September 19, 2023

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Press freedom


‘The lens we need to view news’: SEO tips for journalists

Search engine optimization — or SEO — is an important tool in a journalist’s toolkit. But as technology evolves, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest SEO best practices.

To help demystify SEO, Ryan Restivo, director of product & emerging technology at Newsday and an RJI 2022 fellow, created a free AI-powered tool for journalists called YESEO. The Slack bot reduces the time it takes for journalists to write SEO-friendly headlines and is available in eight language models.

We asked Restivo how journalists can use YESEO to increase their story’s visibility, get up to speed on SEO, and avoid common traps.

Why should journalists pay attention to and learn about optimizing SEO?

Restivo: SEO can be seen as writing for computers or making a story into something people feel like isn’t as glamorous. But to me, the idea of search gets at the lens we need to view news. In a world of scarcity, “we” the news outlet used to be able to tell users what we thought the most important things were. We did this by ordering them in the newspaper, and we still do it on our homepages. Search breaks that in a particular way — it puts the focus on the user. We live in a world of abundance where every user has a “different A1” in their mind and how they figure that out is on their own. I see search as the way that we can make all of our stories as important to people who think that it's the most important thing to them.


We need to get our information into the hands of people so they can be more informed and make better decisions in their lives. I say a lot that “a human is always a part of the process” in YESEO, and I still believe that in our future, our information will only be as good as the people who can make sure they see it and value it.

What are the common SEO headline pitfalls you see?

Restivo: I think the biggest pitfall is putting the focus into the headline. Depending on your workflow, it’s sometimes first or last, and one thing that rings in my ears is what I learned early on in user research: The headline is the most important thing that a journalist has power over to make sure their work is read. 


I think about how to unpack that statement a lot and why YESEO is equipped to help with it. YESEO wants to empower journalists to make sure their stories are read, so it gives data adjacent to the story that helps the user think about what keywords are the most important.


All of the many jobs a journalist has to do in our day and age are very hard, so YESEO is looking to make a piece of that easier so you can devote more time to other things.

How can journalists and newsrooms use YESEO to address them?

Restivo: When I think about how YESEO helps newsrooms, I want users to get better at writing compelling headlines for their stories and get data that will help them make better decisions. YESEO aids with getting newsrooms to their insights faster. Whether it’s pulling trending data for something that you might not have thought was tangential to your story or generating headline ideas to make your story stand out, every part of the experience is in service to journalists. 

The job of a journalist in this age is very hard to do, there are constant strains that go beyond just the reporting of the story. YESEO looks to relieve the pain points before and after publishing by giving data and advice that a user can act on to make their story better or to think about for future stories.

 I have tried my best to make it as easy as possible for anyone with a Slack workspace to install the YESEO app and get it running in their organization. It is as easy as hitting “Add to Slack” on and the commands for stories are as easy as using copy and paste. Everyone knows how to copy and paste, right?! 

To learn more about product development, read our previous Q&A with Restivo.


Avoid doing this in your next job interview

“Talking negatively about a current or previous employer is very unprofessional and reflects badly on your character. In fact, the interviewer might think you were the problem at your last job. Even if encouraged, don't say negative things about a prior employer. Instead, illustrate how positive experiences from your previous jobs might help you with this job.”

-- Tim Sohn, contributor, “9 things to say during an interview


Covering COVID-19: Where to find national and local data

Finding national, state, and local data has become more challenging since the end of the public health emergency in May 2023, but here are some places to look. (Here’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped collecting data.)

  • CDC COVID-19 Trends Dashboard: national, state, and county weekly data on hospital admissions, emergency room visits, deaths, and test positivity rates. It also has maps for visualization.

  • COVID-19 Data Dispatch: This site is written by health, science and data journalist Betsy Ladyzhets and has a wealth of information and resources about the latest on COVID-19 data.

  • COVID Variant Tracking: The CDC publishes this summary of virus variants, highlighting when one has emerged that may bear watching.

  • Remember to report numbers in the context of historical trends: The dashboards showed a steady rise in new hospitalizations throughout August, but they were significantly lower than a year ago. For the week ending Sept. 2, there were 18,871 hospital admissions and 286 deaths, compared to 34,546 hospitalizations and 262 deaths in the same period in 2022. The numbers suggest COVID-19 isn’t causing as severe illness as it was a year ago, but it is still deadly for hundreds of people.

To see more tips on covering COVID-19 this fall from longtime health journalist and NPCJI Training Director Bara Vaida, click here.


This newsletter is written & edited by the National Press Club Journalism Institute staff: Beth Francesco, Bara Vaida, and Holly Butcher Grant. Send us your questions and suggestions for topics to cover.

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The National Press Club Journalism Institute promotes an engaged global citizenry through an independent and free press, and equips journalists with skills and standards to inform the public in ways that inspire a more representative democracy. As the non-profit affiliate of the National Press Club, the Institute powers journalism in the public interest.