In the neverending adventure of trying to learn all I can about how to be a more effective digital marketer, I’m taking a fabulous course on SEO from Coursera. The first module gives you SEO history — i.e., why are “Pandas” different from “Penguins” and so forth. (Want to hear more about real world SEO strategy from EM Marketing’s actual search marketing experts? Here’s an earlier piece from their POV.)
Assuming most of my readers have done digital marketing, you will know that a keyword is a word or set of words that both aptly describes your product or service and is something that people are searching the internet for. If you do inbound marketing, this is a foundational exercise.
Gaming the Keyword System
Google (and other search engines) are continually tweaking the rules of their algorithms to provide searchers the most useful results. They want to eliminate websites that trying to game the system. What are some examples?
- Keyword stuffing: a site would put tons of keywords into text both seen and unseen, without caring if it made for the best content
- Link purchases: bulk exchanges with other sites to show a lot of links to their site, whether or not they were relevant
In learning this history, most of the major changes were in response to abuses. But one of the more interesting lessons taught about the linguistic concepts that go into designing is “the search for meaning!” (Deep, right?)
Wittgenstein’s View On Words
In the course, we are introduced to a fellow named Ludwig Wittgenstein, a mid-20th-century philosopher and linguist. He introduces the concept of seeing language not as a fixed structure imposed upon the world, but seeing it as a fluid structure that is intimately bound up with our everyday practices and forms of life.
For Wittgenstein, creating meaningful statements is not a matter of mapping the logical form of the world. It is a matter of using conventionally-defined terms within ‘language games’ that we play out in the course of everyday life. ‘In most cases, the meaning of a word is its use.’ So, in short:
It ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it,
and the context in which you say it. Words are how you use them.
Humor, Irony, and Content
I love that he calls out jokes as being an important tool in how a group communicates. He says, “Jokes may be logically incoherent (this is often what makes them funny), yet they play an important role in the language games that bind a community together.” (Note: I find humor an underused element in content strategy. As any aspiring stand-up will tell you, dying is easy. Comedy is hard!)
As you will learn in further keyword strategy study, the technological and neural web beneath each and every word you so carefully pen will be measured against every crawled use of that word, be it in jest, in allegory and perhaps in outright irony.
Don’t be constrained to a keyword map or cluster that is “Keyword 1,” “What is Keyword 1,” “Alternative to Keyword 1,” “Price of Keyword 1.” Have a little fun. See how others are talking about your keyword. See the latest news, the latest criticism, and synonyms you wouldn’t have thought of but other live bodies would.
And thank Wittgenstein for helping to open up different avenues of exploration.