How Nieman Journalism Lab optimized for social, curation and search

Stories from niemanlab.org constantly show up in Twitter and Facebook streams, email roundups from Summify, and curated pages from Paper.li. Conducting Google searches for three items that Neiman recently covered – slate redesign, pearl project and byliner – show Neiman on the coveted first page of each search results page.

With no real research to back up this claim (remember, this is just my personal blog, not a product of journalism), I’m sure the key to the lab’s success is that they do a great job surfacing stories that I, and the people I follow, find helpful, informative and useful.

The sites and humans that I follow frequently share links to Neiman because they consistently provide interesting content that is often news to their audience of journalists. Those links increase the chance that Neiman stories will show up high in search engines, social streams and curated sites.

Tangerine whiteboards

I’m at #SMMOC and conducting an experiment with unique content and search engine results. The assumption is that not too many people have covered tangerine whiteboards.

If I actually knew something about tangerine whiteboards then this is where I would write about that topic. Let’s pretend that most whiteboards come in other fruit varieties. If many blogs have already talked about apple whiteboards and orange whiteboards, then a blog post of tangerine whiteboards might be in high demand.

So the theory is that writing unique content will make your blog post rise to the top of search engine results when people search for that unique content. Here is the process:

  1. Write the blog post
  2. Hope that Google crawls this page within the next 60 minutes
  3. Search for tangerine whiteboards in Google
  4. Pray that this post comes up near the top of the search engine result page

12 Tips for journalists to write effective headlines

Last week, we took a look at building and tapping a Delicious network to find useful links. I started this week by looking at my Delicious network and found a slew of recent links about search engine optimization and headline writing tucked away in Jack Lail’s bookmarks (read about Jack Lail).

I’ve gone through Lail’s saved pages, found the ones that contain solid tips for writing headlines, and listed those links below. First, here is a presentation that Lail saved.

  1. How to Write Headlines That Work (Copyblogger)
  2. Passive Voice Is Redeemed For Web Headings (Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox)
  3. SEO For Journalists: Headlines & Body Copy (Part 2 of 5) (YOUmoz)
  4. A journalist’s guide to SEO (Econsultancy)
  5. Headline writing for online audiences (and search engines) (Teaching Online Journalism)
  6. 9 Tips to Improve Search Engine Optimization (MediaShift)
  7. Newspapers: Headline writing, use search engine optimization (Editors Weblog)
  8. How to Get Half a Million People to Visit Your Blog (Condomunity.com)
  9. How To Write Great SEO Headlines – Put Yourself In Their Shoes (DeanHunt.com)
  10. Newspaper SEO tips: Effective headlines (patrickbeeson.com)
  11. Headline writing: How to write web headlines that catch search engine spiders (New Media Bytes)

What about this post?

I realize that this blog post doesn’t contain 12 tips. Instead, it links to one presentation and 11 other articles and blog posts that contain helpful suggestions. So, my SEO-savvy friends, what would be a better title for this post? Please leave your suggestions as a comment.

Optimize WordPress permalinks for search engines

If you have a WordPress blog, you must customize your permalink settings to give your posts a fighting chance to rank high in search engines. In this video, Eric Stegemann (@EricStegemann) of Tribus Real Estate shows the March 6 crowd at #SMMOC, the Orange County Social Media Mastermind Roundtable, how to optimize WordPress permalinks for search engines.

For those of you watching with the sound turned down (don’t worry I won’t tell your boss), here are some details mixed in with an overview of what Stegemann explained.

What’s a permalink?

The word permalink is fancy talk for the web address of an individual blog or forum post. It is a blog post’s URL.

Search engines and URLs

Stegemann says the most important item for search engine optimization is your URL. For details about that, read the SEOmoz blog’s post “11 Best Practices for URLs“.

Content before settings

Before any of this technology can help your blog posts’ search engine rankings, organize your posts into a few main categories of content. See Lorelle VanFossen’s post on categories versus tags for help.

WordPress settings

First, an important note: You can’t change this particular WordPress setting on “WordPress.com” blogs (like the one used as an example in the video). Not sure which kind of blog you have? Follow along and you’ll find out soon enough.

From the menu of the left-hand side of your WordPress admin page, click on “Settings” and then “Permalinks.” Take a look at the image on the right. If you don’t see that “Permalinks” option, then you are probably on a WordPress.com blog; you won’t be able to make this change and you should head over to the Problogger post that explains how to move a blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.

Once you’re in the Permalinks settings, jot down the option currently selected under “Common Settings.” If “Custom Structure” is on, then also copy the text in that box.

Now, under “Common Settings,” click on “Custom Structure” and then enter “/%category%/%postname%/” (without the quotations) into the box immediately to the right. Here is what your changes should look like:

Once that’s done, hit the “Save Changes” button on the bottom and you’re done.

Everything changes

If you’ve made those changes correctly, every blog post on your site now has a new URL. What happens to links form external sites pointing to those old posts?

I’m not sure exactly how WordPress performs all of its magic, but I just made these changes last night and important links (from Google and from ReadWriteWeb) to my old posts are still working.

If you know of other sites that link to particular posts on your blog, visit at least a couple of those sites now. Make sure that the links to your posts still works. If not, you might want to consider reverting to your old settings.