Google, SEO, and Other Shallow Thoughts

It's very important to most people, well, most commercial sites, hell, all commercial sites on the web to know from where their visitors are coming. As a webmaster you need to know this kind of thing to know where to focus your advertising. There's an entire Search Engine Optimization (SEO) industry that has sprung up to sell people better search rankings. Most of this Optimization is aimed at optimizing google search results. I can attest to the importance of google, the VAST majority of people who come to LISNews with a referral listed came through one of googles many domains. Let's take April '04 as an example. Urchin tells me 75% of all people who came for a visit did so without a referral. Of those that did come through with a referral, google was responsible for about 18,000 of them, and that's out of about 160,000 total for the month. So google was responsible for greater than 10% of total traffic, but no one was responsible for 75% of all LISNews visitors, that is, assuming Urchin is correct, I could put up a robots exclude tag, and most likely loose very few visitors, since search engines make up a good percentage of the total visits. So why so many people from google? Does that mean google works much better than the other search engines? Was everyone coming from google looking for something we had at LISNews? Or, is it just that "everyone" uses google and we happen to be on the first page of search results for a few searches, and those people click through to LISNews and are disappointed.

This all got started because I was thinking on sending updates to various librarian lists as a better way to make sure that everyone knows about LISNews. I have no way of gauging how much name recognition we have in the library community in general. If I was to stop 10 random librarians at ALA in Orlando next month, how many of them would know what LISNews is? My guess? 4, is the sample was good. Maybe 6 if they were mostly younger, or very web focused. So anywho…. A few other things I've been thinking on:

1. "PDF me" feature for al the stories we post, it would be a little button integrated within the super-secret-and-exciting admin pages that when we post a story it would automatically archive the story. I guess it would pull out the URL and fetch with LWP or something and write it to a PDF file in some PDF directory. This obviously raises lots of legal issues, if that directory were to be made public, so it would be more for our archives, just so we can go back and refer to them at some point if need be.

2. "Label me" As part of the zoo plugin maybe, or just as part of the users table, everyone could label themselves as being, for example, conservative, liberal, special librarian, academic, etc.. It'd be like having little clubs I suppose. That might involve separate discussions and journals for those who labeled themselves alike.

3. News alerts plugin. Probably doesn't need much a description, though I think it could apply to comments, journals, and stories, so it would be more than just a news alert, it would cover whatever we have to offer.

4. Regular updates to lists. Gary and Tara have always done it, and done a great job, but for some reason I've always avoided sending "What's new on LISNews this week" out to any library listservs. I remember thinking at some point that I wanted the site to grow on it's own, and plenty of people will just find us, and those who think LISNews is useful will stick around. I didn't want to do anything that could be thought of as marketing, probably just to see how we would grow without it. Well, I think we've grown now, and I suffer no delusions of grandeur, I think for the most part we've grown as much as we're going to grow. I'd be very surprised that if a year from now I was writing about how we were getting 8,000 visitors a day. We're more of a nitch (or is that niche?) site, and there can't be that many people out there that would be interested in a regular LISnews visit. But I digress… I was thinking that it might not be a bad idea to send out some weekly updates to a few different lists. That'll be the easiest one to pull together, the other three, all I can say is, someday. Label me would be the most fun, news alerts the most useful for the most people, and pdf me the most useful for us. I need a team of dedicated Slashcode programmers dedicated to LISNews.

5. Cleaning up the HTML. It's just a mess, and that's well known amongst us Slashcode devotees. That's also something that should be handled as part of the project, but I know there is some of my own HTML in there, and it could really use some work.


I think that idea would be quick and easy to do. I mentioned lisnews to some people at work awhile ago and many had never heard of it. If there was an occasional topical post with information about recent lisnews posts coming through some of the many library listservs people subscribe to, they'd be much more aware of this resource.

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