"A unique, wry and often satirical look at the Internet, the modern age and life in general" (there is way too much search-engine competition for the phrase "incoherent ramblings")

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Internet is making people talk funny!

Following on from a post I made a couple of days ago, in which I speculated a little about the future role of the English language on the Internet, I was thinking about another Internet tendency which threatens/promises to affect language.

SEO and keyword-based advertising
It is the phenomenon of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and keyword-based targetted advertising like Google's Adsense. In case you are unfamiliar with the terms, here is a quick explanation:

  • people want to make money (excuse the generalisation)
  • other people are looking for information on the Internet
  • you have the information
  • you can't charge for it (mostly)
  • advertising schemes like Adsense allow you to place ads on your site and indirectly make money from visitors, who click on ads targeted to the content of your site
  • SEO means tailoring the content, especially the text, so that people will find your site when they search the net, but also so that the kind of ads will display that are related to your content.

Abusing the system
Of course, you can guess that the more unscrupulous types out there have seized this opportunity to create MFA (Made for Adsense) sites which contain low-quality text that is loaded up with fruitful keywords which attract visitors searching for those terms, but gives them very little information except relevant ads which have also been triggered by these keywords and which they hope visitors will click on and bring them money. Google bans these sites when it finds out about them, and I certainly do not want to give out links to any of them. But here is an example of the kind of text I saw on a site the other day:

If you are looking for insurance then you are very wise to be looking for insurance because being insured is of the utmost importance as if you are not insured then you will have no insurance against the future. So insure you have insurance.
You can see where they are trying to go with this, right? And I have a sneaky feeling that insurance ads are quite high-paying too...

Legitimate SEO
But even when we are talking about scrupulous (is there such a word?!) webmasters and publishers, there is a very real need for them to optimize their content to ensure that they are

a) receiving the "right" kind of traffic
b) getting the "right" kinds of ads displaying

This means focusing very closely on their target area, keeping to the topic they have chosen for their blog or site and thinking about the kind of language they are using to attract visitors. This blog is a terrible example of this, flitting constantly from topic to topic without rhyme or reason! My Fridge-Googling blog is perhaps a better example, focusing exclusively on recipes and cooking. And this is what most serious web publishers are trying to do.

Effects of SEO on language?
So I wonder, in the future are we going to see a greater and greater battle for site traffic, and therefore a ever greater focus on very specific niche subjects where publishers choose their wording so carefully that they eventually limit their vocabulary down to a few dozen words!

OK, so maybe that is a bit far-fetched, but go back to the "unscrupulous" example above to see what a fine line it is becoming. Perhaps we will all one day be talking a speaking "niche-English" in our efforts to keep control of our little patch of Internet territory!