When Responsive Design Meets SEO Headline Writing

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In the olden days of print, there was a term called “orphan ” that referred to a headline or paragraph with a lonely word dangling on a line by itself. The copy editor would rewrite it “to get rid of the orphan.” (For a discussion of widows and orphans, see: http://www.magazinedesigning.com.)

Today, when we all read our news on various size screens on sites with “responsive design,” the headline length is not measured by “size” but by its relationship to the width of a container that I’ll just call “a column” (i.e., 100% of the width of a column, not 14 px).

Moreover, the writers of headlines today have it beat into them that their headlines should be “optimized” for search (SEO), which can be translated: Write this headline for a machine called Google.

There is nothing inherently or existentially or ethically wrong with writing a headline for Google. If I had a story like the one appearing on the Tennessean.com today about Ashley Judd and Connie Britton, I’d put their names at the beginning of the line, as well.

However, when “responsive design” meets SEO headlines, it can create something the reader sees on the screen a bit confusing. It makes me think of a big sign I used to see on a newsroom that said: Pity the Poor Reader.

I guess they took that one down and put up one that says,  Pity the Poor Google.

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Focus on Content Marketing Mission, Not Methods

I’m honored when people call Hammock Inc. one of the agencies that pioneered content marketing. (This month marks our 23rd anniversary.) However, I’ve always felt the term “content marketing” can be confusing when it’s applied to everything from blogging and social media to animated kitten GIFs. Unfortunately, when a term is used to label anything, it can start to mean very little.

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When Did PR Become This?

(See update at end of post.)

Because I’m not only the “head helper,” but also the “head recipient of email” at SmallBusiness.com, I receive an endless stream of pitches from people with titles like “PR manager.” Unfortunately, most (not all, but most) of the email is boilerplate crap sent to websites that sound like, maybe, they could be visited by small business owners.

Once in a while, I’ll see one of these worthless pitches and recall how long, long ago, I used to run a public relations firm. I can recall obsessing over to whom and how we would pitch a story. We would look for specific angles that benefit our client, but still provide the reporter plenty of opportunity to make it his or her story. I would often suggest people the reporter could talk with to get opposing or competitive sides of a story.

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