We were just added to the 100 Best Sites for Journalists in 2012 list put together by JournalismDegree.org. Yay. Seriously, thanks for the recognition, and thanks for pointing us to some useful sites we weren’t aware of. We’ll add them to our blogroll at the lower left, which you can add to your own RSS reader by clicking “subscribe.”
The point of this post isn’t to toot our own horn, though, but rather to point out why JournalismDegree.org undertakes this occasional exercise (they did it before in 2009). Lists like these are all about search engine optimization (SEO), and they’re a smart way to raise visibility quickly.
JournalismDegree.org is basically a lead generation site. It lists colleges and professional development providers that offer communications-related courses. When you click through to a listed institution, you’re taken to a page on eLearners.com, where you can fill out a form requesting more information. Sponsors pay eLearners.com for each inquiry that comes in this way, and eLearners.com pays affiliates like JournalismDegree.org a commission for referring the lead.
It’s a perfectly legitimate business. Those Amazon banners you see all over the Web (including on this site) are the same basic idea. Anyone who contributes to the sale gets a small cut of the revenue.
JournalismDegree.org – and many sites like it – are very dependent on search engine visibility. It wants to be the number one or two search result for “journalism degrees” on Google, and it’s been successful in that respect. A big reason is lists like the this one. A representative sent the owner of each site on the list a congratulatory e-mail with a snippet of HTML code that easily adds a badge to the site. The code includes the alt tag “Best Site for Journalists – 2012,” which basically tells Google that JournalismDegree.org is a great place for journalists to visit.
The strategy works. JournalismDegree.org is number seven in our search results on “best site for journalists” and will no doubt move higher as more sites display its badge. Which we just did (although we changed the alt tag to something more descriptive). The more reputable the sites displaying the badge, the better it is for JournalismDegree.org.
This is smart search marketing, and any blogger or news site can benefit from its example. Half of the equation for search engine success is in factors that you control, such as domain name, page titles, headlines and keywords. JournalismDegree.org does all of these things well. The tough part is the other half, which is getting reputable sites to link to you. One quickly way to do that is to hand out awards like this one. At least a half dozen of the sites we visited are already displaying the logo above, and more will probably follow. Which all adds up to high-quality links that fuel search success.
There are flaws in JournalismDegree.org’s list. The numbering scheme implies a hierarchy, which we hope isn’t the case because there’s no way we deserve to rank higher than Neiman or Poynter. Several of the sites on the list haven’t been updated in months and one – EatSleepPublish – has been dormant for nearly two years. Still, there’s value in the list and a lot of time and thought was put into it. We’re flattered, even though we know what the publisher’s true agenda is.
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