The Changing Landscape of Language

Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Posted by Rob Rodenhiser @ 6:56 am

It is no new theory that language evolves and that trapping changes in word meaning and word association lies at the heart of the phraseology employed by SEO firms to help target a website’s audience. But what’s more important in some respects are the bursts of attention that often precede changes to a language.

In using the term “bursts of attention”, I’m referring to bursts as defined in a paper entitled “Bursty and Hierarchical Structure in Streams” written by Jon Kleinberg of the Department of Computer Science at Cornell University. The paper examines a fundamental problem in text data mining with regards to targeting and extracting meaningful structure from document streams that arrive continuously over time. What Kleinberg is referring to in the paper are email and news articles because each of these two delivery mechanisms tends to showcase topics in a brief burst of intensity that eventually dissipate to varying degrees, depending on the permanence of the medium. Kleinberg’s work focused on developing a formal approach for modeling such bursts that could eventually lead to flexible frameworks and establish useful analytics. 

Taken a step further, it is important to note how language can morph after the advent of a burst, essentially building inertia from cultural residue. As SEO specialists can attest, setting a series of keywords is essential to your website’s longevity at the top of the search results page, but staying there will be the hardest part of the job. I believe it was Jack Nicholson who said “Getting to the top is easy – it’s staying there that requires hard work.” In the online world, language can change at an alarming rate, requiring that website owners and administrators be aware of the shifting sands that tend to reshape the landscape of meaning and emphasis. Particularly in news articles, bursts of attention can give birth to new phraseology that must be monitored to see if the changing tides of language have effected the word usage you used to sell your site to the search engines – or if new phrases can be employed to boost your web presence. 

I recently attended a corporate training session with a travelling hype artist who said that, in order reclaim your day, you must turn off the news, listen to Baroque music, and limit your email time. I was alarmed that anyone could get paid to promote the “head stuck in sand” maneuver as a corporate survival tool and I mentioned to the instructor that Baroque music was in some respects the western world’s first attempt at multimedia and was not meant to be tuned out, but rather was meant to be experienced in the full embrace of the arts, and I promptly wrote his ideas off before they escaped his constantly nattering mouth. And I would urge you to say no to this prescription for success if keeping your website current is high on your priority list.


  1. Google and other search engines put a lot of importance on online media reports. If a website was featured in, or other major online publications, it will rank much higher than the sites which have hundreds of link-farm-generated links. Does anybody know of a good list of PR firms specializing in online publicity? Publicity Guaranteed ( looks like an attractive option, as they only charge for the results, without any retainers or hourly rates; however they don’t do online-only publicity. seems to be the most comprehensive database of publicists and I posted there my RFP for publicists to bid on, but all resulting bids included traditional media. If I had a larger budget, I wouldn’t mind good coverage in traditional media, but I only seek publicity for my SEO campaign, so I need online publicity only

    Comment by Adam Smith — Monday, April 6, 2009 @ 10:29 am

  2. Online marketing also allows a more specific procedure when it comes to a particular interest. Rather than reaching out into a wide range of demographics as for the traditional method in marketing, Internet marketing can arrange their target market according to several groups, such as age, gender, geography, and other related factors.

    Comment by genetic cancer testing — Wednesday, July 1, 2009 @ 9:25 pm

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