Ukrainian Blogger Uses SEO to Challenge Russian Propaganda

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The conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which has raged for the past several months, has confused many observers around the world due to the lack of reliable information. As Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the area, it has fallen to a small number of Ukrainians and foreign citizens living in the region to fill in the gaps with their own coverage. One such source, a website called Lugansk News Today, has even managed to outrank one of Russia’s major news sites in Google searches for his hometown. And the website’s one-man staff accomplished this simply through effective SEO.Because of the popularity of the Russian language throughout many areas in Eastern Europe, including East Ukraine and Crimea, an overwhelming number of bloggers who reside in these countries post in Russian. Official Ukrainian print sources, such as newspapers and magazines, also write in Russian. For this reason, it isn’t surprising that Google searches in the Ukraine are geared towards russophones: according to Google Analytics, less than 30% of the search engine queries were in the area’s native tongue, even in the country’s most heavily Ukrainian-speaking region. In the Donetsk region, the most populated province, it was as low as 1.6%.

While some might see this as disheartening, one anonymous Ukrainian blogger has found a way to use it to his advantage: after his Twitter account, which documented a number of conflicts in the eastern city of Lugansk, amassed 13,000 followers, he began a news website to further document the region’s problems. However, instead of writing in Russian or Ukrainian, the blogger chose to write in an even more international language: English. His intention was to knock the Russian government’s English-language news service, Russia Today, off of the first page of Google’s search results.

So far, his efforts have been reasonably successful: he posts articles on Lugansk News Today, as well as the website’s Facebook and Twitter pages, and says that all of the sources are placed on the first page of results. By ensuring that his results regularly make it into the top five spaces, modern web-surfing habits ensure that he has a virtual monopoly on news about Lugansk (alternately Luhansk). Though he calls his success modest, the blogger says that Lugansk News Today represents his personal battle against Russian propaganda and big industry.

However, given that the website is run by a single writer, his SEO success is far from humble: thousands of individuals and companies around the world try consistently to achieve similar results, often hiring SEO marketing agencies to make the goal possible.

“This incident demonstrates that, with enough effort, you can achieve visibility on the web no matter what. This gives hope to the small businesses and independent marketers out there because if this guy can go against a massive, controlling government, then they can certainly compete against an industry competitor,” says Derek Bryan, Content Marketing Manager at Quez Media.

Lugansk News Today and its Twitter and Facebook pages typically cover the actions of pro-Russian terrorists in the city, who have reportedly kidnapped and tortured a number of the blogger’s friends, who are Ukrainian revolutionaries. On June 13, the blogger himself was forced to flee Lugansk after learning that two activists, including one of his close friends, had been kidnapped by men with Kalashnikov rifles. He has since started another news site, Ukraine Right Now, which aims to cover similar topics across the whole country, but says he is unsure if he has the resources or time to run the project.

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