Most Common Tech Issues to Plague a News Publishing Website — and How to Fix Them

Recently, I helped fix many of the technical issues on No Majesty, an independent UK-based news website. As a relatively new platform, it’s had its fair share of technical hiccups.

Ankush Mahajan

I’m writing this from a personal perspective: Recently, I helped fix many of the technical issues on No Majesty, an independent UK-based news website. As a relatively new platform, it’s had its fair share of technical hiccups. These are some of the most common.

Publishing sites often work best when articles are combined with relevant, high-quality images. Whilst these enhance the look and feel of content, it can result in a slower load time for web pages.

The fix?

Make sure you compress images throughout your site — make this automatic if possible. If you’re on WordPress, there’s several easy to use plugins that can do this for you.

If you are regularly publishing fresh content on your website, it’s more than advisable that you get verified in Google News. Depending on the type of content that you publish, you could see a large amount of traffic captured from Google’s ‘Top Stories’ section.

Whilst a lot has been said about Google’s strict guidelines for inclusion, the truth is it’s relatively simple to be accepted — the criteria tend to be:

  • Your content is timely and relevant
  • Your content is readable
  • Publish news which is trustworthy — this can be established by looking at authors, or referenced information in your article.
  • Creating a Google News XML sitemap helps — on a WordPress site this is particularly easy.

This is a bit of a classic. You publish a new article, and hey ho, it starts to rank in Google search pretty well for relevant keywords, and pretty quickly too. But alas, over time, these rankings fade. The most common reason is that publishing sites quickly bury this content under a heap of new posts, and that means Google’s crawler can’t reach the post as easily. And that, finally, means Google will think the post is less important than your other, newer stuff.

The fix?

  • Create more links to your old posts — there’s a bunch of ways to do this, but some of my favorites include:
  • Adding internal links between all posts related to a given subject
  • Making sure all your content is included in an XML sitemap
  • Creating a fresh ‘Super topic’ post, a round up that naturally includes links to old content.

This is less of a publisher-specific issue, more of a WordPress-specific issue. If you have a website which opens up the ability for users to comment, you will quickly realise this is often exploited by spammers.

On a WordPress site, the easiest way to avoid spam comments and trackbacks is to install a plugin such as Akismet. Just make sure you keep monitoring after installation to make sure it’s made your website airtight.

Bounce rate is an interesting statistic. Some people ignore it, and some people obsess over it. For clarity, bounce rate means the percentage of users who leave your website after viewing only a single page.

There’s no magic number for what it should be, and it’s worth bearing in mind that the percentage of bounces will always be higher for publisher sites compared to other types such as ecommerce. That said, we tackle high bounce rates by linking internally to other relevant articles from the one a user is currently reading.

This is one that appears a lot simpler than it actually is. Whilst most CMS’ will prompt you to update to their latest version automatically (WordPress updates an obvious example) there may well be other aspects to keep on top of, depending on your set up.

If you run a WordPress or other open source CMS-based site, look out for updates to any third party plugins installed. These are a favorite target for hackers, and whilst updating plugins doesn’t prevent them from being exploited, it can help.

In addition, remember to update your website to the latest version of PHP, if you use WordPress or another CMS which is based on this. You should be able to do this via your web hosting platform.

Having great content is all well and good, but if your site doesn’t look up to scratch you’re just asking for users to reject it.

In its few years as a news website, there have been a number of different designs for No Majesty, all pushing towards a slick, uncluttered view of the content. The current WordPress theme being used is called Authentic.

This one’s a bit of a classic, but again often overlooked amongst all the other technical issues. Obviously, the content needs to be discoverable by search engines, and you want the crawlers used by search engines to be able to see how your content ‘flows’.

Make sure you follow the below as a minimum:

  • Have an XML sitemap
  • Have a Google News sitemap (see point #2)
  • Use heading tags — h1, h2, etc.
  • Include relevant keywords in your headline — and in your content
  • Use image alt text

I wish you the best of luck in your endeavour for a website which has great content and/or is a technical marvel!

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