I am currently researching material for my thesis/dissertation, the subject of which is the opportunity that Twitter represents for information developers/technical writers etc. to showcase quality content and to engage their end users in real dialogic communication about their products/content. I am also interested in whether this new focus on making content more social, will result in the demise of search engine optimisation (S.E.O) as we know it, or whether the two can coexist in the challenge to make content more visible and accessible.
What is S.E.O?
Search engine optimisation or S.E.O is the practice of boosting the visibility of a website on search engines in order to draw the visitor’s attention to a product/service/content that is contained within that website. The object of S.E.O is to draw traffic from the free or ‘natural’ search results on search engines, rather than via paid search advertisements. As you can imagine, boosting search engine rankings in this way is very lucrative and therefore highly sought-after.
Types of S.E.O
S.E.O. manifests itself in many forms, not all of which are entirely ethical. This is where the ‘black-hat’ reference comes in. Some S.E.O employs aggressive tactics that violate the search engines terms of service. Some examples of black-hat tactics include filling ‘content’ with keywords that are designed to be picked up by the search engine and boost rankings. Another, is to include unrelated keywords to content in order to attract unsuspecting visitors to a website. Adding a high number of false links to a website that purport to show how relevant that website is, is another means of attempting to fool the system. Fortunately, the bigger search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, are extremely good at weeding these websites out.
S.E.O can also take more ethical routes to boosting search results. By providing high quality, functioning links to relevant terms/content, having the correct titles and keywords and, most importantly, having content that is worth viewing, websites can achieve high search engine rankings ‘naturally’.
Whatever way you look at it, S.E.O represents a challenge to the technical writer/information developer/instructional designer who has to tailor their content to ensure that it is visible online and is ranked highly on search engines. In many instances, this results in content that is diminished in quality and is not as engaging to the reader as might otherwise be the case.
In February 2015 Google and Twitter reached an agreement to promote content that is trending on Twitter via Google’s search engine. Google, in return, received access to Twitters entire data stream (termed the Twitter Firehose). What this deal means for content developers is that dedicated engagement with Twitter users can now affect their contents rankings on the Google search engine results page (SERP).
Companies such as Dell, Microsoft and Attlassian have responded to this opportunity for content discovery by establishing dedicated Twitter accounts that are responsive to interaction, contain real, quality information and links to further quality content. These companies, and many others like them, recognise the importance of being part of the dialogue. At a time when information and those accessing it are becoming more and more social, these companies recognise the need to have a real presence in the world of social media.
S.E.O death knell?
My research is concerned with how the Google-Twitter agreement will impact the need for traditional S.E.O and whether this deal actually results in content that is of better quality. Quality is notoriously difficult to quantify; therefore, I will rely on the opinions of those using/accessing the content/service, either through traditional means or via Twitter. I hope to develop a case study of one of the larger tech companies, which has become expert at using social media to engage their users and to promote their visibility throughout the internet. It’s all very hush, hush at the moment (or up in the air!) but, as usual, I’ll keep you posted!