2011-04-25

Library SEO

When people search for information, they are very likely to start at Google. They don't start at a library like they used to. What this means for libraries is that, if they don't want to be bypassed, it's important that there is a path from Google to a library. If you can't make people start searching at your library, at least you can make the path from Google to your library as prominent and as accessible as possible. The paths that Google serves in nice, ordered lists, are URIs. On the Web, the path to a library is a link.

This is why it's important to make the things at libraries linkable. Then, not only Google can link to it, but everyone can. If people start to link to your library's website, Google perceives this as a good thing. The number of inbound links to a web page is known to be a key factor tied to its importance in the eyes of Google.

In the current situation things in libraries often don't have URIs. Or they have them, but poor ones, unstable, session-based URIs that change with every request. You can't link to such content. It's like a library that prevents you from telling anyone about it. Be aware that Google is a very important user of your library. If it likes your web content, it will tell lots of other people about you. Word of mouth is powerful but word of Google is more powerful.

Steps for library SEO

  1. Provide every piece of your content with a URI.
    If your content doesn't have a unique URI, it cannot be linked and it won't show in Google's search results. On the Web, content without a URI does not exist.
  2. Make that URI a stable URI.
    Not that dynamic session-based nonsense. Make an effort to sustain the URI in the long term. A URI should always resolve. Provide re-directs if you change your URI's structure (e.g., by using PURL).
  3. Make that URI easy to use.
    A short URI that fits in a tweet or can be read from slides is better than a long or unreadable one. If it's easy to use, it'll be used more.
  4. Make that URI a cool one.
    Implement content negotiation. In this way, both humans and machines get what they like.

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