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SEO For Content: The Complete Top Stories Keyword Research Guide

Before you click off of this article thinking, “not another keyword research guide,” let me tell you something I’ve learned firsthand working with national news publishers: Keyword research for publishers is a whole different thing.

The skills, processes, checklists, and tools you currently use will not be very helpful in this niche.

Forget presenting your keyword list to the editorial team using traditional keyword research methods. Those keywords are out of date!

Plus, let me save myself hours of searching through the thousands, if not millions, of keywords news sites naturally rank for.

SEO for news is different – ​​so is keyword research.

It’s about winning Top Story optimization. This will give you the lion’s share of daily search traffic for news sites.

The goal of this guide is to equip you with a quick keyword research framework to teach your journalists so they can win more of those Top Story spots.

Why Is Keyword Research For News SEO Different?

Trending Topics

News websites require a different approach to keyword research than other types of websites.

They usually focus on current and current news that is often only relevant for a short time.

As a result, news sites need to quickly identify and rank for the keywords they are searching for at any given moment (otherwise known as trending topic optimization).

Optimizing for trending topics requires a completely different approach to keyword research.

Traditional keyword research is generally based on 12 months of aggregated data, whereas news keyword research is mostly based on trending topics (which are topics that haven’t been searched before).


Most local and national news sites cover a wide range of topics. If a story sparks public interest, you can expect publishers to cover it.

For example, as Christmas approaches, you’d expect most news sites to provide tips on festive cooking or shopper’s guides.

You also expect these publishers to cover stories that capture the public interest, such as COVID-19.

And like seasonal events like Christmas, or worldwide events like pandemics, these topics slide in and out of mainstream public interest.

The difference is data; When you look at query data for news sites, you should consider seasonality and trends. These factors can also be the reason why your traffic is going up or down.


When a topic is trending or newsworthy, Google gives preference to news sites for this query. This is known as a “query deserves freshness” (QDF);

“The QDF solution revolves around determining if a topic is “hot”. If a news site or blog post is actively writing about a topic, the model illustrates that it is one of the users that is more likely to want up-to-date information.

For this reason, news sites can enter and exit search engine results pages (SERPs) for any query.

An easy example to explain this is to compare two US presidents, one then and one now.

If we take the current president, Joe Biden, and compare him to George Bush, the 43rd US president, we can see the QDF in action.

For Joe Biden, both Top Stories are triggered at the top of the SERP, and the news site’s topics are listed below.

Screenshot from Ahrefs, November 2022

In fact, if we observe Bush’s results, the SERPs are mostly informational in nature.

Screenshot from Ahrefs, November 2022

Also note the lower placement of the top stories.


Keyword patterns for news sites are based on the five Ws of journalism: who, what, when, where, and why.

That is a fundamental question every journalist should ask when covering a story.

Answering these questions in a story generally gives reporters a good foundation.

To help journalists execute good on-page SEO with their headlines and subheadings, focus on W’s and cut down on “keywords” as we as SEO professionals know them.

Forget about explaining concepts like keyword difficulty, monthly search volume, cost per click, or even impressions. Believe me, you will lose them, and they will return to ignoring SEO.


People forget that just because a story is on the internet, it can also be in newspapers – and journalists need to adapt their work to both audiences.

In print, you can immediately retrieve everything around the title, such as all images and subtitles. In digital, there may only be a general image and a title.

Space is the real issue, because there’s only so much space in a digital layout.

In print, short impactful words are key. And sometimes, it also has to do with the number of lines in the headline.

But for SEO, it can hinder the reach of that story.

The main optimization tip you can give journalists is to ask them to include one of the five W’s in the headline.

And don’t be afraid to give too much detail in the title.

Here’s a simple framework to use with non-SEO journalists to help them understand keyword research.

Who Is The Story About?

People search for names of people, places, or things.

Tip: Using the full name of a person, place, or thing will do better in your search.

Elon Musk will have more search volume than Musk.

Screenshot from Ahrefs, November 2022

What Is The Story About?

To help search engines show our stories when people search for them, we need to tell our readers and search engines the facts about the story.

If this is about the election, then this needs to make headlines.

Search engines are the first users of your site all the time; they can’t see featured images like humans.

With SEO, if the headline doesn’t contain the keywords or what the reader is looking for, search engines are less likely to show that story in their search results.


Tip: Adding exactly where the story happened or is happening will help your story rank better.

