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Why publishers like BuzzFeed are kissing SEO goodbye

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Why publishers like BuzzFeed are kissing SEO goodbye

Margaret Looney | October 11, 2013

The 85 million unique visitors per month that BuzzFeed draws per month makes its content strategy worth examining--even if the news site's trademark articles draw a fine line between hard news and lunch-hour entertainment.

Recently named the "most social" publisher on Facebook thanks to its 16 million interactions on the platform in August, BuzzFeed is relying more on social outreach than search engine optimiziation (SEO) to rake in the views.

News organizations should embrace a social-first mindset, think about how likely it is that a piece of content will be shared on social platforms from the get-go, and stop worrying about their SEO strategy, said BuzzFeed President and Chief Operating Officer Jon Steinberg at a recent MIPCOM conference in France.

"More so than the technology, you have to write and produce news for the social Web: it has to be novel, important and have this social imperative behind it," Steinberg said. He posited that media which rely too closely on optimizing content for Google's search engine by sticking to an SEO-focused approach will inhibit their social presence.

"[Writing for SEO] allowed people to write very boring news that was aggregated and unoriginal. And that doesn't work well on social," he said. "The most important thing you can do is to think to yourself, 'Why would somebody share this content?' And that's very high-quality content."

While that's important for publishers to consider, SEO may not be as anti-social as Steinberg describes it. As the way people interact online evolves, SEO standards do, too. Google, where people turn for 80 percent of their Web searches, has been adapting to the surge of social sharing, first with updates Panda and Penguin, and most recently with its new search algorithm, Hummingbird.

Google is embracing social media optimization of content, placing diminished importance on individual keywords. It's focusing more on figuring out the user's intent behind the query, which is often framed as a conversational question.

Search engine expert David Amerland said quick SEO "is now firmly in the past" now that content widely shared on social networks by high-quality influencers holds more sway in how high content appears in search results.

What strategies do you use to increase your content's visibility?

IJNet Editorial Assistant Margaret Looney writes about the latest media trends, reporting tools and journalism resources.

@margylooney

Image CC-licensed on Flickr via Christopher Wenger.