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Worldwide Internet Penetration

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I stumbled across this fun page on Google today – World Bank statistics on Internet usage around the world. It lets you compare any number of countries, or the whole world. I discovered that 70% of Australians have internet usage, but only 24% of the worldwide population.

They put China at 22%, but I know that has increased rapidly in the last year or two, and last time I checked they had more internet users (absolute number, not percentage) than America (76%).

This is a great example of Google answering my needs – I typed in ‘World internet usage statistics’, and the number one result was an image of this graph, and even better, the graph comes with a nifty link to help me embed it easily into this blog post.

Yes, it is 2 years out of date, but I feel like we could easily imagine the extrapolation of these graphs.

You can go to the site yourself and click whatever countries you want to compare. Note that it is internet users as a PERCENTAGE of population, not an absolute number. Which is why the line for China is so much lower than the one for Australia.

China Internet Users Hits 338 Million

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Not only does China have the largest population in the world, it now also has the most internet users in the world. China has so embraced online technology that a whopping 338 million Chinese people are internet users (according to the China Internet Network Information Center ).

To be able to understand such a huge number, note that this is 35 million more people than live in the United States and 16 times the number of people living in Australia. The number, while huge, is only 25% of the Chinese population, so of course there is a lot more room for expansion. The USA has an internet penetration of around 70%, which means China still has a long way to go.

Internet use in China is always under scrutiny – their ‘Great Firewall’ aims to suppress sensitive information, and since the riots in Western China a couple of weeks ago, Facebook has been blocked across the country. The recent Chinese Government bid to include censoring software in all PCs sold in China was met with condemnation from around the world. Years ago, Google copped abused for operating in China under the Government’s restrictive rules, but I think any Chinese person would agree with me that restricted Google is better than no Google at all.

Google isn’t the leader in the search market in China, unlike most other places. That honour goes to Baidu, and is probably due in part to the difficulty Google has in dealing with deciphering the Chinese character as much as national pride. In China, colleagues and friends advise that Google is used for more ‘serious’ searching, while Baidu is used for entertainment, such as downloading music, movies and games.

With this burgeoning internet audience comes the desire of marketers to appeal to them, and so digital marketing in China is becoming a bigger and more competitive industry with agencies springing up every day and conferences scheduled throughout the year. Optimising websites in China raises a lot of new concerns such as Baidu including ‘paid’ ads in their natural results and the Chinese love of flash and interaction. However, cracking the Chinese online market will expose you to the largest online market in the world – so I pretty much think it is worth the trouble!

Can You Over-SEO Your Website?

By | Analytics, Google News, Internet News, Search News | No Comments

Matt Cutts, the Google employee who regularly speaks on SEO and the Google algorithm, has released yet another Youtube video answering questions from the public.

The question was basically – can you over-optimise a website? The example the questioner gave was excessive use of No-follow tags.

I thought the question of over-optimising was a great one, and was excited to hear Matt’s response. But like many of his video’s before, the answers were vague, not giving away corporate secrets, which is of course understandable, but didn’t satisfy my curiosity.

His one concrete statement was that you can put as many no-follow tags on your own site as you want – this will incur no penalty.

As for other SEO practices, he only seemed to discuss a couple.

The first was keyword stuffing – which is certainly an SEO strategy, but not a highly regarded one. Keywords are almost a necessity on a page, if you want it to rank highly. Some people take this to the extreme, and ‘stuff’ their keywords on there. Which means, that they put excessive amounts in – more than necessary for a human reader. As Matt said in his video, this can render a page spammy, make it unreadable or unpleasant to read, and does not make for a good user experience. He did not say though, that Google will penalise a site with keyword stuffing.

The other strategy, which is related to keyword stuffing, is to cloak keywords, or make them the same colour as the background. This means that human readers can’t see the keywords (and therefore their user experience isn’t affected by them), but the Google robot can. Surprisingly, Matt didn’t dwell on this for more than a second and didn’t say that it was a bad thing to do. Which is so wierd, because it is widely considered a black hat technique.

There was zero discussion of offsite SEO or structural SEO in his answer. Offsite SEO in particular is a huge one, and there are so many pitfalls, and ways in which you CAN over-optimise, that I actually thought this would be an obvious part of the answer.

Matt’s discussion seemed concerned solely with the user experience, insinuating that we webmasters could do whatever we liked to the site as long as the user wouldn’t be adversely affected. SEO practitioners would know that this hasn’t seemed to be true in the past, with black hat SEO techniques occassionaly being punished.

Will We Pay for Online Content?

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A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, recently written about in the Australia newspaper, has supposedly found that readers may be willing to pay as much for online newspapers, as they do for print versions.

Sound-bites like this would be soothing balm for the owners of the many newspapers going under at the moment, with the possibility of revenue generation and content protection at the same time, but it just doesn’t seem realistic to me.

The study found that readers would be most likely to want to pay for business and sports news – and only in the case where there was no good quality free alternative.

This is a huge caveat – in how many cases would there not be a good quality free equivalent? In the competitive online world, where advertisers pay publishers depending on eyeballs, there is always going to be big incentives to provide quality content.

News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch announced at a briefing last week that his organisation will be charging for some of their online content within the next 12 months. He acknowledges that this is a risk, but said that to build a successful online model, things are going to need to be tried and tested. At the same time, he knows that overcharging for content will not be feasible.

A different idea, which I feel might have more possibility, is the introduction of an electronic device which could distribute their dedicated content – similar to Amazon’s Kindle. The issue with this, would be  an extra device being needed, which could be inconvenient, so perhaps an iPhone type application would be better.

The other issue with this is that the habit of reading online (while at work for example), is very different from reading off a discrete device.  I can imagine people doing it for business news, but not so much for sports news.

The PWC study found that there would be resistance against using electronic papers or mobile devices, and more support for paying for online content.

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