People may pass by, catch a glimpse of the news on the radio/TV, and will use their smartphone to find out what’s going on.

Sometimes, they may even just Google the location to find out the news. For example, “Ukraine”.

Screenshot of search for [Ukraine], November 2022

It’s less about keyword research and more about the story elements people are looking for.

The Why?

When something happens in the news, people have questions – and many people turn to search engines to help them answer their questions.

For example, in 2016, the UK voted to leave the EU; people search for answers regarding the impact on them. i.e., “Why did the UK choose to leave the EU,” “What does Brexit mean,” “What impact does Brexit have on Business” etc.

Explaining news is very effective for SEO and generate new customers.

Breaking News Keyword Research

Breaking news is a term used by the media industry to describe events or events that have just happened in real-time.

Breaking news can be something that recently happened in your area or something that is currently happening in the world.

For the most part, these topics may have had little prior search interest. As a result, traditional keyword research tools are of little help here.

Keyword research tools generally base their data on a 12-month average search volume.

For example, before COVID-19 became a worldwide pandemic, and almost all media covered it, it was almost never searched for.

Screenshot from Google Trends, November 2022

And prior to February 2020, if you had used standard keyword research tools, searches for COVID-19 would return no data (or show no search volume).

Therefore, how do we do keyword research for breaking news when no data is available?

It’s simple: stop thinking about keywords like you always do. Instead, think of entities when doing keyword research for breaking news.

Focus On The Five Ws

To prove this methodology works, let’s use Google Trends for the top keywords around COVID-19 now that we have over a year’s worth of keyword data.

The top buzzword for COVID-19, unsurprisingly: Covid 19.

Screenshot from Ahrefs, November 2022

Even the third or fourth keywords, “Covid vaccine” or even “symptoms of Covid 19”, are still answered by the question, “What is the story about?”

Tip: Keywords in headlines are a very strong signal that Google uses to show news articles in headlines.

And don’t just take my word for it. See what Google’s own documentation has to say:

“The most basic signal that information is relevant is when an article contains the same keywords as your search” referenced from Google’s guide on how to rank news content.”

This is probably why many news outlets have been directed by their SEO teams to use what is known as the kicker before their main editorial headline, i.e., {SEO Keyword}: {Editorial Headline}, as keywords closer to the start of the headline carry more weight. big.

Using this approach can help a story rank high in Top Stories. But this is not always the case.

Depending on the publication authority, entering the term anywhere in the title may also work.

When a story breaks out, as mentioned several times throughout this guide, the most important keyword to cover is the five Ws.

The What, Who, And Where Components Of The Story

Unlike social, push alerts, and newsletters, where people are notified of updates, when people search, they are actively looking for information on a topic. This is especially true for breaking news.

Often, people hear about a story in other media, such as radio, TV, or even colleagues. They are given the bare facts of a story. But people have questions.

Many people, when they have a question, turn to search engines for answers.

The best place to start researching keywords to tell a story is by going to Google Trends and using the first word of the story.

Google Trends

At the time of writing – the topic of “Cyclone Hinnamnor” is currently making headlines.

Screenshot from Google Trends, November 2022

As you can see, before it hit the headlines, there was relatively little search interest for the topic.

Ensuring that keywords are used in the headlines for any news updates on that topic is the first step.

As we can see from the saved SERP below for “Typhoon Hinnamnor,” all publications use the main keyword in the headline.

Screenshot from Google Search, November 2022

Tip: You can use – to save your search in time.

This is especially useful for capturing top story results, because when a topic is no longer news or a publication doesn’t cover a topic, the SERP feature of the Top Stories carousel will no longer show.

Let’s break down these keywords again using the above formula.

What Is The Story About?

Where Is The Story Taking Place?

Typhoon Hinnamnor in South Korea.

For the most part, people will be looking for coverage of the latest update to a story – but as you can see above, Google has featured videos, which means people are also looking for snippets.

Once the latest news updates and video footage are covered, the next place to look is Google Trends.

Step 1: Type The Main Keyword Into Google Trends

Screenshot from Google Trends, November 2022

What you’ll see is that there are topics and queries that are breakout queries.

According to Google Trends, the search term breakout means to grow more than 5000% in the requested timeframe.

Related queries give you an indication of what searches might also be searched.

What you want to do here is take a related topic and search for its top terms.

