that’s, it’s gonna cause harm because it’s gonna, it’s noting misinformation, inaccuracy, and stuff like that.

Now for basic things like a weather, weather forecast or a sports recap of the scores and stats, , it’s, it’s important, but it’s not gonna add value if, if, if there’s gonna be a deep thought or stuff like that in there. So I think you need to put it where the, there’s gonna be focus on things that are repeatable.

That’s not gonna impact on someone’s life dramatically. That’s still gonna be information, your information. Otherwise, like if, if you’re gonna get a sports writer who’s got a, who’s a commentator that’s has simple use experiences, why do you want them? Repeat that or regurgitate that you should put them on things like they can spend time on creating original stories around that’s gonna make that audience growth more valuable and the engagement more valuable.

[00:23:31] Stewart: Okay. So suppose then that’s the, the difference in presenting fact, so like to govpack to the sports analogy, I suppose, like it’s very clear to go like factually the outcome of the match was this, the scores were this, the following things happened that this time, this time, this time and this time that doesn’t.

Necessarily human to go and write that whenever that can be ingested by an and isn’t gonna cause any harm to anyone. It’s not generating an opinion, it’s just repeating more, palatably some data as opposed to someone writing a sports piece on how they feel X, Y, and Z team is doing in the term and in the season.

And how like that manager is impacting it cuz. A very thoughtful piece that somewhat should have an opinion on. But I think, I think it’s an interesting piece as well. Cause obviously these chat algorithms, chat algorithms, text generation algorithms are fed from a corpus and data is found on the internet.

I’ve seen a lot of content around Stack overflow. Yep. Now banning responses generated, These generators because often Stack Overflow is used as the source. So you are not overriding the source with the generated second generation content. You’re not adding anything else that’s only working out from there.

And again, I think from Stack Overflow’s perspective, they’re worried about like, is Google gonna impact that? Cause they’re a very search optimization driven

[00:24:59] Vahe: Yeah. Driven company. Well that’s, we’ve, we’ve already seen that like in, even, even in the basic. with a lot of like lifestyle publishers across UK and Australia and a lot of them that haven’t even reviewed a product before and they’re covering lists and they’re not writing in a particular vernacular themselves.

They, they’re writing it, but it’s such like, some of ’em, it’s too much search engine focus, but some of ’em are doing that to help build the audience. Like, but anyways, like Google smart enough to pick up the vernacular even to determine whether or not. Experience that product themselves. How you write about Yeah.

In, in a nutshell, like even ai, human level, it’s become smarter. So you need to really be authentic with what you’re trying to do and, and be able to show, show that process on how you do that across your website. So with, with a lot of our publishers and even s a dp, we’ve done it now recently because we start to launch our round tool list and section that we specify who’s fact checked the who’s, who’s the editor.

and who’s the actual writer because each of ’em are different in the process of actually getting that published life for our organization, for example. And we’re trying to advocate the same for many of our publishing clients as well. That’s great.

[00:26:10] Stewart: There’s a lot of folk go to the, the effort. There’s a lot more and more places you don’t even see an author tag of like written by, see like a generic company team here and like, okay, I feel a little bit suspicious now.


[00:26:24] Vahe: I think, I think that’s all. I think just a quick point I don’t wanna touch on as well. I think some of these small publishers as well, they feel like. , they want to publish the content of, of that level where maybe it’s, again, capacity is an issue. They can’t, they want to publish the bigger pieces that are then and then know about, but, or they want to be able to delegate that to someone else, but they don’t have that person in house.

I think for those type of people where you just need to rely more on those. Third party experts and maybe you don’t publish as much and be realistic of your expectations and not try to gain the system. I think that’s, yeah. There’s always gonna be the challenges with small to media publishers in trying to get to the levels of bigger publishers.

[00:27:03] Stewart: Yeah. Resources are problem, trying to find enough people to do, do all these jobs. Yep. . So coming back to SEO more kind of broadly and publishing in particular. So you mentioned, you know, third party consultants and working with third parties there, which obviously you are with a broad range of experience.

