A defining characteristic of the semantic web is that information should be stored in a machine-readable format.

To shore up its readiness, Google bought Metaweb in July, 2010, thereby gaining Metaweb’s open-source database, Freebase.  Freebase has 12 million web “entities”, from science to celebrities.  It behaves almost like a person, combining bits of information

Better than Google, we could ask the web questions and get sensible answers.  We already have that in Wikipedia, but it is a single site.  Freebase includes such wikis, but tags items so that computers can understand what they are about, and then relate them to each other by meaning, rather than by ranking.

An example given in New Scientist (31 July 2010) is one entry for “Chicago” which is about the city; while another “Chicago” is about the stage show: “Freebase’s tags and links will help Google develop smarter searches (p.20),” asserts the article.

Naturally, Google is not the only Web 2.0/3.0 player to realise the attractiveness of the semantic web.  Twitter has and “annotations” system that allows tweets to be tagged with information that does not appear in the message, but can be read by computers.  (Remember the hidden HTML codes that were used in the early days of Google as a means of optimising an item’s ranking on that site?)  Facebook has changed its Open Graph settings to allow a semantic element.

It’s hard not to agree with New Scientist that, “The moves by Facebook and Twitter could change the very nature of how we interact with the web.” Software writers will be able to build apps that search for bars and cafes that your Facebook friends have enjoyed (not just visited).  This feature makes the semantic web very attractive to advertisers.  It will extend the effectiveness of some of the applications discussed in the previous blog on this site.

Most of all, it will extend the current trend among web designers to include Facebook’s “like” button to encourage links from Facebook pages to improve their visibility.  But, as New Scientist notes, Facebook’s “like” button doesn’t solve the incentive problem:  “If you can find a way to attach tags to users’ blogs and tweets, you will have a much richer source of data.”  That is what a new recommendation service, GetGlue is all about.  It’s a bit like Foursquare and Groupon, except that it is a network which focuses on entertainment, rather than products and services http://getglue.com/ .  You can check-in and rate things or discover new popular choices, see what your friends enjoy, and win prizes.

If website owners can be persuaded to tag their content for semantic logic, surfers and advertisers will be able to more accurately pinpoint meaning-specific facts, opinions and connections between consumers and their interests.

  It would be a bit cheeky for me to claim proudly that Fiona Mackenzie, founder of Undercover Strategist is one of my Protégées.  Still, she did complete a diploma in public relations which I set up when I began at AUT University.   Now she and I are in contact again, through our mutual interest in social media.  Fiona has presented some fascinating suggestions via her site Undercover Strategist.   I acknowledge her superior expertise in this field.  I expect some of the readers of this blog will also be interested in the following summary of her ideas on how to better your competition in the e-marketplace.  

1. Set up Google Alerts Google Alerts are open to all and take just a few minutes. Go to www.google.com/alerts, enter your competitor’s name, choose “Everything”, and add your email address.

2. Join their mailing list (but delete them from yours) Fiona says: “Okay, this might seem mean, but all’s fair in love and war.”

Use a non-identifying address (Gmail or Hotmail) and subscribe to their list.

   3. Monitor changes to their website Fiona notes: “This is perfectly legit, but seriously sneaky.”  You can use the free application at www.changedetection.com and enter the pages of your competitor’s website. Enter your email address and Change Detection will tell you each time they make changes to their page.

 4. See what Keywords competitors use One of the easiest ways to do this, according to Fiona, is another free tool, SEO Digger (http://seodigger.com/)  Enter your competitor’s URL and click search. Ignore the ranking information which is US-based data.

 5. See who links to competitors Use Google or Bing to search for backlink checker tools. Remember, Google assigns PageRank (its proprietary quality score) on the basis of those links

 6. Torpedo rule-breakers
Google and Bing both have strict rules when websites are constructed to make them rank better.  E.G. Uploading a website a second time under a new domain name is a breach of duplicate content rules.  Keyword stuffing is also frowned on. 

Search engines take breaches of their rules seriously and penalties for bad infringements can be severe, including getting struck off the search engine index, which leaves room for another website to fill the gap on the front page.

“With a bit of skill and luck, perhaps it could be yours,” says Fiona.

Fiona’s experience includes online retailers, business-to-business service providers, telecommunication businesses and a long gig in web design for the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.   Here are a couple of links, if you’d like to know more http://www.undercoverstrategist.com/blog/website-traffic-competitor-traffic