Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is changing the fundamental tool of journalism – how we write.
Journalists now have to get their heads round the fact that they have to write with a reader’s possible Google search in mind.
This doesn’t necessarily mean basic journalistic skills go out the window. If anything, they are more relevant than ever.
But it does mean that beautiful journalistic joke, the pun, can only be used with very careful consideration.
As well as thinking about Orwell’s five rules for effective writing, journalists now have to consider the rules of SEO:
- The headline must be accessible.
~ Cryptic, punny headlines are not searchable. The article needs to do what it says on the tin.
- Key words are King.
~ What words are most relevant to the story? Pick them out and repeat them.
- The first 200 words are the most important.
~ Search engines look at the first 200-500 words of an article. This means key words should be placed right at the top.
- Accuracy is crucial.
~ Google doesn’t allow for your misspellings. Sharp and accurate copy is a must.
“If you type google into google…”
Some people call this the dark art of the web. Charlie Brooker is not a fan, and his ‘Online POKER marketing could spell the NAKED end of VIAGRA journalism as we LOHAN know it’ article in 2008 successfully demonstrates how it can go wrong.
But really, SEO isn’t asking journalists to employ any new skills. When you boil it down, it’s about presenting information in the most simple, accessible way possible.
Which is what good journalism is all about anyway.