Search engine optimisation (SEO)

By following the basic rules of SEO, you can drive more people to your website. Martin Asser is a former senior product manager at BBC Future Media.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a way of tailoring web content to make it more visible to search engines and findable to users. It involves understanding how search engines work and what words people are likely to search for.

For web journalists, this means writing headlines that make stories easier to find on search engines.

The aim is to make stories appear at the top of the list of links found by the search engine, making it more likely people will see it, increasing hits and drawing new users to your site.  

So you need to understand how search engines work and how people search. 

As Martin Asser explains, there are a few basic rules to identifying the ‘key words’ most people would enter to search for information your story contains. 

"It’s not about abandoning good journalism in favour of writing-by-numbers"

They include using the proper names of protagonists, choosing straightforward terms over more exciting headline words, and placing your strongest key words at the start of the headline.  

So resist ‘Pop princess performs in sleepy Compton Martin’ in favour of ‘Kylie Minogue’s secret gig in Somerset pub’. 

Go for ‘Whitney Houston, US singer and actress, dies aged 48’ rather than ‘Troubled US singing legend found dead in Beverly Hills hotel’. 

If all this appears to cramp a journalist’s style, it need not reduce the process to headline-writing ‘by numbers’, the BBC’s expert argues. 

A creative headline classic like the Sun’s “How do you solve a problem like Korea” might be unforgettable but it could be unfindable. 

In any case, “Once you’re on a web page it’s not the full headline that gets people to read the rest of the story but a gripping intro, absorbing text and well-chosen pictures and other furniture,” Martin Asser says. 

And the rewards are worth the effort. SEO has distinct advantages over other forms of regular website promotion: if your story ranks prominently for a search term, it will attract traffic for weeks, months - even years. 

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