Monday, April 10, 2006

Hedes for bots

A few months ago I wrote a post about headline writing in the age of RSS. In brief, I suggested that there was a growing need "for expertise in all types of ultra-short writing. Certainly news organizations will look for writers who can create headlines to pull in RSS users. But advertisers will too. If text ads, paid links, etc. continue to grow, then the guy who can write a three-word phrase that generates a click is of value."

Today the New York Times suggests that there's another skill that writers need in the new era -- writing hedes that search engines like. You can read the Times piece here. And take a look at what Fine Young Journalist and the Poynter Institute have to say on the subject.

As for me...I still like the short and pithy concept. And I'd suggest that B2B journalists adopt the two-tiered approach used by the BBC. Use the hedes on the home page to attract humans, and use the hedes on the article page to lure bots. "Some news sites offer two headlines," the Times says. "One headline, often on the first Web page, is clever, meant to attract human readers. Then, one click to a second Web page, a more quotidian, factual headline appears with the article itself. The popular BBC News Web site does this routinely on longer articles."

And don't ignore an article's title tag, like the knuckleheads I mentioned in this earlier post did. Title tags are a great place to put the less-than-pithy phrases that bots love.

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