How a News SEO Conference Shaped a Community

This post was sponsored by NESS. The opinions expressed in this article are those of Sponsor.

“It’s been a dream of mine for so many years to host an SEO conference that focuses solely on publishers.”

– John Shehata, Founder of NESS &, Global VP of Audience Development at Condé Nast

Working in SEO is a constant learning experience – there’s always something new to discover, and when Shehata and Barry Adams founded the News and Editorial SEO Summit (NESS), they did so with that in mind.

“People who say they really do SEO are probably lying or grossly overestimating how good they really are.”

– Barry Adams, NESS co-founder and SEO consultant, Polemic Digital

“No matter how long you’ve been at it and no matter how experienced you think you are, you’re always going to have those moments where you’re completely at a loss and have no idea what’s happening.

“We keep learning. There is never a dull moment with SEO. It’s a very fast-moving industry with constantly evolving search engines, constantly evolving user behavior, constantly evolving websites — so nobody knows everything.”

– Adams

With NESS, Shehata and Adams are building a special community in the world of SEO for continued growth and discovery.

NESS is the first SEO conference of its kind

NESS is aimed exclusively at news publishers who want to combine and share SEO knowledge.

Attendees of this online conference will have the opportunity to learn from top news industry experts.

Whether you are a journalist or editor dealing with the day-to-day publication of news content, or an SEO professional looking to expand your knowledge in the field, NESS is a valuable online conference that you simply cannot miss !

NESS creates a community

When NESS 2021 was officially launched, a long-cherished dream was realized.

When Shehata saw how underserved the news SEO community was, she jumped into action.

“I’ve gone to a lot of organizers and asked them to host this conference, but I was turned down… And about two years ago I decided that I’m going to do it, and I’m going to fund it myself, and I’m just going to go with it . And if it’s a win, it’s a win – if it’s a loss, it’s a loss. But I thought there was a good community out there that could attend this conference.”

The goal for the opening event was to sell 100 tickets; In the end, over 600 participants came from all over the world – more than 50% of them from outside the USA

People from large global publishing organizations to micronews sites focused on small regional areas have dialed in from different time zones to share their experiences, leave comments, provide feedback and share information.

“I think that’s something that sets our conference apart,” Adams said. “It’s a niche within a niche conference.”

Shehata and Adams quickly realized that news SEO was a niche worth serving and specializing in.

“What impressed me the most,” continued Adams, “is the generosity of the speakers and attendees in sharing their knowledge and insights with others who may be their direct competitors. There seems to be a real sense of community that “we’re all in this together, we’re all doing the same things, we’re not each other’s enemies, we’re each other’s allies, we’re trying to do the same thing, great journalism too.” generate and ensure that the widest possible audience gets a chance to read it.’ And I hope that in the years to come we can continue to do that and continue to serve this community as best we can.”

NESS serves the community

NESS is specifically presented as a virtual conference, so participation costs are low. Sharing knowledge and giving back was Shehata’s number one priority in developing NESS.

“A publisher can send 30 people to attend, which would never happen at a traditional $2,000 conference [per ticket]… The other thing is that I really believe in giving back. Last year was the pandemic and it was a tough time for a lot of people, so we said, ‘How can we help?’ And last year we gave out about 30 free passes to every SEO who was laid off or laid off,” Shehata said.

“We also give free tickets to SEOs from developing countries who cannot afford the conference. So we try to do good every year and I think that’s the ultimate goal. Regardless of whether you are SEO or not, you have to give back to the community and do good.”

That year, NESS also ran a fundraiser for Red Cross relief efforts in Ukraine, encouraging participants to donate and matching their donations up to $5,000.

NESS Pioneers Online Conference Community Engagement

Instead of a one-way stream where speakers simply address the audience, NESS encourages two-way engagement so participants can join the conversation.

The live chat feed allows guests to comment, ask questions, and vote during a presentation.

NESS also facilitates engagement through virtual tables of around eight people who can talk to the speaker, ask questions, network and more.

Highlights of the NESS 2022 News SEO Conference

According to Adams:

“John and I, when we first started planning, we wanted presentations that we would like to see presented by experts in the field ourselves. So we chose topics and speakers based on, “What would we like to see? What could we learn in terms of SEO specifically for news publishers?’”

Here are some highlights from the NESS 2022 lineup, along with key takeaways from each segment.

How to successfully implement paywalls without compromising SEO

Leonie Roderick, The Times, and Ben Dilks, Sunday Times, addressed the dilemma where readers expect to read news content for free, but publishers still need to make money.

Top tips for implementing a successful paywall strategy include:

  • Have a great understanding of your target market and readers.
  • Offer a differentiator that sets you apart from your competition, whether it’s through better quality, analytics, or insight.
  • Don’t be a merchandise publisher; have something that sets you apart. If you don’t, readers will simply go to another news site with a similar product.

Get all the tips in the recorded session.

Using automated articles successfully: is that possible?

This portion of the conference was presented by Carolyn Shelby, VP of Growth at Dawn Patrol LLC.

Matt Southern, Senior News Writer at Search Engine Journal and attendee at NESS 2022, noted his key takeaways from this presentation:

“As much as SEO can help with news distribution and visibility, it shouldn’t dictate the direction of news coverage. Shelby spoke at length about using SEO to help machines better understand your stories. She warned participants against allowing SEO to change their journalistic standards. Reporting a story because it offers an opportunity to rank for a popular keyword versus reporting a story because it’s most timely is an example of writing news for SEO. As a reporter, your top priority is to cover the most relevant stories for your audience, while SEO is a tool that helps your audience find those stories.”

Top Stories: State of the Union

This detailed presentation by Shehata included data from NewzDash, a Google news monitoring system and rank tracker specifically for news publishers.

“With all the tools that John has developed,” Adams said, “he has a wealth of data about what’s working in top stories, what’s shown in top stories at any given time, and how things have changed .”

Career Growth Panel: What’s Your Next Step?

This panel was one of the highest rated sessions within the conference and included different types of SEO professionals who spoke about their experiences in the industry, how they got their positions, skills needed, etc.

“The importance of committing to a specific SEO practice was a key learning,” said Southern. “SEO is such a diverse field that becoming an expert in all facets of commerce isn’t as realistic as it was in the early days of search engine marketing. In addition, the positions that companies are hiring for are becoming increasingly specialized. If you are an SEO passionate about news, becoming a news SEO expert is a viable career option.”

Get access to the full session now!

Search Engine Journal’s NESS experience

Our own team members attended the conference; here is what they had to say:

“As a reporter covering industry news in the fields of SEO and digital marketing, NESS has been a crossroads of my career disciplines. It was eye opening for me that there is a growing segment of SEO professionals who are solely focused on optimizing news articles for search engines.”

– Matt Southern, senior news writer at Search Engine Journal and attendee of NESS 2022

“It was a blast! NESS is one of the most valuable SEO conferences where experts share their practical publishing experiences that can be quickly put into practice and applied. If you run a publication or blog, this is a must.”

– Vahan Petrosyan, Director of IT and Infrastructure at Search Engine Journal and NESS 2022 attendee

Did you miss this year’s NESS event? You can access video recordings and presentations on their website.


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