The Atlantic Doesn’t Fret Over SEO and Neither Should You

|Juan Martinez

SEO’s stranglehold over content production is loosening a bit each day. On May 10, two editors of The Atlantic’s digital operation renounced the notion that quality journalism needs to be SEO-friendly. “Truly [our writers] are not really thinking about SEO anymore,” Scott Havens, senior vice president of finance and digital operations at The Atlantic Media Company told Mashable. “Now it’s about how we can spin a story so that it goes viral.”

Havens said 40% of The Atlantic’s traffic comes from social media, which has forced the publisher to figure out how to capitalize on the growing importance of social networks, rather than search engines, according to the article.

Bob Cohn, the recently promoted editor of The Atlantic Digital, echoed Havens’s sentiments.  “We’re no longer writing to get the attention of Google algorithms,” Cohn said. “We’re writing to get you to share it, to digg it.”

Cohn also told Mashable that Atlantic writers author their own headlines before they are rewritten by channel editors and “sometimes tweaked” again by a homepage editor. When asked why he didn’t feed in a separate headline in the metadata, Cohn told Mashable that “it was no longer important enough to compensate for a boring headline, even in search results or on Google News,” according to the article.

Props to The Atlantic for shedding the weight of this commonly held mythology. We’ve been saying for a long, long time that being discoverable on search engines is important, but obsessing over SEO is not as important today as it was ten years ago. Publishers that focus on developing the best content for human beings will ultimately surpass those that develop content for search engines.

We’re not the only ones who’ve been preaching this philosophy. A recent Content Marketing Institute study found that 82% of marketers place a high value on content written for people and not search engines.


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Juan Martinez

Juan is the Content Strategy Manager at Outbrain. He is responsible for determining the overall tone and editorial direction of... Read more

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