Tag: Web production

12
Dec

Why Journalists Like Me Thank God For Content Marketing

A few years ago, when I was still a digital financial-news manager, it wasn’t uncommon for me to edit 15 pieces in one day. And write two myself. And manage the homepage. And work on SEO. And edit the day’s headlines. And put out the various fires that were bound to spring up no matter how well we’d planned the day’s coverage.

When I first made the leap into corporate editing, I couldn’t believe how much slower-paced it was. It made me twitchy.

I needed to type — type fast and type long. For those of us who grew up in a newsroom, the manpower-to-output ratio in today’s marketing departments defies reason. It shouldn’t take a whole week to write a banner headline. It shouldn’t take a whole month to create a landing page.

Thankfully, as this year-old-but-still-relevant piece from The Guardian points out, copywriting has evolved to require quite a bit of typing. Nowadays, copywriters get to create blog posts, video scripts, emails,  banner ads, social media posts and more. And what more companies are starting to discover is that a journalist can do all of this in a day — and still have time for more creative work.

What a glorious turn of events for journalists like me.

Content marketing has brought new talent into the advertising industry, but these are different beasts to the traditional copywriter

Source: Copywriting is dead? Don’t tell the journalists | Media Network | The Guardian

04
Jan

How ‘Bout Them Cowboys? A Gameday SEO Sniff Test

This morning I wanted to know whether the spousal unit and I had time to whip up a batch of Chex mix before the Dallas Cowboys-Detroit Lions game, so I Googled the term “Cowboys game.” Shockingly I found no local-news sources on the first page of results, general or news, logged in or out.

What the heck, I wondered? My alma mater is chock full of Dallas Cowboys coverage, some of it expert-level analysis as good as any you’ll find on the Internet. Why did none of it appear for me in search?

Search engine optimization is tricky for any company, especially so in the crowded world of news. Sadly, there is no magic prescription for ranking No. 1 all the time, but there are a few factors within a publisher’s control. I took a quick gander at the DallasNews.com homepage story labeled “Cowboys GameDay: Keys to victory vs. Lions, predictions, more.”

First, let me say that this page is gorgeous. The design team at the News is doing a heck of a job with these special pages. They’re truly a breath of fresh air.

Good sense suggests this story should be near the top of the results for my “Cowboys game” query, but it’s not. So, what gives? Let’s take a look under the hood:

Title tag

Most of the content management systems that newsrooms use are set up so that the title tag pulls from a story’s headline by default. If a publisher doesn’t have (and use, natch) a tool to override the default, then editors are wise to include good keywords in their headlines. The actual H1 headline on the story in question is “Detroit Lions at Cowboys.” It looks great on the page, but it’s a bit spare. Let’s see what the title tag, which is pulling from the page label, is:

cowboys title

Also spare, but at least it contains “Cowboys.”

Now let’s look at the headlines on the search engine results page (SERP) for my query:

Cowboys game search engine results

Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. Google, creepily prescient as always, somehow knew that I was looking for Who-What-When-Where type of information, so it returned hits that satisfy that need. The headlines above have something else in common: They aren’t ambiguous. Google rewards specificity. In this example, it’s not enough to have “Cowboys” in a title tag and “Detroit” in the H1. All of the top-results headlines contain both “Cowboys” and “Lions.” I’d love to see if changing the title tag on the News’ story would bump it up in the SERPs.

Title tags are extremely important, but they aren’t everything. Other factors at play that are beyond an editor’s control include page load time, social signals, inbound links and more. However, a savvy producer does have some other tricks up his or her sleeve. This particular page may benefit from a few other enhancements:

Canonical URL: This tells the search engine “This URL is the definitive source for the content it holds.” Standard SEO stuff.

Google news keywords tag: You’ve probably heard that Google discounts keywords because so many people abused them in the early days of SEO. It makes an exception for publishers, who with a bit of code and discipline can increase their chances of rising above the fray. The News has this code (I know this because I led its implementation). Let’s take another peek at the source code to see how it’s being used:

Cowboys game Google news keywords

Right. So, the good news is “Dallas Cowboys” and “Detroit Lions” made the cut. The bad news? So did 18 other terms. Google’s limit for this tag is 10.

Google news standout tag: This tool for calling out a publisher’s strongest pieces works, but only if you use it. Does this story qualify as standout? Not my call, but if I were a publisher who hadn’t exceeded my quota for the week, I might give it a whirl here. (Side note: If newsroom SEO interests you — and I guess it does if you’ve made it this far into my post — follow Adam Sherk. I’ve learned a lot from him.)

Image alt tags: Some experts will say this is too nitty-gritty to worry about. I say why not use every tool at your disposal?

The takeaway: You can have the most beautiful page in the world, but if you whiff on the details, you’ll lose on game day.

P.S. — Go Cowboys!

 

01
Jan

It’s 2015: Do You Know Where Your 2014 New Year’s Eve Guide Is?

New Years Eve clock‘Twas the first day of 2015, and all across the Internet, news organizations still had holiday-specific posts on their homepages.

A quick sweep this afternoon revealed the following on the World Wide Web’s front pages:

  • New Year’s Eve party guides
  • New Year’s Eve drinking games
  • Quirky New Year’s Eve traditions
  • New Year’s Eve weather posts
  • New Year’s Eve deals and steals
  • 5 things to know about New Year’s Eve
  • Christmas cookie posts
  • Posts about how to decorate for the holidays?!?

Retrospectives are fine. Predictions are fine. “Where to ring in the new year?” Not fine.

Article pages and other “side doors” are the new darlings of the digital space because of search and social medial referrals, but publishers that neglect their homepage are doing themselves and their audiences a disservice. The homepage is a brand’s front door, and if the wreath is still up well past the holidays, readers will wonder if anyone’s home.

 

24
Dec

Them’s The Breaks: Details Suffer In Era Of Mobile-First Publishing

Times like these, the old-school print copy editor in me gets testy.

In an age where major media outlets preach the gospel of mobile first and responsive design, orphans and bad breaks in headlines abound. I’ve heard production editors reason that because there are just so many sizes of screens to account for — desktop and laptop monitors, iPhones, iPads, iPad minis, the Android contingent, etc. — it’s not worth sweating the presentation.

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