Two biggest social networks

Facebook vs. Google, social media vs. SEO: Why BuzzFeed data shouldn’t declare a winner

Last week, the latest traffic referral report from BuzzFeed caught Marshall Simmonds’s eye. The data indicated Facebook delivered about 3.5 times more page views to BuzzFeed Network sites in December than Google did:



If that observation were broadly applicable to publishers across the web, it would be a game-changer. Simmonds, CEO of Define Media Group, thought it wasn’t, so he posted a rebuttal responding to writers who he felt interpreted the chart too broadly. Read more


At a conference in Cannes, BuzzFeed President Jon Steinberg said that “We feel strongly that traditional media have given up on young people” and that news organizations should focus on sharing throughout their processes.

“More so than the technology, you have to write and produce news for the social web: it has to be novel, important and have this social imperative behind it,” he said, suggesting that some media have yet to move on from an SEO-focused approach optimised for Google’s search engine rather than social sharing.

“That allowed people to write very boring news that was aggregated and unoriginal. And that doesn’t work well on social,” he said. “The most important thing you can do is to think to yourself ‘why would somebody share this content?’ And that’s very high-quality content.”

Stuart Dredge, the Guardian

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Social media replacing SEO as Google makes search results personal

Say goodbye to SEO.

The now-conventional strategy of harnessing links and keywords to climb higher in search results has been fading for a while. Social media emerged as an alternative referral source. Google tweaked its quality signals to reduce the impact of strategies that manipulate search results.

Google's personal search results feature pages, photos and other results shared by friends on social networks.

But this week Google sent SEO as we know it into terminal decline, rolling out personal search results that are strongly shaped by each user’s online friends and social networking history.

Here’s what this means to a news website. Say you’ve just published a preview of this year’s Super Bowl ads, and of course you want people to find it when they do a related Google search:

  • In the old search model, you pack the headline with keywords like “Super Bowl ads 2012″ so everyone searching Google for that phrase sees your story. A simple, one-size-fits-all solution.
  • In the new model, Andy’s search results will feature that story if his friend Bill previously shared or promoted it. But Chris’ results could instead highlight a different story that his friend Dave shared.

That’s a very simple example; Google’s Matt Cutts shares a real one on his blog.

For now, search results are affected only by social activity on Google’s own social network. But Google seems interested in adding Twitter, which has complained about being left out, and Facebook, which so far has worked exclusively with Bing.

The point for news organizations and journalists is that it’s more important than ever to build strong social followings and to optimize content for sharing. Social media is becoming an engine that drives more than just Facebook and Twitter’s own referrals.

These networks hold data and virtual machinery powering other forms of discovery like Google’s personal search results, as well as new curation apps like Nine Connections and mobile apps like Flipboard’s “cover stories” and Zite.

News organizations with strong social media operations will see their content also flourish in search and mobile. Those that ignore social media will become isolated, invisible and irrelevant to growing segments of digital audience. Read more


The dearth of witty heds online is enough to make a copy editor cry, but…
“Rather than settle for a humorless future, some online editors are fighting back by refusing to embrace SEO guidelines for every story,” writes David Wheeler. He says that because young journalists are beginning their careers at the dawn of the SEO craze, some fans of funny headlines wonder if the battle has already been lost.

“Sharp, witty headlines that stray off the ‘literalness’ line will live, barely, for a little while longer,” says Lexington Herald-Leader copy editor Will Scott. “However, as the veterans of newspapers are gradually replaced by younger copy editors who grew up with the Web, we will see such headlines less and less.”

From “Why Journalists Need to Stop Resenting SEO”

Learn how to write an SEO-friendly headline: One of the biggest complaints from journalists seems to be that SEO is killing their headlines. Instead of being poetic in titles, journalists now have to use “SEO-powered words”. While I love a good pun as much as anyone, the “SEO-powered words” get your content found. Not using them loses you traffic.

When U.S. Airways Flight 1549 crashed into the Hudson River, The New York Times was the first outlet to break the story. For some reason, they didn’t use the term “plane crash” in the title and created something clever instead. The result was that no one saw their story. All of their readers and their potential readers were searching for “plane crash”. They missed out the thousands (millions?) of people who were frantically searching for information about what had happened. You can’t do that. And yet it happens with papers every day.

