ARE YOU GOOGLABLE?
by Marylaine Block
I was interviewed recently for an article about board games in my local newspaper. I'm not an expert on the topic. I'm something better: I'm Googlable on it. I wrote something online on the topic, and, since my site has a pretty high Google ranking, that piece came out near the top of Google's results.
Would the same happen for your library's web site? Shouldn't you find out?
Start with a simple test: do a Google search on the name of your town and some subject you specialize in, like GENEALOGY, or LOCAL HISTORY, or STORY TIME or READING CLUBS or CHILDREN'S BOOKS.
If your library is not in the top 10 results, it is effectively invisible to community residents who do not already know you offer these services.
Take it a step further: go through your web site page by page and input the name of your community and the title of the web page into Google. Which individual pages are not retrieved within the top 25-30 results?
Now that you know the scope of your library's problem, you need to think about why. I'm told that Google gives a higher weight to libraries in its ranking algorithm, so the problem is most likely to be either the way your site is tagged, or the frequency with which it's linked by other sites.
Most search engines place higher value on words when they appear in the title of the page, the subjects listed in the page's HTML code, and major headings on the page. Have you used, in those key spots, words most people are likely to use to look for that page? If not, you have a relatively easy fix.
Now you need to find out who's linking to your web site. The search term you use is LINK:WWW.YOURLIBRARYURL. (No http:// needed.) Repeat the search in Google's blog search and news search.
Now think about who SHOULD be linking to your library. All your local government's web pages should point to it. The Chamber of Commerce and Rotary and other business organizations should be linking to your business pages. Local hospitals should be pointing to your medical information page. Schools and child care centers and the YMCA and other family-centered organizations should be linking your children's and teen's services pages. Local universities, community colleges, and nearby libraries should have links to your site.
Local museums and historical societies should point to your genealogy and local history pages. If you offer a directory of community service agencies, each one of those should link back to your directory. Every cultural organization in your area, and every organization the library has ever partnered with, should be linking to the library's web site. If your library has a blog, it should be linked on any list of place-based weblogs.
If those organizations' web sites are not pointing to the library, you need to reach out to them. Maybe a call to the head of the organization suggesting the link would do the trick. But you could take it one step further and point out some special services on your library web site they may not know about that the organization could benefit from.
Business organizations and local charities might want to link to your virtual reference desk and your grant information page as well as to your business pages. Women's organizations might like to point to your health page, your women's issues page, and your readers' services page. Local news organizations should have at least an internal link to your library weblog, your chatty, personality-ridden public face that is in all probability far more interesting than your news releases.
It's easy to be visible to the people who already use your services (though even those might be aware of only a few of them). But if you want to turn non-users into users, you have to be Googlable under the terms they're searching with. If you didn't fare well in this test, it's time to give yourself a Google makeover.
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Everyone speaks of an information overload, but what there was in fact was a non-information overload.
Saul Wurman. What-If, Could Be. 1976.
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