Optimizing Library Websites for Better Visibility


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Binghamton University Librarians have attempted to employ search engine optimization strategies to make their website more visible on search engine result pages. Search engine optimization is the practice of improving ranking on search engine result pages and also increasing targeted traffic to a website. The presenter will discuss the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of developing a “do it yourself” optimization strategy for library websites

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  • Out interest in SEO started back in 2006 some staff at Binghamton went to the search engine optimization conference in NYC May have seen advertisements for this conference, its held in various locations around the world such as Chicago, Berlin, Tokyo, etc Basically it’s a conference for webmasters, marketers, corportate decision makers etc. Offer a variety of workshops including workshops on designing search engine friendly pages, getting your pages to rank higher, etc.
  • Rather pricey conference but the expo is always free so that’s why we initially went
  • When I went to this conference initially I was first of all naïve that this industry existed and I was also really surprised to learn how much money is spent
  • http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/pip_search_aug08.pdf People are using search as their primary way to find things
  • It doesn’t matter if you’re getting a million trilllion results from your search, very few people move beyond even the first few results
  • Aims to increase a websites visability within search results Positive branding experience because a company must be outstanding and trustworthy to be listed at the top of Google, Yahoo, MSN Search, and Ask.com. You want to have steady traffic to your sites and a high return on investment When I start on a new project, I first conduct an SEO survey. Questions include the following: * What are website goals? * How will you measure the success of the SEO? * Who is your audience? Who are the customers and competitors? * How do you describe your products and services (i.e., what keywords would you use to describe them)? * What kind of Internet marketing have you already done? * Is your Web site database driven? What kind of server does it run from? Does your site use JavaScript, Flash, PHP, CGI, ASP, .NET, or other scripting and programming languages?
  • Want to increase targeted traffic that comes to your website from search engines SEO – what you do to your site e.g. modifying html code, communicating with search engines, listing website in directories, tracking traffic How search engines work the secret search engine algorithm Counts inbound links How long people stay on websites Social book marking sites and collaborative tagging How much text you have on your site, how its formated and what is says Keywords Why would the library be interested in SEO? The overall goal is to gain targeted traffic e.g. get our patrons to our website Other targeted groups Members of the press Employees at Binghamton University Alumni Other libraries Want to attract people to our website so they can view our unique library services, our digital initiatives, library exhibits Challenges: OCLC report - ************** We have a lot of competition on the internet!!!!! Our plan is to optimize the “Ask a Librarian” webpage Want to increase linkability with non commercial content since search engines count inbound links from other websites e.g. popularity Better understanding on how people search our website – e.g. how they get to our website from the internet, what terms they use to search our website Keywords important part of SEO – want to make sure we have right keywords on our site Look at both visible keywords and at invisible keywords Measuring our success Tracking statistics Looking at sucessful conversions (i.e. when someone does what you want them to do on a website e.g. click a link, contact a librarian) Website housekeeping (is really one of the most effective SEO ways) Make sure our site has good metadata Make sure our site has good HTML titles Make sure our site has good body and content Make sure our site has web page redirects Rewrite pages to reflect more commonly searched terms Cleaning up old and dead links e.g. road blocks
  • Jump gears a bit and talk about how search engine optimization works and in order to understand seo its helps to understand how search engines work Use an analogy of how a car works.
  • Way your pages are linked to each other and the way your site links to other sites impacts search engine visibility Quality of the sites linking to your site may have more weight than the quantity of sites listing e.g. a link from Yahoo will have more weight than lesser known site Need to link to directories such as yahoo, msn, and looksmart
  • Increase: Number of successful conversions: a conversion is a favorable action that occurs on a web page. This can mean a sale on a commercial site or a request for information or page view on a non-commercial site.
