Semantic basis of the Web: If you have ever done any study into the origins of the World Wide Web you will have come across the name Tim Berners-Lee, this is inescapable! Tim came up with a brilliant document management system while he was working at the CERN research facility in 1989. I won’t delve into the dry technical details of this because there is a plethora of historical and very technical detail already available for you to study. What interests me, and a lot of others, about this original intention of the WWW is the fact that it has determined the development of search engines.
The algorithms which underpin Google, and other search engines (but let’s face it Google is the main one) are engineered to observe this original emphasis on the written word. The organisation of words has always been the principal driving rationale of the URL, location of universal resources is one thing, but the document management intentions of the web cannot be avoided.
This has meant that people have attempted to ‘game’ the search engines by producing reams of words. I has not mattered in the past if these words held much value to human readers, just so long as ‘Keywords’ were interspersed in the body of articles, white papers, eBooks, and all textual production.This is now of course completely invalid, the updates to the Google A.I and RankBrain have weeded out the spammers, and the producers of low quality articles with successive releases with cute names such as: FRED, HUMMINGBIRD,PIDGEON, PANDA, PAY DAY, RANKBRAIN and so forth.
This should mean that an article such as this one, penned with sincere and research based materials, will perform much better on the web than those generic, terrible examples published by online magazine moguls who hire teams of English graduates from a plethora of locations to crank out low value descriptions of equally generic topics. In theory this will be the case!
I have discovered however that independent writing is now being shunted aside by people with deep pockets, and connections. An article I wrote about 4 years ago used to rank globally as #1 in its topic, this was a well written piece and it has some valuable things to say, even if I do say so myself, I see that some agency has muscled its way into this topic; networking is still alive and well, the covert associations and connections with backlinking can overcome even excellent quality content.
So while we can become very interested with SEO, and technical services which promise you all kinds of benefits, for a steep price, there are never any genuine assurances able to be given these days.
There are so many people who think they have all of this worked out, and everything from getting Wikipedia articles written, to old fashioned blog networks (yes people still sell these), linking services, on-page, back end options; none of this can match a consistent media presence.
We have all noticed the astronomical rise of popularity of Podcasting. Let’s be very clear here: Podcasts are audio productions, yes some people also video their sessions, but podcasts are available on platforms like iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, they are RSS fully hosted MP3 files. I think many people get confused about media types, and because YouTube is a major media platform, podcasts can also show up here, people mix up Vlogging with podcasting.
Now the big thing about producing media is that we have many options for publishing, but don’t be seduced by ‘Free hosted’ anything, building your own Media Platform is THE big opportunity in today’s world. This is what Tim Berners-Lee intended when he gifted the entire WWW to the people of the world.
Be A Media Owner what does this mean?
If you look at this site, this www.webstruct.xyz you will see that I have published a podcast to the site. I have not placed any videos so far, but I can do this also.
My podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher also, but I publish every episode here first, and even though I only have 3 episodes thus far this gives it a distinctive identity, I don’t use ‘Anchor’ or any of those Silicon Valley Saas locations, because I prefer to be an independent media owner, a platform owner with my own brand.
It makes zero difference if my WebStruct name is ‘well known’ or not, I am not seeking to ‘go viral’ because that is not my intention, that is a waste of time. I prefer to be known by a specific group of people who recognise what I am providing, what i am delivering: namely specialised communication refinement for specialised topics, academics, writers, authors, political journalists, analysts, independent project builders, and the like!
If you can build a distinctive location that has your domain name, your identity over the top, this is waaay more powerful than being absorbed by The Borg, immersed into the jelly mold of media generic.
You need to understand that SEO is about being distinctive so that human beings will be attracted to you, forget about ‘Crawlers’ and algorithms, they look after their own game.
Your task, should you decide to accept it Jim, is to become your own media entity. A content management system allows us to publish any type of media, along with text, white papers, studies, and this is ideal as our platform.
The advantages of this have nothing to do with being famous, or a world brand, this is not the idea, the objective is to create a single platform from which your content is distributed, because this is the long term goal, we are not interested with spasms of virality, or cute tricks which make you some kind of one off income spike; we want a consistent, powerful build in visibility and relevant connection.
This term gets bandied about a lot in SEO circles, and believe this or not, it does not mean having 10,000 followers on Instagram, or being an ‘influencer’; social signals are the organic and also paid streams of traffic which arise from your presence overall on whichever social media sites you involve yourself with.
In terms of Google, activity from genuine social activity is an indication your content is of true interest to human beings.
Here we have this emphasis on living, breathing responses to web content. This is largest signal of them all.
Contrary to popular webmaster forum beliefs your bouncerate is not just an annoying technical glitch, it means if you have a high rate of bounce from your content it means it is just not doing anything for your visitors.
I expect a certain rate of ‘bounce’ on my site, because it has lots of writing, and not many videos, it attracts only a certain slice of web users, people who are genuinely interested with the WWW, and building their content, it is very much non-generic.
There is a mystique concerning the back-end of pages. This is due to the digital literacy of people, all that code, all those tags, what do they mean and what effect do they truly have on your publications?
There are a lot of informative posts, white papers, videos and other material which discuss and describe the ‘Meta’ parts of web publication, but few of them seem to offer cogent and clear reasons for why you devote so much attention to these activities.
The principal focus we need to have is with creating ‘snippets’, and titles, for text these are the primary areas of human value, and ‘crawler’ clarity. The meta information is really just a fancy way of referring to ‘descriptive about’ information; people tend to skim around and if you provide good pithy meta content, you have a stronger opportunity of catching attention.
