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Search engine optimisation and the battle for journalistic integrity 16 November 2008

Posted by jordanfarley in Search Engine Optimisation, Social Media, Uncategorized.
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Remember Google owe you nothing. This guy’s a legend.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), now there’s a piece of internet jargon if ever I heard one. Any journalist, whether it be the young upstart or the grizzled professional has to be acutely aware of it nowadays or run the risk of losing a piece of finely tuned copy to the web’s saturated search engines.

But what the heck is it? Put simply SEO is a way of writing for search engines (or to be more precise for real people on the other end of search engines) that will mean your story is given a suitably high ranking in the list of hits returned after a reader has committed a certain combination of words to Google’s magic box of web simplicity.

Writing for the reader on the other end of the search engine wouldn’t be so bad if journalists only had to consider SEO when writing headlines and teasers, but search engines generally look at the first 100 words or more of a page when assessing relevance and this is an intrusion too far.

Technology has shaped journalistic practice before. As Steve Lohr pointed out over at The New York Times, the inverted pyramid style of modern news stories was partly necessitated by the fact that the telegram was an expensive and unreliable way to transmit the news, and so all the important points of a story were brought to the front should the rest be lost to the wire. However this style was a natural evolution of the way journalists were writing already. Packing the early sections of your copy (or the entire piece) with as many Google friendly words as possible on the other hand is not. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before search engines routinely scan entire articles (if they aren’t doing so already) to assess relevance in the nanoseconds they are able to scan headlines today, and when that happens will the online journalist be expected to tailor their entire copy for Mr Google bot?

It is important to point out that a lot of the considerations static news sites like the BBC or The Guardian have to make for SEO do not apply to blogs. Whereas big media must work on tailoring copy for keyword searches their websites are already considered ‘important’ enough by Google to be worth linking to. Blogs on the other hand do not have this luxury. In order for a blogger to get their voice heard by Google participation in social media is key, link building in particular. However, even more so for the amateur blogger than the professional hack, good content is what will get you noticed. People will link to what they deem to be interesting, relevant and informative, this is the base on which web journalism has to rest as, even with all the best SEO practices the web has to offer, if the story offers the reader nothing new it will simply be discarded.

Quality copy must always be valued above the demands of Google and although compromises might be necessary to survive that’s no reason why the machine should come before man.

 

Video Courtesy of http://www.sagerock.com

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Comments»

1. Search engine optimisation and the battle for journalistic integrity | Bid Ant Blog - 17 November 2008

[…] Originally posted here:  Search engine optimisation and the battle for journalistic integrity […]

2. Glyn - 28 November 2008

Part of the argument for me is that the keywords that Google will look for can be viewed as the big 6 anyway – who, where, what, why, when and how. And yes you are right, we tend to pack those in the top of the story which should make them more obvious on the web.

And I agree with you, we can optimise as much as we want – but no one will come back or carry on read if the content the human reads is no good.

3. webjournalismstudies - 7 November 2009

loved this:
the inverted pyramid style of modern news stories was partly necessitated by the fact that the telegram was an expensive and unreliable way to transmit the news,

c ya

Hochischachtell


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