For example, if we use the term “Typhoon” and filter by the top related queries, we can see that “What is a hurricane” is one of the top related queries.

Screenshot from Google Trends, November 2022

Note: Rising queries are trending queries, and Top Queries are the most searched queries.

Step 2: Use Google’s Related Searches

The next step is to type in keywords and use Google related searches.

Screenshot from a search for [what is a typhoon], November 2022

This can be a great place to find keywords and related topics to include in a news storyline section. These are also known as story “branches”.

The main story is about the news of the Typhoon in Japan, but the offshoots are what people also want to know now that they know the news.

Tip: use asterisks as wildcards to represent spaces that can be filled by anything. This will give you more related questions to target.

For example “what are the effects of a hurricane” could be a good header suggestion for an explanation of what a hurricane is.

Screenshot of a search for [what is a “typhoon”], November 2022

And if you want to do this research on a larger scale, freemium tools like and will help you here.

The addition of including these branches as part of the editorial workflow for live news is that these descriptors then go green.

Here’s a great example of a green explorer created by The New York Times that ranks for over 400 related keywords by the difference between hurricanes, cyclones and hurricanes that can be used whenever there’s related news.

Screenshot from Ahrefs, November 2022

This is the magic formula when working with an editorial team.

This is the secret to how you can get the editorial team to commission more evergreen content.

When a story is trending and newsworthy, give them an always-interesting topic that they also need to write about – but in a frame as “this is what our search audience is looking for in our coverage of this story”.

The beauty about this workflow is that it will not only serve the purpose of the audience for the daily news agenda, as well as customer intent, but it is always green and can be updated and linked back to when another or similar storm hits. the topic of weather enters the news agenda.

Now apply this logic to seasonal events, such as Christmas, Easter and summer. There are topics that will be published every year.

The key is to time it and provide evergreen keyword topics as they occur on the news agenda.

News Event Keyword Research

Google Trends is a great starting point when researching keywords for an upcoming news event.

Let’s take Black Friday as an example.

Step 1: Input The Target Keyword In Google Trends

Screenshot from Google Trends, November 2022

This gives us information about when this topic is predicted to trend based on the previous five years. Naturally, it spikes in November when Black Friday happens.

Step 2: Find The Related Keyword And Filter By Top

Screenshot from Google Trends, November 2022

This will give you an idea of ​​the top terms people are searching for.

You need to help your editorial team understand when and what to publish for search – not by looking at what keywords are trending at the moment, but by what has historically been trending.

You can use Google Trends to provide you with this information.

And David Esteve, news media audience specialist, has put out the best Twitter threads on how to do this every hour. According to David:

“Given that Google positively evaluates the proximity of the time your story was published relative to when there was a spike in search trends for that information, having “predictive” knowledge about when those searches will start happening provides a very strong advantage for publishers planning in this way.”

Screenshot from Twitter, November 2022

The key to getting this information for any topic is changing the default URL parameters that Google Trends gives you.

For example, if we were doing this for Black Friday 2021, which is Friday, November 26th, we would need to change the default URL that Google Trends gives us: =black%20jumat& geo=US.

We are interested on Friday, November 26, 2021.

Therefore, the first step is to use a date filter to get a customized date range, namely the 21st to the 27th.

Screenshot from Google Trends, November 2022

Now, if you look at the top queries, you get the specific queries searchers were looking for in that time period:

Screenshot from Google Trends, November 2022

On Black Friday, to outline when and what to publish using David’s formula to add hourly data, ie 27T20& ;geo=US&q=black%20fri.

We can see that the morning has peak search interest – meaning on Black Friday it’s important to let your editorial team publish as early as possible with the best deals and not wait for them to come in, as flower searches can die down at a later date.

Screenshot from Google Trends, November 2022

With news SEO and keyword research, what we aim to achieve is to inform editors what their audience is looking for, but also when they are looking for it, to maximize story reach.

As indicated above, Google Trends is a very useful tool to help inform editors what people are searching for and when.

Key Takeaway

News sites traditionally rank for thousands, if not millions, of keywords.

There is no point in doing keyword research for news using traditional methods when the topic has never been searched for before.

Instead, focus on the five Ws, and teach journalists how to use them in headlines and on the page to maximize SEO for news websites in the Top News carousel.

Featured Image: Tero Vesalainen/Shutterstock

What are main keywords?

