Edm Course 5

English for Digital Media Course
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  Search is the dominant force on the web and contentthat ranks highly in a Google search is de facto goingto have more hits, more impact and more value.There are currently six searches conducted viaGoogle for every two on Yahoo! and one on MicrosoftLive. PR practitioners therefore must take account of thisand consider how they use digital PR to support goodsearch rankings. PR activity is creating content thatis of increasing relevance to the way that search en-gines work. A typical Internet search has three components to it.The first is a huge database that contains every wordfrom every page from every web site in the world. Thisdatabase can be searched and matched very quicklyagainst any word(s) that you enter into a search en-gine.The second component of a search engine is its spi-ders, robots, or just bots. These terms are metaphorsfor automated computer programs that go out andcreep around on the Internet – find a web site, andcrawl from page to page indexing and cataloging eachpage’s content. The search engine’s computer simplyopens a home page, captures the content, and goesonto the next page, and does the same thing. The third part of the process is your typical search in-terface, which is what you see when you go to Googleor Yahoo! when you enter your query and see the re-sults. How search engine optimization evolved  As AltaVista, Yahoo!, Lycos and other early searchengines began to rise to pre-eminence everybody in-volved in the internet became subject to the power and influence of search. At some time around the mid-dle of the 1990s, the idea of search engine optimiza-tion (SEO) was spawned. In the early days, webdesigners submitted pages or links to all of the searchengines and they in turn would send a web crawler tothe site to collect information, which would then be in-dexed. The web crawler or spider would extract key-words that would provide the basis for futuresearches. Very quickly site owners and administratorsstarted to work out ways of getting sites placed insearches, ideally as highly ranked as possible. Thisprocess by the end of the 90s became known as SEO. Early searches relied on the information that was pro-vided by the website itself in the form of tags or key-words. Content providers could manipulate these tagsin an attempt to rank highly in searches.Search engines were going to have to improve theway that they found information or searching wouldbecome increasingly unreliable. Two students at Stan-ford University, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, createda search engine technique based on mathematical al-gorithms that measured links from one website to an-other. This was the basis for Google, the searchengine they launched in 1998.The search engine optimization business started tofind ways to manipulate this new form of search. Inshort, they found ways of creating spurious links tothe sites that they wanted to promote using devicessuch as link farms, which involved the creation of thousands of websites whose only function was toprovide links to the srcinal site to improve its pagerank. SEO became an important element in any digitalmarketing campaign. SEO expanded to look at theactual functioning of the search algorithms and wouldreview code, presentation and structure of websitesto improve their ranking. All of the leading search en-gines, Google, Microsoft Search and Yahoo! use webcrawlers to find pages automatically.High page rankings can have a huge commercialvalue and therefore there continues to be a tensionbetween the SEO business and optimal function of search engines. The techniques are regarded asbeing either good design that search engines approveof, or they are regarded as ‘black hat’ or attempts totrick search engines into providing a higher rank thana site actually merits. This will usually lead to thesesites being banned temporarily or permanently oncethe search engines discover black hat techniques. For example using text that is hidden from human eyesbut visible to a search engine. Some major interna-tional companies, such as BMW, have been accusedof using some of these techniques and have been thesubject of temporary bans by Google. As a way of dealing with this, the major search engine organiza-tions have not only maintained the confidentiality of exactly how their searches work but they have alsochanged the processes on a regular basis. SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION for PR  2 Lect.univ.dr. Daniel CIURELEnglish for Digital MediaCourse 5 In May 2007, Google introduced a radical change tothe system by introducing the concept of ‘universalsearch’, which blends listings from its news, video,images, local and book search engines with thosegathered from web crawlers. One of the changes isthe use of vertical search, that is, if the search is aboutsport the search engine searches sports sites; if it isabout a medical issue then medical sites will be pro-moted.News, for example, works differently in universalsearch – the results are blended in with the traditionalsearch results, which greatly elevates the importanceof news stories in the search rankings for any com-mercial organization. Images and video are now alsoincluded in the main search.Before the introduction of universal search, Googlesearches gave a list of 10 web results and things likenews headlines did not appear (unless you used theseparate and still available ‘News’ search) becauseof the way that the web search algorithms worked.Universal search changed this by running a simulta-neous news search and blending the results. PR and natural search Natural search is a description of the process of searching that produces results based on their actualrelevance rather than because their ranking has beenboosted by paid-for search engine optimization tech-niques. The changes to the way that Google andother search engines operate is highly relevant for thepublic relations industry.In the first instance, it elevates the importance