Friday, April 08, 2011

Playful SEO: Demarcate Narrative as Internet Graffiti

by Wes Unruh

The stories we tell ourselves are often ways to understand the world in which we live. I've always been fascinated with the way that gonzo journalism can trade in metaphor and still generate its own kind of truth. Another aspect of this is the narratives that are culturally established around proper names online - proper names are special keyword phrases which cluster around the most culturally visible, and reputation management is a particularly valuable (if somewhat difficult) space for content optimization to challenge existing or established narratives. If that doesn't make sense, then think of it like this - names are gates through which you summon the most powerful single entity bearing that name to the top of the results. I've been thinking about this shit for years now ever since getting mixed up in that whole 23rdian nonsense years back and seeing how effective 'googlebombing' could be - internet graffiti at it's best. Doing standard industry content seo research is fine - it's the equivalent of painting dividing lines on highways, placing sign posts around a city - but to me it's a lot more interesting to take that paint and narrate a mural in an overlooked space.

I wrote about this a few years ago for Foolish People - back when I figured ScamLife would be around a little longer (quick sidenote, I see that Google's removed the word 'scam' from its autocomplete... and I bet I know why). Then, when I was playing with misspelling SEO I ran through quite a few hoops, playfully embedding links across multiple domains, tying several misspellings together, and tweaking the results over a few weeks to see what would happen. The misspelling I relied on for traffic was 'Embued Spaces' but today if you search, you'll find google replaces your search with the term 'Imbued Spaces' - nowadays it's much more difficult to work across more statistically dense words - words that have an espoused use across billions of indexed texts. Instead, to really get the search engine to respond the same way it did years ago I have to locate a word which is correctly spelled but contextually misspelled.

Last night I ran across one such word in the early comments on this Youtube link: the phrase 'demarcate party' embedded in an angry response to the video. Now, demarcate is a word in its own right, and in a poetic way does somewhat establish an approach to civic governance. But more importantly, Google does not default to Democratic Party as it does with other misspelled words which are not words in their own right.

So I decided to play around and create a narrative - already somewhat loosely established from some previous infictive gaming - which tied the term Demarcate Party directly into my blog, then deeper into the - and, thanks to the existing structure I've put in place, I actually hit #3 for 'demarcate party' four hours into the process.

This doesn't mean I'll stay there. I've put in some content on the blog's landing page, but even more importantly I framed the landing page with content on the previous and next blog post consistent with the Democratic Party current 'semantic' footprint - note two very small links to the previous and next blog post above the actual content - framing the landing page. Now, for it to stick for good I'd need other bloggers linked to my 'Demarcate Party' blog post.The links are tied into an infictive trailhead for a hypercard stack of sorts built around an investigation into team themis and the disappearance of the guy running for Sheriff.

Consider this an open invitation to play along with a game made up, in part, by using seo as a kind of graffiti.

One final note: for whatever reason, Google Images gave me this as the top result for Demarcate Party, so I include it here on the gut assumption that this might further solidify the connections I'm playing with now. Clicking this image will take you to the image's source post - another link which, while not containing anchor tags, is tied into the search engine algorithym in a way I honestly can only make out by fumbling around with playful experiments like this very post.

Pre-order a copy of The Immanence of Myth, published by Weaponized in July 2011.

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