Dr. Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) is well-known in the fields of marketing and communications. He is most famous for his concept of “Global Village” and his theory that “the medium is the message”. Both concepts were described in detail in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964) and The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962). As well, his prediction of the World Wide Web was highly accurate, appearing nearly 30 years before the invention of the internet.
McLuhan became a sensation in the popular press and among academics from many different disciplines. His ideas and methods were and still are widely debated. Unfortunately, he died before he could see the personal computers become a common commodity in North American homes. Nor did he live to see the emergence of the World Wide Web, which was eventually invented by Tim Bernier-Lee in 1989.
In this featured article we explore Marshall McLuhan’s definition of Global Village, examine its relevancy to the World Wide Web, and discuss its limitations in the SEO world.
Definition of Global Village:
Marshall McLuhan was the first to popularize the term “global village” and to consider its effects on our globalizing society. His ideas are thought to be revolutionary and have fundamentally changed how we view the media, technology, and communication.
“Global Village” was used by McLuhan to highlight his belief that the media was rapidly integrating disconnected ‘villages’ around the globe. Events in one part of the world could be experienced from other parts in real time. He also argued that the electronic media were beginning to put us back in touch with the tribal emotions, something that print had divorced us from.
Relevancy to the World Wide Web:
When McLuhan outlined his vision for a Global Village in 1967, the World Wide Web was inexistent. However it was the web, more than any other medium, brought McLuhan’s vision to existence. It brings everything around the globe to the comfort of the drawing room. Students no longer have to drive to the library to find relevant books for their research and consumers no longer have to go in-store to search for or buy products they need. All people have to now do is to turn to the internet and search engines, such as Bing and Google, to help the find the information they are looking for and to finalize a sale. Thus the web becomes the global village square, where everyone meets to communicate and swap information.
Marshall McLuhan was undoubtedly ahead of the game in understanding the changes that mass media would bring to the world’s consciousness. But language is one of the few remaining barriers in creating the global village he envisioned.
English may be the universal language of the world and the web. However, over 50% of all Google searches are done in languages other than English. This figure is likely to increase as the online population grows far quicker in foreign language-speaking countries like China and India.
To eradicate the barrier, people turn to translators to get their ideas to spread like wildfire. What many people don’t realize is that translating keywords is not a recommended activity in SEO. Even if a search term is correctly translated, it may not be what people in one specific country use to search for a product or service locally.
Take for example the keyword “car insurance”. A correct translation of the keyword in French is “l’assurance automobile.” However, when you target the keyword tool on Google France, it’s clear that most French consumers searching for “car insurance” type in “assurance auto” or “assurance voiture”. You can avert a SEO disaster by carrying out proper keyword research.
It’s also important to understand the context of your writing and the audience you are targeting. Take for example the word “diner” in French. In France and Quebec it means “evening meal””. However, in French-speaking Belgium and Switzerland it translates to “lunch”. Thus, when you launch a website in a foreign language, it is important to invest in a qualified translator; something that businesses who run SEO campaigns have not come to realize.
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