Tech Top stories

Intro to boosting traffic checklist for media startups

7 basic tech problems holding back your traffic growth

Media startups and even more established media companies are often trapped in a vicious cycle — not enough traffic to make money, not enough money to boost traffic. 

While it’s probably not possible to significantly boost traffic without any investment, there’s a few “techie tips” you can implement to break the cycle. 

They’re relatively easy — the specialists promise. “I assume journalists think SEO is complicated, CMS is complicated, coding is complicated, so they just don’t touch it,” says Olga Odarchenko, a SEO consultant at Just SEO Team. 

She says their team mostly works with non-media companies. “I want everyone to think SEO can be easy, just a few tweaks,” Odarchenko adds.

Below are a few basic tech problems you can fix to start raising your traffic [for more advanced tips, follow The Fix, they’re coming – Editor]

The story is based on the interviews with Olga Kolgusheva, journalist-turned-web designer, co-founder of Applet Studio and Olga Odarchenko, SEO consultant at Just SEO Team.

Problem #1 – No Google Search Console on the website

Google Search Console is a Google service that helps identify search traffic problems your website might have. The Google Search Console panel embedded in your CMS will receive Google recommendations on website optimization. Most website builders already have it baked in. Follow the recommendations.

There is also a panel to receive notifications about search sanctions against your website, should there be any. In short, it’s a simple but useful tool to monitor your site’s health.

To fix the problem: 

Go to https://search.google.com/search-console/ and register your website, check it regularly for updates and recommendations and act on them. 

Problem #2 – Primary website mirror 

Your website has to be accessible from just one hyperlink. To check this you should go to the main page of your website and add letters in the search line. Ideally, every web address modification should send you to the main website.

To identify and fix the problem:

  1. Type in http or https in front of the address
  2. Try it with www and without
  3. With index.php at the end
  4. With index.html (this modification can show an Error 404 and this is normal)
  5. With a “/” at the end of the address and without it.

If you run into problems — contact your web developer to fix them. It won’t be expensive or a lot of work, but will help your website index improve. 

Problem #3 — 404 error. Page not found

To identify the problem go to the non-existent page of the website by adding a few symbols to a page address and see what happens. It can be just a blank screen or page with the links to the most popular stories on the website and the menu block. 

If a reader gets to the “page not found” you risk losing them for good. Negative behavioural interactions with the website inevitably lead to lower google search positions. 

To fix the problem: 

Fixing this would largely depend on the website builder you used. For example, in WordPress the page is often easy to customize with the help of various 404 plug-ins – all of them are pretty easy to use.

If you have a custom-made website – you’ll have to ask your programmer and maybe even involve the designer to come up with a suitable solution.

Problem #4 – Site loading speed on PC and mobile devices

Another free Google service allows us to diagnose this problem – https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/. Just follow the link and type in your website address. The tool tests the loading speed of the website within seconds – classifying it in one of three zones – red, amber and green. 

If you are in the red zone that’s very bad and the issue needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

To fix the problem: 

This problem is especially complicated, so you are likely to need the help of programmers. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything on your own. For example, reduce the size of photos uploaded to the website and/ or write a manual for your photo team on what size photos you want them to upload.

The more advanced thing to do on mobile devices is create an AMP version of your website. AMP Project (The Accelerated Mobile Pages Project) – this is another helpful tech tool from Google that creates a version of your web page with much less data allowing it to load on a mobile device within one second. 

The Squarespace website builder has an embedded AMP, while with Word Press it’s harder to build in but try anything you can. 

Problem #5 – External links to other websites 

Metaphorically speaking external links to other websites decrease its weight/ significance, according to SEO specialists. So the less external links your website has per page the better. 

It is easier said than done, as proper citation is valued in high quality journalism. So rather than outright banning hyperlinks, reduce the amount of those might not pay off. 

To fix the problem: 

Delete all broken and old hyperlinks, delete repetitive citations – citing one source more than once (and never do it again), add a rel=”nofollow” directive to the code of the external link. 

This trick works less well than it used to, but still helps to keep your site’s weight.

Problem #6 – No titles 

Having no titles for pages, photo captions, no proper slugs will downrank your website in Google search, so it’s worth keeping an eye on this. 

Titles and descriptions are what you see when you find a story/ website in Google search. The slugs is what comes after the “/” in the page address (the part of the URL that identifies the specific page). For example: the “dennikn-profits” in https://thefix.media/2020/02/04/dennikn-profits/ 

It should be less than 5 words to be better indexed by Google.

Photo captions are no less important – every picture uploaded on the website needs to have a proper description.

To fix the problem:

To fix page titles and description WordPress users often rely on the Yoast SEO plugin that allows to customize both and add keywords to the page description.

When it comes to slugs practically every website builder has a customization function. Thus the only thing left to be done is to use it.

With the images — just give it a descriptive name and write up a caption using the key words of the story. Thus when googled the image will lead a user to your website. 

Problem #7 – Content in need of structure

SEO experts say that the success of online sales largely depends on the copy. Better copy — better page results and better engagements with the content, website, company. 

If your stories are written in big text chunks you might be better off breaking it down.

To fix the problem: 

Write in shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs and produce shorter stories. 

With shorter everything it is easier to scan through the text and that’s what most of the people do online — scan through content.

Structure the text. Divide ideas into groups both logically and visually, where each group has no more than 3-4 points.   

Highlight the main ideas, so the readers would get the main point of the story just scanning the subheads.

Repeat and paraphrase. Especially if you want a reader to take action or make a decision based on a certain point you are making in the story.

Denys Zelenov, Head of Digital at 24 TV channel, also contributed to the story

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