SEO and the Written Word

19 05 2009

In the rush to populate web copy with keywords the most important thing is sometimes forgotten.  The copy needs to well written, lively, interesting and relevant.  It is astonishing how often this is forgotten in the charge to upload text that will rank highly in Google.   

Engaging content can have a direct impact on search engine rankings and consequently on traffic.   Some websites sacrifice the need for good written content because their search engine optimisation advisors have influenced key words and their placement in the text to such an extent that the site no longer informs or entertains.

What this process fails to acknowledge is that the quality of the content is critical to receiving high rankings, because it will affect the number of pages viewed and the stickyness of the site.   Crafting words is a core skill for the majority of PR people.  We also need to consider how to deliver quality content in all of its other forms – still images, audio and video.  Whilst using the agency or in-house digital camera is useful for the old application for important work we will still tend to use a professional photographer.  The same should apply for audio and video content. 

Words still lie at the heart of all of this.  The right words will bring audiences but in the the wrong alignment they will drive them away, perhaps never to return.





Swine Flu Pandemic & Web Viral Panic

27 04 2009

Whether or not the current outbreak of swine flu translates into a world pandemic, we are already seeing information and and data spreading around the web at a staggering pace. 

The speed at which information travels brings opportunities and threats and we need to treat information we see on line with caution and respect.  The social web will deliver information on which we can rely and data which will deceive. 

Many news organisations around the world today are linking to a Google map showing almost live data on reported cases. Whilst this may be a very useful tool, what few of the news organisations report is that it appears to have been created by Henry Niman, a biomedical researcher with a history of using the internet to forecast doom. Niman has claimed global pandemics were under way several times before.

The spread of disinformation does not mean that there is no risk.   The truth is at this point we just don’t know the scale of the threat.   A much better source of information may come from Google.  ‘Google Flu trends’ which I wrote about in PR Media Blog  last November, uses search terms to predict how many people in a particular area are searching for relevant information about flu.  There is a high correlation between the searches and numbers of actual cases of flu and they can show incidence faster official channels like the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   Google believes it can accurately estimate flu levels one to two weeks faster than published CDC reports.

The problem at the moment is that the data covers just the US and is only updated weekly.  If Google were able to update faster and use the technology to cover the whole planet we would have a much better picture of what is actually happening.





Follow Friday Five #7

3 04 2009

Five blogs for you to follow this Friday.  In the usual fashion it is a broad spectrum from student bedsit to fame and fortune. Top copy that I’d like to share with you as we wend our way towards the weekend. 

1 Techcrunch the weblog dedicated to obsessively profiling and reviewing new Internet products and companies.  Founded by the controversial Michael Arrington.  It’s scoop central – see this week’s story on Google in talks with Twitter for example.  

2 Borkowski Blogs The inimitable Mr B on the lives and times of the rich and famous the place where the worlds PR and the media and “exposed, inspected, sniffed at, dissected, startled, satirised, tickled and occasionally put to rights”. 

3 Flawless Buzz  the work of Adam Lewis, student at York University, my alma mater (no-one acrtually says that do they?) who has set his sights firmly on a career in the PR and communications industry.

4 Jemima Kiss Great pictures and even greater words from the Guardian writer and interwebber. Follow her on twitter too…making anger an artform.

5. Liverpool Culture Blog A Mancunian bigging up a blog from Liverpool? It’s really good and entertaining stuff and more than just scouse culture (no really) from the brilliantly named Robin Brown.   

Go on. Off you go to some other great spaces on the interweb.  Oh and my book should be out today (I think). Did I mention that?





Social Search

19 03 2009

magnifying-glassAn article appeared in Popular Mechanics in April last year that began with the words “Search is dead”.  The argument was that the huge escalation in social networks would eventually make algorithm based search engines redundant.  This is a pretty bold claim when Google has become arguably the world’s most powerful brand.   The core of the argument is that as social networking grows web users will find what they want by using their social network rather than search because of trust.  Indeed people in general will know the answer that you want better than a mathematical equation.  This has begun to happen with Twitter.   Within days of starting to use the service I saw a request from Jemima Kiss, technology writer for The Guardian for information about about iTunes and a request from social media guru Shel Israel for information on business applications on Twitter.  Shel got what he wanted in just 10 minutes, admittedly quite a bit slower than Google but qualified by trusted human intelligence:

“shelisrael: Thanks everyone. I just got 10 good Twitter biz apps in 10 minutes. Keep them coming when you find them, please.”

