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by Stephen Logan on 4th September 2009
In the days before the Internet, information was passed verbally or through writing. You’d read the news in a newspaper or watch it on the television; they were your primary, or in many cases, only source of worldly happenings. You’d discuss things with those around you and others who could be reached by telephone. If you wanted to converse with someone in a distant land – or the other end of the country at least – you’d apply for a pen pal. But the Internet has changed all that.
It is awash with information. News feeds are a veritable deluge of re-written, re-spun stories and regurgitated, most of which is of little or no interest. Almost everything, it seems, can now be done on the Internet; by anybody and at any time too. But as it grows and becomes more ‘social’, is it in danger of getting out of control?
The more information that is available, the more panning you need to do in order to find the small golden nuggets you’re looking for. Last year Google announced that it had indexed one trillion pages. That’s 1,000,000,000,000 in numerical terms, which is, by anybody’s terms, a staggering amount; particularly when you consider how many of these are actually useful or regularly visited.
Unfortunately the Web is too big for a widespread purge. We can’t simply visit erroneous sites offering miracle cures and money making advice from 2002, for shame. But far from slowing down the rate of online expansion, the Internet continues to grow at an exponential rate.
Feeding this growth though is the social side of the Internet .You can use social bookmarking, sites like Digg, StumbleUpon and Sphinn, to get your news stories circulating around. You can get your blog hooked up to an RSS/Atom feeder, sign up to a directory like Technorati and help spread your posts out to the far reaches of the cyber world. You can even promote them using short messages on social media sites like Twitter.
All of this activity causes an endless cycle of distribution, redistribution and, for want of a better word, noise. With so much information, opinion and convolution circulating, are we moving towards a state of Internet overkill?
Well, very possibly. However, in defence of the Internet – it is after all the very thing that sustains and feeds our industry – the free distribution of news, information and ability to purchase and research products, has revolutionised the way we live our lives. But as with the real world, you need to find the sources that you trust in order to get the most out of it. By having a core group of sources or businesses, you can slowly broaden horizons.
This is perhaps where social media has its greatest benefit, particularly in the news heavy world of SEO. By trusting and following others, you soon find people who they follow and trust themselves, helping you to broaden your information feed in a matter of seconds. It’s a real-time system that can ultimately have a very real affect on the content we discover.
But for ‘social mediaphobes’, does the Internet still have the same relevance? Is it becoming overly complicated and cluttered with content that is of limited value? Every business should have an online presence, to what degree is at their own discretion, but with the increase in websites appearing (ergo, more competition) will there ultimately be a dilution in how much coverage newcomers can gain?
For small sites, SEO is going to become increasingly important, particularly in an already overcrowded market. But the lesson that has to be learnt is that content has to be of the highest quality. You can promote your site and products all you want using social media, but traffic is worth nothing without conversions. The Internet has a huge trash gyre of valueless information, which is added to on a daily basis; to add value and not just noise, you need to do something special.
So is the Internet too noisy? Well, for me at least, it is. However, does all that noise have a use? Leave a comment and let us know.