If you cruise the internet, you may have come across this acronym. You may have thought it wasn't relevant to you, your blog, or your search for ancestors. It is, in fact, important. SEO stands for "Search Engine Optimization", and no, its not scary.
What is it, exactly?
If you want the technological jargon, you can read all about it on Wikipedia. This is my take, my version of that information, but into language I can understand.
Simply put, SEO is the way a search engine reacts to a website and lists it in your results page. For example, if you do a search for "genealogy blogging", you will see www.geneabloggers.com is almost always at the top of the list. How does that happen? Well, site creator Thomas MacEntee has done an amazing job of providing search engines with the proper search terms, so people find his site first and easily. (He may have other tricks up his sleeve, and probably does, but I know he is doing this, and doing it well.)
|Chrome search results for "genealogy blogging"|
"Brown + Nebraska genealogy"
This is essentially universal. Yes, there are other ways of conducting a search. But, think about when you are looking for a recipe. You might search for "spaghetti recipe" or "world's best spaghetti". You don't always use a complicated search pattern to find what you are looking for.
Applying these terms to your unique blog or website allows the search engine to identify what your site is about and related to. It makes it easier for the search engine to find topics on your site and match those topics with the search terms that people use in simple searches.
Why should I do this?
Simple. You want people to find you. Don't you? Are you writing your blog to find other relatives? Well, they search for surnames, locations, photos, etc. Lead them to you with the right terms. Are you writing about your business, or general methodology? Great! Use the applied terms to communicate that's what you are writing about!
Don't care if anybody reads your blog? Ok. You can still read the rest of this one, though.
- "Why does it matter if your site is at the top of the results page or on page 42?"
Wouldn't a dedicated searcher find it either way? Well, yes and no. I recently read that the average user in the U.S. only looks through the first two pages of search results, then either adapts the search terms or stops all together.
- "So what? Genealogy is reportedly the second most popular hobby - they are still going to find it."
Eventually, yes, they could. No built in guarantee on that one. Imagine that this long lost cousin finds you today, or finds you in five years. What have you missed out on? What kind of relationship could you have developed with this new branch of the family in that time? There is a whole series of "what if's" here, and my favorite one is this: "what if long lost cousin's grandmother is still alive today, but dies next year?" Think about that for just a minute.
Convinced yet? Ready to start? I hope so.
How do I do this?
Caroline Pointer of BloggingGenealogy.com recently posted a great little piece entitled Want More Cousins to Visit Your Genealogy Blog? in which she introduced us to "Cousin Awesome Sauce", and using "alt text", which allows you to "'tell' the search engine what the image says..." (Read the full post, it's worth it, I promise.) So, start with that. Create a way for your images to be identified with the text you are producing.
Once you've got your feet wet, take a look at Search Engine Optimization: Step By Step on the About.com Web Design / HTML page, by Jennifer Kyrnin. It's a visual - yes, visual - instructional post about how to do this, and gives a more technical look at why you should. She makes it pretty easy.
Do not overlook this! This little tidbit from the step by step guide I just told you about is priceless! Use Adwords from Google to identify the best, and most common, search terms for your blog. Ms. Kyrnin puts this in her tutorial, but I want to point it out specifically as a really useful tool for this process. Just putting my blog and my webpage through that one tool, I learned a great deal. It proved to be incredibly useful.
Have other ideas? Know something about SEO that I don't? Well, that's likely. I'm just starting to educate myself on this particular road to internet usage and success. If you have a great resource you have used to improve your site, I'd really like to see it. Please leave a comment.
In the meantime, here is a great graphic to explain the process just one more time. And one more tip: look on Pinterest. There are numerous "infographics" to help understand SEO.