Posted by Sami Smith
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the flash flood of journalism marketing. It snuck up on businesses, writers, and publications, leaving a cloud of confused journalists and professionals behind. I remember hearing the term for the first time a few years ago, assuming it was a tech-y term I wouldn’t actually need to understand. In the past year, however, I was proven oh so wrong. If you are a journalist, you need SEO.
Picture the process as a ranking system for Google. The most relevant, quality information gets put at the top of the search choices for any Google search. The search engine beast puts out a “spider,” or “crawler” over the whole WWW. It picks up on how each site is laid out, which terms they use to refer to specific items or topics, and then ranks them as compared to the most popular things the general public searches in Google. For instance, if you are a clothing blogger, Google Analytics will tell you that you want to use the term “women’s clothing” versus “clothes for women,” because more people are searching the former. By choosing the most popular terms, you climb up the ranking ladder. With each tip you check off of your SEO checklist, your site comes one step closer to becoming one people are more likely to see.
SEO may be digital and realistic in terms of marketing, but it also encompasses one of the most basic journalistic properties: quality over quantity. Using high-ranking search terms early on in the posts, in multiple places across the page, and without overkill are key to grabbing a Google search hotspot. By consistently following general SEO guidelines, small businesses are quickly coming head-to-head with big business brands.
So why do you need it as a student? Thinking of yourself as a brand, which hopefully you already are, you should understand the importance of making yourself known. Using SEO in blog posts, on your online portfolio, and in your work for digital publications means increased chances of becoming a journalism somebody—a name to be recognized (or at least associated with recognized work). So embrace the tech side of journalism, because without this, the flash flood of this often-misunderstood topic will swiftly take you under.
—What parts of SEO still confuse you? Do you think you could personally benefit from it, or does it sound a little out of your reach?—