Google's mission is to organise the world's information and make it
universally accessible and useful.
Occasionally known as spiders, these algorithms ‘crawl’ the Internet incessantly. They
act very much like digital librarians – assigning rankings to different pages.
What factors does Google’s algorithm search for?
A brief list...
• Domain (history, age, keyword relevance, load speed)
• Keywords (density, title, headlines, appearance in the body)
• Content (‘freshness’, ‘uniqueness’, word emphasis (bold, italics, underline), image quality,
geolocation, tags and comments)
• Back links (quality of the website linking in, quality of page linking in, relevancy of page
content, location of link on the page)
• Soft links (diggs, tweets, delicious bookmarks)
• Media mix (written, audio and visual)
• Learn the difference between ‘on page’ or ‘on site’ SEO and ‘off site’ SEO
Use the tools available to help you grade your website
Kevin Gibbons, Director of Search at
“SEO is not the enemy of good writing
Believe it or not, the purpose of SEO is not to destroy your writing’s artistic integrity, it’s to
make sure people can actually find your work to appreciate its genius.
I think that SEO is often misunderstood by professional writers, especially those who began
their careers offline in the world of print and are suddenly having to adapt.
They end up believing that they have to cram key phrases like ‘Britney Spears’ into their
serious article exposing the flaws in the government’s economic recovery plan. That’s
Search engines are like a newsagent, they are where people find your copy. By bearing SEO
tactics in mind, you place your article at the front, right next to the till.”
Shane Richmond – Head of Technology
(editorial) Telegraph Media
“Gotcha” – The Sun
“Let’s go back to May 4, 1982 and that “Gotcha” headline. The sub-head read: “Our lads sink
gunboat and hole cruiser.” Below that, the story began: “The Navy had the Argies on their
knees last night after a devastating double punch.”
Alongside was a graphic showing a British soldier and the words “Battle for the Islands”. All
of this works perfectly for its audience and its medium, but it wouldn’t be likely to figure
highly in search results.
Imagine for a moment that the Falklands conflict was happening today. What would you
type into a search engine to find the latest news about it? Well, “Falklands” certainly, or
perhaps “Falkland Islands”. You wouldn’t search for “the Islands”, which is used in the Sun
copy. You’d be more likely to search for “Argentina” than “Argies” and “British Navy” or
“Royal Navy” would get more relevant results than“ The Navy”.
• SEO is now as important to the digital journalist’s mental kit as the five Ws (who, why, what,
where and when) – Shane Richmond
• Relevant keywords will feature in the headline and prominently in the body copy of an article.
They will also be linked into any supporting images so that a piece works as a coherent whole
• A keyword strategy per article might be discussed between a journalist and a sub
• An overall keyword strategy may be developed per site
• Journalists will follow real time search trends in the hunt for traffic (making it more difficult
for them to set the news agenda)
• A key skill for journalists will be understanding search habits of typical users (or their
readership). Knowing how to adequately signpost an article will become a vital journalistic
Matt Kelly, Associate Editor, the Mirror
• "In our great frantic headlong rush to accumulate users at any cost,
many of us were all too quick to sacrifice anything that stood in the way
of search engine optimisation" (SEO).
• "... The game is up. The days of leading the newspaper industry by the
hand, down the path of mythic riches, are coming to a rapid close."
• "traffic from search engines is ridiculously low ... the vast majority of
traffic has either come from bookmarks, or a referral from an informed
• He said knocking SEO consultants down a peg or two to "build sites that
perform well for humans, not search engines" is one change necessary to
"reverse the damage we've done to ourselves in the last fifteen years of
“Search Engine Optimization is not a legitimate form of marketing. It should not be undertaken
by people with brains or souls. If someone charges you for SEO, you have been conned.
First came the web, and it was a mess. Servers went up everywhere, the net connected them all,
pages bloomed like flowers, and no one could find a damn thing.
Then came the search engines. First primitive indexes of dumb keywords, then Google with its
rankings of most-linked pages, we were finally able to find the pages we needed, mostly.
The ascendency of Google has meant that, if your goal is to get the most eyeballs possible (as
any ad-supported media business’ goal is), then prominent placement in the search engine
results became a top priority.
And so, like the goat sacrificers and snake oil salesmen before them, a new breed of con man
was born, the Search Engine Optimizer. These scammers claim that they can dance the magic
dance that will please the Google Gods and make eyeballs rain down upon you.”
Do. Not. Trust. Them.
Derek Powazek – Editor and publisher of Fray
“The one true way”
“Worse than the hackers are the competent journalists and site creators that are making legitimate
content online, but get seduced by the SEO dark side into thinking they need to create content for
Google instead of for their readers. It dumbs-down the content, which turns off your real audience,
which ultimately makes you less valuable to advertisers. If you want to know why there’s so much
remnant advertising on online news sites, it’s because you’re treating the stories like remnants
Remember this: It’s not your job to create content for Google. it’s their job to find the best of the
web for their results. Your audience is your readers, not Google’s algorithm.
The One True Way
Which brings us, finally, to the One True Way to get a lot of traffic on the web. It’s pretty simple, and
I’m going to give it to you here, for free:
Make something great. Tell people about it. Do it again.
That’s it. Make something you believe in. Make it beautiful, confident, and real. Sweat every detail. If
it’s not getting traffic, maybe it wasn’t good enough. Try again.
It’ll take time. A lot of time. But it works. And it’s the only thing that does.”
Page 1: Bookshelf spectrum, revisited by chotda on Flickr
Page 2: MacBook Pro keyboard by Sonic Julez on Flickr
Page 3:Mitchell Library, Syndey by Christopher Chan on Flickr
Page 4:Maman – Louise Bourgeois’ Giant Spider by Jordi Martorell on Flickr
Page 5: Colourful Spices in a French Market by GavinBell on Flickr
Page 9: Hat by RossinaBossioB on Flickr
Page 10: Screen grab taken from a BBC News article. ‘BMW Given Google Death Penalty’
Page 11: Old Man at Newspaper Stand by FXGeek on Flickr
Page 16: Aluminium Apple Keyboard by Andrew’ on Flickr
Page 18: Wild West, Complete w/horses by Flickmor on Flickr
Page 20: Write one word over and over – pages 48 – 49 by Atibens on Flickr
Ranking Factors in Google’s Search Algorithm by David Douek
A Journalist’s Guide to SEO by David Gibbons in Econsultancy
How SEO is Changing Journalism by Shane Richmond in the British Journalism Review
Matt Kelly, quoted in an article by Robert Andrews in the Guardian
Spammers, Evildoers, and Opportunists by Derek Powazek