Site ranking?

Subject: Site ranking?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 22 Mar 2004 21:11:57 -0500


Chuck Martin wondered: <<Google uses a proprietary algorithm that they are regularly tweaking to rank (unpaid) search results. Unlike other search engines, theirs pretty much stopped using metatag keywords because that method was abused.>>

The Internet is a classic case of "the tragedy of the commons": there's always someone out there who goes out of their way to ruin things for everyone else, including (eventually) themself.

<<A significant part of their formula takes into account the number of pages elsewhere that link to your site, but that is becoming abused as well.>>

See above. This has actually become a sport called "Google jamming", in which you get a bunch of buddies together to create a massive web of interlinked pages pointing to one site; as a result, the Google results for that site are artificially inflated. For a good laugh, type "weapons of mass destruction" into the Google search field and click the "I'm feeling lucky" button. Read carefully. <g>

<<Here's my question: if someone's looking for a technical writer, will they do a Google search or will they search on one of the many job boards?>>

Which someone are we talking about? <g> I don't think there's any one way you can expect someone to find you. Those without much imagination will do a general Google search for "technical writer" or will hit the job boards seeking resumes. Those with considerably more imagination will try other things, such as looking for published articles*, searching specific sites like Raycomm or how.com to find people writing about certain things.

* I get a few inquiries per week about stuff I've written in my various articles for STC and Raycomm. A couple of these are actually likely to turn into jobs giving workshops (on onscreen editing thus far) now that I'm freelancing and have time for such things.

I still think that the best jobs are those you find yourself. Don't base your strategy on waiting for people to come to you; that only works for spiders, and given the number of dead ones that I have to sweep away every summer, it doesn't work so well for them either. Instead, decide what kind of work you want to do, and go looking for people who are doing it. In a former life, I kept a resume file of unsolicited queries, and anyone who made it into that file was at the top of my list of people to contact before I tried other ways to find a contractor. Worth thinking about!

Currently, I've gotten about 2/3 of my work by networking and kharma. I know a lot of people, and a lot of people know me and the quality of my work. I'm very free with my time and always willing to help out others, and this has repaid itself tenfold in referrals.

<<I've never received a lead from my site, but I have from resume posts.>>

Not too surprising. Given the vast number of sites that are out there, and how quickly even the best search engines are falling behind on the immense task of indexing these sites, you may not even have been indexed yet. (I assume from what you've written later in your note that you've submitted your site to the various search engines. For those who haven't and who are wondering where all the visitors are, it's worth noting here that you probably won't be indexed at all, other than by a chance link from some other site, if you don't register your site with (submit it to) the main search engines.)

Moreover, you're facing a very difficult challenge: If you choose the logical words to describe what you do, then you're competing with everyone else who uses the same words--and there are many of us techwhirlers out there. On the other hand, if you choose unusual or unique words, you'll stand out from the crowd--but nobody will ever find you because they won't think to use those words. I'm not sure there's any good way to beat this problem.

<<Meanwhile, although my site has been up for a number of years, and some sites even link to it, it's still amazing what pops up when I Google my name>>

This is another Internet sport called "ego surfing". It's a lot of fun, isn't it? (Apparently there are more of me out there than I thought, and all of us are somewhat <ahem> verbose. Must be something in the name. <G>)

If you're interested in learning more about the state of the art in search engines, have a look at <http://searchenginewatch.com/>, or do a search for Tara Calishain, author of "Google Hacks". Cool stuff.

--Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)


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