New York Times ponders on the merging of journalism and search engine optimization
The Huffington Post has hired veteran journalists to beef up its news coverage. But a
significant chunk of its readers come instead for articles like one published this week: “Chelsy Davy & Prince Harry: So Happy Together?”
The two-sentence article was just a vehicle for a slide show of photographs of the couple and included no actual news. But “Chelsy Davy” was one of the top searches on Google that day, and soon after the article was published it became one of the first links that popped up in Google’s search results.
It was an example of an art and science at which The Huffington Post excels: search engine optimization, or S.E.O. The term covers a wide range of behind-the-scenes tactics for getting search engine users to visit a Web site, like choosing story topics based on popular searches.
In addition to writing articles based on trending Google searches, The Huffington Post writes headlines like a popular one this week, “Watch: Christina Aguilera Totally Messes Up National Anthem.” It amasses often-searched phrases at the top of articles, like the 18 at the top of the one about Ms. Aguilera, including “Christina Aguilera National Anthem” and “Christina Aguilera Super Bowl.”
As a result of techniques like these, 35 percent of The Huffington Post’s visits in January came from search engines, compared to 20 percent for CNN.com, according to Hitwise, a Web analysis firm.