What do you kind of see are the most common mistakes that people are? Publishers are small scale publisher at least are making that they could rectify as quickly as possible and get a real result. Or is that too broad? Too many , too many options. ,

[00:27:36] Vahe: there’s a lot there. But let me try to distill down. I definitely wanted to give some takeaways.

I think I’m devaluing the performance of refreshing and determining when you need to do that. And within, even within particular sections on your website. Like every single like might put general rules on saying like, I’m gonna go through and re refresh content for all my article. twice a year, for example.

But they need to have more cost. Look at the subs, see if the competitors are frequently updating, and then create a schedule. So for example, like with Netflix shows coming out, it’s technically a listical and it’s a little, it’s somewhat evergreen, but it gets updated every month because there’s a new show coming out.

The list of shows coming out from the swimming platform, so that you have to reflect that for people who are searching for the best TV shows. Netflix TV shows, for example. That’s one thing. The second thing is that underestimating as well the value of housekeeping. So Oracle links everything else like that.

That’s when you typically see publishers see a plateau. The client, like they see there’s a curve where it goes down and then they see a, the plateau. Yeah, when drink algorithm updates. And that’s because they haven’t gone through and updated all those affiliate links of proper links. Websites, you know, change and they change their website exercise and where their linkage to change, or even like taking care of their website in terms of their core, core web vitals and page experience.

Those other things, I’m really updating. That’s really important as well. Yeah. And, and, and then it’s the final general area. Is this more about like, whether it’s news or whether it’s sorry, it’s my train of thought that that’s. I think the other common thing two, sorry, two other common things.

One of them is more about determining what the next steps are, when they’re trying to expand and how to expand in terms of like defining what their categories are, subcategories are. And I think the pillar discussion we had early on would be a, a useful base to start off with. And then the, the final thing is just more about with particular Google News, like publishing a lot of content.

Doing 300 to 500 words is the arbitrary value that they put because they just wanna get more pump out, more doesn’t work. And generally just thinking more about a thoughtful clustering approach, like way you, you have a main story, follow up stories after that, see how much that generally needs to be covered in depth and adding that value is what’s gonna help you get better.

Top stories that pretty predicting a lot of the days where you need to publish specific types of stories as well. Really. Okay. Gives you that

[00:29:59] Stewart: value. Great. So you mentioned Google user, which is something we. Mentioned on yet, like, can we, let’s, let’s see a little bit around that. Google News is, I suppose, at best, a aggregator.

So publishers submit their content to Google News and people on Android phones mostly will subscribe to various topics and kind of get digests from Google based on what they like through geography, their history, looking at things. And it will mostly, Stuff they’ve already interacted with, but they will get a mixture of new content and new publishers exposed to them over time.

Apple uses similar, but maybe has a smaller footprint. Is that a right enough summary of Google use?

[00:30:41] Vahe: Let me expand a little bit more on that. So there’s, I think there’s a. , there’s different services where in which news appears. There’s the top story on the universal search results, and that’s more for the covered top stories at the time when you click on the news tab in the Google search results, that’s the continuation of the top stories, but it’s just going through all the latest use articles and ranking factors based on that.

That’s different from news.google. Do. Which you spoke about, which is the, which is the aggregate and that’s, and right, that what you said is true. But where that’s coming from, that that source is coming from is mostly from Google Publisher Center because the publishers are submitting their feed.

they, they try to determine what the best way to optimize that is and then that can help get some referral traffic from that, that third party source. You then have a lot more now, different algorithm algorithmic ways, or sorry. There’s also a different algorithmic ways that they’re trying to surface content whether it’s through Google Discover.

And that’s where you also have the news, mobile news. and your, for Android phones as well, in particular where you see the latest articles based on your browsing history also come up. So basically there’s four main types, but there’s that come up algorithmically. And then you can do Google web stories which is like the whole video and story vertical.

And sometimes as well social is becoming a lot more coming into the play way, for example. You must search for a particular celebrity. And now at the top you see their biography, you see a little bit of some of the articles that are mostly associated with them and you must see their social feed that and, and people’s other brands, social feed that cover that topic as well.

So it’s becoming a little bit more complex these days. But yeah, there’s like two main systems, the algorithmic side and then top, sorry, three, three algorithmic top stories. And then the social one, the other opportunities you can. .

