Archive for the 'Europe' Category

You say potato and I say potato – the language of SEO

Monday, October 8th, 2012

Scotland — and the world — lost a whole language last week.

Retired engineer Bobby Hogg, the last native speaker of a dialect originating from a remote coastal village in northern Scotland, died aged 92 — and so did the dialect he spoke, Cromarty Fisherfolk, a mixture of old Scottish and military English from the soldiers that used to be stationed nearby.

It also appears to be the only Germanic language in which no “wh” pronunciation existed — so ‘what’ would become ‘at’ and ‘where’ would just be ‘ere’ — and the only Scots dialect that dropped the “H” aspiration, “heavy” became ‘evvy’.

Linguistics is important for SEO –- queries are what it’s all about — and while one may not want a website that caters exclusively for Cromarty Fisherfolk, there is scope in using language which may only make sense within a distinct region. Wikipedia details at least 40 different types of English, and that doesn’t include the variations in dialect between counties and states.


One bugbear of many British English speakers is “Americanisms” — language deemed to have come about from the power of American (mainly US) culture on the wider world.

There are even words about feelings about Americanisms: Amerilexicophobia means “fear of American words” while worse still is Amerlixicomania, craziness about American words to the point where you lose all rationality.

Some Brits go around changing every “ize” they see at the end of a word to “ise” — like “standardise” instead of “standardize” — but it turns out that it was actually the English who changed the spelling, stealing the “s” from the French, while Americans kept to the standardized form. It’s a similar story with “autumn” and “fall”. I recommend Bill Bryson’s “Made in America” for lots of revelations about how US English is sometimes more traditional than Amerlixicomaniacs give it credit for.

The problem with running a global website is that you have visitors using all types of English — from Maltese to Mancunian, and Harvard to Harare.

One solution is to use an “international” English, using words which are generally understood wherever the reader is from. There is a similar dilemma when it comes to variations between German spoken in Germany, Austria or Switzerland, or Spanish in Medellin or Madrid.


The problem for users of that approach is that Google and the other search providers are going the other way, taking account of all the regional and local variations in speech to offer a search result which they feel meets the needs of local end users.

And as search becomes increasingly targeted and localized — especially with mobile searches — the pressure for us to similarly localize our pages can only increase too.

What The Public Wants

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

If the findings of a new US report are true, then content editors are going to need to rethink their news values.

For it seems that while hardened journalists are insisting that the headlines should be concentrating on Iraq, the world financial crisis and the debate about immigration, what web users are REALLY interested in is Britney Spears, the rise of Nintendo and the release of the iPhone.

Tom Rosenstiel, who helped to write the report for the Project for Excellence in Journalism, told the BBC …

“Users gravitated towards more eclectic stories. There was a sense that users sifting through a lot of raw information; rumour, gossip, propaganda and the news were all throw into the mix.”

The study compared headline news in nearly 50 mainstream news sources, including TV, radio and online, to that of three user-driven news sites. Seventy per cent of stories selected by Reddit, Digg and came from blogs or non-news websites with only 5% of stories overlapping with the top 10 stories in the mainstream media.

The question is what does this really mean for content? Is all that journalistic training and experience for nought?

Firstly, Reddit, Digg and (and StumbleUpon and the rest) are favourite haunts of a tech generation, just the sort of people fascinated by the Wii or the iPhone or Britney so the comparison with sites like is not a direct one.

Second, the people who use Reddit, Digg, et al are more likely looking for something light-hearted and off-beat. The Age of Citizen Journalism is here: there is plenty being said on blogs and news-you-can-use sites, and as election year dawns in the US the level of comment will only increase.

Actually, the researchers found traditional news outlets like accounted for one in four stories on the user news sites and less than one in a 100 were actually original.

“That suggests that people are re-aggregating the news in the style of citizen editors rather than journalists,” Rosenstiel told BBC news. “These sites offer people a different take on the news but it doesn’t mean that traditional journalism has become irrelevant. They are forming more of secondary conversation about the news.”

So newsmen and women shouldn’t be reaching for their pink slips just yet. The new citizen journalist is more likely a citizen commentator, or just someone sharing their opinion over a few beers (but possibly without the beers).

For content professionals there is a silver lining. All this talk implies that there is an unquenchable thirst for something interesting on the web. All you have to do now is cater to that thirst!