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Appropriate Discoverability

95% of SEO is getting the basics right: title, meta, h1 h2, link anchor text, sane url structure, and so forth. That stuff still matters and it's amazing how so many businesses with tons of content don't do it.

I have a little rant that I give the folks who run online newspapers about SEO.

Newspapers actually pay writers to go to restaurants and eat food. Of course they're supposed to write a review of the place afterwards.

They have thousands of these reviews, often going back years, for every restaurant of note in the newspaper's market. For major restaurants, there may be multiple reviews.

Yet if you go to Google and type in any restaurant name, you're not likely to ever come across a newspaper restaurant review in the results. Yahoo local, yelp, chefmoz (heh), zagat's, chowhound, jatbar. The only newspaper I found was Dan Pulcrano's Metroactive, which is doing a pretty good job of getting their reviews in front of the searches in the Bay Area.

These would be very valuable pageviews to be getting. Adsense could do $10-30 CPM on these landings. Not to mention the value to the newspaper to hold on to a claim of authority for restaurant reviews in their area.

Newspapers also pay writers to go watch movies. When the movie is later released on DVD, they pay writers to rent the DVD and watch it. And write reviews. Yet again, if you type any movie name into Google, there are no newspaper results.

For a major newspaper chain, across the multiple properties they have, and given the separate reviews often written for the theater release and DVD release, they may have a number of individual reviews for the same movie. Enough to create a whole mini IMDB with a stack of editorial around each movie. If they organized the content right and got it indexed properly.

Again, these are very valuable pageviews. But they're being claimed by Amazon, Rotten Tomatoes, and other aggregators.

Here's a third example. Who best knows about all of the garage sales in your town this Saturday? The newspaper... But I'll bet if you type 'your town garage sales' into Google you're going to see other people there besides your local newspaper. Even though the newspaper has the most comprehensive list of upcoming garage sales.

SEO continues to have some dark connotations from its spammy past and the aggressive tactics it sometimes uses. But there are really three levels of SEO:

  1. Inappropriate discoverability. You've got something that should be findable, but for technical reasons your content is either not indexed or not ranked appropriately.

  2. Appropriate discoverability. Your content shows up for the right searches, in the right rank. If a human editor at Google were to review your rankings, they'd agree that it was appropriate.

  3. Inappropriate discoverability. You're ranking for terms for which you have no business ranking for, or the position within the results is out-of-whack with what a human reviewer would deem appropriate. Affiliates showing up ahead of the main company, content-generated spam farms ranking for random queries, etc.

Newspapers have a lot of great content, really high quality stufff that cost them a lot of money to develop. Users would love to come across this content, when appropriate. Google would even like to help users find that content, since the users will be happier. But often technical best practices aren't being followed with the CMS and the valuable content fields lie fallow.

Todd Friesen:

It still shocks me to be on a call with a client or a potential client and to talk about the 95% and get that "wow" reaction. 99% of the online world does not know what we do and more importantly does not know what we know. To them it's rocket science and when we show them results in a month they happily pay their bill and get back to doing what they do best - which, quite often, feels like rocket science to me though I'm sure they think it's easy.

We do a fair bit of SEO at Range and we recently have a great success story that involved online revenue moving from 6 figures a year to 7 figures a year (and I don't mean from 9M to 10M). Most of that campaign was the fundamentals that weren't in place prior to our involvements. We fixed Titles and Metas, URLs, ALTs, internal linking and did some external linking work. We also rewrote thousands of pages of content. Go ask the CMO what we did and you may hear terms like rocket science and magic and to that CMO it is rocket science with a huge payoff in revenue.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Appropriate Discoverability:

» SearchCap: The Day In Search, Jan. 11, 2007 from Search Engine Land: News About Search Engines & Search Marketing
Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web:... [Read More]

» Newspapers and local - who owns who? from mathewingram.com/media
Don Dodge has some thoughts about newspapers and local content — like restaurant reviews, movie reviews, etc. — that got their start with a post from Greg Linden of Findory (which Greg said recently is shutting down, or at least going into ... [Read More]

» If not local search, then what from Random Mumblings
If local newspapers can't win local search, what's there for them to own? We in newspapers better figure this one out. The whole advertising/audience economy of online newspapers depends on it. One of the solutions in Pramit Sigh's post (and... [Read More]

Comments (2)

Depends on the newspaper; depends on the restaurant; depends on the latest version of Google Sauce.


Hey, #2 ain't bad.


The restaurant itself is #4 (PageRank: 4/10)
The Phoenix (alternatively weekly) is #5 (PageRank: 0/10)
the Boston Globe is #10 (PageRank: 3/10)

As for the deli across the street:

no such luck.

but apparently Boston.com has a deal with OpenList:

Boston.com comes up #4.

maybe some more research is needed into the scope of this problem...

Garage sales? people advertise them in the paper?

You're absolutely right - newspapers have done a terrible job at capitalizing on their local expertise.

Part of this is cultural. A lot of the guide content (except reviews) is done by the lowest people on the totem pole. Things like what's going on this weekend - it's extremely valuable to the reader but internally you've got a lowly news aide doing it.

At many papers the reviews are put in a separate database that often isn't crawlable.

When you happen to get to a restaurant review, it's hard to find other content that you might be interested in. Crosslinking all the restaurant reviews would not only be a tremendous reader service, it would help with SEO.

I've written a couple of pieces on the newspaper business:
Adapting online newspapers to a Web 2.0 world
Keeping online newspapers relevant

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 11, 2007 11:15 AM.

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