There. What I have done may look like a flagrant case of epizeuxis (repetition of a word with no others in between – don’t pretend you didn’t know) but the blog has in fact conformed to a lot of literature that you already read frequently on the web. It’s just that I’ve chosen to bunch up my rhetorical strategy at the start instead of diffusing its seeds throughout the forest of words that are to follow.
Welcome to the world that Google has created. In case you haven’t been paying attention to the history of the English language, let me bring you up to date with a nutshell look at the last millennium. First the Romans, Saxons and French thought it would be a great idea to form an incomprehensible communication system called Middle English. Then Shakespeare came along and made everyone else who writes feel inadequate. Then Google took over the internet and turned words into integers of relevance and hey presto, SEO was born.
Okay, I skipped a few minor historical details, or maybe most of them, but the point is high repetition of key words in an article makes it that much easier for Google to say “Hey! I found it! I found what you’re looking for! Look look look – try this website – it has loads of the word you’re looking for. Aren’t I a clever little search enginey wenginey :)”
This high repetition of words is known as word density, and this is calculated as a percentage of your overall word count. So a word density of 3-5% in a 500 word blog means the key word would be mentioned 15-20 times if it were one word long, or 8-10 times if it were two words long etc. This percentage, although seemingly small, actually makes a blog or article thousands of times more likely to appear at the front of the queue of results Google offers up.
So while I was twiddling my thumbs trying to figure out a good explanation for why I have been absent from blogging for so long, it suddenly occurred to me that I could blog about the blogging that I am doing elsewhere from blogging on this website. And by using the word “blogging” so many times people who type “blogging” into Google are now more than likely to discover this paragraph about blogging, thereby increasing blogging traffic to my blogging site. Blogging hell it’s all a bit artificial isn’t it?
So what? I hear you say. Marketing has always been this way. Say the thing you want over and over again and you’ll get noticed. Just look at one pound fish man, he nailed epizeuxis. Well, the true ethical picture is a little more complex than that. You see most instances of SEO wish to go unnoticed. If readers feel like the article they are reading has been produced solely for the purpose of marketing then they will be massively turned off – the credibility of what is said and its supposed desire to help the reader is brought sharply into question.
But while readers are pretty good at spotting when brands are quietly trying to sell products, they are less aware about when they are in a sale situation altogether. Think you’re reading helpful advice about how to change a car tyre? Think again. Think you’re reading someone’s impartial review about a product that they’ve recently purchased? Think again. Think you’re reading about a celeb’s obsession with eye shadow, think again. (Seriously, the only blog on my site that gets hits EVERY SINGLE DAY is the Johnny Depp article because people keep downloading the collage I made for the main picture. All they’re doing is Googling “Johnny Depp collage” and up pops a link to my blog. No wonder magazines like Hello! market celebs like crazy, they’re like walking SEO’s .)
I guess an important question at the end of all this is where do you draw the ethical line with SEO? Where do the boundaries of information, persuasion and manipulation overlap? Everything in life involves a little bit of politics so should we be so concerned about this marketing influence on the web? I think this is really a subjective question so I can’t offer a meaningful analysis here, but I can identify one example of how SEO and hyperlinking probably contravene ethics. It’s medicine advice. And I’m not just talking about customers on the high street either. Pharmaceutical companies are big money businesses and they gotta sell their remedies, even if you don’t have afflictions. They will sell them to doctors, institutions, governments and citizens. In my humble opinion I think any situation where people’s hope can be capitalised by a product pitch from a supposedly authoritative source simply isn’t right.
So to recap, I’m not saying the world is a conspiracy, just that it’s not very transparent, or nowhere near transparent as it pretends to be. But people are a little tetchy about a lack of transparency of late, especially when it comes to beef lasagne made from horse. Just wait for the storm the philosophical bear’s scoop next week will bring when we reveal that hot dogs aren’t made from 100% dog. It will be Armageddon, I think.
The philosophical bear is proud to announce that he will never knowingly commit the crime of SEO. In other news, the philosophical bear has just bought a controlling stake in one pound fish man records and this entire blog was not in any way part of an elaborate marketing strategy to get you to click on the link and enjoy the sonorous charm of one pound fish man. Buy one pound fish man does gangnam style Harlem shake Johnny Depp Rihanna. SEO.