Images, you need to be aware of the value of Alt descriptions, graphical data is not fully understood by machines, plus presentation conditions can vary between devices, so this textual information can provide additional clues as to what is being presented!
For text the headline tags indicate the hierarchy of importance you assign, just like in a newspaper (remember those?) the headlines have different weights, with the BIG headlines of the front page being the main point of attention. This convention has persisted, so we should be diligent and at least look after the H1 & H2 levels; I don’t think being overly scrupulous with the additional levels is quite so necessary; this is a moot point.
Spending some time researching the Meta areas of pages, and other media markups is valuable, while this is not exactly thrilling stuff, it has an impact on our publication.
The history of the internet is deeply concerned with search, seeking out information, retrieving data from ‘Bases’, organizing media and information; you might say that networking is all about storage and retrieval of data.
Search, research = Browsing. The behavior of people has changed over the past 30 years regarding their use of the internet.We can see that so called ‘organic’ discovery of content now supplants intentional search and we get much less traffic from advertising, the entire quality of search has altered, and is changing rapidly.
This leads in to this Human response to content idea. With the mass distribution of content being directed by much more boutique driven social and independent production.
The effectiveness, real value of SEO services have to be experienced and evaluated over time; this is not like buying a ‘widget’ that you can immediately gain the measure of unfortunately.
If you have a good general knowledge of World Wide Web publication processes, technologies and practices then you will already be aware that SEO involves many different elements, this is a complex area and nobody has the ultimate advantage over others, you might say that SEO services are mainly concerned with ‘best practice’, and we all know what this implies.
We can break down search engine optimisation services into two distinct groups, two very complimentary but different types of activities:
- Meta tagging and back-end layout conventions, this includes both on-page and off page aspects, linking, backlinking.
- Content strategies and production.
These two principal areas involve very different skill sets.
You often find that professional SEO companies tend to concentrate on one or another of these two areas, but the better ones offer both.
Essentially, SEO as a service industry has undergone a major change over the past 10 years. Prior to 2010 the technical tricks and systems, link farms and bogus ‘blog systems’ tended to be offered, we had a distinctive separation between ‘black hat’ and ‘white hat’ techniques.
Google and other search technologies underwent a huge change and development phase around the 2010 mark. We are all familiar with the different project names: RankBrain, FRED, MobileGeddon, Payday, Pigeon, Penguin, Panda, Intrusive Interstitials, Hummingbird, Page Layout Algorithm…and more!
What these updates represent is the collective wisdom of Google engineering, arriving at a web environment that ostensibly is much fairer, less prone to ‘gaming’ and spam tactics, less easy for the scumbuckets to win.
Of course, nothing in computing, or networking is ever perfect.
What SEO ‘experts’ used to offer, including black hat, is really no longer valid or credible; we essentially have a very different Google from 2010 onward, and this favors human response to content over just about anything else.
The Hoth is an SEO company I tend to mention quite a lot, not because I am associated with these people, or an ‘affiliate’, but because they give me a good insight into the current state of professional SEO, they are like the ‘General Motors’ of SEO if you like.
There are still lots of independent, and rogue SEO experts out there, the name Rand Fishkin is still spoken of with deference, I am also aware of Matthew Woodward who runs one of the most successful SEO blogs in these times, Matthew is a very smart web-savvy individual and even to this cynical seasoned campaigner he represents a genuine source of credible, and very practical SEO knowledge. (Once again I stress that I have zero affiliation with Matthew).
Link building, and the Meta area of SEO is incredibly important for gaining visibility, and positioning our publications in the correct locations, but it is always the value of our content which determines if people are going to actually engage with your content on a long term basis!
So yes, your 3rd party SEO services can help you enormously, IF you select the right people, this is the main caveat, I would not for example just choose any old offer of SEO services, I would be inclined to study the field and at least educate myself with the basic concepts, evaluate the landscape, check out the action, as they say.
If you seek further inquiry, if you seek communing on the vast topic of SEO it is a subject that both fascinates and intrigues me, I am a practicing technologist, an independent ‘digital media’ producer and analyst, I work with academic, and cultural areas from my own SEO blog: WebStruct – Digital Media for a Noisy World, I am not quite so immersed into the world of commercial SEO like Matthew Woodward is, but I also work with the web and media, this is a rapidly growing and very active field.
The WWW is today’s mass media platform, it is unprecedented in human history. For this reason alone the competition to be visible is very fierce! That is what drives the industry of SEO, and motivates us all to research and discover ways to give our own publications a better chance of being seen by the right people.
Artificial, or technical tricks have taken a massive turn for the worse, and many people are still being seduced by ‘gurus’ and expensive tools; we know that human responses to content are the primary signals which Google is designing its A.I systems to detect, therefore the conclusion we must draw is that ‘Quality’ is now a critical factor, it has always been important and valuable but today it is simply critical.
There are indeed ways to optimise our content at the ‘back-end’ with meta tagging and layout diligence; but do not depend on these elements to substitute for poor content.
Backlinks and network influence is still very strong in the final analysis.
The crucial point is to keep producing the best content that you possibly can, research your people, grow your knowledge, become the best version of yourself that you can be. I know that sounds a bit ‘drippy’ but it aligns with producing unique and quality content, which is truly the Gold Standard of the web!
The semantic basis of the WWW remains as being the ‘open secret’, semantic search and complex signals are today’s approaches to online content: people have grown in sophistication along with the growth of the WWW itself.
Wikipedia links are very useful, because this is a very high ranking site; for good or bad Wikipedia continues to dominate on the web as a reference source.
GTMETRIX is a very useful resource for determining how effectively your publication is loading for your readers; you probably already know this, just as a reminder and perhaps some may not have found this yet.