Susan Steade wins DFMie for SEO headline writing

A headline penned by Susan Steade for an article about reports Manti Te'o had been complicit in a hoax.
Outlet: Bay Area News Group
Journalist: Susan Steade
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Susan Steade

Susan Steade

Susan Steade of the Bay Area News Group wins the DFMie for SEO headline writing.

Her editors’ nomination explains the impact of her search-engine optimization expertise:

BANG producer Susan Steade has a special knack for taking a flat web headline and applying some SEO magic that gives an almost immediate boost in search engine ranking and traffic. A few of her tricks: SEO headlines are like a mullet – “Business up front, party in the back” – which simply means get the words people search for at the front of the headline, and don’t be afraid of using a colon. (Credit for the mullet line goes to producer Kimberly Chua.) Play up hot angles (and look at Google, Twitter and Yahoo to see what is trending and the words being used). And just use common sense – if you wanted to find the story, what words would you use. Get them in the head.

The nomination included headlines Steade had rewritten, with before-and-after metrics. For instance, she changed “Stanford abuzz over link to make-believe leading lady in Notre Dame football star’s love hoax” to “Manti Te’o hoax has Stanford abuzz over link to fake girlfriend,” resulting in this traffic spike:

Manti Te'o headlineOther winning headlines:

Judges explained why Steade was the winner:

BANG producer Susan Steade’s headlines find that SEO sweet spot by sounding at once authoritative, accessible and engaging. Her thorough analysis of what’s trending and an evident understanding of how the public searches for content produce headlines that stand out and pull readers into the story. By taking time to find the essence of each story, hone in on the words that pop and craft an compelling message, Susan’s deceptively strategic headlines clearly improve results and generate traffic.

When Steade’s editor asked her for 10 examples of strong SEO headlines cited in her weekly email to BANG staff, she didn’t realize they were gathering them for a contest entry. Upon being informed of her award, Steade quickly pointed out that two of the 10 winning headlines were authored by Ann Tatko-Peterson (“Harlem Shake videos, with 44 million views, have gone mainstream“) and Robert Salonga (“Monte Sereno slaying: Documents show how hooker harem got millionaire mixed up with gang robbers“). Since Steade wrote eight of the 10 headlines in the entry, DFM honors her as the winner, with special mention for Tatko-Peterson and Salonga, who each will receive an appropriate cash prize.

Other finalists for the SEO DFMie were Jerry Berrios of the Los Angeles Daily News, the New Haven Register’s breaking news team and Anna Cekola of the Salt Lake Tribune.

Steade became a BANG producer in 2009, after more than 20 years with the San Jose Mercury News. Her newsroom posts included news and sports designer, copy editor and editor of the outdoors section.

On the digital side she started as business and technology producer, and the secondary blogger for Good Morning Silicon Valley, then switched to news producer for BANG South Bay. Her favorite projects this year are the Bay Area homicide map and the South Bay history page.

Susan grew up in Fort Collins, Colo., and studied movies at UCLA. She lives on the San Francisco Peninsula with her husband, David, and their daughter, Alex, 10.

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