As online marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO) practices have evolved, journalists have become increasingly sought-after by the agencies that compete to improve their clients’ rankings.
“For a long time there was a very poor practice in online marketing,” says Joe Sharp, Head of SEO at Hearst Magazines. “Generic advertorials were duplicated across multiple sites with strategic links engineered to increase SEO value.
“But Google has now become a lot better at picking out those kind of links and have substantially updated their search algorithms.
“Companies still using these tactics are likely to be landed with a Google penalty, knocking them way down in the search rankings.”
Algorithms now not only analyse the amount of links pointing to a page, but also factors that indicate the quality of the content, such as how much time users are spending on that page or how many social shares it has.
Outdated SEO practices such as participating in link schemes, including hidden text or links and filling pages with irrelevant keywords are now explicitly discouraged in Google’s quality guidelines.
The result is a general shift towards value for the user.
Matt Evans, Senior SEO Executive at digital marketing agency Pancentric Digital, says:
“The phrase ‘Content is king’ really defines the positive state that SEO, and digital marketing as a whole, is in. The industry is moving towards producing quality content.”
Speaking at the Brighton SEO conference in April, Matt even went as far to suggest that next year the conference might be called “Brighton Content”.
Why is this good for journalists? Joe Sharp thinks there is a strong need in the industry for the kind of skills journalists have.
“Marketing agencies are re-branding themselves as specialists in content marketing as fast as they can, but there is a shortfall in the skillsets required to tell a good story and create compelling content that appeals to large audiences.”
Content marketing is definitely growing in popularity. Google Trends suggests there are over four times more searches for the term compared to four years ago Tweet this! (see image above).
Has this had any effect on the journalism jobs market? Jan Goodey, course leader of the NCTJ journalism course at City College, Brighton, thinks it has:
“It’s a reality – some might say a sad one – that more NCTJ trained students go into the marketing side of journalism, that being copywriting, native advertising, sponsored copy etc.
“In terms of our courses – of the successful students around 85-90% end up in freelance or staff posts with more and more, it seems, ending up in marketing positions.”
Graduate statistics suggest there is a wider trend in this direction too. Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), which do not include NCTJ students outside of university, say only a quarter of students who graduated with a journalism degree in 2012 were working in a journalism job six months later.
In comparison, 15% of graduates were in PR or marketing roles six months after graduating. With such a significant number, should professional courses change to reflect the demand for journalistic skills in other industries?
Joanne Butcher, chief executive of the NCTJ, says it’s already happening:
“Many in the PR and communications industry prefer those with journalism experience and qualifications. The NCTJ has already broadened its range of qualifications and training to reflect this, such as the new Certificate in Foundation Journalism, and short courses for corporate communicators.
“While this is set to continue, we still retain our focus on providing an industry training scheme for professional journalists working in the media.”
|Nick Chowdrey is a freelance and staff writer, interested in technology, economics and alternative politics. He has contributed in the past to Vice and The Guardian and is currently technical writer at Crunch Accounting.|