Improving your online presence is an essential component of any digitsation project; without visitors to your site there is little point having the material digitised and available online.
Much of the web’s curent usability is dependent upon the effectiveness and effeciency of web crawlers, most prominent among these is, of course, the Google bot. The question for digitisation projects with little or no marketing budget is how to maximise your online presence to allow web crawlers access to your data. How can small scale projects organically grow their presence so that they are able to achieve that holy grail of a Google ranking?
Alastair Dunning produced a presentation on being a good data provider which offers an excellent introduction into this area.
To compliment the presentation I have compiled some key areas that should be addressed when you are considering your online presence, and how web crawlers can index even the ‘deep’ areas of your pages and data:
- Keywords : What’s your key content and messages? Compare your key words with Google AdWords, and their trends
- Monitoring Performance and Reputation: Check what noise your site is creating, and whether you are successfully attracting visitors. Tols such as: Google Analytics, Technorati, Google Alerts can be used to track your reputation and performance.
- URLs : Make sure URLs are stable. Also pay attention to your Title Tags, ensuring you include key words, your ‘brand’, and any themes.
- Sitemap : Google Sitemap – allows you to create an XML file containing all the URLs on your (public) web pages along with relevant information. Sitemaps are particularly useful for Database and Dynamic content.
- Website Architecture : Aim for fast response times, use CSS, create 404 error pages, bread crumb navigation.
- Images : Have a meaningful landing page, title attributes, file name with key words, social tagging, comments, and, enable Google Image Search!
- Build Links : Think about the groups and websites you would like to link to you, and contact them.
- Be (very) Sociable : Social media (Facebook, Second Life, YouTube, Twitter, Google Groups…), Share content (RSS, bookmarking…), Contribute (Blogger, Wiki, Twitter, Yahoo Answers…), Images and Video (Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Picasa).
This is just a brief overview of some of the key areas you will want to think about to enhance your sites visibility, useability, and ultimately the experience that your user has in both finding and using your site and its contents.
The Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN) in conjunction with the JISC’s Strategic Content Alliance recently ran a three day workshop looking at how you can improve your online presence simply and inexpensively. Many of the points raised in this article were developed and discussed in the workshop, and applied directly to cultural heritage institutions. Due to the overwhelming success of the course it is hoped that another workshop will be arranged in the next few months, further information will be made available on this blog, and the Strategic Content Alliance’s blog.