[00:32:33] Stewart: And so then when you’re talking about getting a publisher into Google News, I imagine it’s mostly the top stories, kind of current events, somebody searched for something and this is related news that you’re mostly interesting getting into.

[00:32:45] Vahe: Yeah, I I don’t like that so much because it’s just implies that you can game it. It’s more surfacing top stories, but yeah, exactly that. When publishers typically speak about that, it’s more about surfacing in top stories.

[00:32:57] Stewart: Okay, great. And you say, it sounds like it would be very difficult to gim that it’s fairly well curated.

I don’t,

[00:33:03] Vahe: I have No, it’s, it’s, it’s algorithm. It’s algorithm post 2019 algorithm, it’s 2019. You used to be able to apply and then someone would go through and check whether you actual news organization and then you can start getting triggered in top stories. Now it’s, it’s all about the fundamental factors to help eventually get surfaced.

we’ve worked with publishers that started from zero. And you can take up to sometimes for, depending on how much you’re publishing, you can take up to two years to appear top. So sometimes you can be more depending on how aggressive you are and how, again, resourcing and how you present yourself as an organization to really develop your authority.

So, and that all comes,

[00:33:42] Stewart: comes back to the fundamentals of, you know, your pillars and clusters of like Google and the other social engines know that you. An authority on this topic and therefore trust somewhat when you were publishing that this is something to go as a top result within these, within new, top, top stories, news stories for the, the terminology there for this, for this search result that about Yeah, that be right.


[00:34:10] Vahe: And then, and, but you can also influence that as well. Like we’ve seen that like, I mean, journalists are journalists and they know pr so if you work with. People in industry that start linking to your stories. Those things can help from an offsite, like an external linking point of view, help your authority as well.

So you shouldn’t that, you shouldn’t figure about those other things. Yeah. of course.

[00:34:30] Stewart: So let’s go a little bit broader than I suppose, cuz a few things that you mentioned earlier on that I just wanna like briefly touch on is using images as part of the, so Google image search and things like that as part of the search engine optimization strategy, which is Yeah, which is not something I had heard of before.

I’d love to know a little bit more about that.

[00:34:46] Vahe: So with images now, like. Let’s, I, I just wanna speak to a commercial example and then apply that to s so for example, someone’s searching for green show, for example. They might have a picture, they might have a picture. Google Lens is basically looking at the image and interpreting what you’re looking for and then going give the best results for that.

So you might, you might go through and take a picture. I might take a picture of my shirt now and I’m looking for, T-shirt, green check a t-shirt, it’s gonna then show similar results around that in the image result. And it can also show that images as well in the universal result. So basically what’s happening is that with the way that people are moving towards looking at, with, with the other, like with technology getting us to that point where it’s smart enough to do that, it’s presenting image search itself.

It’s a surface, it’s a platform where you can find those opportunities and then that can, if your image is coming, Referral traffic. Now, how that applies to publishers you can apply it to photojournalism where if they have unique images and people using that across their news articles and they’re being attributed as a story that can be picked up for trending news evergreen collateral material that you’re creating.

And that’s, that’s a, you know, unique and something that’s worked with the financial. All those type of things provide an opportunity to do that. What Google said as well in the Yearlys on search conference, it’s not the IO conference where it’s the more the technical developer one. It’s more the first product format for the search thing.

Next, see that the adding multi search Google lens multi-image search. So there were sorry. Ba basically they were trying to.

sorry, I just need to recollect my thoughts. No, absolutely fine.

It’s basically being able to be more smart about searching for bispecific attribute, and there’s like a multi search process you can now take to better get better results from image search. So they’re, they’re improving the technology significantly around their Google Lens product. Because they’re seeing a lot more of content by images working being consumed more than text.

So over time you’re gonna see like web stories cause that’s also being triggered by web stories, indirect, indirectly. So images and, and video through cause of web stories. And you have people looking for short slacker content is driving that need to present image search in a better way. And that multi and Google, Google lenses, their part.

Okay, great.

