Darren Richardson

Feb. 6, 2012

Proud 20th-century relic that he is, Punditty learned to read and write before computers were commonly found in homes and spiders were eight-legged creepy crawlies, not part of “the web.”

Times change, however, as does terminology. This Allvoices Writers’ Resources report takes a look at relevant terminology and practical tips for Allvoices writers who want to increase their page views. Specifically, it will discuss how to best tag your Allvoices report so that readers looking for information on what you are writing about can more readily find your story.

A basic understanding of tags – words and phrases that help identify your content for search engines – can help Allvoices writers looking to pull in new readers searching for articles. The term “SEO” stands for “search engine optimization,” which basically means making a particular report easier to find online through a search engine like Google or Bing.

The bottom line is this: When Allvoices asks you for tags, ask yourself what search terms you would use if you were searching for the information found in your report.

A good way to illustrate this point is to discuss a hypothetical presidential news conference held on Feb. 3, 2012. Suppose President Obama took a total of 10 questions on five different topics in an hour-long appearance before reporters. Let’s say the first three questions were about the state of the economy and that most writers summing up their reports on the Obama news conference focused on its economic aspects.

But suppose one of the questions to Obama was about the campaign promise he made to work toward reducing the number of abortions in the United States while simultaneously maintaining policies that vigorously defended a woman’s right to choose. Although the president may only have 20 or 30 words to say about it, a writer choosing to focus on this aspect of the news conference would begin his or her report with an emphasis on that portion of the news conference.

In that sense, tags are like reinforcements for your headline. As you may remember from a previous Writers’ Resource, the headline you give your report is saved as part of the URL (uniform resource locator) and is crucial in helping search engines recognize your report for what it is. So let’s say you write about the abortion angle of the news conference and give your report the following headline: “Obama says he still supports reducing US abortions but offers no specifics.”

Focus on reinforcing the headline or the main point of your report with the tags. Allvoices allows 10 tags per story, which can be one word or a phrase. They are separated by commas, as in the following example:

Obama abortion news conference, Obama reduce abortions, Obama abortion, Obama asked about abortion, Obama pro-choice, other Obama news conference topics, pro-choice, reporter Obama abortion, Roe v. Wade, Obama news conference Feb. 3 2012

These are all search terms that someone interested in the topic might use to find more information about that aspect of the news conference. Note that each term is relatively short – would you ever type “Obama says he still wants to support reductions in abortions” into Google? Keep your tags short and sweet but still useful.

In contrast, let’s say another Allvoices writer published an analysis of the economic issues covered in the news conference with this headline: “Obama optimistic about economy, says things are getting better across the US.” Obviously, this writer would not use the same tags, even though the report is about the same event. Tags like the following would be more appropriate for that report:

Obama economy, better economy Obama, unemployment Obama, stock market Obama, economic news, Obama more jobs, Obama reporters economy, recession, economy getting getter, Obama news conference Feb. 3 2012

The date of the news conference is given as an example of a tag that would work for both reports and illustrates the importance of proper comma usage in tags. If you were writing the date in a report, there would be a comma between “3" and "2012." But a comma would change the meaning of the tag and turn it into “Obama news conference Feb. 3, 2012” -- which is actually two tags: “Obama news conference Feb. 3” and “2012.”

There are a ton of websites that go into greater detail about tags and SEO strategies, with some suggested reading linked to below. This report, however, should give you a basic understanding of what tags do and help you begin tagging your reports more effectively.

Sources and resources:

"Associated Press Stylebook"

"How important are meta tags now?" SEO Logic, www.seologic.com

"Tagging blog posts and photos," about.com

Additional Allvoices Writers' Resources reports:

"Write better headlines, get more readers for your reports," Nov. 22, 2011

"Linking to sources improves reliability of your reports," Nov. 30, 2011

"Commenting on other reports builds community, leads to additional interest in your work," Dec. 31, 2011

"5 tips for American Pundit writers," Jan. 20, 2012