At some point, a website hits a critical mass of articles which means publishing less frequently doesn’t matter for site stats.
There was a point, say about July last year, when I had to work really hard to get people to visit Plastik Magazine. While it was popular, I needed a couple of thousand unique users monthly to be able to attract any kind of commercial interest (advertisers, sponsors, big names).
However, back in January, I made a conscious effort to publish less frequently but publish better stuff. I imagined that I might publish one article a day, five days a week. What actually happened is that on a really busy week, I published three or four articles in total. Then, in quiet weeks, I might publish one small piece or nothing at all.
Full access costs around £150 per month but you can now have limited access for free with last week’s release of Searchmetrics Essentials.
Type in your domain name and you will be able to see your SEO ranking. For example, typing in Journalism.co.uk shows we are number one search result for “journalism jobs” and number one for “journalism”.
The Point to Point blog has an excellent article about how witty headlines and SEO can go hand-in-hand. Dominic Litten explains how many news sites have the ability to put the SEO-friendly headline in a separate field to the witty headline.
For many journalists, SEO = headline + keyword stuffing. It’s all they know. However, if journalists really want to know and understand how SEO can help them and their publications they should worry a lot less about the importance of headlines and focus on their company’s sitemaps, site architecture, endless duplicate content, internal linking and the like.
Litten goes on to say:
We get the love for your headlines, we’re just over it. SEO didn’t kill the cute headline, the click did. The sheer volume of content, growing exponentially and shared on social media, rendered the witty and non-descriptive headline useless. We consume media so radically differently than we once did, so why are some journalists clinging to out-dated best practices?
The battle to increase audiences is hardly a new challenge facing the media environment. Whether print readers, radio listeners or television viewers, it has generally been a case of the more the merrier.
In the world of online journalism, where there is instant access to page view and retweet counters, the ‘success’ of a story has perhaps come to be defined by these metrics. Howard Kurtz, columnist for the Washington Post, has an interesting post on the site this morning discussing the potential impact of this environment on the work of online journalists and the resulting balancing act between appealing to the search engine and maintaining a quality brand.
Naturally, those who grew up as analog reporters wonder: Is journalism becoming a popularity contest? Does this mean pieces about celebrity sex tapes will take precedence over corruption in Afghanistan? Why pay for expensive foreign bureaux if they’re not generating enough clicks?
Doesn’t all this amount to pandering?
Potentially, sure. But news organizations such as the Post and the Times have brands to protect. They can’t simply abandon serious news in favor of the latest wardrobe malfunction without alienating some of their longtime readers. What they gain in short-term hits would cost them in long-term reputation.
Niles ha previously claimed that locally-owned publications today have cost advantages which outweigh the “economies of scale” of national chains of local publishers. But pushed by a reader to come up with advantages for national chains which could make them more profitable, he puts forward two ideas as a starting point for further debate, shown in summary below.
A smart, focused national training program could help reduce the time it takes a local editor to produce an engaging website. Local website publishers who don’t have access to such training will take longer to get up to speed.
Search engine optimization
A national chain can give its local publishers an advantage by arranging for aggressive cross-linking among its sites. That creates a potentially huge number of inbound links, helping push the chain’s sites ahead of its local competitors. In addition, by building a national brand for local news, the chain might be able to elicit more in-bound links to its sites from outside the network.
It’s possible that SEO types have a sense of humour. Evidence comes courtesy of the Daily Mail, which has hidden a job advert for an SEO manager inside a file that should only really be read by search engine crawlers.
Just as we like to supply you with fresh and innovative tips every day, we’re recommending journalists to follow online too. They might be from any sector of the industry: please send suggestions (you can nominate yourself) to judith or laura at journalism.co.uk; or to @journalismnews.
I think people care about what other people are interested in, most importantly in their social circle (…) but beyond that the world at large. I think there is an influential, intellectual component to our audience that cares very much about getting the hard news of the day. I don’t think there is a risk of us personalising so much that we keep the hard news out the picture. We have an editorial responsibility not to do that.
Is search engine optimisation ringing the death knell for the poetry of headline writing? Successful web headlines are, according to New York Times blogger David Carr, a “long way from the poetics of the best of print headlines”. But, he goes on to argue, there is a middle ground between the witty headline aimed at a thinking brain and the information stuffed headline aimed at a processing algorithm. And while Carr’s own headline – “Taylor Momsen Did Not Write This Headline” – does not quite stand up in the information delivery stakes, it does score pretty high on both wit and SEO.
Don’t know who Taylor Momsen is? Neither do I, beyond that she is the mean one on “Gossip Girl.” But Facebook knows her well, Twitter loves her, and she and Google have been hooking up, like, forever.
One more fact about Ms. Momsen: she has nothing to do with this column, let alone the headline. But her very name is a prized key word online — just the thing to push my column to the top of Google rankings.