Charlie Brooker writes an interesting article in the Guardian today. After doing a column on the wrong-headedness of 9/11 conspiracies, he got a record number of comments. Obviously he hit on a web tinder box and so got loads of traffic.
He criticises the way journalists are encouraged to include SEO friendly terms in their copy to increase traffic and therefore revenue. I think he has missed the point a bit though - yes, we do advise clients to include SEO friendly phrases in their copy, but we spend more time making sure it is relevant. If someone is searching for Britney Spears, they don't want to read an article about shoes, they want to read an article on Britney Spears.
There is a little bit of skill needed, but I don't think it is turning writers into SEO slaves. We had one client who had some very nice copy written for their product catalogue which they used on the site. The only problem (online) was that the copy didn't mention the product name. We rejigged the copy a bit to include the name a couple of times and created a more SEO friendly version. That's not so bad, is it?
If journalists are encouraged to write to drive traffic to the site I think it probably says something about the advertising model those sites are using more than anything. And if you are paying for your ad to appear on the Guardian site, and you now know that their journalists are encouraged to deliver irrelevant traffic to their pages, doesn't it make you wonder what you are paying for?