Journalists’ 3 worst SEO misconceptions

Photo: Brandon Grassley (Creative Commons)

Photo: Brandon Grassley (Creative Commons)

Dear Colleagues:

I’m terribly sorry that sleazy quick-buck artists shanghaied the term SEO during the last decade.

And I’m sorry that search algorithms are taking so long to mature. And that Demand Media extruded crap based on search data, then bottled it and called it “content”. And that your competitor’s two-bit glossary definition outranks your six-part magnum opus on the same topic, and that nitwits running Scrapebox and Xrumer are flooding your personal blog with fake comments and spammy links.

I’M SO SORRY.

Okay. Apology accepted?

Because I’d like to move you along to a healthy, productive relationship with web searchers.

Sadly the dysfunction persists in the form of these three SEO myths that journalists (STILL!) love to repeat.

1. SEO is “writing for computers”.

C’mon, man. You’re writing for people, and some of them use search engines to find information.

Stop with the knee-jerk resistance and think a little. This isn’t complicated.

2. It’s all about the headline.

Paradox: In spite of these lingering misconceptions, an informal survey of B2B journalists finds that we nearly all think we’re SEO experts. Almost every damn one of us. (Or rather, we *were* all SEO experts – you know, before we became social media experts instead….)

Dig a little further, though. Ask journalists what tasks they actually perform related to SEO purposes. Let’s keep score at home:

0 points: “I write SEO-friendly headlines and repeat the same keywords in the deck.”

3 points: “I use the keywords creatively and appropriately in subheads, image captions, image file names, sidebars, pullquotes, bold text, numbered sequences and steps, Amazon affiliate boxes, and more. I use these devices to make the story more reader-friendly as well as more searchable.”

5 points: “I use Google Trends [or WordTracker or similar] to research common search phrases and trends before I start reporting.”

Many of our SEO expert journalists are going to score zero points.

Maybe they’re better at social media.

3. Search traffic is crap traffic.

Really? Think Google brings you a bunch of drive-bys?

Have you looked at your analytics to confirm this? Wonderful place, the web – lotsa measurement going on.

In almost every media site I’ve seen, search visitors are MORE engaged on average than the site’s overall numbers.

Lower bounce rate, higher pages per visit, higher time-on-site.

And that’s even been true on sites where the editorial team isn’t paying attention to the powerful, wonderful value of knowing very precisely the topic of interest for a given site visitor.

Imagine how well you could serve the information needs of these visitors – if you’d just stop ignoring search and SEO!

Online Content Marketing in 30 Minutes has lots of suggestions about integrating search data into editorial planning. Buy it! You’ll love it!

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