SEO Podcast #60: Interview with Barry Adams

Episode #60 of the SEO Podcast by #SEOSLY features an absolute star in SEO, Barry Adams, who is best known for SEO for news websites.

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SEO for news websites

SEO for News Publishers with Barry Adams

I recently had the absolute privilege of speaking with Barry Adams, a pioneering SEO consultant who has dedicated over 20 years to optimizing news websites.

Barry offered a wealth of practical insights into succeeding with search as a news publisher in today’s increasingly competitive landscape. In this comprehensive article, I’ll provide a detailed overview of Barry’s sage advice on leveraging SEO to grow your news site.

Introducing Barry Adams – The Expert in SEO for News Websites

Barry humbly describes himself as an “SEO dinosaur”, having been in the industry since the early days of the late 1990s. His passion for search began in university when he built a personal website that was struggling to get traffic. This motivated Barry to explore how to make his site more findable.

In the early days, SEO involved tactics like Yahoo Directory listings and keyword stuffing meta tags. Though rudimentary compared to modern techniques, this was Barry’s introduction to improving discoverability.

After graduating, Barry pursued a career in web development and infrastructure. His specialized knowledge in areas like HTML and server configuration gave him a strong technical foundation. When Barry started getting assigned website management duties, he leveraged his existing SEO knowledge.

A defining moment came for Barry in 2007 when he attended the Search Engine Strategies conference in New York. Legends like Matt Cutts spoke at the event. Despite feeling confident in his abilities prior, Barry emerged with a sobering realization – he was still a total SEO novice compared to the experts.

This ignited Barry’s passion to truly master SEO. Over the next decade, he continued learning and specializing in search. This included serving as Webmaster for an international company and honing his skills in-house at a local newspaper.

In 2014, Barry went independent and started an SEO consultancy. After working with the Sun Newspaper in London in 2016, he shifted his focus exclusively to news SEO.

Barry noticed a major gap – few specialists were leveraging SEO specifically to help news sites. He leaned into his expertise in this niche by launching a dedicated newsletter and working with major global publications.

Today, Barry runs a successful consultancy helping news publishers optimize their presence. He’s rightly earned a reputation as a guru on applying SEO in the news arena.

SEO for Google News Websites

Where News SEO and “Classic SEO” Diverge

Optimizing news sites requires a markedly different approach compared to standard SEO across industries like ecommerce, lead generation, and blogging.

According to Barry, the news environment has unique dynamics that necessitate specialized strategies:


With news sites, you only get one shot at optimizing an article for SEO, as Google indexes them rapidly after publishing. There’s no option to retroactively go back and tweak things later, as you would have with evergreen content sites. The moment you hit publish, that article better be optimized.


For news, the critical element is the headline used in your structured data, not the title tag. It must contain maximum relevancy to the core topic while still being engaging.

Crawl Speed

Google crawls news homepages constantly, as often as every 5 seconds for major outlets. With this speed, performance is critical – pages must load lightning fast.

Link Building

Being timely content, news articles tend to naturally attract links. This reduces dependence on proactive link building. The focus shifts to internal linking to highlight topical authority.


Tags and categories are hugely impactful for news SEO. They showcase the breadth of topics covered while demonstrating specialty/expertise to Google.


Unlike blogs with endless posts per page, news needs crawlable, controlled pagination. This proves comprehensive coverage of a beat versus only having a few articles.

No Client-Side Rendering

Google indexes news rapidly, so content must be baked into the HTML source code. Relying on client-side JavaScript risks pages being crawled before fully rendering.

As you can see, optimizing news requires special considerations and tactics compared to “classic” SEO for content sites, ecommerce, etc. The immutable time element and Google’s rapid crawling mandate an entirely unique approach.

Barry’s Blueprint for Optimizing News Websites

Drawing from his wealth of hands-on experience optimizing major news brands, Barry prescribed the following blueprint for success:

  1. Install an SEO workflow for journalists before publishing.

Time is of the essence with news SEO – you must optimize content for search before publishing. Don’t count on going back later.

