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Number One on Google

July 11, 2013

It is a month since I have put pen to paper so apologies for the gap.  I am revisiting a subject that I touched on earlier in ‘The Scream.’ To recap on what I do. I have a website called http://www.sharehistory.org which is a user-generated database of history. This will obviously be more useful the more information people add to the database. More people = more history – simple. Except simple is not what it seems when you are starting out and trying to get some momentum. The conundrum I would like to address is how to get visibility on the internet for small websites.

Most of us still use Google search and traffic to my site comes mainly from Google but with a few referrals from other sites. Hardly ever is there a referral from another search engine, say, Bing or Yahoo but perhaps it is time we (and I am guilty of just using Google, too) looked at using other search engines. I tried Bing and have to say that I was so much more impressed with that than with the Google returns. I hadn’t tried Bing since it first started but that is a long time ago and both it and Google have changed since then.

This is a summary of what I have found out about how Google rank websites and why search results aren’t always what you expect.

Personalised results.
And the fool said ‘tell me what I already know so that I can see how wise I am.’ And the wise man said ‘tell me what I do not know so that I may become wiser.’
Google loves personalising results and I am afraid it is a trend which is going to become more rather than less. I tested out how Google does this by searching on ‘History.’ The top site was the BBC, followed by two sites I have visited before. Then there were two sites about Cannock History. The connection Google is making here, I think, is that it is local ie within the same UK county. The other possibility is that I may have searched for something recently on Cannock history and Google have skewed the results to account for this. I wish they wouldn’t do this. In this case I have searched for a very broad term and Google have reduced it as though Cannock history is representative of all the world’s history. It is equally illogical when Google returns a local business which has content  for a much wider area.
If you are a young site with few visitors you are not going to appear in too many personalised searches so how is anyone ever going to find you. Is it going to be harder to get seen than it used to be?
From the search point of view I find this personalised search by Google really annoying. Yes, I believe by logging out of everything Google, I might get a de-personalised search but I won’t remember to do that each time. The results Google returned even then were odd and of much less relevance than those returned by Bing.

Social Media
‘I found this really good brain surgeon on twitter this morning.’

We used to be told that to get a higher presence on Google one needed to write a blog or articles. Backlinks were what we had to collect but that has all gone by the board in favour of a presence on social media sites. Apparently your profile and the level of interaction are what count now, but what is a profile? I can’t quite believe it is as simple as filling out one’s background but I don’t know.
Then there is the question of interaction. If I want to be on any of these sites for personal reasons that’s fine but if I must have a presence there in order to market my business that seems  illogical. Why should social media sites  be the place where every business or its owner is promoted? Outside the internet world if one is looking for the best surgeon  you wouldn’t be interested in the quality of their conversation (actually, I might prefer it if he/she spoke less)  but the quality of their work.
Social media sites worry me. Is it their addictive nature, the strange ‘you massage my ego and I will do the same for yours,’ mentality which they foster or is it the voyeurism which is at the heart of them? It is unhealthy to allow so much power in a few hands and to so structure these sites so that they become huge to the exclusion of others and that is what has happened. Fancy, Pinterest’s rival, has just (July 2013) got £36million of funds and Pinterest an extra $100 million – mind blowing. How can a small site compete with that level of funding?
One question which might be answered by the influence of social media is ‘Why is the  BBC  No1 in a search for history?’  The BBC embrace twitter extensively and that might take it to the top on a Google search but does that make it the top resource for history, I think not.

Quality
‘It is the quality of our work, not the quantity which will please God.’ (Mahatma Gandhi)

A website is ranked more highly by Google if it is:

*more personalised

*has well-written content and social media engagement

*Unique content

*has fresh content measured by-

trending topics

recurring famous events

recency of content

Google bangs on about the importance of unique content but is it really so interested? It even suggests creating a new, useful service that no other site offers. (Now there’s a thought.) ‘You could also write an original piece of research, break an exciting news story, or leverage your unique user base. Other sites may lack the resources or expertise to do these things.’ It sounds lame as it is written and I leave you to see how well Google promotes uniqueness. The trouble is, of course, that one doesn’t know what one is missing.

A few websites dominate the internet and effectively bypass search engines. Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, Pinterest have built such enormous brands that the normal rules don’t apply. Unfortunately the rest of us, without such vast reserves of money, must try to clamber up the Google ladder somehow. The problem is the rules of the game are far from clear. Is it too much to ask that we could all know what these rules of search are?

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