From generating content recommendations to providing information to search engines, bots are crucial to your web presence, but humans still need to provide context for bots to be successful.

As the digital publishing landscape continues to evolve, publishers are increasingly relying on bots to perform tedious tasks that are an unnecessary drain on resources.

Understand content

Semantic analysis tools are used to better understand what content is about. These tools automate the creation of helpful metadata that can be used for SEO and insights into what your users find interesting. Currently, you can manually generate keywords through semantic analysis within the BLOX Admin, but we are working on advancing this feature to make the process more automatic.

TownNews uses semantic analysis to strengthen the Content Exchange and iQ programs. TownNews' Content Exchange program allows sites to share articles, images and videos across a vast network of media outlets, but humans can't sort through all that content. Bots perform semantic analysis to identify and organize content so media sites only share and receive articles on topics they want.

TownNews iQ uses semantic data to identify user interests and behaviors, and deliver targeted advertising or content. The goal is to create a customized experience for each user to improve engagement and draw more value from each visit.

Engage users

As more users come to sites without visiting your homepage, the process of moving them to more content has to be reexamined. To this end, TownNews is investing a lot of resources in content recommendation, or re-engagement.

Empowered with data on your individual user's favorite topics, bots can suggest other videos and articles that may be of interest. Content recommendation also allows TownNews to serve more relevant native advertising to users who might be passing through your site.

Drive traffic

In addition to suggesting content, bots drive traffic to your site. Search is still a significant traffic driver, second only to direct traffic, and search engines get their information from bots that are constantly crawling sites for relevant data and keywords.

Social media used to depend on humans to share content with other users, but now they are using bots to automatically suggest content to users. Facebook depends on the same data as traditional search bots to power its topic search, trending topics and recommendation bar.


Here are three tips to help you write better for bots:

  1. Stay consistent – When discussing popular people, places and topics, keep your first references consistent across each new piece of content.

    Many sports writers use interchangeable names and abbreviations for teams. It’s probably safe to assume your readers know that FSU, Florida State University, The Seminoles and The 'Noles all mean the same thing, but a bot may not. Keeping your first reference the same across the board will improve bots’ understanding.

  1. Be specific – Make sure your references contain all the information a bot or human needs to understand the subject at hand. Using full names, titles and locations can cut down on confusion.

    There is a big difference between the Supreme Court of the United States and a state Supreme Court. Without a clear reference to the organization, bots struggle to know the difference between the Utah state Supreme Court with the Supreme Court of the United States—hurting your SEO, content recommendations and much more.

  1. Think self-sufficient – Content should be able to stand on its own without depending on outside knowledge. If a human reader outside your community would need more information to understand the content, so do bots.

    It doesn't matter if it is the first or hundredth article about the mayor's political scandal. Make sure it contains enough of the key facts so that bots, and first-time readers, can find out what the content is about.

The next time you write a piece of content remember bots are also reading that content. What that article contains affects who comes to your site, how they get there, what they read while they are there and what ads are delivered. Did you give bots all the data they need?

Tim Turner is the Content Exchange program manager at TownNews.