of newsand PR is about news. The principal function of thepublic relations press office is to support journalistsand to provide editorial content for news stories. Toverify the importance of this, all you need to do isenter some search terms or the name of an organiza-tion that you are working for and you will see newscontent ranking highly in the Google first page results.The other sources of content that are starting to rankhighly in searches are the new channels of web usedin PR – blogs, wikis and podcasts. Social networkshave become important in terms of creating search-able and relevant content. LinkedIn, the business-ori-entated social network, is a very good example. If youor someone you know has a LinkedIn profile trysearching on a combination of the name and thename of the business where the person in questionworks. You should see the LinkedIn profile rankinghighly in that search. If you think about it, most of usperform this type of search on a regular basis andusually whenever we are considering entering intoany business partnership with someone new.Having considered the increasing importance of pub-lic-relations generated content we should give somethought to how we deliver that content in a way thatis itself optimized for search. The public relations in-dustry needs to start adopting some of the techniquesthat the white hat search engine optimizers have beenusing for years. For example, the type of languagethat we use in our written output needs to consider the use of terms that are more likely to be used whenour audiences are using search engines. We will needto move away from the use of convoluted terms andphrases that in the past have been favoured by somebranding campaigns to more straightforward and de-scriptive terminology that will raise our search rank-ings. This is important as the industry moves awayfrom the old-fashioned press release in favour of themore web-relevant social media release or SMR. Social search  An article appeared in Popular Mechanics magazinein April 2008 that began with the words ‘Search isdead’. The argument that the article posed was thatthe huge escalation in social networks would eventu-ally make algorithm-based search engines redundant.This seems like a bold claim when Google has be-come arguably the world’s most powerful brand. The core of the argument is that as sites like Face-book, Twitter and LinkedIn, web users will find whatthey want by using their social network rather thansearch because they trust the people in their socialnetwork, or indeed people in general will know the an-swer that you want better than a mathematical equa-tion. This is clearly starting to happen withmicro-blogging. Social networks or online communities are often builtor reinforced around the notion of shared interests.We create an enormous amount of data when we par-ticipate in social networks. The principles of the socialweb have crossed over into algorithmic search.Launched in mid-2008, Scour is a social search en-gine that combines the searches from three popular search engines as well as allowing users to vote onthe results. Scour takes results from Google, Yahoo!and Live Search by searching and ranking the resultsdependent on the recommendations of its users. It isalso possible to customize Scour and filter by anycombination of the three search engines. The user-generated aspect of the Scour search means that theuser gives a search result a ‘thumbs up’ if it is relevantor a ‘thumbs down’ if it isn’t. Votes and comments di-rectly impact on the search rankings. Scour also in-cludes a rewards system where users collect pointsfor searching, commenting and voting as well as invit-ing friends to the site. By providing a platform for theuser to vote and comment on relevancy, searchersconnect with one another creating a true social searchcommunity.’  There are several techniques (tactics) of SEO.Some of them are legitimate (white hat), someare not (black hat) and some still fall in-between(grey hat). Black hat SEO techniques 1. Hidden Content comes in many guises butthe basic principle is that within the code for thesite there will be content stuffed with keywords,this content will not be visible to the end user of the site.One way of doing this is by using comment tags.Content can also be hidden from the end user byusing CSS, excessively small text and colouredtext on the same coloured background. All of these techniques are frowned upon bysearch engines and if detected can mean your website will be penalised or even banned. To theuntrained eye it can be very difficult to spot theuse of some of these techniques. 2. Meta Keyword Stuffing. There are two Metatags that are generally used to inform search en-gines of the content on the page. They reside be-tween the <head> tag of a page and when usedincorrectly they can alert a search engine that asite is using spam techniques in an attempt to im-prove its ranking. 3. Meta Keywords should be a short list of wordsthat inform of the main focus of the page. Metakeywords have been so misused in the past thatthere are few if any search engines that take anyheed of them. 4. Doorway or Gateway Pages are pages de-signed for search engines and not for the enduser. They are basically fake pages that arestuffed with content and highly optimised for oneor two keywords that link to a target or landingpage. The end user never sees these pages be-cause they are automatically redirected to the tar-get page.Off-the-shelf SEO software often encourages theuse of gateway pages as do SEO firms that don’tknow what they’re talking about. Search enginespiders are being enhanced continually to detectthese pages and will get ignored or worse still,flag your site up as being spam and ban you alltogether. 