Two years ago, the Huffington Post published a story called “What Time Does the Super Bowl Start?” which generated lots of clicks from regular Web-surfers, and eye-rolling from people like me.
The post was both effective — it showed up high on Google searches, which is the reason Huffpo created it — and symbolic of Huffpo’s traffic strategy — which was either craven or clear-minded, depending on your perspective.
Now that kind of Google-baiting is old hat. Even for august newspapers with 41 Pulitzers. Here’s what the same query for today’s Oscars looks like today:
Say this for the Los Angeles Times piece — it delivers the goods, for both humans and Google’s robots. Here’s the keyword-filled top:
[quote]The 85th Academy Award nominees and winners have been chosen, the red carpet has been rolled out and the gilded Oscar statues have been polished. But what time is the show again?
[quote]The 2013 Oscars ceremony honoring the films of 2012 is set to take place Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. The pre-show broadcast will begin on ABC with red carpet arrivals at 4 p.m. PST (7 p.m. EST) and will be hosted by Lara Spencer, Jess Cagle, Kristin Chenoweth and Kelly Rowland.
[quote]The awards show will start at 5:30 p.m. PST (8:30 p.m. EST) and is scheduled to last three hours. It will be hosted by “Family Guy” and “Ted” star Seth MacFarlane and televised live in more than 225 countries.
And Google is presumably extra pleased that the story’s author, reporter/Web producer Nardine Saad, is a diligent Google+ contributor who has posted more than 30 LAT links so far this month.*
What’s that? You still find this sort of thing disheartening, even if it gives readers what they want and delivers some clicks to a newspaper that can use them? Well, you’re not alone. Here’s a gut reaction from New York Times editor Patrick LaForge:
But you’re probably going to be in an ever-shrinking minority, says Raju Narisetti, who heads up The Wall Street Journal digital network (the Dow Jones digital umbrella which includes this Web site).
And yes, even people like yours truly try to engage Google (and Facebook, and Twitter, and anyone that will increase the number of eyeballs on my stuff). AllThingsD’s publishing system, for instance, allows us to create “SEO heds” — headlines created with Google’s automatons in mind.
And if you know how to find the one I’ve created for this post, you’ll be able to figure out what time to watch the Oscars tonight. Enjoy!
* Conventional wisdom among Google-watchers is that even if no one reads anything you post on Google+, the search engine will reward active users with Google juice in search results. So get posting!