Home > Competitive Intelligence, Online & Search Issues, Other > Getting found on the web

Getting found on the web

September 20, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’d planned to write this post on business culture, working as part of a team and leadership. Meanwhile I’m still tinkering with WordPress – trying to get to know it better. There’s a couple of things I liked about Google’s Blogger tool that I’ve not yet managed to work out how to do on WordPress. Actually that’s not completely true. If you download WordPress and blog on your own server it’s fairly easy. However there are also things against doing that – for example some technical details, security & spam, etc. Conversely WordPress.com won’t let me download some of the plugins I wanted. Despite this, I’m pretty happy with WordPress as a blog platform.

While searching around, I came across a great presentation from Matt Cutts of Google, given at WordPress’s 2009 San Francisco conference.

Matt Cutts is well known as not only a Google expert (naturally) but also as an expert on search engine optimisation – in other words, how to get found on the web. There is so much in this one presentation that I think it should be compulsory viewing for everybody who writes for the web. Although I try and do most of what was said – there’s still more for me to do, and he had some great examples. The focus was on blogging using WordPress but in fact much of the content was much wider – with explanations on what search engines (and specifically Google) look for when indexing the web.

As not everybody will spare 45 minutes to watch the video, I’ll summarise some of the content – and the slides can be found at Matt’s web-site.

Matt starts by asking why write a blog in the first place, but quickly moves onto optimising sites for the web and how to increase your chances of being found. He gives a simple explanation for Google’s PageRank (named after Google founder, Larry Page, rather than that it measures the web page importance / popularity based on the number of links to the page).  Around half way through the presentation, he starts emphasising the most important thing about writing for the web (whether for a general site or for a blog). The writing has to be relevant and reputable. Good and interesting writing gets read. Boring, trite, repetitive writing doesn’t. In other words, if you don’t love what you are writing about, and don’t know or have anything to say, then don’t say anything. (For more on good writing, read the Write Way – my brother’s blog – covering how to produce technical documentation that’s understandable).

Then we get to the bits on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation – i.e. writing web-sites so that they can be found). When I take training courses on finding competitive intelligence on the web I always emphasise the need to understand how sites get to the top spots. If you understand this, then it becomes easier to think of ways of finding sites that aren’t found on the first page – and often these are the pages that hold the hidden gems that the competitor analyst has to find.

One key skill is to think of alternative terms. As a portable back-up device I tend to use a memory stick. However other terms for the same device are “flash drive“, “USB drive” and a few others. Searching for only one of these risks missing out sites not using that term but one of its synonyms. Cutts gives an example of searches for ipod car for connecting an ipod to a car’s radio / entertainment system. There is an alternative less costly technology called iTrip that also allows an iPod to be connected to the car radio. For every two searches using the term iPod Car, there was one that used the key word iTrip. This means that excluding the latter term from sites selling the former will result in them missing out on a third of the potential Internet traffic. From a competitive intelligence perspective, it would also mean missing out information on a competing technology. Just because it’s not exactly the same, using a different technological approach and costing less, doesn’t mean it’s not also a competitor – so searching for one and not the other would mean missing out on what customers are actually looking to purchase.

Other SEO techniques covered include web-page naming, establishing a reputation, monitoring visitors via analysis of log files / google analytics and how not to spam (and scam).

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