Gene Weingarten: My biggest beef with the New Newsroom is what has happened to headlines Read more


How Google’s Panda Update is inadvertently encouraging even more content farms

When Google introduced its new algorithm earlier this year aimed at elevating the quality of its search results, some of the hardest-hit sites were content farms like eHow, run by Demand Media.

An NPR story Tuesday shows that the Panda Update is driving down the search rankings of retailers, too, especially those with dozens of links to product descriptions that are generic and common to multiple sites.

The idea of Panda, after all, is to help users find content with some distinctiveness and usefulness. But what NPR discovered in profiling a big furniture broker Tuesday are the seeds for a whole new category of content farms: fast and cheap content dashed off for the sole purpose of restoring the search rankings of retail sites.

Following up a similar Wall Street Journal story published last month, NPR recounted the plight of One Way Furniture, a Long Island furniture broker with dozens of links to everything from accent chairs to writing tables.

The broker’s response to fears the store’s Google rank would drop? Hire a freelancer to add “more romance” to those descriptions, at a rate of $1 per listing. The freelancer, Lauren Fernstrom, told NPR that she’s cranking them out at a rate of 20 per hour.

Somehow, this doesn’t seem to be what Google exec Matt Cutts had in mind when he told NPR that Panda is aimed at encouraging website owners to “put a little bit more individual care and attention and work into the content of their site — whether it be a product description, or a blog post.”

In an email exchange I had with Fernstrom Wednesday afternoon, she pointed out the difference between useful descriptions of individual products and content that serves a broader purpose and wider audience.

As she understands her assignment from the furniture store, she says, “I am not tasked with creating consumable news for online consumers.”

But that may be precisely where the larger opportunity lies for news organizations and, for that matter, out-of-work journalists: Is there a sweet spot of price and time that would enable the creation of evergreen content about products that would be useful to consumers beyond the purchase of a particular item?

How much would One Way Furniture have to pay somebody to create content about writing desks, say, that potential buyers would find useful over time? And maybe even dispose them towards buying one from the retailer who provided such useful content?

Part of the answer will be found in custom content, the emerging form of advertising that equips brands to serve potential customers with useful information as opposed to irritating, interruptive messages.

Some related resources:

Done right, it’s entirely possible that custom content will satisfy Panda at the same time it sells some furniture. Read more


Slate editor: It would be a mistake not to think about SEO, but…
“If there’s a story that we want to do just because we want to, we go ahead and do it,” says Slate editor David Plotz. “But when we’ve done it, we look to figure out what people are searching around this topic, what they are going to be searching for, and how we can ensure our menu lines and the various things that search engines pay attention to reflect how readers are actually searching. Sometimes we see that people are looking for such and such topic on the Web, and if someone has a great angle on it, we decide how to do the story.” Read more


‘The era of the clever headline and an above-the-fold mentality is over’

Columbia Journalism Review
Blame SEO for that. “Puns and double entendre and the significance of the far left-hand column on the first page have been consigned to the dustbin of journalistic history, as out of date as even the 1974 remake of ‘The Front Page,’” writes Karen Stabiner. Read more

3 Comments partners with advertisers to generate editorial coverage, social buzz

The Scripps-owned HGTV recently partnered with to “seed” editorial coverage of the network’s television programs, according to Laurie Sullivan.

Sullivan reports that HGTV purchased online advertising in return for which local “Examiners” were encouraged to write about HGTV shows. Sullivan writes:

“[Jonah Spegman of Scripps] says a recent campaign tapped into the Examiner Connect Program to promote awareness for an HGTV show called ‘Property Virgins.’ This campaign included a display campaign against relevant Examiner content sections from writers that focus on real estate and homes to call attention to the organic articles that Examiners’ writers wrote about the show.” has 55,000 writers in more than 200 markets across the U.S. and Canada. Contributors are paid based on a variety of metrics, including page views. So, in addition to writing a story about “Property Virgins,” they are also likely to promote their work via Facebook updates or tweets.

Sullivan writes that the effort resulted in “hundreds” of original articles about the show, as well as increased visibility in social media networks.

Spegman told Sullivan that HGTV had no input into the specifics of the coverage, good or bad. However, the goal of such a campaign is to generate search results and social media buzz, which is served even by negative reviews. rejects the label of “content farm” but the purchase of editorial coverage — for the purpose of search engine and social media optimization — ought to be what concerns traditional newsrooms. Read more


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