Technology Archives - Jim Dugan

Why isn’t my site showing up in a Google search?

OK, not my site. My site shows up well. Do a search for “photographer Camden Maine” to find out.

A friend asked why her site wasn’t showing up in a Google search. The first thing to ask about this is “What search terms were you using?” She was using the terms that best summed up what she does (let’s say it’s “widget design”), plus “Maine” which is where she is. And she was nowhere in Google’s results, which is bad.

“Search Engine Optimization” is a whole field, separate from web design, and I don’t claim to be an expert. The basic steps as I understand and practice them are:

1. figure out your keywords

What is some stranger who does not know your name or business name typing into Google to find you? This will include all permutations of your products or services and possibly your geographic location. So it might be “Maine widget design” but there are bound to be other words that will lead those customers to you.

2. sprinkle said keywords on your website

Anywhere will do, at least it’s better than not having them there. But to do it right, put them in a. the page title and b. the h1 tag. Then maybe here and there in other places. More than anything, make sure that the page you are sprinkling with these keywords is actually ABOUT those keywords. Don’t sprinkle “lobster” on a page about boatbuilding. Avoid using images that are “pictures of words” as Google doesn’t recognize them. This bears repeating and emphasizing: those pages that are completely made up of pictures (even if they look like words to human eyes) cannot really be seen by Google. Put TEXT on your pages and make sure it’s relevant to searches. Most of this page is text but the logo at the top ( photography and web design in Maine) is an image, just pixels, and Google doesn’t really see it.

3. get people to link to you

Google considers incoming links hugely important, because a link is essentially a recommendation from someone.

4. wait

It’s hard but waiting is important several reasons. Google isn’t automatic, it takes time. And Google prefers sites that have a track record, so the longer a site’s been around, the better it ranks. Lots of sites do well largely because they’ve been around for years (that’s certainly the case with my site, at least in part; see below for another reason).

5. change your site often

Google likes fresh content, so keep changing things on a regular basis. This is one reason why blogging has exploded; it gives you fresh content as often as you feel like writing something.

6. check your ranking and adjust

Go back to number 1 and figure out what’s working or not working. Add or delete keywords, make sure your page is actually about the things it claims (in the title and h1) that it’s about.

There’s a LOT more to it than that but this is a beginning. Most people who have web sites don’t even think about this and it’s to their detriment.

The crucial thing to know about Google searches is: they are trying to deliver the most relevant page every time. So they like pages that are really about what they say they’re about. Don’t try to fool Google. Just try to describe the contents of the page as clearly as possible and make the content as satisfying for the end user as possible.

Perhaps most important of all: Deliver content that is fascinating, important and relevant. Do that and web surfers will like your pages and then Google will send more of them your way. (This, by the way, is another reason my site does well in search engines: I offer more than just a sales pitch. I also have the Maine Photographers’ Directory, and have had it for years. If you’re looking for a photographer in Maine, Google will show you that page because a. it’s been around a while, b. it has lots of content, c. lots of people have linked to it.)

In real estate, the three most important things are: location, location, location.

On the web, it’s: content, content, content.

“Should I Tweet?”

In a word, no.

I gave Twitter a good solid month. I followed some people. I posted my own Tweets.

And at the end of it, all I had to show for it was a few good jokes. I found David Pogue of the New York Times the best of the tweeters but even he was rarely wise or witty or informative. Reading his blog provided a filtered and edited version that saved me loads of time.

What’s right with Twitter:

  • The ability to post a quick thought without spending hours sweating that your prose is perfect
  • The ability to reach lots of people (potentially) immediately.
  • The ability to initiate and participate in conversations between lots of people. Post a question and all your followers can jump in with a response.

What’s wrong with Twitter:

  • There really aren’t that many people using it.
  • Of those that are using it, it’s almost impossible to get the people that matter to follow your tweets
  • It’s really tough to get much thought or wisdom in 140 characters so 99% of all tweets are completely useless.

There’s a constant flood of new technologies that we each have to assess and ask ourselves: Is this worth my time? Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, podcasts, blogs, Flikr and on and on.

If you’re online for business, you can use a simple time-in, dollars-out yardstick. Though it’s often hard to keep track of all the time spent and which dollars it produces.

There’s more to it than that, of course.

Twitter does not pass any test of mine. I could see no potential for joy or profit and the time spent was something I’ll never get back.

I predict it will die. I won’t say when.