In SEO terms, these are the words and phrases searchers enter into search engines, also called “search queries”. If you boil down everything on your page – all the images, videos, copy, etc. â into simple words and phrases, those are your main keywords.

How do I find my main keyword? How to Find and Choose Keywords for Your Website

  • Use Google Keyword Planner to reduce your keyword list. …
  • Step 2: Prioritize low-hanging fruit. …
  • Step 3: Check the monthly search volume (MSV) for your chosen keywords. …
  • Step 4: Consider SERP features when you choose keywords.

What are the 3 types of keywords?

Informational keywords â searchers looking for answers to specific questions or general information. Navigation keywords â the searcher wants to find a specific site or page. Commercial keywords â searchers who want to investigate a brand or service.

What are 2 types of keywords?

When doing keyword research it is important to consider two different types of keywords, one high volume keyword and the other long tail keyword. Knowing what each type of keyword is can help you target the right keywords with your SEO strategy.

What are the types of keywords?

There are 9 types of keywords: short tail, long tail, short term, long term, product defining, customer defining, geo targeting and intent targeting. All of these keywords have special powers that can multiply your SEO efforts when used in different situations.

What are examples of keywords?

Keywords are the words and phrases that people type into search engines to find what they’re looking for. For example, if you wanted to buy a new jacket, you could type something like ‘men’s leather jacket’ into Google. Even if that phrase is made up of more than one word, it’s still a keyword.

What are good keywords?

Good keywords match user intent, allowing Google to think that your site offers relevant information. If there is a disconnect between your intent and keywords, users will quickly realize that your site doesn’t have what they need, and they will leave or switch to your competitors.

What are common keywords?

The most popular keyword winner is Facebook, with over 1,102,800,000 searches per month. This is followed by YouTube, Amazon, and weather, or “weather” for short. The most popular keyword winner is Facebook, with over 1,102,800,000 searches per month.

What are important keywords?

Keywords are important because they tell search engines what the page content of your website is about. “Keywords†is also a term used to refer to words and phrases that people enter into search engines to find the information they are looking for.

What are the 4 types of keywords?

When researching to find user intent behind performing a search, we can classify all keywords into four main categories of intent: commercial, transactional, informational and navigational.

What are good keywords?

Good keywords match user intent, allowing Google to think that your site offers relevant information. If there is a disconnect between your intent and keywords, users will quickly realize that your site doesn’t have what they need, and they will leave or switch to your competitors.

What are keywords in a text?

Keywords are words, phrases or other combinations of numbers and letters that enable people to receive SMS marketing and communication messages.


What are the 3 types of keyword matching?

There are four different keyword match types for Google Ads: broad match, phrase match, exact match, and negative match.

What are the three match types? The three keyword match types are Strict, Phrase and Broad. But before discussing match types, it’s important to know some rules and definitions.

What are the 3 match types for keywords in Google Adwords?

Of the 3 keyword matching options, exact match gives you the most control over who sees your ad, but reaches fewer searches than phrase match and broad match.

How many match types are there in Google ads?

With three options to choose from â exact match, phrase match and broad match â you can control how close your selected keywords need to be to a user’s query for your ad to be eligible to show.

What are match types?

Match type is a keyword setting in Apple Search Ads advanced search results campaigns that helps you control how your ads match to user searches. There are two types you can apply: Broad match and exact match. We recommend that you run campaigns with both match types to ensure good coverage and performance.

What are the 3 types of keyword matching explain with an example?

Broad match (maximum reach, minimum relevance) Modified Broad match (slightly lower reach, greater relevance) Phrase match (medium reach, medium relevance) Exact match (minimum reach, maximum relevance)

What are the 3 types of keyword test in Amazon?

There are three different Amazon keyword match types that you want for your Sponsored Product and Sponsored Brand campaigns. They are Precise, Phrasal, and Broad. This match type allows you to fine-tune which customer search queries can trigger your ads.

What is broad and exact match keyword explain with example?

Exact match: Show ads only when the query exactly matches the keyword. Phrase match: Also show ads if there are additional words before or after the keyword. Broad match: Shows ads as long as all keywords are part of the search, regardless of word order.

How do I get SEO keywords to the top?

Start with keywords. Identify your potential customers and find out what they are searching for. Use different keyword tools to see which ones have high search volume and which ones are less competitive for you to get opportunities for. Then, start creating content that engages your keywords.

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