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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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.
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The Paris Herald
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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.
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?
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