Bringing Order to the Web

If you’re the sort of person who finds Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) exciting, then read Page and Brin’s original 1998 paper about Google PageRank. The Google founders provide a stonker of a read.

Originally the PageRank algorithm was the one-stop equation to detect web page influence and human interest. Today Google has over 200 algorithms, all aimed to discover relevant and reputable web pages. Together these provide order to the web, because even in 1998 commercial manipulation of web results was recognised.

From pg.12 of the original paper on ‘Manipulation of Commercial Interests’

“This kind of commercial manipulation is causing search engines a great deal of trouble, and making features that would be great to have very difficult to implement.”

To find out the latest about Google SEO developments, every SEO agency across the world maintains a fixed gaze on Head of Google Webspam’s blog, Matt Cutts. Watch the video below to get a good feeling about how SEO works and how WordPress users should respond.



Struggling to write? 5 pieces of advice

My thoughts have been rather constipated of late, which has negatively affected the quality of my writing. An especially painful inconvenience as my professional role largely depends on copywriting for clients. No matter what I do, thoughts refuse to flow. Out of sheer frustration I left the office one day to purchase cigarettes, a very old writing habit of mine whilst at University. Thankfully sense prevailed – I shan’t be trying that again.

When I am stuck for words, I usually find the five below steps a suitable laxative.

Get out
The overwhelming sense of frustration at staring at a blank page can be mesmerising for any writer. The page stares back, echoing the emptiness of your own thoughts and continually loops in your mind. When this happens get out; leave the office or your home. Go for a walk, get a coffee, do something that is away from the screen. If you don’t have a fixed deadline to meet be patient and wait for those words to emerge after a day or two.

Brain dump
If you know the subject you are going to write about then instead of drafting an article straightaway, instead just ‘brain dump’ all of your ideas onto a piece of paper. This can be in one spewed mess or mind mapped as a diagram. It often helps if you can read the ideas in your head, rather than just have them as thoughts. Brain dumping is a useful part of the planning process.

Plan, obviously
Everyone who is a serious writer plans, as anything of complexity takes a degree of planning to organise in a coherent way. Research the subject you are going to write about through reading newspapers, books, magazines and the internet. Make notes, use your brain dumped ideas and timeline how your article will appear on the page.

Speak to a colleague, friend or family
Sometimes it helps to run an idea past somebody else. Two brains are better than one, and everybody thinks differently. By getting advice from somebody you trust you may gain an additional perspective on a story, allowing you to get writing. I personally find this a powerful motivator to getting an article written – it will also intellectually invigorate you to challenge your own ideas.

Alcohol! Caffeine! Nicotine! Sugar!
I’m not going to judge you… everyone has their own medicine. Just don’t binge regularly, okay?   

Social Media changes everything about Public Affairs

When Keene Communications secured a slot as an independent event at Social Media Week London, I knew that our talks and debate had to be different. Too much of the social media space is filled with repeated discussions, clichés and a lack of technical understanding. The vast amount of social media events are aimed at the consumer, this is not our focus at Keene on the public affairs side.

Since the beginning of last year my role at Keene has been to drive digital across our strategies, methodologies and tactics. Our clients need to achieve serious objectives, social media needs to feed into this.

Our Social Media Week event featured four established speakers, boasting plenty of experience in the social media and traditional media space. You can read a general overview of the event through our Storify. MD of Keene, Jake Rigg, will be publishing an in-depth post based on his speech on the Keene blog soon.

Boni, Jake and Tim

ANYWAY! This is beginning to sound like an advert…

It was a social media filled night with plenty of wine and healthy debate. The one key observation I made during the proceedings was the focus on network theory and tracking behaviours online. One attendee even mentioned to me,

“We work across a lot of consumer campaigns, I’ve attended lots of social media events, but yours has shown me a different angle. It’s more than social media metrics… It’s smarter.”

I knew exactly what he meant because it’s what attracted me to developing a social public affairs methodology for Keene. You have to know what data you can capture, how this can be translated across different software and how this can be used to inform an appropriate social media approach. Therefore we have to dig deeper than social media analytics and look at other aspects of online, such as network theory.

It was entirely appropriate to let the audience into the world of Keene, but at the same time it is a hard sell. Our approaches are different and not fully understood in the industry. One part of me begs to shout to the world about the projects we are working on, but at the same time it is business intelligence – it separates us from competitors.

Over the next few months I’ll be writing more about social public affairs and (online) public relations. Keep reading the blog to follow my thoughts; it’s a niche visitorship…

The Semantic Web isn’t dead; it just didn’t develop as envisioned

It’s widely accepted that the internet today doesn’t just provide a service for shopping or social media, but exists as a web of data. W3C recognised this development 13 years ago by launching W3C Semantic Web. I’m not going to attempt to paraphrase W3C’s description of the Semantic Web because they have already drafted a perfect summary:

“The Semantic Web is a web of data. There is lots of data we all use every day, and it is not part of the web. I can see my bank statements on the web, and my photographs, and I can see my appointments in a calendar. But can I see my photos in a calendar to see what I was doing when I took them? Can I see bank statement lines in a calendar?