  • Webtrends and Google Analytics were both used to measure web traffic and website activity. Webtrends was used to extract statistics from the web server’s log files; the extracted statistical data was used to compare the number of visits and demographic information for pre and post-optimization phases. Google Analytics is a free service that provided similar data to Webtrends. We also used Google Webmaster Central, a service that provides information about how Google crawled and indexed the web site. Review keywords : The selection of keywords is a key area of search engine optimization since individuals often find webpages by typing keywords into a search engines. We selected keywords that existed on the target webpages and used the keyword generating tool called Webtracker to find other popular and related keywords. These keywords were then tested on Google, Yahoo and MSN, the top three search engines, to see if the target pages appeared in the first 100 search results. In addition, the task force measured the rankings for several other websites to see how the Libraries’ webpages ranked in comparison.  The comparison websites were chosen on their similarities to the Libraries (University of Buffalo, and Florida State for their Link pages), their ubiquity (such as the Library of Congress) and the quality of their webpages (Duke’s and UNC’s “Ask a Librarian” webpage). After ranking the success of various keywords, the we sought ways to improve content on the targeted pages. There were some limitations to this endeavour. The Ask a Librarian webpage was not a text heavy page and therefore could not be edited significantly. The Link Collection pages, on the other hand, contained substantial text but because the pages were under the auspice of the Special Collections Department the task force could only suggest content changes to the web authors. Review metadata : Metadata is used to describe the content of a page. It also serves as a short description in search engine results. The task force reviewed the metadata for the target pages and came up with improvements for the description and keyword tags. Review HTML tags : HTML tags, or title tags, are important for optimization because it is the text that all search engines search. It is also the text that shows up in search engine results under the link. The task force reviewed the HTML tags for the target pages and brainstormed improvements.
  • An Ask a Librarian link was added to the Libraries homepage A section about the Libraries was added to Binghamton University’s page in Wikipedia. The entry includes several inbound links to the Libraries. However, the section the task force added has been edited several times and inbound links removed. Title tags were rewritten to be more descriptive and include keywords
  • Text was rewritten when possible to include optimized keywords and phrases Webpages were validated using the World Wide Web Consortium Markup Validation Service Alt Text was added to several images Images were resized based on results we received from the Webpage Analyzer tool The robots.txt file was configured in order to allow Googlebot and other crawlers to index the site And to facilitate better indexing by Google, a sitemap.xml file was created and uploaded to Google Webmaster Central
  • Retest pages on Webpage Analyzer The baseline assessment using Webpage Analyzer highlighted some known problems with image and page sizes on the target pages.  We kept some small images on the Ask a Librarian page and Special Collections was made aware of the large image sizes of the images on the Link Collections pages, which they are likely to resize as part of a future website redesign project.  After discussion with Special Collections, it was agreed that the Link Collections Finding Aid would eventually be re-formatted into html, rather than using frames, although this too is a longer-term project.  Measure effectiveness of metadata During Phase Two , metadata titles, descriptions and keyword tags were added to several of the target pages. It was not possible to measure the impact that metadata had on SEO efforts since metadata generally doesn’t impact search engine results. However, metadata can help drive traffic from search engines to a webpage, especially when it provides informative descriptions about the purpose of the site. Measure effectiveness of HTML tags During Phase Two , HTML tags were rewritten on several of the target pages. As with other SEO tactics, it was not possible to directly measure the impact that this tactic had on SEO efforts. MarketLeap Link Popularity Only slight gains were made in the overall Popularity of the pilot pages. The Link collection pages registered a "limited presence," while the Ask a Librarian page has an "average presence" on the web.  Optimization did not appear to significantly alter our "link popularity."
  • At the completion of the pilot, the task force concludes that SEO efforts did improve the quality of target webpages but the overall impact of SEO efforts on search engine results is inconclusive.  A retrospective of the pilot strategy exposes some shortfalls. For example, the task force’s own activity on the target pages may have distorted some results such as page visits and referring websites. Another factor that may have hindered conclusive results was the fact only a few pages out of the thousand plus that reside on the library website were optimized.  Optimization is a holistic practice and how a site as a whole is organized and designed impacts search engine results.  In other words, optimizing only a few select pages may not have much impact if the rest of the site is poorly optimized.  Finally, given the short time period of the pilot and the members' newness with optimization strategies, there were some weaknesses in the pilot design.  For example, more time could have been spent ensuring good keywords were embedded into page content, metatags and HTML tags. Despite the lack of conclusive results and design flaws, the we believe that there are advantages for incorporating optimization strategies into the Libraries’ website.  Optimization, after all, is not totally about achieving the number one result in Google (although it's a nice consequence).  Rather, optimization is about having a quality website with good content, good metadata, good inbound and outbound links and good web standards. Although these practices may not always result in improved rankings, they will ensure that our Website is search engine friendly and easy indexed by spiders.   
