Advertising, General, MFW

A random three-digit code from the SEO industry or a nice, shiny label from Sir Tim Berners-Lee? No contest, no contest…

The temptation is to hold Uncle Roy’s hand and go round the block again with this one…

But, there is an element to me which thinks we need to move the debate on; that much of that is a given – particularly in this current economic climate. It’s not so much an ‘if’ as a when – and the lad suggesting that the ‘when’ is now down to the next 18 months has clearly not been wined and dined by the Newspaper Society of late.

But, for me, Roy’s spot on; journalism as we currently know it is heading for the mincer; it’s just a case of trying to provide a spot of elegant organisation to the unholy mess that squeezes through on the other side.

In essence, I suspect – nay hope – that it will emerge as the kind of cottage industry that we’ve been championing for the last couple of years; albeit a mere four months on OWAB… it’s back to hand-loom weavers and Halifax Piece Halls.

No… what’s been niggling away at the back of my mind is two conversations that I had last week and one – hopefully – that I’m due to have this.

Last week and two people firmly in the know were talking about the latest diktats set down by their SEO over-lords; how to wave longest and loudest at a Google search engine spider, in essence. What’s the latest fad in that particular dark art.

And it is a dark art. The good people at OMG here in Norwich used to witter on about it endlessly; how they could optimise my search so much better – if only I’d cough the extra £400 per month it needed.

Because clearly optimising my search was the one and only reason that punters weren’t buying a car insurance policy off – OMG’s other string to their bow being an affiliate marketing programme which was next to useless. Nice banners, shame about the click-throughs…

If only for the sake of being polite, I pointed out that cos my name was ‘Rick Waghorn’, I felt that was good enough for most spiders to spot; if I was christened ‘John Smith’, then maybe we’d look again.

What’s in a name was something that Jeff Jarvis touched upon last week on the implications of any relaxing in the domain name rulings; how, in effect, Christmas was once again about to come early for the Googles of this world.

And, indeed, their pals in the SEO communities who – for me – remain akin to the two hi-fi salesmen in the classic Not The Nine O’Clock News sketch.

‘Would you like a woofer?’ they ask the wholly bemused Rowan Atkinson, who made the fundamental mistake of opening with the line ‘I’d like to buy a gramophone…’ Just as you might wander, in all innocence, in off the street and ask for a better Google ranking, please…

Cue the same knowing looks, sly smiles and the sound of till bells ringing.

Instead of ‘And would you’d like a tweeter… would you like a bag over your head..?’, you get: ‘Would you like a random, three-digit embed code..?’

To this day, we’ve never really done too much SEO work. But it is clear given the bitter web circulation wars that are fast breaking out at the top of our particular tree, that when it comes to your ABCe’s, the SEO boys are kings as far as the Mails, the Telegraphs and the Guardians are concerned.


For me, I keep going back to Messrs Berners-Lee and Moore; and all that they’re up to with that source-tagging stuff; bolting some kind of ‘farm fresh’ or ‘organically sourced’ labelling onto a reporter’s work via that $350,000 Knight News Challenge grant.

As we’ve already suggested, not only will that little baby bolt on huge value to anyone that’s actually at the coal-face digging out the ’source’ quotes, but it also threatens the like of AP – all the re-hash and re-nose merchants currently earning a living off someone else’s hard labours.

Clearly this won’t apply to the retail and commercial outfits out there, who will be just as enslaved to the SEO boys as they have ever been, but for those of us with journalistic wares to pedal, I wonder whether this is, likewise, going to prove a God-send.

Because given the choice between paying some clown £000s to embed a random three-digit code into every story I right or going with a nice sticky label that says ‘This guy works at the coal-face… here’s your source…’ I know which baby I’m going with.

Every time.

More importantly, I think we know where the punters will go. Every time.

And where the punters go, the advertisers follow. Every time.

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