2.11.11

SEO in the News (literally!) as Savvy Journalists Face Same Search Dilemmas as Online Marketers

BY KRISTI PETRIE

Journalists are tuning into a key strategy top online marketers already know: great search engine optimization (SEO) brings users to your website. But with this strategy comes a common dilemma: how to strike a balance between top SEO tactics without sacrificing content quality. How do you write for search engines AND people?

In "Web Words that Lure the Readers", the New York Times makes the case that the Huffington Post is one of the best SEO pros in the news industry - a sought after accolade for marketers, but suspect in the news industry. Standard strategies include "filling articles with keywords that people might search for, writing teaser headlines that people cannot help but click on and including copious links to other stories on the same site." Nothing here that we online marketers haven't heard.

The NYT suggests that the Huffington Post has a tendency to provide certain content based on popular search terms for the day or week to get readers to their website - and that this tactic may hurt the quality of content. However, the statistics substantiate the Huffington Post's SEO success. "…35 percent of the Huffington Post's visits in January came from search engines, compared to 20 percent for CNN.com…" But once they get there, how long are people sticking around?

It's true: great SEO gets people to your website, but it's great content that will keep them there. In guiding our clients' SEO campaigns, we have to find that perfect sweet spot between great SEO and sticky content - the kind that their customers came to their website for in the first place. To do this, we have to understand three very simple things in this order:

  1. What our clients are actually selling
  2. How their customers are searching
  3. Why their customers are buying

Understanding our clients' products and services allows us to define and get to know their target markets. From there, understanding how their target markets are searching allows us to guide them to the website, and lastly, understanding why they're buying influences the meat of the content. So we can give them what they're looking for and ultimately, convert them to customers.

Just as the NYT calls out the Huffington Post for their SEO tactics, I can't help but wonder about a brief NYT article "App Can't Replace Confession, Vatican Says". The article is just one paragraph that comes in at 113 words and the publish date coincides with the time period when search terms like "iphone app catholic" and "catholic church app" were the most popular they'd ever been, according to Google Trends.

Am I reading actual news, or was I hooked by great SEO? Is it both? Either way, I landed on the NYT website and that's half the great SEO battle. Now, it's up to the NYT to keep me there and I'm not sure this article has enough meat to do it.

Kristi Petrie
written by KRISTI PETRIE
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