SEO. Er, what?
It’s one of those acrid acronyms popping up increasingly in the field of online journalism – and something that online journalists (alas) won’t be able to ignore forever.
Search Engine Optimisation is an umbrella term for all those things you can do to make your web content easier to find on search engines, and other external sources, like news aggregators.
For anyone who requires convincing on the need for online journalists to get to grips with how search engines work, there are some pretty stark statistics (in relation to Times Online):
Sixty per cent of site traffic comes from search and external links, and 27% comes from Google.
That’s a whopping 87% of traffic for one of the UK’s biggest names in news, coming into the site from outside – the bulk of which comes from search engines and news aggregators.
All big web sites (whether media or otherwise) will have a search engine, and most likely editorial guidance/systems in place to help make your content findable within it. But that’s only half – or rather much much less than half – the battle. How do you make sure this copy you’ve written will get picked up effectively by search engines and news aggregators outside the ivory towers of your website?
Well, there are no shortage of quick and dirty tips out there to help, such as:
Including keywords from your article in your url.
Ensuring your ‘about’ text and keywords (in META tags, keyword tags, Headline field etc.) are appropriate for each article you write.
As I never tire of telling journalists (though they may well tire of hearing it – do let me know, as I’m not the most emotionally intelligent) – you’re all librarians now. Journalism online will increasingly become as much about writing up content as about organising it to optimise its likelihood of being found in the wild wastes of hyperspace.
Obviously, given its importance to anyone wishing to make the most of the web, its a pretty lucrative industry, and there are armies of SEO experts out there who can help for a consultant’s fee. But there are good free sources too – I personally keep tabs on Search Engine Land via their feed, which has advice and news on SEO pretty much every day.
Of course there are many other aggregators out there, but this seems like a good starting point.