Why BuzzFeed Doesn’t Follow The Rules On URLs

BuzzFeed has created a new way to encourage readers to share its articles, according to a recent article on Digiday. Bucking the SEO conventional wisdom, which is to load each article’s URL with keywords and keep it short to improve Google ranking, BuzzFeed instead uses social URLs that provide a twist on the title. This gives a boon not necessarily to BuzzFeed’s place on search engines, but the real source of the site’s business — reader engagement.

As an example, an article with the title “These Positive Doodles Are Utterly Delightful” has the URL “http://www.buzzfeed.com/maggyvaneijk/your-emotions-are-valid.” Similarly, “1 Chart That Explains Why People Are Wrong About Venn Diagrams” becomes “http://www.buzzfeed.com/tomphillips/also-its-pronounced-oiler.”

The “wink” to readers provides more information or a spin on the content they are about to consume, bringing humor and a touch of ingenuity to the production of a massive amount of content.

BuzzFeed writers stumbled upon the technique by accident. Given the option to modify URLs to correct mistakes like cut off words, they started to get creative. At one time, article URLs were automatically generated using the same words as those in the article title. This was consistent with SEO theory that a page’s title, URL, metadata and actual content should have the same keywords.

One reason why BuzzFeed can take this approach is its lack of dependence on search engines. Seventy-five percent of BuzzFeed’s traffic comes from social media sharing. For that reason, it actually benefits BuzzFeed writers to speak to people instead of internet robots. For other websites that are search-engine dependent, the move may be a risk, but for BuzzFeed, it is not.

BuzzFeed’s editorial director Jack Shepherd says the social URLs increase the likability of the piece.

“It has a bit of an Easter egg quality. It’s not something people immediately notice. It’s more fun for the reader, it’s more fun for the writer, and it can often make the post more shareable.”

He also reinforced that reader engagement is BuzzFeed’s primary concern.

“Our editors are not encouraged to think about search. If you get too focused on search, you end up writing a headline for a robot. The bottom line for us is sharing and creating something that’s engaging enough.”

Inc. writer Rebecca Borison noted the BuzzFeed technique might be appealing to businesses who do not want to be dependent on Google rankings. As she says, “[g]ranted, not all company websites are BuzzFeed, but the concept is something to consider when crafting your next link.”

[Image: Google]