Thursday, 31 July 2008

It's The End! Lexicographers and Linguistics Professors Alike Fall Upon Their Swords! Anarchy! Chaos! Terror Stalks The Land!

Does web programming encourage tautology?

I am currently ploughing my way through stylesheets and XHTML documents - the task: redesigning the d'Overbroeck's College website.

And as I write my tags and nest my divs, like the merry old codemonkey I am, a thought strikes me. This happens, from time to time. Like a pebble disrupting the peaceful surface of a lake.

The thought:

We web designers focus, one and all, on the holy grail of high Google rankings. When someone types into google a keyword that relates to your site, you want to be up there on the first page of results.

Easier said than done, naturally.

Google generates rankings in complex, mysterious ways. Its 'spiders' – automated program scripts that comb through websites to collect data about the web – crawl through a website's text, which is fed into the Googlebrain. If your text uses certain key words and phrases in an effective and moderately natural sort of way, Google will assume that your page is about these things. Very roughly speaking.

Now, say you had a website which was a catalogue of road signs. Your title might be, imaginatively enough, Road Signs of Great Britain

Now that's my kind of website.

But then you might start to think, "Ho hum ... what if people aren't searching for 'road signs' ... maybe they're looking for 'road symbols'? Or 'traffic signs'? Alack! Will these unfortunate enthusiasts be deprived of the pleasures afforded by my fascinating and comprehensive catalogue?"

A vexing notion, you'll agree.

The temptation - o! most insidious temptation! - might be to change the title of your page - to Road, traffic and highway signs and symbols of Great Britain, the UK (which is to say, the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) and the British Isles.

Y'know. Cover all the bases.

Not a good idea, on so many levels. Including, quite probably, search optimisation. But the point is: if one is catering for an audience whose search terms may well be imprecise, is one not encouraged to employ similarly imprecise terminology in one's writing, to some degree?

Yes, The Intellectual Hooligan Broaches Yet Another Issue Of Momentous Importance That Possesses Devastating Implications For Us All.

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