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iReport boot camp: Get your stories seen

By Topher Kohan, CNN
Topher Kohan is the SEO Coordinator at CNN.com. He says there are a lot of small things you can do to make your stories more search-friendly.
Topher Kohan is the SEO Coordinator at CNN.com. He says there are a lot of small things you can do to make your stories more search-friendly.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS

iReporters put a lot of work into their photos and videos so it's natural for them to want their stories to be seen by as many people as possible. That's why this week's CNN iReport boot camp challenge looks at search engine optimization, or SEO. CNN.com SEO Manager Topher Kohan has some tips to make your iReports more visible on Google, Bing and other search engines. Check out what he has to say, and then try out his tips with our SEO challenge.

(CNN) -- Lets talk about SEO!

I am sure some of you are asking, "What the heck is SEO?" It stands for Search Engine Optimization. In the simplest terms, it is organizing a website and its content to help it rank higher in a search engine such as Google.

At CNN, I work with the editors and writers to help them take the great stuff they produce and make it as search-friendly as possible so more people can find it and read it. I also work with the design and development teams to make sure the Web pages are as SEO-friendly as possible.

We do all this work and training so that search engines hopefully list our stories higher on the correct results pages.

Here are some things that can make your iReport submission, and anything else you publish on the Web, more search-friendly.

1. Headline:

The headline is one of the best ways for a search engine to find out what your story is about. So your story is more likely to turn up in a search if your headline includes the terms people are searching for.

Here's an example of a search-friendly iReport headline: "Nonlethal projectiles fired into crowd in Los Angeles"

It works because it tells the user exactly what the story is about and includes the terms we think people would be searching for to find info on this event.

Here's an example of a headline for a story about Colorado wildfires that's not friendly:
"11 a.m. Sept. 6"

This headline doesn't work well with search engines because it doesn't say what the story is about.

It makes sense after you see the story, but search engines and the people doing the searching don't have that context. Therefore it won't show up as high in the Google search results pages.

2. Description:

The description should tell both readers and the search engines what the iReport is about. You want to use words that you think people will be searching for, but you still want it to sound normal.

Jamming too many search terms into a description is called "stuffing." Search engines look for that sort of thing, so it can hurt how your iReport shows up in Google.

Here's an example of a good iReport description:

"Scenes from Boulder, CO fire. Accidentally happened upon the epicenter of the fire shortly after it started this morning. Such a moving human experience."

It works because it is simple and to the point. It tells you what the story is about, what you will see in the iReport and also give good information to the search engines.

Here's one that wasn't as helpful:

"People queuing to board a bus near the Marylebone and Edgware Road stations in London, UK"

This one did not work because there wasn't any context in the description. Why are people queuing? Is this a unusual happening? Content without context is not content to the search engines.

3. File name:

The search engines cannot watch a video or see a image, so what you name them can help the engines know what they are about. It's a lot easier for a search engine to find "denverfire.jpg" than "IMG_0358.jpg."

One last thought: All these things will help, but remember that you do not want to mislead readers or the search engines by saying the iReport is about one thing when it is really about something else.