Why not? Because we don’t have a web of data. Because data is controlled by applications, and each application keeps it to itself.

The Semantic Web is about two things. It is about common formats for integration and combination of data drawn from diverse sources, where on the original Web mainly concentrated on the interchange of documents. It is also about language for recording how the data relates to real world objects. That allows a person, or a machine, to start off in one database, and then move through an unending set of databases which are connected not by wires but by being about the same thing.”

In December 2013 the work of W3C Semantic Web was subsumed to become the W3C Data Activity. The consequences are far reaching when it comes to the development of web tools, as the Semantic Web project struggled in these two areas:

  • The project placed a heavy focus on webmasters following coding guidelines to place the right tags in pages. This was never going to work because the tags were not necessary for website operation, only for 3rd parties to search their data.
  • Mapping content through semantics (linguistic analysis) takes a huge amount of staff resource, investment and brainpower. That’s why Google has conducted this successfully and why other models tend to just exist in a lab. As part of my BA Hons I ran a linguistic analysis using the Python coding language – it was under lab conditions on a limited dataset… it took hours of work.

The reason I’m writing about the Semantic Web is because linguistic analysis of web pages has been recognised as a rather useful capability in the toolbox of PR folk. Last year I wrote an article for The Measurement Standard dissecting the use of the Semantic Web in PR. It was fairly controversial because its methods are still very much based in academia and differs from approaches by existing measurement companies.

In my opinion the work of W3C Data Activity better understands the internet of 2014 – a lot has happened over the last 13 years!

“The overall vision of the Data Activity is that people and organizations should be able to share data as far as possible using their existing tools and working practices but in a way that enables others to derive and add value, and to utilize it in ways that suit them. Achieving that requires a focus not just on the interoperability of data but of communities.”

A multitude of open source projects now specialise in importing, exporting and converting file types – all so that data from across the internet can be properly mapped and analysed. For example, one of the projects I’ve been working on is NodeXL supported by the Social Media Research Foundation.

Due to this I’m going to refrain from mentioning the Semantic Web again on this blog because linguistically analysing the entire internet is a feat only Google can achieve for the moment. For all the social media monitoring companies out there, W3C Data Activity provides a working group of companies and individuals who are driving cross-service compatibility – rather than focusing efforts driving a internet-wide page relation building exercise.

This is okay because in 2001 the Semantic Web was built upon the concept that all published data generally exists as web pages. In 2014 we now know that data exists behind social networks, portals and intranets. The Semantic Web isn’t dead; it just didn’t develop as envisioned.

Everything online is a bit noisy, isn’t it?

The thought occurred to me standing on one of the side streets of Westminster in the early hours of the evening. Unlike the tourists I wasn’t looking at Big Ben, but beyond to the clouds becoming silver silhouettes against a greying sky. The sky seemed like the only peaceful thing in the sprawling city.

Having just come back from a holiday in Crete where internet connection was less regular and costly – the noise of London was apparent. Only a few minutes ago my smartphone had dumped a leviathan of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and email updates (work and personal). Most of which were probably from PR or SEO agencies, of absolutely no integral value; delivered at an inappropriate moment by my smartphone.

Such treatment by our digital devices is expected in the city and digital folk tend to sneer at less developed digital economies across the world. But why? It’s not pleasurable being hassled 24/7, being pumped full of useless content. The worst thing is that we designed this noisy social media world. For every poor click through rate or product conversion, stands someone like me, staring up at the sky wishing the world was just a little bit quieter.

Of course, some social companies (usually venture capital funded) are working on ‘content curation’ methods to make our lives a little bit more bareable. I can’t help but wonder if such companies are just further adding to the noise though. Even RSS readers, with basic honest application, inevitably add to the noise.

Then there is this blog, this post in particular, which has ironically added to the noise. Throughout the last few years we have become victims of social media – adapting ourselves for channels, rather than designing them towards delivering quality content.

Search engines prefer quality in quantity; publish to mature your web presence faster. Social media influence is often ranked upon the frequency of posts, number of followers, etc. In my eyes, the industry is reaching a point where enough is enough. We must slow down, post less, focus on quality in order to maintain the integrity of social media (if there is anything left to salvage?).

Social media is my full-time career, it’s my passion, but it’s time to look at the technology we are using and if it is always having a meaningful impact on our lives. Unfortunately social media consultants are not necessarily the ones to rectify the noise problem, it’s the social companies themselves who have based ‘quantity’ as a metric for reaching ever-greater audiences.