Tuesday, July 5, 2011...9:00 am

SEO Week: “Be clever, sneaky and cheat” to beat the opposition

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When it comes to news, there are so many sources – the BBC, national news web sites, and stories from all around the world. How do you compete when you’re doing the same story? That’s what SEO – search engine optimisation – is all about. It also helps to be a bit sneaky…

Keywords are crucial

Don’t forget to talk about what your site is actually about:

“You wouldn’t believe how many people you speak to who run web sites say ‘we’ve got a great web site, why aren’t we getting any hits? Why aren’t people coming to our site?’ You look at their content and they haven’t talked about what they do – they talk around it.”

If they’re talking about broadband, they don’t mention broadband. They have pages dedicated to it, but they’ll talk about the ‘internet’ or ‘modems – words that people don’t care about or search for. People who want broadband want ‘free broadband’ they want ‘cheap broadband’ and ‘laptops’. You have to do your research.

You have to appeal to Google first – then Google users. You need imagination – editorial skills must be on two levels.

You need SEO skills to appeal to the Google robot. You must use the right words so Google will rank you.

Then you have to appeal to the Googlers. Think of the tabloids – Sun v Mirror. Tabloid sales rely on good headlines and great images. Put them face to face on the newsstand and the lead headline and lead image will drive hundreds of thousands of sales.

“With the internet, every single story you do is like a tabloid front page on a newsstand. Every story on Google News is selling on its headline”

Take a major story from last year – the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. A search for the game title got a result of 360m pages for Modern Warfare 2. What chance do you have? You need to be timely – and to break your own news story (see Chris’s account of Broadband Genie’s take on the Modern Warfare 2 launch).

“Be clever, sneaky and cheat”

Broadband Genie covered the Mobile World Congress. How could it draw in readers? The site could have talked about “Mobile World Congress”, but it’s boring. It’s a dull subject. It’s also huge – the biggest comms conference in the world. So people who will search for “Mobile World Congress” are probably there already. Broadband Genie needed to target people who weren’t there but still might want to know about it.

Answer: write headlines to target potential reader interests:

Chris packed the headline ‘The’ must-have app for the iPhone to be launched at Mobile World Congress, with keywords:

“must-have” “app”, “iPhone” (then one of the biggest search terms on Google), and “launched” – another good search term

“If I’d written a blog saying ‘I’m at the Mobile World conference and having a lovely time’ no one would have searched for it. We did this instead, and got well over 1,000 hits in a day from people thnking this was a story about a must-have app.”

In the end, the story wasn’t really about that. Instead it was about getting hundreds of press releases about must-have releases at the event. The story drew in readers with a bit of a lie – but kept them with the promise that it might come true over the course of the event.

Too dishonest? What’s your view on enslaving journalism to keyword hell? Comment is free…

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