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Searchers, Site Visitors, Google Rankings, Titles, SEO

roadskater's picture

Hi to everyone, especially all of you who are contributing writers, with thanks a ton for what you do.

I've been temporarily out of the posting loop as i worked on tags, terms and a few new features that will hopefully help us reach out and be reached. I look forward to catching up on reading!

I think the tag cloud is working fairly well at what I wanted, at least a couple of ways. I wanted PEOPLE to see what the site is about and perhaps take a click; I wanted search engines to see what the site is about and wanted to see if there'd be a penalty for what looks like a meta tag list but is instead visible, highly visible; and I hoped it would serve regulars as a quick way to catch up on a topic. We'll see. I hope to make it visually more beautiful soon if I can do that without diminishing its usefulness.

I want to write a bit about titles for people who might find this on the web, people who are building web communities like we are and are hoping to get people to visit and join and want to try just a bit of search engine optimization (SEO) or just make things a bit less confusing when people arrive. It's a reminder to all of us too, based on a couple of things I've noticed and comments from others.

I did a quick Google experiment today because I watch those "Popular content" sections, and I noticed some readers of a particular article and wondered if the traffic was perhaps coming in from search engines.

[Yes there are other ways I can check on this, but before the Café Pilon or the Folgers whole bean hazelnut (I know the coffee patrol will be shocked but I also only have a rotary blade chopper, not a burr grinder, and when I don't just use the automatic drip coffee maker, my espresso machine is one of those with no electrical cords, a "marimba" brand i think, that simply sits atop the stove! Got you beat on tradition on that one at least.)

Anyway...before all that coffee...I just entered into Google...

espn360.com stoppage

Admittedly this is a very specific entry, but that's part of the point. We had a number one ranking on Google for this obscure search, so we are getting crawled and indexed which is good confirmation. We're third currently for the less obscure "espn360.com world cup" and of course some of this could be because some websites have removed references to this, but not many.

Getting a top ranking for a target audience is what search engine optimization (SEO) is mostly about, and helping readers and potential responders find your relevant postings is important as well, so the news is great: we can really get a message out there that can be found. I welcome other examples from you if you search your content and find it, including comparisons of Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask.com, or anywhere else.

This is not a brilliant insight, but titles are a big deal that will help any site draw people who would genuinely be interested. The specifics of the article should show off in the title whenever possible.

For example, my article with the generic: "tour de france 2006" title is not in the top 100 of searches for "tour de france 2006." I didn't include anything that the article was about, really, or maybe it wasn't about anything different. This often comes from my writing the title before finishing the article. This is a good reason to wait until posting to get the gestalt or a detail. I could have written "Tour de France websites, video, and cheaters" or something! That would have perhaps been better.

By contrast, timv's notice, "TdF Blog: Floyd Landis to Have Hip Replacement After Tour" is 23rd (among level one entries on google.com) using the phrase: 

floyd landis hip replacement

Add title word tdf to the phrase and it is 9th. Both of these are great rankings for such a popular topic of late.

The other part titles help with is the human side of clickage. I've tried to notice what I clicked and didn't, or didn't as soon, either on a site or in a search result list. Lately as I have worked on the background issues here, I've had less time to read everything, so it takes a certain kind of title to grab me in. Unless looking for Napoleon Dynamite, I tend not to click on "Heck Yes!," but to go for titles with specific details. (I hasten to add that "Heck Yes" is great encouragement and VERY valuable, and not every post needs to be packed with details...it is a community after all.)

When I designed the site, I opted not to generate the automatic "Re: Whatever the Title Was" for reply titles, because sometimes you can write a great title that's part of the answer and improves on the question title, AND is a great starter title on its own. Of course, sometimes just typing re: and copying the title of the original post is great, and sometimes you just want to let the site generate a title based on your first few words.

But if you actually added some specific detail in your answer, what is that, specifically? That is where your title might come from.

If replying about a HRM, maybe I could say "Polar 720-i HRM with Barometric Altitude & IR port" or at least "My Polar 720-i HRM Works Great." This draws the right kind of reader in, the interested one, letting the person not interested move on to something they might be interested in before their guiltdinger goes off that says "hey I should be working!"

This only matters if it matters to you, and if you are contributing here I really appreciate it, so please don't consider this any lack of gratitude! It only matters if you want increase the number of people who find your work later via search or while browsing the site (tags help too of course). But this is a great way to make the sidebars relevant and to draw more people to your contributions, now and later. A great title will have a long shelf life too, I think! As site editor, sometimes I'll even edit titles for important articles to help them be found. (Voting five wheels will also help articles get noticed.)

If someone writes "Cant' Stop on Speed Skates" you might write a great title by saying "Gatorback Skate Brake Leash: Better Leverage" (and get in a specific mention for Mark Farnsworth's gatorbackskate.com devices, which is nice if you are not selling them). "My Great Day" is nice, but "56 miles Inline Skating Silver Comet Trail Atlanta" is more likely to draw people interested in those specific things. "A Groovy Skate" is good, but makes me wonder if it's an event or an object, whereas "Semi-Custom Verducci Speedskating Boot Review" has a bit more info and perhaps some interest too.

Titles and articles both benefit from running through the list:

  • who
  • what
  • when
  • where
  • why
  • how
  • how much

And in the internet search age:

  • how would I find it in the search engine;
  • what would make me decide to click on it on the screen, in search results or in the sidebar.

Again, this is a general note for anyone interested in getting higher rankings for their content, and higher click-through on their links. This is simple stuff, but simple's good and it very often works. Higher ranking and click through will help you promote your knowledge, club, fame, fortunes, or whatever, hopefully in good service of the world as well!



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