A dirty secret of the publishing business: most press outlets care more about the headlines they use to get your attention than they do about the stuff that comes after. Back in the day when I ran IYM Software Review and occasionally freelanced for big magazines like PCWorld, there were sometimes stories published over my name that looked nothing at all like what I had written, and had lost their relevance to the subject at hand. But BOY did they have snappy titles!

And on the Internet, that’s more true than ever. Big, little, or in between, the idea is to grab you by the throat and not let go. Headlines and titles are how this is done.

In the Sunday New York Times this weekend (and note that I wrote “Sunday New York Times” instead of “the New York Times this Sunday”), a piece ran explaining how headline writing works. Like always, it’s about getting your attention, but now it’s become about getting Google’s attention, too. It’s called Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and it’s one of the things we’re really good at here at Answer Guy Central.

Unlike the author of the New York Times article, I didn’t even know that small amount about who Taylor Momsen is. But the point is this: the business change that’s most important and most in-play—not just in the media business but in all business—is the way we get prospective customers’ attention.

I mentioned above the manner in which I’d spelled out “Sunday New York Times”. Google understands that string of letters differently than it would understand “The New York Times this Sunday”, and that’s why it’s spelled out that way. But you know what? In the first 300 words of this piece I’ve managed to use the phrase “New York Times” six times. And whether or not you noticed Google did. That’s SEO.

I put Jon Stewart’s name in this article’s title. Glenn Beck is in there, too. And now I’ve written both “Jon Stewart” and Glenn Beck”—twice—in this paragraph. Google loves that.

Will this get me any new business? That depends. I suppose that people who understand the importance of this technique . . . we call it long tail marketing . . . might be impressed; our most popular article on long tail marketing is here, by the way. Maybe traditional press outlets like The New York Times (that’s seven, folks) will beat a path to my door wanting me to write about business change, the Internet and technology for The New York Times! (eight).

Hey, maybe Jon Stewart or Glenn Beck will call and I’ll get a chance to talk business change on national television. I’m good at it after all; those years I did radio as The Computer Answer Guy and the time I spent being The Computer Answer Guy for CBS Television’s Up To The Minute prove that.

But really, I’m out for the Google SEO juice. This piece has been an exaggerated version of what we do every day both in this blog and for our clients, but while I’ve enjoyed taking the opportunity to create some extra long-tail marketing points for Answer Guy the real point was for you: if you want to see successful business growth and business change moving forward, you must start thinking about how Google sees you.

Oh yeah. And read all those articles about Jon Stewart and Glenn Beck in The New York Times.

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