Jeff Jarvis has written a brilliant article about
SEO as the new newsstand in his BuzzMachine blog. It’s really
about how journalism can fully enter the Internet Age.
Jarvis speaks from experience when he says that schools should
teach journalists how to research the popular keywords relating to
whatever subject they’re writing about and incorporate them in the first few
sentences of their stories.
I wrote a Guardian column about the need for media outlets to understand
that search, aggregation, and links are their new means of
distribution. Smart companies will embrace this, while dinosaurs will
The fear about SEO is that it dumbs down or blunts up the presentation
of content so a search engine can understand what a story is about and lead
readers interested in that topic to it. But I’m not so sure that
simplicity, directness, and bluntness are so bad. How often have you read
headlines and the first halves of overwritten newspaper and magazine
stories, wondering what the hell they are about? A simple summary of a
story with clear labeling of its topics are good for humans, too. I’d love
it if every story — online and in print — told me what the story is about
so I can decide whether I want to spend my time reading it. After all, that
used to be the real value of headlines before they became another stage for
When, at People magazine, I started grading TV shows in my reviews — a
concept I carried over to Entertainment Weekly. Some of my fellow
critics chided me, saying, “Well, but then people won’t read all your
reviews.” I responded that they shouldn’t have to. This isn’t about giving
me attention; I’m not a cat. This is about serving the public, and if they
don’t want to bother reading about a C-level show (or enjoy reading a
review with an F), that’s up to them. Our public is busy. We should be
saving, not demanding, their time.
Let’s also not forget that SEO is not just about the presentation on a
page but also about keeping content visible online witih permanent links.
If you hide your content behind pay walls and in archives, you will lose
Google juice that others will gain.
I enjoy clever writing, and I don’t think good journalists have
to “dumb down” their first paragraphs in order to include keywords.
They just need to think of their writing in a new way, and use
their talent to create engaging, keyword-rich sentences.
I also bet they’ll be pleased and surprised to see their stories getting
more hits as the readers are actually able to find the ones that suit their