How exactly does Google manage to find the right results for every query as quickly as it does? ? How can it cope with the billion+ internet pages in the world ? –
Well this secret technology has now been revealed by Google engineers – http://www.google.com/technology/pigeonrank.html
At the recent Ripple workshop I gave a short talk on improving open content discoverability. The main thrust was making sure time and effort wasn’t wasted in accidently creating “Invisible OER” – content accidently hidden from the open web. As we’ve discovered with our own material, the ‘Open’ in Open Content means stuff needs to be available on the open web ( i.e. on a public URL) and easy for the non-specialist to discover. Easy to discover of course means the content is as high up in Google ranking as possible.
In the talk I mentioned a study of this issue done by elpida@OLNET – writing on discoverability
http://olnet.org/node/524 – here are some quotes from the OLNET summary –
- Google and Wikipedia are the two most used search sites for learning resources;
- Most users prefer a simple search strategy (i.e. entering one or two keywords), they don’t care about using metadata until they can’t find what they are searching for;
- Good search tools allow users to continue solving their problem, providing them with some useful content / links that will further their search; and finally
- If OERs were to focus on doing one thing and one thing alone to become more discoverable and searchable it should be to be directly linked to mainstream web pages with very high visibility, providing an “OER batch” (i.e. like CC has done with its licenses embedded on websites using CC licensing tools) in order to become more widely recognised as an OER resource.
So, marketing through high visibility channels seems key but some of the basics on web visibility are worth stating – good clearly titled content on a valid academic URL will always be valued highly by the Google system particularly if linked to by other academic sites. Here are my simple top tips for promoting your open content –
- Reflect on what people would actually type into Google to find your material – make sure these search terms are on the page that delivers your material and ideally in the title of the web page;
- Get your delivery web pages to use human readable URLS – google still values search terms in web page titles (See the title of this Word Press page to see how clever this system is at generating human readable web page titles);
- Use Web 2 social networks to generate a buzz – Create a conversation around your content on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks
- Promote your material in a blog, perhaps relating it to what’s happening in the news – timely material with be spotted by Google Instant;
- Join the wider Open Learning landscape by adding your content to OER directories such as Jorum, Xpert and the global US OER directories.
What about the long tail ? How can you keep your material in the public eye ?
On the OER-discuss list there has been a discussion around not just getting noticed by Google but in staying in the top ranks over time. Here are some more advanced SEO tips from Julie Walling – Researcher at the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education. (ISKME):
It’s important to structure your site so that it is as content rich as possible, and to work to attract high value external links. A few basics to keep in mind are:
– Pick a keyword an stick to it – one keyword per page within your website that is highly relevant to the page, and has high search volume (use the google keyword tool).
– For internal links, make sure that the anchor text includes the keyword for the site that you are linking to.
– Ways to reach out for external links include creating forums, reaching out to respected bloggers who work in your space to let them know about specific features, events, or content on your site that they might want to share with their audience. Remember to put a marketing spin on things – people are much more likely to take action on something that is scarce and available for a limited time only. Include social media icons so people can really easily “like” the site.
So, optimising your site for search engines is a complex area but get the basics right and the fact that you have good content on a valued academic URL means that the Google web spiders and pigeons will do the rest.
How did this post on OER discoverability get catalogued by Google? ( Update four days later on 7th Feb 2010)
So, amazing – four days after writing this post, it is now no 1 in the Google results when you search on the following search terms:
- OER + Discoverability
- OER + Top Tips
and we’re no 2 in the results after a CETIS post when you search for OER SEO!