Future success with online content may be a matter of semantics

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Anyone who uses the Web understands the limitations of keywords. Engineers at Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and other search engines have figured out how to write software that determines the difference between a “cookie” of the chocolate chip variety and a piece of code that tracks a user on the Web. But wouldn't it be much easier if the author of a piece of content could “tell” the search engine—and other digital information systems—what he or she is talking about? That, in a nutshell, is the objective of semantic technologies. Rachel Lovinger, associate content strategy director at Razorfish, researches, presents and writes about semantic technology and its current and potential use by digital media companies. “I talk to publishers about capabilities. No one wants to do anything just because it's a semantic technology,” she said. Semantic technology, first and foremost, aids search, helping the major search engines and site users zero in on relevant content. Research shows that content companies have improved their search ranking significantly through semantic SEO. Semantic technology powers the delivery of related content that's truly relevant to a site visitor and can include links to content on other sites or incoming feeds from social networks. Systems based on semantic technology can automatically build landing pages around designated topics. “The nature of semantic technology is to add more meaning, and that includes not only context but also sentiment,” Lovinger said. So, while semantic ad targeting enables sites to place advertising related to the content of the page, it also helps avoid ad placement in environments determined to be negative, such as a restaurant ad next to an article about people getting food poisoning there. What do media companies need to do to take advantage of current and future benefits of the “Semantic Web”? “The best way to prepare for these things, including opportunities we can't anticipate yet, is to make your content well-structured and well-tagged, so that it has all the context and meaning expressed within it,” Lovinger said. —M.G.
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