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May 22, 2009

SEO professionals trying to Catch Swine Flu!

Well okay not literally, but search engine optimization and the swine flu have definitely come together to bring a strange eye-opener for SEO watchers.

There is no mistaking the panic and fear the swine flu pandemic alerts have causes around the globe. Reporters, newspapers and television programmes of all kinds have been scrambling to update the world on the casualties, while a quiet group of people sat uncomfortably in front of their computers in their office chairs.

These groups of people have as their job the task of search engine optimization. It is in their daily grind to monitor the SEO and use them without delay in their routine and practices. So why are they sitting quietly scratching their heads? Ladies and gentlemen, it’s all down to swine flu.

Don?t worry the swine flu has not sprouted a new itchy scalp symptom. Nevertheless, the virus has turned up new keyword phrases used each day on the internet. The sheer number of times these search terms are being used is too big of an opportunity to miss out on for SEO personnel. That leaves many of them burning the midnight oil to determine how they can use these phrases in their many projects. A typical day will show hundreds if not thousands of searches for terms like ‘swine flu’, ‘swine influenza’, and ‘swine flu pandemic’.

However, it is not simply a matter of the search terms or the intense subject that has optimizers a bit nervous, it is the length of the search phrases. As a general rule internet users keep searches to short keyword phrases, but Bill Hartzer has recently analyzed the statistics of a blog centering on the swine flu symptoms and has written about it on WebProNews. The most popular search phrases were ‘what to do if you think you have the swine flu’, and ‘how do I know if I have the swine flu’. The revelation is that these search phrases were more than five words in length!

Is it possible that searchers are evolving, becoming so familiar and comfortable with the internet that they are not scared of long complex search phrases? On the other hand, maybe people are so busy that they will use any means necessary to get to the information they want, right now!

Exactly what does this mean for the SEO personnel? Such long tail keyword evidence means that researchers are going to be putting in the hours to figure out the long tail keywords and a lot of second-guessing about what the searches are going to be in the future. This will demand that professionals take a longer look at their keyword phrases and move away from the two or three word keywords that have been standard to this point. The ability to really zero in on what the people are typing into the search engines will allow content to be created that addresses what people really need.

Another interesting SEO related swine flu development was noted by McAfee Avert labs. Swine flu has increased the amount of related spam. People are receiving swine flu spam messages that take them to phony medical sites where they try to get credit card information or slide malware onto the user?s computer. Domain names containing swine flu are flying off the shelves in record numbers to try to divert internet users looking for good advice on the viral outbreak. Beware, many if not most websites with swine flu in the website address are likely to be frauds.

Anyone who depends on SEO and is successful at it will be watching the news and current search trends to keep their current projects up to date. But while they are trying to figure out how to work in ‘what do I do if I think I have the swine flu’, they should also be monitoring the next problem in the pipeline. Many organizations, pig farmers in particular, are having a real problem with the epidemic or pandemic as it is becoming, being called ‘swine flu’, instead they are insisting it be called the Mexican Flu, H1N1a or Novel flu virus. This will affect the amount of searches shortly for the term ‘swine flu’ and increase yet again the research on the latest keyword phrases.

Andrew Plimmer is CEO of Suncoast Internet, Sunshine Coast web design, web development and search engine optimisation specialists. For SEO services at Suncoast Internet go to =>