  • Optimizing Library Websites for Better Visibility

    1. 1. Erin E. Rushton [email_address] Binghamton University Libraries Optimizing Library Websites for Better Visibility College and Research Libraries New England Chapter 2010 Spring Conference May 14 2010
    2. 2. Acknowledgements <ul><li>I would like to acknowledge the work Marcy Strong who helped develop an earlier version of this presentation and who participated in Binghamton University Libraries’ SEO Pilot Project. </li></ul><ul><li>I would also like to acknowledge Martha Kelehan who worked on the Pilot Project. </li></ul>
    3. 3. Agenda <ul><li>How we became interested in optimization </li></ul><ul><li>Search engines and search engine optimization </li></ul><ul><li>SEO and the relationship to libraries </li></ul><ul><li>Our experiment in optimization…. </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges </li></ul><ul><li>SEO tools and resources </li></ul>
    4. 4. <ul><li>Conference series for webmasters, digital agencies, online marketers and corporate decision makers. </li></ul><ul><li>Presentations about: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>designing search engine-friendly web pages </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>building links and their importance to rankings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>building analytics package into websites and interpreting the results </li></ul></ul>Where it began…. A trip to NYC
    5. 5. Where it began….
    6. 6. Search consultants and advertising agencies
    7. 7. ‘ Ad Age’ Search Marketing Fact Pack Charts from 'Ad Age' Search Marketing Fact Pack
    8. 8. Why the competition? Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/skwishy/2048677231/
    9. 9. Search is popular Pew Internet “Search Engine Use” August 6, 2008 http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/pip_search_aug08.pdf
    10. 10. Competing for prime real estate
    11. 11. Paid Results Organic Results How to make this happen?
    12. 12. Search Engine Optimization Activities that improve search engine visibility and increase targeted traffic to a website. <ul><li>Results in websites that: </li></ul><ul><li>are search engine (robot) friendly </li></ul><ul><li>are highly ranked </li></ul><ul><li>have successful conversions </li></ul>
    13. 13. How search engines work
    14. 14. Search Engine Optimization Techniques Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/simonpow/252312738/
    15. 15. Disclaimer Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/marciookabe/3102556540/
    16. 16. Optimize with Keywords <ul><li>Frequency of keywords </li></ul><ul><li>Weight of keywords </li></ul><ul><li>Keyword proximity </li></ul>
    17. 17. Optimize with keywords <ul><li>Understand what users are looking for and understand how they look for this information. </li></ul>Incorporating these words into the site Paradigm shift in how we provide access to our services and resources
    18. 18. Look for opportunities to use keywords Slide from “Search Engine Guide” http://www.searchengineguide.com/stoney-degeyter/seo-101-part-12-everything-you-need-to-k.php
    19. 19. Keyword prominence and location
    20. 20. metaDATA
    21. 21. Popularity <ul><li>Quality and authority of incoming and out coming links (not quantity) </li></ul><ul><li>Number of visits AND time spent on site </li></ul><ul><li>Number of repeat visitors </li></ul>
    22. 22. Indexing of webpages Pages not indexed by spider will not appear in the search engine results
    23. 23. Why optimize the library? Image of Bartle Libraries from: http://www.hermanmiller.com/DotCom/jsp/research/caseStudiesDetail.jsp?csId=15
    24. 28. <ul><li>Are we even relevant anymore? </li></ul>
    25. 29. We are but…. <ul><li>We can accomplish this through Search Engine Optimization </li></ul><ul><li>… we need to make our services and resources more visible on the web because that is where are users are </li></ul>
    26. 31. Promote Library Content and Resources <ul><li>Library Guides </li></ul>Subject Expertise Ask a Librarian Services Special Collections Digitized Collections Exhibits Databases Newsletters Library Catalogues
    27. 32. Other reasons to optimize <ul><li>Better understanding of information </li></ul><ul><li>seeking behaviours and needs </li></ul><ul><li>As users become independent searchers our role shifts to that of guide and educator </li></ul><ul><li>Good practice to have an optimized site </li></ul><ul><li>Knowledge gained from web analytics </li></ul>
    28. 33. Pilot Project Mission : Optimize selected pages on the Libraries’ web site with the goal of improving the ranking of these pages on major search engines. Pages included “Ask a Librarian” and pages related to Edwin A. Link (Special Collections)
