Google juice dampens news headlines

August 13, 2009

Mic Wright

- Mic Wright is Online News Editor at Stuff. The views expressed are his own -

Google juice – it sure isn’t tasty but it is vital for anyone writing news online. The slightly irksome term refers to the mysterious combination of keywords and linking that will drag a webpage to the top of Google’s search pages.

While the exact way Google’s search algorithm works is largely a mystery to outsiders, news sites know it’s vital to write headlines stuffed with the keywords that the search engine seeks out.

Online, the perfect punning headlines created by The Sun newspaper’s super sub-editors just won’t cut it. News stories on the web are all about the facts and the most successful sites are constantly checking to see what keywords will send you soaring up the Google search rankings. If you story isn’t on the front page, it’s not getting clicks, the less clicks you get the less likely it is that your advertisers’ ads are going to get seen.

Now Google has announced that it’s been working on a brand new version of its search engine and it’s likely that online headlines are about to get even more straight forward. The new iteration of Google’s most profitable invention is codenamed Caffeine thanks to its speediness. It has already been made available for users to test and besides the noticeable increase in speed, it appears to make search a more real time experience than we’ve previously seen.

The move to real time search, showing web pages in search results as soon as they appear, is a response to the instantaneous nature of Twitter which has recently got the jump on Google when it comes to breaking news. Currently there is a slight but noticeable lag with Google results – its search crawlers (programmes that scour the web to see what sites have been updated) don’t grab changes immediately. But with the new version of the search engine they will.

This slight change in approach will make the way news organisations write their headlines even more important. It will also be like pressing the fast forward button. News writers will need to get their stories up faster and add new information swiftly to ensure that they remain high in the Google search rankings. A test by Mashable found that the new Google Search algorithm rewarding news gatherers for adding new information to their stories by placing them higher in the search results.

The new Google relies even more on keywords than the old version. Headline writers jobs have just got a lot harder. For readers, it’ll mean more and more matter of fact headlines carefully crafted to include the keywords that Google’s crawlers are after rather than created to entertain you. The days of the pithy, pun packed headline are over, at least online.

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