It's been a while since I spent any time thinking about SEO, but a meeting this week about the ANR Catalog, followed by Gerry McGovern's post has me thinking about SEO again. SEO is a valuable tool in helping people find your site, but McGovern warns about the pitfalls of overdoing SEO.
He uses the example of Google. The home page of the Google search engine contains no SEO. He points out that search engines love the Yahoo home page, it contains hundreds of popular words and is strewn with links. Yet Google is tops when it comes to search. Why? Because, according to McGovern, bringing people through your Web site is more important than bringing people to it.
Give the people what they want.
Think about the customer - design your site and your content with the customer, not the search engine crawlers in mind.
What's behind the disconnect? The primary reason is lack of knowledge about what users want and/or not letting that knowledge drive what is on the home page. What drives content? "Home page politics"
Just reporting here - don't shoot the messenger!
While this xkcd cartoon pokes fun at most university Web sites, there's a lesson here for all ANR Web communicators. Take a quick look at your Web site or blog. How many times do you use the words I, we, and our?
Now how many times do you use the words you, your, or local?
Where are programs and services related to your top search terms?
Now, who do you think your Web site serves?
A couple of years ago, with the help of Bob Johnson, we surveyed a sample of our county clients about the information they're looking for on our Web sites. What was illuminating about the survey results, was not really the data, as it told us a lot about what we already know. Rather, it spoke to how little regard we give to this information when designing navigation and creating content.
You can get a quick snapshot of what your clients care about by comparing the Carewords survey results with search term results from your site. Those two sources will give you a good idea of what information should appear "above the fold" on your site. You can pull search terms using either Smarter Stats or Google Analytics. Hey, if you're feeling adventurous, you can do both!
Once you've made some decisions about page placement and navigation, look at the voice of your content. If you're writing from inside your perspective rather than an understanding of what your program can deliver to your clients - you're missing the boat.
One of the real success stories out of the Toolkit team is the Food Blog. This idea, hatched up by Jeannette Warnert, was a way to highlight some of the Division's activities around a topic everyone could understand: food.
But the Food Blog serves another purpose. A vehicle for providing easy access to client focused content to anyone with the ability to create a link. With the ability to add blogs to any Site Builder 3.0 Web site, anyone across the Division could add this feature to a site.
Voilà! Instant content.
Newspapers and magazines have been using this feature to add value to their print content and drive traffic to their Web sites.
The Los Angeles Times uses this concept in their L.A. at Home feature, where you'll find the Master Gardener in Training among other writers. L.A. at Home tends to cover a broad array of topics, but strategic tagging lets the reader hone in on the topics they care about.
Sunset uses the Fresh Dirt blog to counter the decreasing number of pages available to cover gardening in their print publication. The blog is also used to drive traffic back to the main Sunset Web site.
Another example is the Opinionator section of the New York Times. This I don't think works as well as the others, as readers tend to follow a topic or a specific writer rather than opinion in general.
So how do you make this concept work for you?
- Enlist the talents of willing participants and set up a schedule for posting
As a writer for the Food Blog, I received an assignment and a deadline from Jeannette when the project was launched.
- Make it easy
Jeannette strong-armed - Oops! I mean recruited - enough participants so that we only have to post once or twice over the course of a year.
- Organize the tags with the reader in mind
With so many writers, the tags can get out of control. Think about setting up some standard tags at the outset that your writers can use. Or, as moderator of the blog, you can re-edit the tags to consolidate the number of tags. A tag list with (1) after each entry isn't very helpful to the reader.
Next post - a quick tutorial in how to set this up in the ANR Blog system.
If you're thinking about moving to SB3 (or even if you're not) now is a great time to do some spring cleaning on your site.
- Check your site for broken links
- Remove or update notices of events that have passed
- Remove, update, or archive dated material
- Use your cursor to chunk-up copy