5. Link Farming . In the real world if you were tobuild your house in a bad neighbourhood thenyour house would be affected by its surroundings.The same is true of the virtual world. Link farmsor free for all (FFA) pages have no other pur-poses than to list links of unrelated websites.They won’t provide you with any traffic and yourun the risk of having your site banned for parti-cipating. Don’t participate in link farming. White hat SEO techniques 1. Quality Content . When we first started lookingat SEO as a separate entity to website build therewas one phrase that we would continually hear,“content is King”, and it’s true. There is nothingmore valuable you can do to optimise your sitefor search engines than offer unique well writtencontent. A search engines aim is to serve up whatit believes to be the most appropriate website for any given search to the end user. 2. Use Structural (Semantic) Mark Up andSeparate Content from Presentation . Seman-tically structuring your mark up helps search en-gines understand the content of your webpagewhich is of course a good thing. Making proper use of heading elements is essential becausesearch engines give more weight to the contentwithin the heading elements.Using CSS to separate the design elements fromthe content makes for much leaner code andmakes it easier for search engines to find whatthey’re looking for, which is content. Remember content is king! 3. Titles and Meta Data . Providing pages withproper titles and meta data is essential. As dis-cussed previously (black hat SEO techniques)section the meta description and meta keywordselements have been so misused in the past thatSearch Engines now regard them as less impor-tant, it’s still important to use them and use themproperly. Titles however still carry a lot of weightand when we think of semantic mark up it is ob-vious why. The title of anything is a declarationas to what the content might be, so make sureyour page titles are a true representation of thecontent of the page. 3 Lect.univ.dr. Daniel CIURELEnglish for Digital MediaCourse 5  4. Keyword Research and Effective KeywordUse . Create your website with keywords and keyphrases in mind. Research keywords and keyphrases you think people might use to find your site. Single words are not always the most effec-tive target, try multi-word phrases that are muchmore specific to your product or service and you’llbe targeting end users that are much more likelyto want what you are offering.Use the keywords and key phrases you’ve iden-tified effectively throughout your website. Assigneach page 2-3 of the keywords you’ve identifiedand use the keywords throughout all the impor-tant elements of the page. 5. Quality Inbound Links . Having inbound linksto your website can be likened to having a votefor the good but there are good links and badlinks so therefore votes for the good and votesthat are bad. Good links are links from other webpages that are regarded highly by the search en-gines and are contextually relevant to the contentof your page. Bad links are links from web pagesthat aren’t regarded highly or potentially bannedby search engines and have no relevance to thecontent of your page. Grey hat SEO techniques 1. Cloaking . There are times when cloaking isconsidered a legitimate tactic by users andsearch engines alike. Basically, if there is a logi-cal reason why you should be allowed to presentdifferent information to the search engines thanthe visitor (if you have content behind a mem-bers only area for example) you are relativelysafe. Even so, this tactic is very risky and it is rec-ommended that you contact each search engine,present your reasoning, and allow them the op-portunity to approve it's use. Arguably, another example of a site legitimatelyusing cloaking, is when the site is mainly image-based such as an art site. In this event, providedthat the text used to represent the page accu-rately defines the page and image(s) on it, thiscould be considered a legitimate use of cloaking. As cloaking has often been abused, if other meth-ods such as adding visible text to the page is pos-sible it is recommended. If there are no other alternatives it is recommended that you contactthe search engine prior to adding this tactic andexplain your argument. 2. Paid Links . The practice of purchasing link onwebsites solely for the increase in link-popularitythat it can mean has grown steadily over the lastyear-or-so with link auction sites such asLinkAdage making this practice easier. When links are purchased as pure advertising thepractice is considered legitimate, while the prac-tice of purchasing links only for the increase inlink-popularity is considered an abuse and effortswill be made to either discount the links or penal-ize the site (usually the sellers though not al-ways). As a general rule, if you are purchasing links youshould do so for the traffic that they will yield andconsider any increase in link-popularity to be an added bonus” 3. Duplicate Content . Due primarily to the in-crease in popularity of affiliate programs, dupli-cate content on the web has become anincreasingly significant problem for both searchengines and search engine users alike with thesame or similar sitesdominating the top positionsin the search engine results pages.To address this problem many search engineshave added filters that seek out pages with thesame or very similar content and eliminate theduplicate. Even at times when the duplicate con-tent is not detected by the search engines it isoften reported by competitors and the site's rank-ings penalized.There are times when duplicate content is con-sidered legitimate by both search engines andvisitors and that is on resource sites. A site thatconsists primarily as an index of articles on a spe-cific subject-matter will not be penalized by post-ing articles that occur elsewhere on the net,though the weight it may be given as additionalcontent will likely not be as high as a page of unique content.If you find competitors using these tactics it is notunethical to report them to the search engines.You are helping yourself, the search engines, andthe visitors by insuring that only legitimate com-panies, providing real information and content,appear at the top of the search engine results. 4 Lect.univ.dr. Daniel CIURELEnglish for Digital MediaCourse 5
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