Search Engine Optimisation Professionals Learn From Swine Flu

Swine flu pandemic reaches SEO professionals!!

Not really, but search engine optimisation (SEO) and swine flu have combined to produce a strange revelation for SEO observers.

While the current swine flu pandemic has caused panic and disruption across the world, with news agencies and reporters falling over themselves to describe the latest casualties, sitting quietly in front of computer screens across the globe are a group of people shifting uncomfortably in their swivel chairs.

These are the people whose daily job consists of SEO. They must monitor the current trends in SEO and incorporate them immediately into their every day routines and practices. And why are they scratching their heads at this moment? It’s all down to swine flu.

No, it’s not because swine flu gives you an itchy scalp; it’s because the virus has caused a flurry of new keyword phrases to be used as search terms on the internet. Search terms that are being used by the thousand; an opportunity too good to miss for search engine optimisers who will be working overtime to determine how best to incorporate these phrases into their projects. Typical search terms include “swine flu vaccine”, “swine influenza” and “swine flu epidemic”.

But it’s not just the subject matter of the search terms that has the search engine optimisers nervous; it’s the length of them which has been a big eye-opener. Previously it was thought that internet users only used fairly short keyword phrases but Bill Hartzer writing in WebProNews has analysed the website statistics of a blog post about swine flu symptoms. Search terms such as, “how do I know if I have swine flu” and “what to do if you think you have the swine flu” were the most popular and demonstrate that most of these search terms have been more than 5 words long.

It is possible that, as internet users are becoming more confident in using search engines, they are not afraid to use more complex search phrases in order to get the information they want. Or it is possible that these complex phrases are being used as a result of users’ increasing lack of time and the need to access very specific information in as short a time as possible.

So what does this mean for the search engine optimisation people? The evidence of using long tail keywords and complex phrases means extra research and more second guessing about what internet users will be searching for. SEO professionals need to dig further down into their keyword phrases and not just look at the two or three word phrases. If SEO can home in on the phrases that people actually type into their searches, then content can be created that describes what a user is really looking for.

In another swine flu related SEO development, McAfee’s Avert Labs has noted that the surge in swine flu searches has resulted in an increase in swine flu spam. Spam messages take visitors to unrelated medical sites, phony companies set up to collect credit card numbers, or often they just carry malware. In addition, swine flu domain names are also being registered to try and catch internet users who are searching for advice on the virus. Any website that has “swine flu” in the url is highly unlikely to be a credible one.

Any search engine optimiser worth his or her salt will be keeping one eye on the news and one eye on current popular search terms in order to keep their projects up to date. But while they are working on incorporating “how do I catch swine flu” into their next project, they must also be aware of the next challenge on the horizon; the fact that some organisations around the world have objected to referring to the pandemic as “swine flu” and have renamed it “ Mexican flu”, “h1n1”, “ novel flu virus”, etc. This is bound to water down the number of searches for “swine flu” and will mean that another round of keyword research is inevitable.



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