How Linking Can Increase Your Public Radio Station Community Engagement
I was asked why I’m so enthusiastic about public radio stations SEO after writing the first couple of posts. I taught myself the basics of SEO to push my resume site up the Google results for my name and public radio. In the process I saw a steady increase in visits to the site and a few phone calls about opportunities. It wasn’t hard to learn the basics and I’m steadily increasing my understanding of the ever-changing complexities of search engines.
I believe you can attract new listeners to your air signal by converting casual web site visitors to your station by adopting just a few SEO principles. It’s a group effort to. Reporters, editors, producers and managers can keep share the responsibilities and get your content out to more people. Plus, the increase in page views helps your underwriting department generate more web-based revenue…. and be sure to ask your general manager for a cut of that chunk of change!
Google Loves Links
We used to call it the World Wide Web before we called it the Internet. That web word conjures up visions of the interconnectedness of information and that foundation is still one of the top criteria for search engines in evaluating your rankings. Simply put, Google Doesn’t Like Dead End Streets.
There are two kinds of links. Outbound linking and Back Links (or Inbound Links). Google and Bing like both of them, but they really like Back Links. They use the number of links back to your site from other sites to create your Domain Score and they use the “quality” of the sites linking to you to create your Trustworthiness score. When you combine the DS and the TS and a couple of other factors your site is assigned an “Authority Score” that affects where in the search rankings your pages show up. Want to see your station’s Authority Score? Click Here.
What’s a good Authority Score? It’s on a scale of 1-100. NPR’s score is 93; WNYC is 84; KQED is 86. Any score under 60 could be improved by paying attention to these SEO rules.
Outbound Links come in to types. Internal (links to other pages on your site) and External (links to other sites). You want to have a few links on your page to other pages on your site. This is usually done automatically by your CMS but Google and Bing know these links are in the footer or other section. What they really like is links within the text of your story. So link to the original source material for your story or the business you’re covering. And link deep into their site to a specific page, not just their domain.
Back Links take a bit more effort and they come in two flavors as well. There are No Follow links and Do Follow links. Some sites tell search engine crawlers Not to follow the links on their pages back to your site. This pretty much negates the value of the link your Authority Score. You’ll have to do some work to find out if the site that linked to you is a No Follow site. You can install an SEO browser tool like Moz Bar or look at the source code (ugh!) of the page linking back to your site. FYI–while social sharing is important, Facebook and Twitter are No Follow sites. Sorry to burst your bubble on that one.
So how do you get a good quality Do Follow Back Link? Frankly, you have ask, or at least provide the site with the link you want them to include. As public radio stations, the people and places we cover often link back to the story they were featured in. That’s a good thing, but don’t be shy about sending your source the link to the story and asking them to include it if they post it to their site. Of course, there maybe stories where this is not appropriate—if you’re covering a controversial topic or person—but routine stories are fair play.
Back Links from sites with high Authority Scores are most helpful to you. These sites often include your daily newspaper, NPR, or an educational institution. Pro Tip: While no one can really prove it, some SEO experts believe that links from .edu and .gov domains are scored higher than links from .org, .net and .com domains. Like chicken soup, it couldn’t hurt for university stations to get links in multiple places from your licensee.
There is a lot of advice about Back Links on the web, but very little specific to public radio stations. My advice is to make link trading part of your conversations with your sources when appropriate. Your station’s marketing department should be creating promotions that encourage back linking. At one station I managed, we created a promotion with area bands where they helped fundraise for us. This gave us a bunch of Do Follow Back Links, though these sites had low Authority Scores.
Confused yet? Just remember that good reporting and story telling is the key to everything. Relevance matters.