The Sick Triceratops

SEO is killing the internet, and it’s a great big pile of…

Obviously we would rather use a bit stronger language, but it’s an excuse to illustrate our point with an image from one of our favorite-ever movie scenes: Jurassic Park’s ‘the Sick Triceratops’.

It’s also a (rather weak) attempt at creating headline of pure clickbait, in order to break through the twitter-chatter and get some shares, which in turn will boost the readership of the post, which will then mean that SEOs pick it up as ‘popular’ instead of squashing it, which will then mean that…[head explodes].

Doug Rocks-Mcqueen’s blog ‘SEO is Killing the Internet’ is a spot-on explanation of something we grumble about constantly at DV HQ: the gaming tactics used by SEO and digital gatekeepers to farm our audiences and force us into paying them money to reach our communities. Doug’s hit the nail on the head with his post. Read it immediately.

Everything we do with our digital platforms is geared towards reaching as wide an audience as possible with archaeology news and updates about projects and ways for people to get involved in archaeology. We’ve watched as more and more tactics are used to make this difficult, and in some cases – impossible, without climbing over a paywall.

That’s bad enough, but Doug’s also identified the worst result of all: the SEO tactics prevent people who want to participate from finding the information they need to identify opportunities, or in fact direct them to poor and incorrect information that in some cases could actually have quite negative consequences.

Doug’s final sentence, ‘We are quickly losing the ability to communicate with the public through the Internet’, ties into something Brendon also identified in his interview yesterday in the Guardian: ‘By cutting ourselves off from the wellspring of public interest, we run the risk of becoming completely irrelevant’. We need the internet to help us share and educate about what we do. What we don’t need is SEO making this harder and misrepresenting any aspect of archaeology.

Doug raises an interesting point about how people find out information from the internet about archaeology. Is ‘Just google it’ going to be good enough for much longer? What are the dominant information channels that will emerge as trusted providers, and who will be the gatekeepers behind them? How will we respond and interact if it’s done by non-archaeologists, or those we don’t consider valid sources of information?

This is about future-proofing for our audiences…so this might be the right moment to say that our biggest challenge is understanding THEM a bit better. At the moment, there’s no body of information that helps us understand what our audiences REALLY want; SEO works (in theory) because it’s supported by market research – which is then cynically activated though psychological gamesmanship.

I feel confident in saying that archaeology will never reach that point, but I do think it’s time our audiences got more attention. We’re listening!

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Lisa Westcott Wilkins

Lisa Westcott Wilkins

Co-founder and Managing Director of DigVentures, Lisa makes sure the boxes are ticked, the diggers run on time, and that everyone has a *really* good time along the way. She is responsible for the Americanisms, ridiculously strong site coffee and early morning DV dance parties.

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