Mail Online’s Matt Brown on search engine optimisation

Mail Online’s Matt Brown on search engine optimisation

By Rachel Segal Hamilton IdeasTap 14/02/13

The Daily Mail’s Head of Search & Social ran an IdeasTap Spa about using SEO to ensure your content reaches the largest possible audience. Read his top tips…

With a billion page views per month and 1,000 new registered users each day, the Mail Online is the world’s most popular newspaper website. What’s its secret? At a recent Spa, Matt Brown outlined the key SEO basics all bloggers and journalists should know, and revealed the tools and techniques behind the Daily Mail’s online success.  


Get in Google’s good books 

Google ranks your content first and foremost by the ratio of search volume to click-through rates [the number of times a user clicks through to your site from seeing your content appear in Google search results]. Even it starts off high on the results page, your content will soon slip down if people aren’t actually clicking on it. So getting your page title and description right is fundamental. The most enticing ones tend to include a question or a call-to-action.


Inspire interaction

Mail Online has a very long homepage, featuring a huge number of articles – around 700 are published on the site each day – as well as 1,000s of links, big pictures and the infamous ‘Sidebar of Shame’.  All of this is excellent for SEO as well as being “optimised for reader impact,” says Matt, adding that “some of our most loyal users click on 40 articles in one visit.” Matt says to encourage comments, include questions in headlines and within the copy of the article.


Mail Online's Matt Brown


Know your keywords

Discover which keywords people are using and tailor your content to make it easier to find. Say – to take an example from Matt – you’ve written an article about Justin Bieber; type his name into Google’s keyword tool, which suggests keyword phrases including “Justin Bieber” that are currently being typed into Google. “Target things that are low competition but searched for frequently,” advises Matt. And, as long as it’s relevant to your piece, “Try to match the exact phrase that people are searching for”.

Once you’ve selected your keywords, “Use them in the URL, the headline, the page title, the preview text and anywhere that mentions or links to the article,” says Matt. Also include them in images’ alt text (the text displayed when you mouse over an image) – but make sure whatever you write describes the image. If not, this is bad for accessibility for disabled users and, as Matt points out, “If Google suspects you’re spamming, you can be penalised”. When it comes to body copy, “The best way to write an article is to include the keywords in the first or second paragraph,” says Matt, “but the key is to ensure it’s readable.”


Build links

In SEO terms, the greater the number of links to your content on other sites, the better. Although Mail Online doesn’t do much link building – even without it, they get millions of links to a popular article – it’s something Matt suggests for smaller sites. “Contact bloggers and anyone else who might be interested to tell them about your content. If they like it, hopefully they’ll link to you,” he says.


Share on social media

Google uses social signals from Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms to determine where a piece of content will rank in its search results. So always tweet links to your content and post them on Facebook. Open graph tags on your site allow you to control how an article appears on Facebook by, for example, telling Facebook whether or not to include the image when posting it. Similarly, Twitter Cards specify how the article will appear on Twitter.

Make sure you have share buttons at the top and bottom of your articles. Remember: the Google+ share button shows exactly how many times the button has been clicked, whereas the Twitter and Facebook buttons show how much a link has been tweeted or liked in total, not just using your buttons.


Analyse what works best

“Google Analytics is brilliant,” says Matt. It’s also free, which is great news for anyone just starting out. You can also track all your social media links by creating specific links for Facebook and Twitter using Bitly. With open graph tags, you get access to Facebook’s own analytics tool, which tracks how your links are shared through the like button, share button or through organic shares (people copying and pasting links). Twitter offers a similar platform, which tells you how well your tweets are doing, including stats according to location and gender. Once you understand what’s most successful, you can adapt your approach accordingly.


Useful resources

Google Analytics is free software that analyses how your site is being used.

Tynt inserts a URL whenever copy from your site is copied and pasted.

SEO Moz is search engine optimization software.

Social Signals is a video in which Google’s Matt Cutts talks about how the search engine uses social media.


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