There’s a very good article in the current issue of the British Journalism Review called “How SEO is changing journalism” (thanks to @doshdosh on Twitter via @wingszetang). In it, Shane Richmond, communities editor at Telegraph.co.uk, explains what SEO really is (and isn’t – i.e., some sort of voodoo marketing deception) and what it means for journalism online. Some key points:
On writing for computers vs. writing for people:
We are writing to be read and these days that increasingly means ensuring that our stories are found by search engines. Readership patterns are changing. Online news may seem similar to its offline equivalent – it is after all just words, pictures and moving images – but it is fundamentally different.
On where your online audience comes from:
Now, audiences can form at article level, driven by news aggregators such as Techmeme, social bookmarking sites such as Delicious, and news sites, such as Digg, that are “edited” by their users. There are still audiences, and large ones, that are loyal to a single title, but every publisher is seeing more and more people arrive at their websites via search engines, and the potential to use this trend to increase audiences is huge. Ideally, many of these surfers will see that your site comes high in the search results time and again and will become regular readers.
On web-friendly heds:
Unfortunately though, and there’s no gentle way to put this, the witty, punning headline is finished when it comes to the internet. The greatest headlines of the web era will be the most functional ones and they’re unlikely to be remembered by anybody at all even a month after publication, let alone years later.