Louisa Frahm has served as the SEO Editor of the LA Times for nearly two years. In short, her job is to ensure that stories across all sections of the online publication are in sync with the latest Google search trends and technically optimized for prime positioning in Google search results.
For context as to the type of responsibility we’re talking about…the LA Times is the largest metropolitan daily newspaper in the United States. It’s been in circulation for more than 139 years, has won 47 Pulitzer Prizes since 1942, and its online publication generates over 30 million unique visitors monthly.
With Americans vastly preferring to digest news online (television is the only source with more popularity), SEO is a vital performance channel for news businesses.
Unsurprisingly, the LA Times is far from Frahm’s first rodeo. Her career fusion between SEO and news started back in 2015. Over the last six years, she’s cultivated impressive experience working with high-profile publications, including the LA Times, Entertainment Weekly, People Magazine, TMZ, Yahoo!, and E! Online.
[Frahm’s] career fusion between SEO and news started in 2015. Over the last six years, she’s cultivated impressive experience working with high-profile publications including the LA Times, Entertainment Weekly, People Magazine, TMZ, Yahoo!, and E! Online.
I’ve wanted to interview Frahm for ages. Recently, she and I were finally able to connect via Zoom (“finally,” meaning, I finally asked 😉 ). I’m excited to share with you all what I’ve learned about Frahm’s career journey.
Read on to discover:
- What inspired Frahm’s career path in SEO
- How she got her big break at her first news publication company
- What a day in the life working at the LA Times looks like
- How she communicates SEO value and impact to important stakeholders
- Her career mantra and professional goals
What Inspired Your Career Path In SEO, Initially?
I got into SEO by chance at first. When I reflect on my full journey now–even in elementary school, high school, and college–I’ve always been a grammar freak. English was always my best subject in school. I love all of the keyword games that make up SEO. The process is fun. I’m that nerd. My friends asked me recently, “Did you study SEO at all during undergrad [as a journalism major]?” Back then, SEO never came up.
SEO has been around a long time–way before I was in college–so I’m surprised that it didn’t come up in any of my journalism classes. I would hope that maybe that’s changed now.Louisa Frahm, SEO Editor at the LA Times
SEO has been around a long time–way before I was in college–so I’m surprised that it didn’t come up in any of my journalism classes. I would hope that maybe that’s changed now. I discovered SEO when I was 23, during my first digital marketing job at a company called Internet Brands.
Even then, SEO wasn’t a huge part of my position. It played a small role in my workflow. That tiny taste definitely piqued my interest…Enough that I thought, “I really like keyword strategy. I’m confident in my English skill set, and I feel like there’s something to explore here.” That spark of inspiration led me to my former digital marketing agency Wpromote [where Frahm worked for a year and a half before joining E! Online]. I think it was meant to be.
What Does A ‘Typical Day’ Look Like At The LA Times?
Whenever I get this question, I always start with: “When you’re working in the news, there is no typical day.” There are common threads throughout any day, but even those elements will shift depending on what that day’s news cycle is like.
If you look at the week we’re in right now, the last two weeks, or eight months…You know things can explode at any given time. [For instance] when it was revealed that President Trump had coronavirus*… that’s the kind of thing that can shake a newsroom to its core. When that news hits, everyone goes into hyperdrive. We all swarm it. We make an immediate action plan on how to cover it.
There’s never a day with no news. There are always things going on. But not every day is a “Trump got coronavirus” day. It totally depends. You always have to be on your toes.
Sometimes right when I’m signing on, there can be huge news breaking. If a big shooting happens within my first hour at work, that theme is likely to dominate the rest of the day. I’m not driving into work thinking about it, but I have to be primed and ready to jump into the workflow right when I start. You never know what could be waiting for you in the Slack channels.Louisa Frahm, SEO Editor at the LA Times
Sometimes right when I’m signing on, there can be huge news breaking. If a big shooting happens within my first hour at work, it is likely to dominate the rest of the day. I’m not driving into work thinking about it, but I have to be primed and ready to jump into the workflow right when I start. You never know what could be waiting for you in the Slack channels.
*This interview was recorded in mid-October 2020.
What Are Some of Your SEO-Specific Role Responsibilities?
A core part of my job is staying on top of breaking news that’s developing. Since I start early [usually working 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.] I always check Slack channels from the night before first. That helps me catch up on the previous night’s big stories, assess how we covered those topics, and plot potential next steps.
Google Trends is my best friend at work. First thing in the morning, I review Google Trends Top Stories, flag relevant items to different sections, and set up an SEO action plan for the day.
When each workday starts, I always have to remember that we’re on the west coast, and the east coast has already been up for several hours. With prime competitors like The New York Times and The Washington Post over there, we have to ensure that we’re on top of the biggest stories already circulating. [I’ll ask myself] “We’re starting a little later, but how can we capitalize on those same topics?”
In addition to flagging topics, I also share SEO best practices with writers and editors to guide our coverage. After that routine start to the day, the rest of the day’s workflow depends on the nature of the news cycle.
I really enjoy the broad scope of my job. I love working with every single section of our paper. It gives me the freedom to scour the whole Internet, assist multiple departments, and pursue angles that can hit with our audience at large.Louisa Frahm, SEO Editor at the LA Times
I really enjoy the broad scope of my job, and I love working with every single section of our paper. It gives me the freedom to scour the whole Internet, assist multiple departments, and pursue angles that can hit our audience at large.
How Are SEO Best Practices Different At A Newspaper Versus Other Website Types?
The SEO time frame is extremely different for news. While working with clients at my previous agency [like e-commerce clients], we would say: “We’re going to implement A, B C, D E, and F. Then we’re going to check in on those things within a week. We’re going to check in within six months, and we’ll circle back in a year.” It was much more spaced out. News SEO flips that foundation on its head.
Foundational SEO best practices transfer over: keyword strategy, internal linking, URLs, and other things I learned from agency training. The timing expectations are just much tighter. Within an hour of publishing, people could ask: “We’re not in the top three slots. We’re not in the Top Stories carousel. What’s going on?”Louisa Frahm, SEO Editor at the LA Times
Foundational SEO best practices transfer over: keyword strategy, internal linking, URLs, and other things I learned from agency training. The timing expectations are just much tighter. Within an hour of publishing, people could ask: “We’re not in the top three slots, and we’re not in the Top Stories carousel. What’s going on?”
How Do You Communicate SEO Value and Impact To Important Stakeholders?
This sort of stakeholder conversation comes up often. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit companies hard. We’re constantly trying to optimize our traffic potential and boost our business. Even before the pandemic started, we were in the middle of a big shift in the journalism industry. Newspapers have been navigating how to adapt traditional workflows to the evolving digital age. When COVID-19 entered the picture, it brought new economic side effects to the LA Times and many other publishers. Subscriptions have become that much more important.
I view my SEO work like this: If you want conversions
If you want conversionsLouisa Frahm, SEO Editor at the LA Times, you need to get eyeballs on your site. SEO friendly story topics can provide great bait with large scale traffic potential.
It can definitely feel like a rat race. Google can be inconsistent with its Top Stories section. As I learned early on in my SEO career, there is no magic formula to perfect results. All you can do is consistently lay everything out there that you can. Another difference in news SEO is that if you don’t “hit it” for that one story, there are going to be many other stories that day. To maintain your sanity, it’s crucial to keep an upbeat mindset and not get hung up on a single article.
(To learn more about news SEO-specific best practices, check this post out.)
What’s The Best Career Decision That You Made That’s Gotten You To Where You Are Professionally?
It’s a tie between two significant themes within my professional life.
[One: Getting Her Foundation in SEO]
I am forever thankful to my former agency Wpromote for giving me my SEO foundation. I think about that formative experience often. My friends who are just breaking into digital marketing now have told me that it’s become far more difficult to find a company that will build you from the ground up. I am indebted to Wpromote for acknowledging my SEO enthusiasm and committing to the training process. It was a huge gift. That phase has to be acknowledged because it gave me important inspiration and knowledge to pursue my eventual news SEO career path.
I am indebted to Wpromote for acknowledging my SEO enthusiasm and committing to the training process. It was a huge gift.Louisa Frahm, SEO Editor at the LA Times
[Two: Taking The Leap]
My first big news breakthrough happened when I shifted from the digital marketing agency environment [Wpromote] to an internal team at an online publisher [E! Online]. That transition still feels like a fairy godmother moment.
