Sunday, April 09, 2006

Wolverine Pair Feasts on Dick Cheney

An honest H1 level heading would be about how your blog post's H1 heading probably sucks. The above head might have been more effective in getting attention though.

Keywords in a post's body, tags, and H1 heads are essential in getting our rants and ├ęclats read by humans, found by spiders and other bots, and subsequently bubbled up by Google, Yahoo, Dogpile... Truth be told, you can pay for premium placement in search results, through directory listings, sponsored links and advertising. Yet, we ordinary bloggerati can gain eyeballs through methods other than trick headings.

If your search for search engine optimization, you can see the technology behind it all. Many links also detail best practices and the black-hat tricks spammers and eyeball-hungry sites use to coerce results.

You can start at Wikipedia's page on the subject for an overview and links.

Even the big kids cogitate, strategize, and develop their own ways of winning viewers, human and arachnid. For example, in the back of today's New York Times "Week in Review," a tech piece goes to both online and print techniques.

This Boring Headline Is Written for Google heads to the heart of heads. In case you had not noticed, the Times and other papers use different styles and words in print and online. Each aims to capitalize on the medium. In addition, the Web version appeals first to indexing search engines. Readers' minds get captured two ways with the online version -- simple, quickly read heads and again by seeing the Times related results up top of search results.

For example, last week, the Times hardcopy head on the men's NCAA championship basketball game was:

It's Chemistry Over Pedigree as Gators Roll to First Title

While that fit the physical space of the broadsheet, the Web version was:

Gators Cap Run with First Title

That matches the 40-character-max guideline from the AP for the short-attention spans of typical Web readers.

The product development and technology head for the BBC, Nic Newman, comments, "The search engine has to get a straight-forward, factual headline, so it can understand it."

Those of us who grew up with physical newspapers, and particularly those of us who worked papers and wrote headlines, will dance a sad little dance to what is already apparent. There is an esoteric, yet beautiful craft dying before us. The delights of witty, punning, mot-juste treats on every page are disappearing.

Many newspaper readers don't notice the headlines any more than they register the writer's byline. The art of those thousands of editors who knew the counts -- M=2, m=1.5, j=0.5 -- was that they could grab the reader with an accurate and meaningful head, one that often also had word play and whose lines were the same length. Over the decades, particularly in towns that had multiple dailies, millions of lightly amusing headlines amused a few observant and literary readers and drew many more into a story.

"Part of the craft of journalism for more than a century has been to think up clever titles and headlines, and Google comes along and says, 'The heck with that,'" says the Sacramento Bee's vice president for strategy and new media, Ed Canale. We can look on any news site to the where this has gone.

Already many papers are gaming the search engines to see that their messages win the eyeball battles. Next? Well, one example is likely writing and editing to include keywords in article leads that will affect bot results. The articles actually read differently and as with headlines, the literary qualities suffer as the popularity flourishes. This is more dummying down, certainly not a new trend.

Writing for keyword inclusion is not in J-school curricula now. "That's not somethinthey teach in journalism schools," notes SearchEngineWatch Editor Danny Sullivan, "but in the future, they should."

I dance my sad little dance, but I have begun putting Technorati tags on my posts.

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