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Sunday, August 14, 2011

SEO:Search Engine Optimization - Google vs. FB, Twitter

There is a global industry built around this line: Google does not smile. The industry is called SEO or Search Engine Optimization.

In basic terms, if you are a news site, a marketing site, a website or whatever site online, your presence depends on how easily people can find you.

To find things online, most people, turn to Google and Google turns to its humongous index of web pages and returns results based on its rankings.

Depending on the words a person types in Google Search, Google decides which pages are most relevant and gives the results in terms of relevance.

The more relevant the page, the higher up in the results it shows.

Because websites want to be ranked high, they in turn engage in what is called Search Engine Optimization i.e. they optimize themselves for Google and other search engines.

They do this by employing the use of KEY WORDS that Google looks for.

Hence the saying: Google does not smile. If you are a newssite, writing snazzy, funny or catchy headlines takes you nowhere with Google unless you include keywords.

It is for this reason that newspapers carry different headlines online for the same story in the print edition.

Additionally, it is important to note that Google only reads the first six words and anything after is ignored - it therefore makes sense for you to put important information at the beginning.

However, there is also evidence that SEO may not be the main deal in times to come.

The Entry of Facebook and Twitter into the picture is changing all this. Increasingly, people are coming onto websites not from Google but from Facebook after reading friends updates and following the links or from Twitter.

It then makes sense for you to have an interesting update to your website if you want people to share and read it.

Looking at the Kenyan landscape, there is much yet to be done in the way of optimizing websites and increasing their presence online.

According to, the only Kenyan website among the top ten sites visited by Kenyans is Daily Nation's, which comes in at number 10. The 15-year old website comes behind such relative newcomers as Google, Facebook, youtube, Gmail and others.

Of course the site has built a community over the years including in the diaspora that religiously visits it but NMG has also been first out of the gate in adopting technologies as they come.

It implemented a Facebook page and got into Twitter ahead of such venerable names as The Economist which is belatedly making a push into social media to drive traffic to its site.

AS a result, the Nation's updates on Facebook draw hundreds of comments indicating an engagement with its readers that only serves to solidify its relationship with them.

In fact it may be said that the one chink in the Nation's armour has been its slowness in implementing a properly focused mobile website. The largest online newspaper site, The New York Times and the number two and three respectively, The Daily Mail and The Guardian, all have mobile formatted sites that fit on the screen of the small devices.

Conventional sites tend to have frames and heavy graphics that are not optimal for the phone.

In any case, for web designers and PR agencies that need to shape their clients image online and marketing departments, it shall serve to keep all the above in mind to foster better client engagement.