This Boring Headline Is Written for Google is an interesting look from the New York Times about how newspapers are learning to adapt to search engines, in particular to ensure headlines are targeted toward using terms that people are searching for, rather than grabbing attention but being non-descriptive.
I talked with Steve Lohr for the article. Part of me feels for the journalists who might believe that being search engine friendly means having boring headlines. But then again, it's also about the context.
When I'm reading a newspaper, a catchy, funny headline might be what I need to pull me into a story. And I do love a good headline. But if I'm keyword searching for news, I know what I'm after. Your catchy headline isn't what pulls me in. Your headline using the terms I searched for is what will do it.
Of course, plenty read news by browsing articles online through their own feedreaders or news aggregators such as Google News and Yahoo News. Funny, enticing headlines are still important in these places.
Also, SEO is not entirely the "chess game" of manipulation that Steve talks about in the articles. We're talking basic content search engine optimization here. Having good titles for pages has been a top SEO tip for a decade. It's not as strong as factor as it once was, but it's still very important and one the search engines themselves tell you to do.
Calling having good titles to be manipulation is like saying you're manipulating people looking for books by giving them good descriptive titles. It's not manipulation. It's a core competency for any web publisher and one that amazingly enough still continues to be ignored by many.
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