free html hit counter This Boring Headline Is Written for Google - John Battelle's Search Blog

This Boring Headline Is Written for Google

By - April 10, 2006


One of the great self referential headlines, in that it not only is a headline, it’s a headline about headlines in a paper which is also the subject of the story. Head hurt yet?

Well, turns out, the NYT is NOT the subject of the story, but it should have been. Because if you think the folks at the Times Digital aren’t thinking about optimizing their stories for Google, well, you’re foolin’ yourself.

Regardless of how odd it might have been to report on himself, Steve Lohr has written a piece about how newspapers are now thinking about how Google might parse the paper’s headlines, and how it’s changed the art of headline writing. The lead of the story:

JOURNALISTS over the years have assumed they were writing their headlines and articles for two audiences — fickle readers and nitpicking editors. Today, there is a third important arbiter of their work: the software programs that scour the Web, analyzing and ranking online news articles on behalf of Internet search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN.

The examples are striking:

Nic Newman, head of product development and technology at BBC News Interactive, pointed to a few examples from last Wednesday. The first headline a human reader sees: “Unsafe sex: Has Jacob Zuma’s rape trial hit South Africa’s war on AIDS?” One click down: “Zuma testimony sparks HIV fear.” Another headline meant to lure the human reader: “Tulsa star: The life and career of much-loved 1960’s singer.” One click down: “Obituary: Gene Pitney.”

I think this practice is fine. Headlines are all about attracting readers, that’s their purpose. And Google and Yahoo are distributors of attention, making sure the headlines work there makes a lot of sense.

Now, if the journalists start writing the bodies of the stories to rank well in Google, I think that’s where the line is crossed. Or…is it?

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4 thoughts on “This Boring Headline Is Written for Google

  1. Me says:

    The truly ironic bit is that the headline actually is NOT the boring sort of headline referred to in the story. That headline would be something more like, “Newspapers write no-nonsense headlines for search engines” — or something like that. “This Boring Headline Is Written For Google” is, of course, a good quip.

  2. No, it has NOT crossed the line.

    1- Google REFUSES to compromise. Using One displayed Headline for a Human – but a “hidden” or “Javascript” for the Search Engines can get your Entire Site BANNED!

    2 – Newspapers owe it to their Advertisers to get the maximum amount of pertanent traffic. Some of that traffic – statiscally – will be interested in some of the Ads.

    3- Newspapers are competing with Other forms of Information Distribution eg. Blogs. They must be realistic about the potential valid traffic that Search Engines can bring, as well as News Feeds.

    4- They can not pretend that HUMANS process info the same as SPIDERS, and have to be proactive about maximizing both potentials.

    The real flaw is the holier than thou attitudes of the Search Engines about so-called Webmaster guidlines.

    Until Concept Searching and LSI become the norm, keywords are the make or break strategy.

    Search technology has much evolving to do, but the necessities of succesful competative Marketing are the bill payers. They can’t wait until the tech matures.

    Yes, Search Engines Web has the answers…..if only they would listen!

  3. Diane Ensey says:

    Now, if the journalists start writing the bodies of the stories to rank well in Google, I think that’s where the line is crossed. Or…is it?

    Only if they choose the stories to write based on how Google ranks them.

  4. Bristol says:

    As someone who does SEO work for a major news/media company – and as a former journalism major – this article hits home for me in a few ways. If SEO was worked in at the top of the funnel (writers, editors, etc.), media outlets would have a far easier time attracting qualified traffic to their websites.