Is SEO a worthwhile Career Path for Journalists?

One of the most popular career paths among graduates nowadays is journalism.

Many undergraduates, who have studied English literature or even Film Production, are turning away from their original intentions, and having a crack at journalism.

But is it actually that easy?

According to a survey published in 2012 concerning social mobility, it found that journalism, alongside politics, medicine and law is a “closed shop” for anyone wishing to enter the profession.

Labour’s former health secretary Alan Milburn said at the time:

“Across the professions as a whole, the glass ceiling might have been scratched, but it’s certainly not been broken. At the top especially, the professions remain dominated by the social elite.”

So, is it fair to say that journalism is dominated only by an elite of people who studied at Oxford or Cambridge?

Possibly not, though there is no doubt that wealthier people may find breaking into the industry slightly easier.

One aspiring and now bankrupt journalist, using a pseudonym known as ‘Ben’ says that even “the BBC favours wealthier job applicants” in regards to journalism.

“I managed to get to my first ever job interview for a full-time position at the BBC (paying £24,000) – and guess what?

“They told me I needed more experience! They wanted at least six months of full-time experience – bits of freelance work weren’t enough.”

Though the BBC may not actually favour wealthier applicants, it is certainly true that those from better off backgrounds will find working for little or no money, easier than those who do not.

So is SEO or marketing a good alternative?

Though at the moment, there are no universities or colleges that provide SEO courses (though the thought is appetising), there is room and opportunity within SEO and marketing for people who want to move from journalism without having to give up their keyboard.

Blogger, Samantha Peters says:

“Every business, whether large or small, needs a website and moving forward, most of these companies will also need a blog.

“Business owners and managers don’t have time to write content for their blog and website. They need journalists to help with this part of the process and SEO journalists are now in high demand.”

Of course, the greatest concern about writing in SEO is that it is done simply on a churn basis, turning what may have been a decent writer into nothing more than a ‘hack’.

Speaking in the British Journalism Review, Shane Richmond said that, ‘It’s a process that makes many journalists uncomfortable and that’s largely based on a misunderstanding.’

Many SEO techniques actually favour journalism that deals with topical, current and newsworthy subjects. If that doesn’t strike you, The Guardian, The Independent and many other leading papers (plus the Daily Mail), accept SEO articles.

In fact, in February 2013, The Independent and The Scotsman were both penalised by Google for their SEO activities.

In addition to this, the Online Journalism Review has argued that actual journalists need to be well aware of SEO in order for their articles to properly reach their intended target audience; arguing that SEO isn’t always about brand.

“SEO provides the key to reaching an audience not motivated by existing print brands, including younger readers and readers outside a publication’s traditional search area – folks who might not know to seek out a newspaper website, but who would nevertheless be interested in its content.”

Now more than ever, writing for SEO is becoming more investigative, creative and more importantly, journalistic.

But what SEO skills are necessary for a journalist?

Though the ability to write is of course a must, there is a little bit more technology to be had; not that most journalists don’t use many of the same technologies anyway.

Google Analytics is one way to tell how well your content is being received by your audience and is used quite heavily in SEO. This however, is also a tool that journalists can utilise to make sure that they are doing the right thing so that their content is read.

Aside from that, Author Rank is another area that is very useful for journalists. By helping good quality writers, Author Rank helps phase out poor and spam filled content; helping not only to promote the writer, but also the website or business that they are writing for.

The days of churn and search orientated articles are over, and they have been for some time.

And if that doesn’t convince you, here are a few celebrated writers who began their careers as copywriters, if not in SEO:

  • Joseph Heller
  • Terry Gilliam
  • William S. Boroughs
  • Peter Carey
  • Fay Weldon
  • Salmon Rushdie

The opportunities are out there for people interested in journalism, you just have to find them, even if you have to get there via other means.

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