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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Straight to the point: the Miniskirt theory of writing

If you want to make a point in writing, make sure you nail the “so what” in your first 62 words. Readers won’t give you much time, especially online. It’s much easier and more effective to work with that reality than whine about it.

(See? That was just 44 words.)

Why am I telling you this? At this weekend’s Thin Air Summit, a great new media event in Denver, I gave a session on writing called Blogging: Every Word Counts. (Video should be online soon.)

Apparently, keynoter Jeremiah Owyang was intrigued by one point I made, which he tweeted:

@agahran suggests that you have to make your point on online content within the first 62 words. Are you that disciplined?”

Thanks, Jeremiah. Yes, it’s true, I did say that. I know it sounds draconian, but here’s my rationale…

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Blogging: Every word counts

On Sunday morning, from 10:45-noon MT, I’ll be speaking in Denver at the Thin Air Summit. (Twitter hashtag: #TAS08) It’s a new conference on new media that I hope will become an annual affair. A lot of intriguing new media people and companies live and work along Colorado’s Front Range. We’ve really needed our own event. (Hate to break it to ya, Bay Area, but you’re not the only new media hub in the country.)

The title of my talk is listed on the schedule as “Blogging: Making every word count” — which I’ve just decided to re-edit because I dislike unnecessary gerunds, especially twice in the same title 🙂

Grammar aside, that title is deliberately nebulous. Here’s why… Continue reading

Writing Workshop Notes: BlogHer 2008

Me, missing the morning sessions of BlogHer because I was posting all this stuff…

I’m at the BlogHer 2008 conference in San Francisco, where later today I’ll be giving a writing workshop. I’m a last-minute replacement for BlogHer cofounder Lisa Stone — talk about someone who’s tough to replace! But I’ll do my best.

Feel free to contact me with followup questions or discussion:

Here is my “online handout” for this workshop, with links to several resources I might mention. After the session I’ll update it with additional resources to cover whatever comes up. I also created a writing exercises wiki for this workshop.

So here’s the plan…

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