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Keywords to the Kingdom

Ever since I did a reinstall of this blog, I’ve gotten a few hundred times as much spam in my comments.  Not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.  It’s probably the reinstall itself that did it, come to think of it.

Search engines use about 150 (at last count) different criteria when they rank a site (i.e., where a site falls in search results).  They obviously take into account the domain itself: is it a .com or a .net or something more obscure?  Is it the traditional English spelling of the word(s)?  How long has the domain been registered?  Obviously a site like WordPress has more in its favor than this domain – however UNLIKE this domain, WordPress is fractured into a lot of little sub-sites.  Which isn’t a problem for WordPress itself – it’s helped by all those folks updating all the time – but not a big help for the individual bloggers.

Keywords are major.  You’ve probably heard the term before and are a bit fuzzy on the details.  In their most simple form, keywords are the handful of words you’d expect somebody to type into a search engine to find your site.  When I type in the words pound head here into Google it drops this site into the number one spot.  Were I looking up just “blog” though, I probably would show up on page 369,582, if at all.  I don’t give a rat’s ass where I come up on search engines because this blog is for me and for friends and it doesn’t matter to me if somebody in Timbuktu can’t find it.

Could I bump that up?  Yup, if I were so inclined.

For someone who wants the traffic, obviously the priorities are a little different.  Used to be that search engines and their ilk looked at the meta tags, invisible little lines of code that list keywords, descriptions and so on.  Meta tags won’t hurt you now but they’re not really the big deal they once were.  Nowadays content is king.  Your keywords density should optimally be 2-5%.  To put that in English: for every 100 words on the page, your most important one or two words should show up a minimum of 2 times and a maximum of 5 times.  More than 5 gets you downgraded; Google’s algorithm knows you’re trying to cheat at that point.  Fewer than 2 gets ignored.  And it matters which keywords you choose for your focus: obviously if someone’s looking up “dog” they’re going to get a bazillion potential results.  However, if you Google “health issues for older chihuahua beagle mix” your options will be fewer.  So when in doubt, specialize. You’ll actually get a higher ranking overall and are a virtual shoo-in for anyone looking up the more specific terms.

How often a site is updated makes a difference, as well.  That’s where blogs have the advantage over a static business page.  By their very nature, blogs get frequent updates.

Another overlooked factor – a big one in fact – is how many sites link back to you.  Back in the day I unleashed my original website on the world as a repository for fan fiction for an obscure little Saturday-afternoon TV show, one produced by a studio in Toronto.  A short while later the webmaster for the show’s official site was talking to me because my site was routinely coming up higher than the studio-sponsored site.  (The one saving grace with that was that when their site got hacked by porn, they phoned me and had me both put on my page and get ahold of other fan sites to post that the official site had moved.)  The reasons were simple – I covered all the above bases PLUS I had lots and lots of links back to my fan site.  Even two years after the show was canceled I was still getting periodic emails from people who assumed my page WAS the show’s official site.  If I were out to build an online business today I’d be linking from MySpacë, Faceb00k and so on, plus every other little hole-in-Internet-wall spot to bump up my ratings if I were looking for business.

Nowadays there are a bunch of other considerations, as well, including how long the domain is (or has been) registered for, whether or not there are technical gaffes like broken links or incorrect heading text, how much text is on a given page (the ideal is around 400 words per page) and so on.

I am constantly asked at work how to get your site on the first page of Google.

If I could guarantee that in one or two easy steps I’d be making a heck of a lot more money than I am.  Could I do it?  Probably.  But it won’t come cheap for anyone who wants it done.  And since these are folks who typically won’t pay $50 a month for Internet advertising I think it’s a safe bet they won’t be willing to pay me the approximately $1500 per day going rate for someone who can get their numbers up there.  If you’re wondering why I don’t go for it anyway, there’s a couple of reasons.  One, most of that $1500 goes into direct advertising.  I’d be blogging about the product and paying other folks to post blogs, etc., and paying Google and Yahoo for advertising spots.  Of the relatively few people with the budget and foresight to pay that kind of money, it’s a safe bet they are already have someone in-house that’s doing the job for them.

Possibly the second most common question I am asked at work is, “How did you learn what you know???”  Short answer:  I’m a nerd.  A geeky-as-hell geekish techno-nerd.  I learned to write HTML back in the day and picked up CSS shortly after.  I learned to use graphics editors.  Then my job did a couple of turnarounds and I got promoted involuntarily to IT manager so I learned about building computers and about networking and about DNS and all that jazz.  I have picked the brains of geekier geeks than me.  I have learned a lot out of the sheer cussed determination to figure out how to do something.  I’ve also obviously learned a great deal at my current job, though most of what I’ve learned at work has been the nitpicky technical stuff that your average Joe Schmoe isn’t going to need anyway.

That’s not to say I’d make it as a webmaster these days.  HTML and flash are passé.  Now it’s PHP and ASP.NET and the early glimmerings of HTML5; WordPress and Joomla are the ruling builder programs.   I can actually use both but there’s a big difference between using them and really comprehending the programming language behind them.  I understand simple PHP, and know nothing about ASP.  While that’s not entirely true – you have to have at least a basic grasp in my job – it’s not far from the mark.

For the record, I can build a site with Joomla and have done so, and WordPress is no-brainer territory for me.  I don’t need to know the programming behind them to use them, any more than I need to understand the programming language of Windows to use my computer.

We bought two lottery tickets this weekend on a whim.  I haven’t checked the numbers at this point.  It will be wonderful when everything gets ironed out.  It’s there now; we’re just at the point of reaching out and making it happen.

However, I’m kind of butting heads with G.  He says when we win the lottery I can retire (yes) and we can buy a house in Payson (no).  I once would have jumped at moving back.  It’s gorgeous and about 15-20 degrees cooler than this part of the world and there is this sense of peace I’ve not really encountered anywhere else in the state.  My reservations are health related and convenience related.  I can’t currently make the drive and don’t even know if I could stand to be a passenger for that distance.   Hopefully the surgery will change that.  Until I know the outcome in terms of mobility, EVERYTHING is on hiatus.

On the other hand, if and when I can drive comfortably again, it’s not really much further than where we were looking to move.  So we’ll see.

I suppose it would help to check our tickets first before getting into any significant arguments, though, wouldn’t it?

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