Optimize Your Site
Before you can monetize your content you need to ensure it lives within a product that is reliable, discoverable, and easy to navigate. This lab focused on best practices tied to page speed, crawlability, and user experience to measure and validate their direct impact on revenue.
For publishers, your site is your platform. A website’s success relies on a wide variety of variables from the experience it offers your users to how well it leverages and integrates with other products and platforms that are meant to amplify the reach and discoverability of your content. The following topics can often be overlooked, but are foundational elements in building a successful site.
Choosing a theme or template for your news site is one of most important factors in setting yourself up for success. Simplicity, mobile-responsiveness, ad placements, and how lightweight a theme is are crucial considerations when making a decision. Ensure that you’re doing extensive research before selecting a new theme for your website.
Having a mobile-responsive site is only the first step in ensuring that your content is fully optimized for mobile devices. Common issues that affect mobile usability include:
• Incompatible plugins, such as Flash
• Not defining a viewport for your pages, or not setting it to adjust to screen sizes
• Content elements that are not responsive and require horizontal scrolling
• Text that is too small to read
• Clickable elements that are too close together
Check out Google’s mobile usability documentation to read more about these common issues. If you’re curious whether your site is affected by any of these issues, check the Mobile Usability report in Google Search Console, or test pages individually using the Mobile Usability Testing Tool.
Structured data is a standardized markup that gives search engines additional information about a page and its elements, helping the chances your site will display in richer features in search results. For news publishers, it’s important to have your articles marked up with Article structured data, to increase the chance that they’ll show up in Top Stories carousels in Google Search. To provide search engines additional information about your publication as a whole, consider adding Organization or NewsMediaOrganization structured data to your homepage as a best practice.
To test whether a page on your site is currently utilizing structured data, or to check for proper implementation, use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
XML Sitemaps act as a roadmap of your website, with links to all of the important content within it. This helps search engines not only find and index that content, but also better understand the structure of your website.
When it comes to news publishers, it’s important to not only have a traditional XML sitemap, but also a news sitemap. A news sitemap sends your news articles directly to Google News, which can allow for quicker indexing of breaking stories.
WordPress plugins like Yoast SEO, and its premium counterpart News SEO, can be valuable tools in assisting with sitemap generation. Google also provides documentation on how to generate your own sitemaps without 3rd party tools.
Once you have XML sitemaps, they should be submitted directly to Google for indexing through Google Search Console.
Mobile page speed, or the time it takes for your content to load on a mobile device, became a Google ranking factor in 2018. Crucial to the user experience, people are more likely to abandon your page the longer it takes to load. Additionally, Google announced Core Web Vitals in early 2020. This initiative focuses on delivering a unified set of metrics that result in a great user experience.
To test the performance of your site, it’s recommended that you run a test on your homepage, as well as a few article pages and other content types, with the Google PageSpeed Insights tool. Powered by Lighthouse, this tool will give you estimates on the following performance metrics, among others:
• First Contentful Paint – When the first text or image shows up
• Largest Contentful Paint – When the largest content of a page is visible
• Cumulative Layout Shift – How much visible elements move within the viewport
• Time to Interactive – The time it takes for a page to become fully interactive
When assessing image optimization from a page speed perspective, there are a number of tactics that should be employed as a best practice. Check out Google’s guides to automating image optimization and lazy loading as good places to start.
From a search optimization perspective, adding alt text, descriptive file names, and good captions can all help your images show up in search. Google’s documentation on image best practices gives an in-depth look into how you can ensure your site’s images are optimized for search.