Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Search Engine Optimization

This weeks readings really struck a chord with me. In a nutshell, much of what is being discussed concerns search engine optimization, something I worked on with University Hospitals for much of my summer.

Wiki defines SEO as "...the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via "natural" ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results." So what does this really mean?

Well, much of my experience with SEO stems from crafting meta tags, the keywords or phrases users search to find information about a specific topic.

David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing And PR makes an excellent analogy about met tags when describing them as the dewey decimal systems of the Internet.

Just like in a library, users browsing the Internet must search through hundrends upon thousands of entries containing useless information to find what they're looking for. However, savvy marketers/PR practitioners can take advantage of the clutter on the Internet by specifying meta tags with keywords their users will search for.

Back to my job at University Hospitals. Being somewhat familiar with the role of meta tags already, I was tasked with the job of going through an entire portal ( of which University Hospitals has approximately 20 or so) and updating the meta tags of each page with key words.

Without much more direction, other than to pull the keywords in from the text on the page, I was set loose. It didn't take me very long to discover that the majority of the text on the Web site sounded as if it were written for other physicians (the majority is not). Could I really expect the average user (who I am told in Cleveland has a 7th grade or lower reading level) to be searching for Opthalmological surgeons?

Probabaly not. Finally, realizing the futility of crafting meta tags from physicians jargon I began crafting my own. Opthalmological surgeons became eye doctors and meta tags became useful!

So like Scott, I advocate the use of keywords that will really "speak" to your audience in a way that they will actually understand.

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