Writing print headlines is an art. They must accurately reflect the story, fit to space, and help sell papers off the news stand. I’ve known many copy editors who took great pride in their headline writing talent.
On the web, those same artful headlines are positively counter productive.
The new art, if you can call it that, is writing headlines that suit the needs of readers who scan quickly for information and also are spidered well by search engines. It’s less glamorous, but certainly more important under the circumstances.
Cnet offers up a good article on newspaper.com SEO.
News organizations that generate revenue from advertising are keenly aware of the problem and are using coding techniques and training journalists to rewrite the print headlines, thinking about what the story is about and being as clear as possible. The science behind it is called SEO, or search engine optimization, and it has spawned a whole industry of companies dedicated to helping Web sites get noticed by Google’s search engine.
It’s clearly having an impact.
In November, Nielsen/NetRatings ranked Boston.com, the sister Web site of The Boston Globe, as the fourth-most trafficked newspaper Web site in the country, even though its print circulation is ranked 15th by one audit bureau. “We’re regularly beating the bigger boys, like the Chicago Tribune and The Wall Street Journal…and part of the reason is SEO,” said David Beard, editor of Boston.com and former assistant managing editor of its print sibling, The Boston Globe.
“We have Web ‘heds.’ We go into the newspaper (production) system to create a more literal Web headline,” said Beard. “We’ve had training sessions with copy editors and the night desk for the newspaper. It’s been a big education initiative.”
That’s how you do it.