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i-level Search Director Judith Lewis on SEO and journalism

On Wednesday 25th March, 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

Judith Lewis
Ahead of the event, we caught up with the chair for the event, Judith Lewis, Search Director at i-level, to discuss how quality journalism and top search rankings can work in harmony.

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

I believe that the growing awareness among journalists of the importance of being found in both news and regular search results has only caused a return to traditional journalism.

When I have spoken to journalists and editors, both when I was in-house at Centaur Communications and while working with publishers at i-level, it has been quite easy for them to see and understand how search works and why it is important to write for search.

Journalists may enjoy writing witty or ‘punny’ headlines, however, 'old fashioned' headlines obviously work best in search.

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

The benefits of a good search strategy for any publisher is increased exposure in a place where 80% of searchers discover a new site.

By being found in Google News, publishers can get exposure for their brand on a web page visited by millions.

There is the added benefit of the news results being fed through into regular search results and possible exposure there. Searches for 'chocolate', 'Steve Jobs' and other high volume searches often include a news feed.

Long term, news continues to appear in search results when relevant. My favourite example of this is a search for 'Milky Bar Kid' which still features news results from That kind of attention and longevity gets both the publication and journalist significant exposure.

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

Where ‘punny’ headlines are the foundation of that distinction, other steps can be used within the article itself and short description to help increase visibility.

The subject of the article itself can mean sole exposure, especially where a publication breaks news.

Writing for search and optimisation does not mean being boring, or the same as everyone else. Both and Marketing Week rank well for news, as do Brand Republic, UTalk Marketing and other publications covering the marketing sector.

I would hope that writing for search does not force an artificial style on journalists but rather gives them a framework to work within in order to help increase their exposure.

Q. What do you think the future holds for professional journalism hold and how will business models for commercial news gathering look?

I believe that the traditional scoop will be more important than ever, with Google giving the relevancy boost to the freshest news it finds. With the emphasis being placed on originality, getting the story up first and in an original way will make journalists more important than ever, along with their relationships with PR contacts and other sources.

I feel that we are perhaps almost moving back to the days when journalists worked fervently to break news and get it set and ready for the morning edition, only now stories may be starting to go live before editors even have a chance to review them.

The role of editors will become more difficult and fraught as journalists strive to get news out quickly: traditional fact-checking may be discarded in favour of speed. It will be the editors’ job to reign in this fervour and ensure that proper journalistic integrity is maintained. This is how digital publishers will win out over bloggers.

I think that more and more journalists will have personal blogs where they express the opinion they have to keep out of their news and as an outlet for their own news. I think this will be encouraged by editors who need the news delivered without opinion, though journalists may be required to write under a nom de plume to prevent a slant being introduced by association.

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

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