Saturday, December 06, 2008

Writers: pimp your story or else to win? That, of course, is the billion-dollar question, and armies of people tackle it, every day: the dark art of manipulating Google's algorithms, otherwise known as search engine optimisation (SEO), has become a big business in the last 10 years. "A common way to get a lot of links very quickly is by getting people in India or somewhere to make them for you," says Paul Roach, the Guardian's head of SEO.

There are more aggressive, automated ways, too - scripting, using hijacked computers to add links to blogs, hacking messageboards - but these are referred to, in somewhat Disney-esque fashion, as "black hat" methods, and Google thoroughly disapproves: in fact, if you're caught using them, you're immediately banned. "We're what you call white hat," says Roach. "We follow Google's terms of service. Then again, we've got no reason not to - Google trusts the Guardian, so we generally do all right."

Blog will, as I said earlier in the week, eat itself.

"Now," says Karp, "everything is up for grabs", and every piece has to fight for attention on its own merits. It isn't enough just to publish it: you suddenly have this "whole idea of actually having to market the news - how do you get it emailed around? How do you get it on to Twitter, or Digg [a content-sharing site]? And whose responsibility is it to flog stories? The PR department? The editorial staff? It's what bloggers do - they're out there hustling, interacting with each other a lot. You actually have to engage in a more social dynamic." He compares old and new media to the difference between standing in front of a room and giving a speech, and going to a party: it isn't enough just to walk into a room - you have to get stuck in there, and start talking to people, and try to work out what they're interested in, and what they want to hear.

Timely Guardian. Read here.

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