SEO: How Much Should Journos Know?

MAGNIFYING GLASS
Search optimization: If people can’t easily find your news, it might as well not exist. (Image by andercismo via Flickr)

In a recent post to the Wordtracker blog, The Bad, Good And Ugly Advice Given To Journalists On SEO (search engine optimization), U.K. journalist Rachelle Money made some excellent points about how journalists can craft stories in ways that will attract more search engine traffic.

I agree with much of what she said. However, I do disagree with her about the role of a journalist in the editorial process.

Money wrote that some SEO advice offered to journalists seems:

…overwhelmingly concerned with headlines and how to write better ones for the web. I hate to throw a couple of spanners in the works, but I have never, not once, had to write a headline for a newspaper. That’s the job of a sub-editor; they write headlines, they write the sub-headings and the picture captions and the stand-firsts. I have never had to write a title tag either; that’s the job of the online editor, and they are likely to write the links too. So in many ways the advice given to journalists isn’t really for us, it’s for the production department or the online team.

…That may have been generally true a decade or more ago.

But not today…

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What’s the Difference Between a Blog and a Web Site?

A journalist friend recently asked me:

“What’s the real difference between a blog and web site? Can I have a link to my favorite sites, favorite videos, host a forum, etc. on my blog, or am I better off just building a Web site…and maybe having a blog on that. Likely I will probably only do one or the other.”

My take on this is that the difference between blogs and web sites is steadily vanishing. These channels are definitely converging.

In fact, they started out converged. After all, a blog is nothing more than a kind of web site supported by a content management system that provides a useful collection of features: Comments, a permalink for each post, categories, tags, a home page where the latest content automatically appears on top and earlier stuff scrolls down, etc. (If you thought a blog was something else, see: What’s a Blog? Bag the Stereotypes)

So what’s someone who’s just starting out online with a blog or site to do?…
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Media Career Insurance: Your Blog

Last month I spoke to a class of journalism undergrads at the University of Colo., Boulder. These people are just starting out in journalism. Not surprisingly, most of them hope to land more-or-less traditional reporting jobs in more-or-less traditional newsrooms.

I asked these students whether they read blogs. As is common, the vast majority said no. But, as with Web users of all types, it’s likely that in fact they do read blogs far more often than they think. That’s because nearly all Web users frequently encounter blogs through search engine results. But they may not realize that, since many weblogs don’t call themselves (or resemble) blogs. In fact, they often look just like any other Web site — except that they happen to be supported by a blogging platform on the back end.

Why should young journalists care about this? Because in a professional environment where staying findable equals sustained opportunity and flexibility, search engines are a key arbiter of your career. The more findable and linkable you are, the more search engines will reward you.

…And search engines really, really love blogs…

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Where’s Your “Personal Brand,” and Why?

There are lots of different ways to brand yourself.

Yesterday my colleague Jim Kukral wrote about why he’s decided to focus on centralizing his personal brand. He wrote:

“My biggest mistake from the past 7-years or so was not building my personal brand on my own blog hard enough, earlier enough. Some may wonder why someone like me who’s been around for a long time blogging (since 2001), only has about 600 rss subscribers. I’ll tell you why… because I never focused blogging and building my brand here on JimKukral.com until recently.”

That got me thinking about Contentious.com and my own “personal brand.” Although I have an innate dislike to the term “personal brand,” I’ll admit it’s a useful and important concept for people in media-related work and many other fields these days.

The simple reason for that, I think, is that these days it’s unwise to rely on any company, organization, or institution to stick by you. The only leverage most professionals have these days depends on their ability to find or make their own opportunities — which means they need to be known as individuals. not just as faceless functionaries.

Jim seems to gauge the success on his personal brand by traffic to his site and feed. For a lot of people and purposes, that’s perfectly valid and appropriate.

But personally, I see a lot of value in the hybrid home base/distributed presence approach to personal branding…

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