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Sep 9 / Joel Cordes

Internship Insider: Depth of analysis, angles & SEO

Here are some highlights from this week’s mailbag in the Bleacher Report Sports Writing Internship program:

How do I create exciting angles?

The best angles are forward-thinking. Analyzing history can be an interesting read, but most casual readers are more interested in what’s next. Don’t tell them the five moves that didn’t make sense—tell them how these five moves will make or destroy playoff hopes. Why is this important today?

Also, don’t forget to make your piece compelling. Bold statements—if you can back them up—set readers up for a strong and informed opinion. Be definitive with “will,” “won’t” and “can’t.” Make predictions.

Is there a guideline for how many words of my lede will appear in Google results? I remember hearing somewhere that it was 20 words.

It’s an inexact science, but 20 should be your goal. For instance, if you search “top 10 nfl qbs” in Google, the first B/R result lists the headline and the first 25 words (141 characters w/spaces). However, if you search “Madden 12 Player Ratings,” the first B/R result shows the first 26 words (131 characters w/spaces). While there is not a guideline, 20 is a great target, as those words are a lock to appear in the search results.

How do I make my analysis deep and specific?

Try to avoid hanging statements like “He has very good speed and is very versatile.” What makes him versatile?  As another example:  “Coentrao is a very solid defender … he was very inconsistent early on in his career, but certainly has a lot of upside for Real Madrid.” What makes him a solid defender? How was he inconsistent? Why do you think he has upside? Give some stats, anecdotes, quotes from esteemed colleagues or old coaches, etc. Don’t expect readers to simply take you at your word; Provide real substance for us to grasp.

Don’t Forget:

- Prune deadwood articles (“the, a, etc.”) out of your headlines when those words don’t do anything but take up space that could otherwise be used for adding more keywords.  Make every word pull its weight. Why use boring, unspecific pronouns like “They” when names could do so much more in terms of SEO?

- When you mention a player in the headline, I suggest including him in the introduction slide at some point as well. That way, the first time we see his name in the piece isn’t six slides in. Alluding to the player as an inspiration to the piece (at least in part) corroborates his inclusion in the headline.

- Yes, time becomes a factor on a lengthy article or high slide number list. Still, try not to lean too hard on copy editors to catch typos and misspellings. Even just a few player names that appear incorrectly spelled can damage your credibility with readers. It is incredibly important to double-check spelling of names. You might be OK not having to look up “Tom Brady,” but unless your last name is “Polamalu,” look it up.

Joel Cordes is Bleacher Report’s Internship Program Feedback Editor. Each week (along with contributor Greg Pearl) he includes some hints, tips and answers in an email to those participating in the B/R Sports Writing Internship, the highlights of which are shared with the B/R Blog.