“Journalists are cheap” – SEO and why newspapers should cut out the middlemen

Last weekend I attended the first WordCamp UK – a conference for WordPress-using bloggers, developers and designers. Aside from the tips on plugins, backups and content management systems, one line stood out for me “If you’re a web developer get to know a journalist. We need them. And they’re cheap.”

The quote came from Nick Garner, head of search marketing for Betfair. He was talking about search engine optimisation (SEO), in particular the practice of link building – increasing the number of links to your site through a range of activities including posting on forums and in blog comments, buying linked text ads on popular websites and blogs, and writing link-ridden articles which are then ‘given’ to popular websites and blogs.

Nick heads a team of 20 people at Betfair who are engaged in search engine optimisation. Yes, 20 people. Many of those are either former journalists, or journalism students, who they actively recruit.

His point was this: you can try all the tricks of the trade to improve your ranking on Google, but ultimately it comes down to linked content – good content. And in order to get good content, you need journalists.

Speaking to Nick afterwards, he went further: journalists underprice themselves, he said. They are in huge demand in his business, and his business is in demand in its turn.

The irony is that this comes at a time when the newspaper industry is increasing its efforts in search engine optimisation. The image comes to mind of a struggling newspaper laying off journalists and paying an SEO company to improve its Google ranking, which in turn hires those redundant journalists to write the link building copy.

I only hope they pay better.

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8 thoughts on ““Journalists are cheap” – SEO and why newspapers should cut out the middlemen

  1. Pingback: Billiga skribenter … flåt, content providers « Mötesplatsen Fred/bloggen

  2. Simon Dickson

    A great summary, Paul, of what was for me the killer fact of the weekend. I found it extraordinary that so many people are being employed full-time on such work.

    In one respect, it was great to think that SEO tactics (white or black hat) are dead; and that ‘crowd-sourced’ endorsement, via the medium of the link, was set to win through. But equally, it was a bit scary to see the lengths people were already going to.

    Genuinely not sure what conclusion I drew from it all.

  3. jes

    Dear Journalists:

    If you are looking for an interesting place to do some writing, I would like to invite you to visit the new Paris Herald, at:


    We would love to hear from you. There is so much going on in the world, and I hope we have a lot to offer in the daily arena. I know your readers would love to know where to find you, again.

    Most cordially,

    Jes Alexander, Editorial Director
    The Paris Herald

  4. Pingback: More UK Wordcamp follow up

  5. Thomas Hallett

    Good article. I’m a web writer and I am convinced (and hoping) that the penny will soon drop for websites with bad content. I reckon we’ll all be in big demand in the coming years.

  6. Ciaran

    Hi Paul,

    This is an interesting article but I think you may be worrying unnecessarily. Nick (who I’ve met several times) works for a gambling company and therefore requires journalists to create interesting content (5-1 on the nose at Epsom isn’t really all that fascinating).

    Newspapers on the other hand have bucket loads of interesting, link-worthy content and in fact the best thing that people like us (I work in SEO) can do is to help those journalists understand how best they can get their content out to as wide an audience as possible (as well as making sure that the platforms they’re writing on are as ‘search friendly’ as possible of course). In fact in my previous life working in B2B Publishing that’s exactly what I did – ran training courses for the journalists.

    So, SEOs teach journalists how to bring their profession into the 21st Century – that’s not quite such a terrible headline is it?


  7. Pingback: 1000 things I’ve learned about blogging | Online Journalism Blog

  8. Pingback: Search engine optimisation and the battle for journalistic integrity « Jordan Farley’s Weblog

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