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Drew Broomhall, Times Online Search Editor, on SEO strategies for publishers

On 25 March 2009, AOP hosted a forum looking at how SEO is shaping editorial content, and how to maintain editorial values while driving traffic.

Download speaker presentations from the event // Read AOP's Report on the event

Drew Broomhall
Ahead of the event, we caught up with one of the event's speakers, Times Online’s Search Editor Drew Broomhall, to discuss how SEO is affecting journalism and newspapers, and developing SEO strategies for publishers.

Q. How has the growing importance of search engine optimisation SEO affected the way journalists write news stories?

It affects journalists in different degrees depending on how much their organisation is chasing traffic. All organisations now seem to understand the importance of headline writing to SEO, and I see more and more journalists load up their headlines and intros with relevant keywords.

Other than that, I don't see much difference in the way stories are written, but there is huge difference in the way stories are selected for publishing. We all know that certain kinds of story can attract a huge audience - mainstream celebrity news and gossip, quirky and weird stories, technology stories - and there is definitely a move towards chasing off-brand trends and spikes in traffic from some publishers.

Q. What are the key benefits of a good SEO strategy for publishers?

You can earn a reputation as a good outlet for breaking news, which isn't something newspapers have been able to claim previously.

In addition, you have global reach and can expose your content and brand to new audiences. I think most traditional publishers are still getting to grips with what this means for their businesses commercially. A good SEO strategy should also enhance and illuminate your usefulness to people.

Thinking about how people search for your information, understanding how your competitors get traffic, doing detailed niche keyword research - all of these can inform your editorial and content strategy and make your content more useful to more people.

This creates a solid base of regular, reliable traffic that makes you less reliant on chasing trends. It also affects your offline publishing, because you have a direct way of gauging public opinion and can discover trends and even uncover new stories through SEO traffic analysis.

Q. How can publishers maintain high visibility on search engines without losing their brand distinction?

Decide where to draw a line in the sand.

If you want to chase big numbers then you risk losing brand distinction, because you're going to have to publish outside your niche. If all publishers start using the likes of Google Trends, Blogpulse and Twitscoop to drive editorial agenda then we're in danger of creating a homogenous media.

But if you use these tools to analyse and deliver what's relevant to your core audience then you maintain your editorial voice, and that's the path I think publishers should follow.

Q. What do you think the future holds for professional journalism, and how will business models for commercial news gathering look in five years time?

Professional journalism will not die, but the skills and mindset required to be a modern journalist are changing constantly, and will be different again in five years time.

The most interesting new journalists are those who recognise that people love to discuss and explore news, and that their responsibility extends beyond writing the story.

They know SEO, they know how to find an audience, they're willing to converse with their audience and let their work be part of a wider conversation. In short, the distinction between professional journalist and amateur or professional blogger is disappearing.

Some newsgathering and publishing models recognise this already. I expect to see smart publishers harness what some people may view as 'amateur' content, curate niche content that complements their own offerings, and build relationships with these authors and their audiences.

The web has become community focused and sociable, publishers need to get sociable too.

Download speaker presentations from the event // Read AOP's Report on the event

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