SEO…get in the know!

28 Nov

Shame on me…I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve sadly been occupied with the usual — work, interning, school. Excuses, excuses, I know.

But I’m back and with a topic that’s been coming up a lot lately both in my classes and in my internship: SEO, or Search Engine Optimization.

In English, that means writing in a way that will get your article at the top of the heap in a Google search. More specifically, it has to do with writing a headline while keeping in mind what words and phrases someone searching for your article would type into Google to find that article.

Bow down before Lord Google...

I’ll admit that I don’t know a lot about SEO, which is something that I’m hoping to change in the future. But there are some things I’d like to say about it.

For one, this is clearly an issue that concerns copy editors. We’re the ones writing the headlines and teases that Google picks up on in its searches. Not only do we need to make sure keywords end up in those places, we need to make sure they end up in the front of those places, a practice known as “frontloading.”

The lede, too, becomes even more important than it was in the past. When Google pulls up a news article, the lede often appears right after the headline. An editorial director at Yahoo, whom I interviewed for an upcoming ACES article, hit the nail on the head when he said that “People are only going to spend a few seconds before they click on your story or not and when they’re clicking on it, they’re making an assessment of whether they’re going to spend time on that or not.”

They care about Google, too.

In the past, we fought to keep people interested in our story. Now, we fight to get them to read it at all. In this sense, we’re becoming more a part of the “advertising” process than ever.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing — it makes us consider what our audience wants more than ever. And doing away with more “creative” heds doesn’t necessarily weaken a story. Subject-verb-object has always been one of the strongest sentence constructions.

But focusing on a handful of search terms for headlines and teases does have the danger of encouraging repetition, especially when a lot of articles on the same subject are all lined up in one spot.

Go to The University Daily Kansan’s website and you’ll find that “Jayhawks” appears in five out of the six sports headlines on the homepage.

Jayhawks 5, Opponents 0.

Redundancy like that would never fly in a newspaper; I ‘ve heard debates in the newsroom about whether or not we can even have contractions in two separate heds that are on the same page.

Does it matter on the internet? Do readers even care? I guess it’s something we’ll have to find out about in the future, but I can say right now that it does chafe me a little to see the same word over and over again.

And if we’re so focused on what people are searching for on Google, how long is it before we base what we’re writing off of what is “trending” on Yahoo or Twitter? It’s not that much of a stretch and I’ve read articles discussing the possibility before. Right now, Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore are two of the top listings on Yahoo. No offense, but I don’t really want to spend the rest of my days writing about celebrities (although I’m certainly guily of reading the Hollywood gossip as well.)

I'm still mad at her for marrying Ryan Adams.

I think being able to connect with readers online is a great thing. And we should be listening to what they want. But, newspapers have been in charge of deciding what’s newsworthy for so long, I guess I worry: What if the American people don’t really care about anything important? But what is “important” anyway — the things people want to know about or what we think they should want to know about?

For most of these questions, the answers aren’t really out there right now. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: