06 March 2008

How to help searchers find what they are looking for

Yesterday someone who was searching the Internet using the keywords "barnacle mollusk symbiosis" found this post, which is about barnacles, but mentioned mollusks only as one of the many different substrates a barnacle can grow on, and missed this one and this one, both of which would undoubtedly have been much more relevant.

Ever since then, I have been monitoring the keyword activity lists created by StatCounter to see how closely the searchers' keywords come to the posts they end up with. Often, they are right on the target or find a post the topic of which appears to be close enough to their inquiry. For example, 2 people using the search phrases "what are shells made of" and "composition of snail shell" both found this post, a perfect match. Likewise, someone else with the phrase "king married sister" found this post; again, I think, a pretty good match, although it is hard to be sure without knowing what exactly the person who was doing the search had in mind.

On the other hand, the person who searched with the phrase "how to cook moon snails, " which are marine, only got this recipe for cooking land snails. But I suppose one could adopt a recipe that works for one type of snail to cook another.

The person who used the words "snails food" was less fortunate and came to this post about a snapping turtle, which is not something snails normally consume, but for some reason missed this one, which is indeed about what a snail may eat.

It is interesting to note that some of the search phrases were the exact matches of the titles of my posts. For example, "the last tree" and "is it a boy or a girl". However, I have no idea what exactly the searchers in those cases were looking for and I doubt the person who used the latter phrase wanted to know how to sex an isopod, which happened to be the subject of my post with the same title.

I can recommend 2 improvements in blog posts to help searchers find the information they are after:

1. Connect relevant posts to each other with links to redirect a person to another post that may be more relevant or may provide further information.

2. Add relevant keywords to posts to increase their chances of getting found by search engines when the keywords or phrases used by searchers contain associated words that may not be in the actual text of a post. For example, if I had added the keyword "mollusk" to at least one of my linked posts about barnacles living on snail shells, then the searcher who used the phrase "barnacle mollusk symbiosis" would probably have found them.

I already routinely link my related posts to each other. And I will now start adding keywords at the bottom of my posts.


John said...

From what I have read, the words between the title tags count the most for search engines.


That's probably true & it explains why the person who was searching for "snail food" found the post with the title "throw food" but missed the actual post about snail food, because the latter didn't have food in its title.

For the same reason, it may also be better to put the keywords in the beginning of a post rather than at the end.