Online communities are often built or reinforced around the notion of shared interests.   We create an enormous amount of data when we participate in social networks and this information finds people through the various filters people set up within their social networks. Twitter is instant, Google has to index a page before it can search for it.  We may be witnessing the beginning of the erosion of Google’s dominance in search.

This article is adapted from a more in depth piece in the book ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ available now from Amazon.





The Marriage of Search and PR

9 02 2009

1 + 1 = 1 by Grrrega. “Google is not a search engine. Google is a reputation-management system, and that’s one of the most powerful reasons so many CEOs have become more transparent: Online, your rep is quantifiable, findable, and totally unavoidable. In other words, radical transparency is a double-edged sword, but once you know the new rules, you can use it to control your image in ways you never could before.”    These were the sage like words of Clive Thompson in a piece called the ‘The See-Through CEO’ in Wired. March 2007. He identified a major new challenge for the PR industry; the need to consider and deliver against the results of relevant search.

Many forms of PR related content are starting to rank highly in search.  Social networks have become important in terms of creating searchable and relevant content. Considering the increasing importance of public relations generated content we now need to deliver that content in a way that is itself optimised for search. The public relations industry needs to start adopting some of the techniques of search engine optimisation or SEO. For example the type of language that we use in our written output needs to use terms more likely to be used when our audiences are using search engines. We must avoid complex or convoluted terms and phrases that in the past have been favoured by some branding campaigns to more straightforward and descriptive terminology that will raise our search rankings.

The need for this and the positive results are becoming increasingly clear. Properly used editorial content can push web sites to the top of Google search rankings without spending a penny on traditional SEO.

 





How PR Became Key to Google Ranking

2 02 2009

Content that ranks highly in a Google search is de facto going to have more hits and more value.  PR practitioners have to consider how digital PR supports good search rankings.   

Early searches relied on the information provided by the website itself In the form of tags or keywords.  Content providers could manipulate this system and search engines had to improve the way that they found information or searching would become more and more unreliable.  Stanford University students Larry Page and Sergey Brin created a search engine technique based on formulas that measured links from one website to another.   This was the basis for Google.   

The search engine optimisation (SEO) business started to find ways to manipulate this new form of search and SEO became an important part of digital marketing.  High rankings have a commercial value and there will always be a tension between SEO business and the function of search engines.  SEO techniques are regarded as being either good design that search engines approve of (white hat) or they are ‘black hat’ attempts to trick search engines into providing a high rank.  This can lead to sites being banned and some major international companies like  BMW  have been accused of black hat SEO leading to temporary bans by Google.

In May 2007 Google introduced a radical change to the system by introducing the concept of  “Universal Search” which blends listings from its news, video, images, local and book search engines with those gathered from web crawlers.    News for example works differently in universal search and results are combined other search results.  This elevates the importance of news stories in the search rankings for any commercial organisation.  PR has always been concerned with delivering news so from that point the publc relations business acquired a new importance.  PR became vital to long term success with Google and other search engines.





How Big is the Web?

9 12 2008

To search the internet Google must first be able to index it  a process that involves continuous updates. The first Google index to be announced in 1998 estimated that the Internet already had 26 million pages. 

It took two years until the Google index passed the one billion mark.  Since then we’ve seen a lot of big numbers about how much content is really out there.  The official Google blog announced in July 2008 that their own search engineers stopped in awe when they discovered that their systems that process links on the web to find new content hit a new milestone: one trillion (or in digits 1,000,000,000,000) unique pages.  The number of individual web pages is still growing by several billion pages per day.

One aspect of the rapid growth of user generated content and the recognition of the importance of this content being linked to lots of other related content is that the web is becoming increasingly crowded, congested and complicated.  The explosion in the range and volume of content is matched by an inverse relationship with the average level of importance and impact of a single web page.

As PR people we need to understand this.  Just because something appears on the web doesn’t mean that anyone sees it. Hello, is there anyone there?








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