  1. Optimize headlines for maximum relevancy to search intent and high engagement.

Use keywords in the first 5-8 words while crafting compelling, accurate headlines.

  1. Build high-quality author pages and bios to reinforce expertise.

Though indirect, strong author profiles boost site reputation and authority.

  1. Implement an effective internal linking structure that highlights authority.

Internal links play a bigger role with news versus external links. Emphasize topical strengths.

  1. Use tags strategically to indicate main areas of coverage and depth.

Tags showcase content breadth. Follow best practices for consolidating and sunsetting stale tags.

  1. Paginate content properly based on volume – not too much or too little.

Facilitate crawling by breaking content into logical pages with 50-100 articles each.

  1. Accelerate server response time – news crawls demand speed.

Sub-500ms page load times should be the goal. Optimize images, scripts, databases, etc.

  1. Avoid client-side rendering of content to match Google’s indexing.

Serve fully rendered HTML pages instead of relying on JavaScript.

This battle-tested formula will help any news publisher optimize their website for visibility in SERPs and news-specific products like Google Top Stories.

Interesting Facts on Google’s News Algorithm

My conversation with Barry revealed some fascinating insights into Google’s algorithmic handling of news results:

  • The URL is the sole unique identifier – not headline/content. Changing the URL resets the content as “new” to Google.
  • Newer articles tend to rank better – Google sees the index date as the publication date.
  • Poor at deduplication – scraped or republished content often outranks the original source.
  • Specialist/local sites preferred for niche topics rather than general news.
  • Getting approved in news listings now takes ~2 years with the new algorithmic inclusion process. Previously this was a manual review.

The preference for latest content explains why news SEO is so time-sensitive. Google wants fresh information to surface rapidly. The lack of deduplication also poses challenges to original publishers.

Advice for Launching a Brand New News Website

For those looking to start their own news site, Barry offered this advice:

  • Build a dedicated news platform – don’t try optimizing a subsection of a broader site.
  • Consistently publish high-quality, original reporting – higher volume is better.
  • Focus coverage on a specific niche area or local market. Avoid being too general.
  • Be extremely patient – with the algorithmic approval process, now takes 2+ years to get into Google News.
  • Prioritize technical SEO from the beginning – this lays the groundwork for ranking success. Don’t leave it as an afterthought.

Aspiring news publishers must have realistic expectations about the runway required to gain approval. But by respecting Google’s requirements and priorities, emerging sites can eventually gain visibility alongside established news brands.

Key Takeaways from My Interview with Barry Adams

Barry offered phenomenal insights into the intricacies of optimizing news sites based on his decades of specialty experience.

Some of the key takeaways included:

  • The need for an urgent, pre-publish SEO workflow.
  • Crafting engaging, relevant headlines while using strategic keywords.
  • Linking internally to highlight authority versus external link building.
  • Balancing crawl efficiency via pagination and site speed.
  • Avoiding client-side rendering of content.
  • Securing Google News approval now takes years of building reputation.
  • Prioritizing technical SEO from the outset.

It was truly inspiring to learn from such a knowledgeable veteran like Barry. His wisdom around the unique nuances of news SEO was incredibly helpful.

I’m grateful to Barry for so generously sharing his expertise during our conversation. Veterans like him are invaluable in moving the SEO profession forward.

Watch SEO for News Websites with Barry Adams

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Olga Zarr is an SEO consultant with 10+ years of experience. She has been doing SEO for both the biggest brands in the world and small businesses. She has done 200+ SEO audits so far. Olga has completed SEO courses and degrees at universities, such as UC Davis, University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins University. She also completed Moz Academy! And, of course, has Google certifications. She keeps learning SEO and loves it. Olga is also a Google Product Expert specializing in areas, such as Google Search and Google Webmasters.