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This Boring Headline is Written for Google 317

prostoalex writes "The New York Times is running an article on how newspapers around the country find their Web sites more dependent on search engines than before. The unexpected effect? Witty double entendres, allusions and sarcastic remarks are rewritten into boring straight-to-the-point headlines that rank higher on search engines and news-specific search engines. From the article: 'About a year ago, The Sacramento Bee changed online section titles. "Real Estate" became "Homes," "Scene" turned into "Lifestyle," and dining information found in newsprint under "Taste," is online under "Taste/Food."'"
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This Boring Headline is Written for Google

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  • This is a good thing (Score:5, Informative)

    by matt21811 ( 830841 ) * on Sunday April 09, 2006 @01:40AM (#15093815) Homepage
    Witty or sensational headlines don't just deceive search engines.
    Human readers can get fooled just as easily. Heres an example:

    I was doing research to show that Kryder's Law (a kind of super Moore's Law for hard disks that says bit densities have increased factor of 1000 in 10.5 years meaning a doubling every 13 months) is no longer being achieved by hard drive manufacturers. Instead I discovered that Kryders Law was just a creation of Wikipedia's overenthusiastic editors that misinterpreted a single Scientific American headline. Wikipedia editors accidentally invented the "law", and it isn't even correct.

    You can read about it at my site here:'s.html []

    The search engines are dong us all a favor getting rid of this problem.
  • by onebecoming ( 965642 ) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:07AM (#15093885)
    I find the Economist's headlines, subheads, and captions often to be laugh-out-loud funny. The editors there seem to be fond of dry wit and black humo(u)r. I can't be alone in appreciating their work.
  • by YesIAmAScript ( 886271 ) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:25AM (#15093929)
    That's in essence what happened to BMW.

    Google doesn't like you presenting different data to their search engine than the user would find if they visited. And I can easily see why. Sites would abuse the heck out of it.

    See this link amongst many. []
  • by Soong ( 7225 ) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:26AM (#15093931) Homepage Journal
    (notice my to-the-point headline)

    Really, not only is it good for search engines, it's good for my brain's relevance filter for trying to see if I care about the story the headline points to.
  • Re:Two headlines? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anthony Boyd ( 242971 ) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:29AM (#15093933) Homepage
    Would it be that hard to develop a standard (perhaps much like meta-tagging), giving one set of data easily digestible by the bots (and not displayed to the human reader), while retaining an entertaining writing style for human consumption?

    That won't ever happen (or more precisely, if it ever happens, it will fail). The problem is that we've done that before with the meta tags you mentioned. See what the SEO world has to say about them (summary: they're nearly useless now). Here's the deal. Any time you create a system for someone to deliver one thing to search engines and another thing to humans, what happens is a small group of opportunists will create massively spammy porn pages for human viewing, while making the search-engine content about every popular topic under the sun. You'll see a headline-made-for-Google which reads, "Britney Spears on Will and Grace" but when you click it, the headline-for-humans reads, "3 lesbian midgets have a pee party!"

  • Re:Two headlines? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Turakamu ( 523427 ) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:47AM (#15093965)
    Would it be that hard to develop a standard (perhaps much like meta-tagging), giving one set of data easily digestible by the bots (and not displayed to the human reader), while retaining an entertaining writing style for human consumption?

    Like the keyword meta? It was a tag designed specifically so content authors could assist the search engines to classify the information easily, without poluting the readable canvas. Very useful in theory.

    Search engines stopped using the keyword data as search engine optimisers (vile opportunistic scum that they are) abused the mechanism with words that weren't relevant to the page. Selfish human behaviour destroys another opportunity to make life better for everybody else. Personally I'd like to see them tacked on the anti-spam legislation.
  • by From A Far Away Land ( 930780 ) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @03:36AM (#15094045) Homepage Journal
    On the Internet, my blog can be read as quickly or as widely as any newspaper, all it takes is a few good links on well read websites. This is why it's relavent to the discussion. Without proper tagging or headlining, it's entirely possible for a professional organization to end up with next to no readerhip.
  • by ben there... ( 946946 ) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @06:38AM (#15094339) Journal
    If you're saying that you don't like Inverted Pyramid style, I'd have to disagree with you. Even more than in print, online I just want them to get to the point of the article. They can put their quotes from an eyewitness' brother's second cousin at the end of the story.

    It is possible to write an inverted pyramid story that still flows.

    As far as SEO, inverted pyramid style helps that too. The closer your keywords are to the start of the page, the better they'll work.
  • by Echnin ( 607099 ) <p3s46f102@sneak[ ] ['ema' in gap]> on Sunday April 09, 2006 @06:41AM (#15094344) Homepage
    I doubt more people speak Latin as a first language than as a second language. In addition, you have constructed languages like Esperanto and ancient languages like Coptic, which have no native speakers at all (there are children brought up whose parents speak Esperanto who can arguably be said to speak it as their native language but this number must be quite small). It sounds like a dubious statistic. Looking up on Wikipedia, there are 182 million speakers of French, of whom 87 are native. Of course, the significance of English as a second language is great at this point in time, and I am certainly a contributor to the number of English speakers who have it as their second language. It will be interesting to see if Mandarin will overtake it during this century.
  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @10:12AM (#15094671) Journal
    Nor do I believe it's an 100% positive change for the profession I am in in as it forces publications to pick up on wire service releases to please the advertisers; not the man in the street. While that may bring home the bacon for one and all it certainly stifles investigative journalism

    Ah, then I owe you an apology. On that point, we agree - Entirely too much news has turned into cookie-cutter ripoffs on what the Big Boys decide to cover.

    I had taken your earlier post as more of a stylistic complaint than content-based. My error, sorry.
  • by Fnkmaster ( 89084 ) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @12:30PM (#15095099)

    "Sick Gloria in transit Monday": Don't get it.

    This has nothing to do with your knowledge of English and everything to do with your knowledge of Latin. "Sic transit gloria mundi" means "thus passes the glory of the world". It's apparently recited as part of the papal coronation ceremony. Anyway, 98% of Americans would not get this either. But that's not the point - for those who do, it's funny. :)

    "Close but no cigar"

    Not a pun at all. There's nothing to get here - it's just a saying that means "close, but you missed the target". Either you know what the saying means or not, there's no way to figure it out. Apparently a reference to the mid-1900s practice of giving out cigars as prizes at local fairs for winning contests.

    "Foot Heads Arms Body"
    This would mean nothing to an American either (well, an American would get the pun value, but not know who Foot was or what Arms Body they were talking about).


    This one I didn't get until I looked at the story either, it doesn't really parse even to a well-educated native English speaker. Basically, this pun is only funny even to a native speaker if you know the story behind it (that the con was hiding the butter knife in his butt and the cops had to umm... search his orifices for the knife).

    So... give yourself more credit. Most of what you didn't get was pretty much impossible to get, or has nothing to do with the English language. :)

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"