Authority, or trust, is what helps Google decide which websites will rank first or second on Google News or when someone searches for a story. Notice the websites display in this screen capture -- they have a lot of authority. But you don't have to be a big site, you just have to be consistent with your newspaper SEO.
Yesterday, I was asked to help host a webinar for 56 GateHouse editors on newspaper SEO.
The title of the presentation was "SEO: Beyond the Obvious," which meant we intended to delve a little deeper into SEO strategy, beyond the keywords and SEO headlines.
It was great getting a refresher course in the basics, but we also got to discuss more specific strategies like internal linking (linking to past, related stories on your site) and which keyword phrases are ideal for targeting, whether in a hard-news story or a lifestyle piece.
One word that arose in the conversation and you will continue to hear as you sharpen your SEO skills is "authority."
Authority, in a nut shell, is the amount of trust Google bestows on your website. Websites with a lot of authority, or trust, get dibs over other websites when they match a term that someone is Googling. (Where you show up in the search results is called your "ranking.")
Some examples of websites with a lot of authority are Wikipedia.com, Dictionary.com, Amazon.com and Overstock.com. Some news sites that have a lot of authority are HuffingtonPost.com, news.yahoo.com, ABCNews.go.com and CNN.com. Their good authority on the Web is why you often see these websites on the front page, and often in the top slots, of your search results.
Authority depends on a lot of factors –– too many to ever count. (The infamous "algorithm" you keep hearing about calculates the amount of authority and page rank you get. What is page rank? It can be a good indicator of authority, but it is not the only one.)
Some factors of authority are technical, demanding a website to be coded or navigated in a certain way –– usually, to create a more intuitive user experience for the reader and to help the search engine spiders determine what your website is about.
From a newspaper editor's standpoint, it's the front-end factors you need to focus on –– otherwise known as the copywriting part of SEO. This includes the proper keywords, proper linking, SEO headlines, photo captions, meta data, etc. If you can be consistent with your SEO strategy –– whatever it may be at this moment –– then you will see your authority on the Web begin to rise and, as a result, your rankings will increase, too.