[00:37:16] Stewart: So then, you know, publishing, you know, images that are tied back to kind of the primary website as a traffic driver of particularly, I suppose, Ryan Affiliate’s marketing of like, oh, get this green shirt from this brand, and ears R affiliate link back to the original. Source or even just a kind of audience development thing of like, we cover fashion that you might like, so be exposed to our brand and come back in the future kind of thing.

[00:37:44] Vahe: Yeah, and it’s also an opportunity for them to get the royalties on images that they, they’ve covered themselves. Like, you know, it’s a Oh, sure. Yeah. Yeah, that’s a long way as well. . Cool. And

[00:37:54] Stewart: then the other one you mentioned, and you said it there again, is video. So how, how does video impact on SEO for kind for publishers?

I can understand like, search on search optimization within YouTube is a big thing to kind of surface breaking content and breaking news. That there’s a real obvious sort of monetization path for the publisher, or I’m publishing their content there. But does that, does that, would we find that impacting the kind of primary site, the kind of primary outlets, things like that?

[00:38:21] Vahe: It, it just presents a new medium a new, sorry, a new surface for them. Because basically with gen, gen Z and Generation are far looking at more of that kind of, , um mm-hmm. , it provides a more opportunity to reach new audiences that way. Okay. So yeah, I think that’s, that’s the main thing. And I think what’s helped trigger that back is the trends that we’ve seen with TikTok during Covid.

A lot of people were using that to interact with family. And sorry. What I read was there was a study where the reason why. is where it is now and it’s become popular than Instagram and Facebook. And now they catch trying to catch up is because of how it was used to do the family sort of tos and used for interaction and how the personalization of their platform is really using driving the discoverability of their content.

So, so Basical. Yeah, video is short. Video is coming back into the norm. And I think as I heard as well, like two might even revive Vine because of how yeah, I heard TikTok is, TikTok is benefiting from that. So yeah, I think

[00:39:23] Stewart: it’s a really, really weird place. I wonder cause I wonder how long, sorry.

Complete tangent. I’m, I wonder how long the short video thing is kind of gonna go on cuz there’s people now making. Their livelihood side of kind of producing stuff for TikTok. But TikTok doesn’t have a YouTube style. You know, you get a percentage of the ad sell on your on your video because you can’t attach the ad to a video.

It’s kind of in between what you had there. So they’ve tried to monetize it with like creator funds. But the more popular the platform, the less money each creator gets. So it becomes unsustainable for them to do that over time. And I’m like, okay, how is this? And, but Sorry, .

[00:40:03] Vahe: No, that’s all right. I, I want, I want also, I like, I like this type of conversation so quickly just on that.

I think YouTube, it depends on how YouTube short, to be honest, because YouTube had a, a long period of testing this out. A lot of, for a long time a lot of these players didn’t get money. Now with being able to monetize YouTube shorts itself, and they have. Big they’re the second largest search engine.

And then now theys have this product they have the opportunity to monetize on. I think it’s just trial in error. We’re gonna see eventually people be able to mature and monetize it for me.

[00:40:31] Stewart: Yeah. Cause I think, I mean, YouTube did a, a creator fund as well for shorts and I think na r moving towards having the same kind of revenue splits on on the shorts.

On the shorts. But I don’t know if I have ever seen an. On YouTube shorts. Maybe I, cause maybe I’m on YouTube premium or something, so I don’t see the ads in it, but maybe that’s how they’re izing. It is the same way. Like they get a share of the watch time of premium. I don’t know. It’s interesting to see.

I think it’s very interesting how, how the creators on these platforms get, get treated, watch, watch this

[00:41:05] Vahe: space.

[00:41:06] Stewart: Yeah. Yeah, and we definitely need someone on this podcast to talk about monetizing short form content. If anyone wants to, it’s on my mind cause I listen to a good podcast about it from the Verge.

The Verge is Vergecast. We’ll put a link in the show notes, but it’s really good. Anyone wants to have a listen to that as well. Right back to SEO then. So I think I wanna, I wanna start wrapping this up a little bit. So, cause I wanna respect your time. We’ve been here for a while. Moving on from seo, actually, state of digital publishing, tell us about the, the community that you’re running.

