Quality Over Quantity: Why Magazine SEO Matters

Magazine SEO is one way to attract a more high-quality digital audience and make it clear when they arrive, that you’re what they’re looking for.

Magazine SEO is about attracting a quality, laser-focused audience. The art of optimization isn’t always about picking the keywords with the largest audience, but picking the keywords that drive the right audience.

You know who your audience is. You wouldn’t publish a blueberry muffin recipe as a magazine for diabetics when you could publish a sugar-free blueberry muffin recipe.

The same goes for keyword research. It’s about finding the keywords with the largest search volume, and then still hand-selecting the ones you want to target. For example, let’s say you’re a food magazine and you’re looking to build an editorial calendar based on your researched keyword universe.

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You discover that there are 33,100 people searching for “chicken and dumplings recipe” every month and 135,000 people searching for “chicken and dumplings.” Which should you target?

Easy answer, “chicken and dumplings recipe” because you get two keywords for one. Also, both keywords have the same number of competing pages (about 500,000 – a number you can determine by Googling the term in quotes.)

Harder question up next.

Your editor says that there are three recipes from the archive you could repurpose online, all you need to do is pick one and optimize it with a new titles. One could be “chicken meatloaf recipe” (720 people searching for it every month),  another could be “vegan meatloaf recipe” (1,300 searches per month) or  “classic meatloaf recipe ” (5,400 searches per month). 

With the data in front of you, it’s easy to choose the “classic meatloaf recipe” because it’s clear the most people are looking for this recipe.

Why optimization matters

When training new clients, it’s not uncommon for editors new to search engine optimization, especially those converted from print positions, to ignore our SEO scorecard. They don’t use it when creating new content, and don’t apply it to any of their older content. However, we have several case studies of publishers who swapped out those editors with new ones who began using the scorecard, and within six months, their online traffic had increased by a minimum of 20%.

Magazine SEO works. You might feel like search optimization is tacky. It’s gotten a bad rap due to bad practitioners. And we’re totally with you on that when it’s done the wrong way. The right way requires you to optimize as a service to your customers, and that’s what we teach.

One thing to keep in mind is what we call the “Goldilocks problem.” If you pick a keyword that has too low search volume, it may also have low competition, which means you’ll get ranked on page one, but it won’t drive very much traffic. If you pick one too big, there may be too many competing pages, and you won’t have a chance of ranking at all. That’s why it’s best to pick one in the middle with a modest amount of search and a modest amount of competition so that you may land a number one spot and keep it there for a long time to consistently drive you traffic. Imagine if the example above included “apple pie recipe.” It has 201,000 people searching for it every month, but almost 1 million competing pages. For many publishers, their article would be drop in a bucket of recipes.

How to SEO a magazine website as a service to your customers

The first thing you can do is begin with keyword research. Why write about topics that nobody is searching for on the web when you can see data behind different phrases that people are, in fact, searching for? There’s a variety of keyword research tools including Moz Keyword Explorer, SEMRush and Google’s Keyword Planner, which will give you the most accurate keyword data if you have an active ad budget.

Next, take this long list of keyword data, and eliminate any keywords that don’t attract exactly the type of person who you want to put in front of your products. You can waste a lot of time and money writing, producing and promoting content that is not clearly aligned with your ideal customers. So trim your keyword list down to keywords that will attract the right people.

Once you find terms that people are searching for, and that apply your target audience filter, run them through another filter: think about intent. For  example, if you’re a car magazine publisher, some good keywords might involve how-to content on fixing your own car. But Google may not agree on which keywords to use.

For example, you might think the keyword “replace tires” is a good one. You can easily write an article on how to replace tires. But when you Google “replace tires,” the first three results are local businesses. Google decides that someone who is searching for “replace tires” is not looking for how-to advice on how to replace their tires, they want a mechanic. So Google lists local mechanics. The rest of the results, paid and free, are all for national tire brands, not Car and Driver or Autoweek. This means that if you try to target that exact keyword, it’s unlikely you’ll show up on page one. However, the term “how to change a tire” is full of publishers on page one, like Popular Mechanics, CNN and Edmunds.

Once you compile this list, read our post on how to pick keywords with high volume and low competition.

Improve user experience via magazine SEO

Identifying the strategic intent of your website is just one of many fundamental goals when you’re building and running an online media site. In order to trust the company and do business with it, site visitors must understand the deal. They must “get,” right away, what the company does, what it expects in return and what the benefits are for signing up, subscribing, joining, buying or otherwise providing information.

Good magazine SEO is just one way to accomplish this. By tailoring topics precisely to your target audience, they will immediately know the brand and the products are for them when they arrive.

What’s your experience with magazine SEO? What tips and tricks will you share with our readers?


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