When I moved out here [Los Angeles] after college graduation in 2012, the job market was difficult and media roles weren’t working out. At that point, I put it in my head that someday I would get back to the news. I told the universe that I wanted it to happen but moved on to other things in the meantime.
In 2015, I got a cold call from a recruiter for an SEO coordinator role at E! Online. At the time, it felt a bit scary. I felt safe and comfortable at Wpromote. Making that jump required going from a salaried position with benefits into a contractor role, which was totally foreign to me at that time. I really debated whether I should move forward or not.
In 2015, I got a cold call from a recruiter for a SEO coordinator role at E! Online. At the time, it felt a bit scary. I felt safe and comfortable at Wpromote. Making that jump required going from a salaried position with benefits to a contractor role, which was totally foreign to me at the time. I really debated whether I should move forward or not.Louisa Frahm, SEO Editor at the LA Times
Nevertheless, I had a strong voice in my head that said “You love news. You have been sneaking People Magazine into your mom’s shopping cart since you were three years old. You need to do this.” That leap of faith changed the entire trajectory of my life for the better.
Another big chapter in my career happened a few years later when I received the opportunity to work for People Magazine and Entertainment Weekly at Time Inc. in New York. Though the timing wasn’t ideal, I recognized that the stars likely wouldn’t align like that again. I took a chance, uprooted my life across the country, stepped far outside of my comfort zone, and [after a whirlwind of 12 months] returned to LA with an entirely different perspective on the world.
Career-wise, I’ve learned the importance of embracing change and calculated risk. With the E! Online opportunity, I figured “I don’t know that I’ll ever get this promising springboard into news again.” With the Time Inc. role, I knew I had to step into uncharted territory to embrace my full potential. One leap of faith can introduce you to a whole new world of possibilities. E! Online opened me up to other big brands that helped me expand my skill set in valuable ways. The journey ever since [though quite challenging at times] has been incredibly rewarding.
A Lot of Successful People Have Mantras That They Live By. Do You Have One?
That question actually just came up recently. It was an icebreaker at one of my recent leadership meetings with Junior League, a female empowerment volunteering organization I’m involved with in LA.
One [mantra] that I use regularly is: “Interrupt anxiety with gratitude.”
One [mantra] that I use regularly is: “Interrupt anxiety with gratitude.”Louisa Frahm, SEO Editor at the LA Times
A friend randomly shared that with me, so it doesn’t have a famous origin [as far as I know]. That phrase has consistently brought me peace during my fast-paced life.
The coronavirus pandemic has shown all of us how stressful and unpredictable life can be. With the current state of the world, it’s clear that anxiety is at an all-time high. We’re all trying to come up with new ways that we can combat those [anxious] feelings and maintain an even keel… even if it feels like everything is falling apart. It’s so important to find ways to recenter yourself and count your blessings, in and outside of work hours.
Where Do You See SEO Going In The Future? What’s Next For You?
My favorite part about the SEO industry is that it’s constantly evolving, so there’s always something new to learn. With that in mind, I think it’s difficult to predict exactly where the industry will go next. I see voice search and featured snippets taking off even more. Google will continue to get smarter with semantic matching and other aspects of its platform. We SEOs will be ready for more algorithm updates and other changes the industry brings.
I plan to ride the wave I’m on for as long as I can. I will likely hit a ceiling in SEO at some point. When that happens, I would consider expanding my skill set into a broader digital marketing or audience engagement role.
To enhance my current knowledge of marketing and communications, I recently decided to pursue a master’s degree in communication management from USC. It’s tough to balance work and school, but it’s been a very beneficial process so far. A lot of my course material is relevant to my work in news, which has made the effort worthwhile.
I love the news world. However chaotic things get, my current position brings me joy on a daily basis. It’s been an honor to help the LA Times usher in a new period of digital growth. The news industry will always be unpredictable and imperfect, but I’m proud of the recent progress we’ve made as an organization.
I love the news world. However chaotic things get, my current position brings me joy on a daily basis. It’s been an honor to help the LA Times usher in a new period of digital growth. The news industry will always be unpredictable and imperfect, but I’m proud of the recent progress we’ve made as an organization.Louisa Frahm, SEO Editor at the LA Times
Down the line, I could see myself branching out into different roles that could further enhance my knowledge of audience engagement and digital marketing. For now, being an SEO cheerleader and teacher is very satisfying.
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