[00:41:37] Vahe: Community that we’re running is, it’s an interesting in. Intersect. I think the core of like, there’s two main areas, audiences, like it’s people that are either SME publishers that are, that are in charge of their audience development and SES of core part of it.

But then we’ve also have you know, ad tech MyTech partners, like the likes of yourselves as well and other people that are focusing. Not only just audience growth, but also just trying to find trends and monetization opportunities. So, essentially with the community I would say that most, most of the community is more active through our office hours and, and, and in person event stuff.

But the community is just there to post questions and if you have some support, like a one off thing. We’re here to help. But yeah, there’s a lot of information. It’s just trying to distill it down. We’re trying to eventually grow enough to be able to do that in a more impactful way.

[00:42:32] Stewart: And who, who should join?

Who’s a good fit for, who’s gonna get the most value out to join in the S OTP

[00:42:38] Vahe: community? Yeah. It could be any SME published sme, small to medium publisher that is trying to be, is very hands on and looking for the audience growth. Approaches and trying to refine that and trying to pass that off to someone else in and build a management team.

Or it could be generally anyone who’s interested in identifying what the next TikTok or YouTube, YouTube is, for example. So yeah. Any, any, any, any content creator or publisher that is inter interesting, the data publish one or a publisher that’s more hands on, basically. . Awesome.

[00:43:12] Stewart: I, where can people find out more, more about you?

Where can they connect? Do you want them to follow you on Twitter or LinkedIn? It’s absolutely fine if you don’t, but if you do have anywhere that you would like people to, to reach out or they can find out more about you, that would be great to share. ,

[00:43:27] Vahe: absolutely main, main web or website standard publishing.com.

You can go out this, check out our content if you wanted to reach out to me. It’s just my name via@standardpublishing.com as well. Any questions you have any time, feel free to reach out. And we’ve also got our LinkedIn and Twitter as well. So, you can also search for us then. And with discoverable we’re gonna be also charting out in due course as well.

Really just, just. ,

[00:43:51] Stewart: you’re gonna set up your own instance.

[00:43:54] Vahe: Yeah. We’re seeing a lot of journalists and eos just leaving the platform, so we need to have that as well, so, yeah, absolutely.

[00:44:02] Stewart: Alright. And then one, one last SEO question that I’m meant to ask and just completely drum of mind nos, and it’s very broad.

But what, what do you see kind of being the next, the next big sea change? That’s the next big thing that people need to be keeping an eye out. .

[00:44:13] Vahe: For me what’s exciting and what we need to look out for is just really leveraging a lot more of those sorry, there’s two things. There’s, it’s, it’s just really about taking your content to the next level and really applying a lot of the core a principles and, and really trying to get yourself stand out from a lot of the continent AI stuff that.

Dev, developing the work of publishers. That’s one. And the second thing is really trying to take opportunity of shortform web stories. Because we’ve seen a lot of that rises here. There’s still a lot of, not, not a lot of competition there. So get ahead, establish your audience there and, and use that as a way to diversify a traffic and modernization opportu.

[00:44:55] Stewart: Thank you very much. That was very insightful. I really appreciate your time. Again, thank you much Va. If anyone wants to find out more, see a digital publishing.com vaya, see a digital publishing. And there may well be a mask on server available to, to join by the time we we get this up. Thanks again.

[00:45:12] Stewart: Thank you for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe. The skill is available in all the usual podcast places. Even better, if you could leave us a review that really helps us.

If you’re interested in finding out more about me or Power by coffee, you can find us on social media and again, in all the usual places, links are in the show notes. Scale is currently gonna kind of come out every two weeks and we will see you then.


You can find Vahe on LinkedIn, where you can also find State of Digital Publishing, on Twitter, and YouTube.

A modern media podcast

hosted by Stewart Ritchie

You don’t need us to tell you how important SEO is to any organisation. But for publishers, as this week’s guest Vahe Arabian will tell you, it’s more of a fine art. When grappling with breaking news stories and competing live with multiple other media outlets, he shares his insights into how to win on the publishing SEO battlefield. Vahe is the founder of State of Digital Publishing, a veteran SEO & Content strategist for publishers and an explorer of digital media and technology trends.

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