    29. 34. <ul><li>Increase: </li></ul><ul><ul><li># of successful conversions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li># of referrals from search engines </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li># of page views </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li># of unique visitors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Page linkability with non-commercial sites </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Achieve higher page rank than competitors </li></ul><ul><li>Identify problem areas with website in general </li></ul>Objectives
    30. 35. Phase 1: Pre-Optimization <ul><li>Track web traffic and website activity </li></ul><ul><li>Set conversion goals </li></ul><ul><li>Reviewed keywords, metadata, html tags </li></ul><ul><li>Calculated number of indexed pages and inbound pages </li></ul><ul><li>Tested pages used free analyzers </li></ul>
    31. 36. Phase II: Optimization <ul><li>Ask a Librarian link added to homepage </li></ul><ul><li>Added links to Wikipedia and other popular and quality websites </li></ul><ul><li>Title tags and html were rewritten to be more descriptive and include keywords </li></ul><ul><li>Broken links were repaired </li></ul>
    32. 37. Phase 2 (cont.) <ul><li>Metadata title, description and keyword tags were added to webpages: </li></ul>
    33. 38. Phase 2 (cont.) <ul><li>Text was rewritten when possible to include optimized keywords and phrases </li></ul><ul><li>Pages were validated using W3C </li></ul><ul><li>Alt text was added to several images </li></ul><ul><li>Images were resized </li></ul><ul><li>Robots.txt file configured for crawling </li></ul><ul><li>Sitemap.xml file created </li></ul>
    34. 39. Phase III: Post-optimization Testing and results <ul><li>Some pages had increase visits after optimization </li></ul><ul><li>Some pages had a decrease in visits </li></ul><ul><li>Overall, refers from website and search engines went up </li></ul><ul><li>Keywords helped improve the ranking of the Special Collection pages (Edwin A. Link) </li></ul><ul><li>More pages indexed (pre optimization Google only indexed 2 of our pages) </li></ul>
    35. 40. <ul><li>Our activity may have distorted results </li></ul><ul><li>Only few pages optimized </li></ul><ul><li>More time spent ensuring good keywords </li></ul><ul><li>Issues with Google Analytics </li></ul>Challanges
    36. 41. Next Steps
    37. 42. Continue with SEO <ul><li>New website launched last year with some SEO “built in” </li></ul><ul><li>Produce a fully optimized Library website and to share SEO best practices with other BU departments. </li></ul><ul><li>Won a grant from the University which will help fund this project </li></ul>
    38. 43. Goals of SEO for Binghamton <ul><li>Improved ROI on the millions of dollars spent annually on specialized research literature databases, journals and books. </li></ul><ul><li>Provide greater visibility of unique digital collections to students, faculty, the local community, alumni, prospective students and donors. </li></ul><ul><li>Better understand information seeking behaviours and needs of students, faculty and staff. </li></ul>
    39. 44. Goals <ul><li>Create a Search Engine Optimization Task Force composed of library and university faculty and staff, utilizing skills in information technology, reference, instruction, public relations, marketing and web usability. </li></ul><ul><li>Establish baseline levels of typical web activity for the libraries’ website using Google Analytics. </li></ul>
    40. 45. More challenges… <ul><li>Not experts </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of time </li></ul><ul><li>Measuring success </li></ul>
    41. 46. Websites about SEO <ul><li>Delicious.com/novascotia32/seo </li></ul><ul><li>Search Engine Guide: The small business guide to search marketi ng </li></ul><ul><li>SEOmoz.org - http://www.seomoz.org/ : serves as a hub for search marketers worldwide by providing education, tools, resources and paid services to help make every SEO the best they can be.  </li></ul><ul><li>SEO tips index - http://www.seoconsultants.com/seo/tips/ </li></ul><ul><li>ClickZ - http://www.clickz.com/ : News and expert advice for the digital marketer </li></ul><ul><li>  Google Webmaster Central Blog - http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/ : Official news on crawling and indexing sites for the Google index  </li></ul><ul><li>Search engine optimization tips for libraries, from The Other Librarian - http://otherlibrarian.wordpress.com/2008/07/14/search-engine-optimization-seo-tips-for-libraries/ </li></ul><ul><li>Is SEO evil? http://www.slideshare.net/gleddy/is-seo-evil-web-directions-2007 </li></ul>
    42. 47. SEO Tools <ul><li>Google AdWords - https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal : Keyword tool generates keyword ideas </li></ul><ul><li>30 SEO Bookmarklets to Save You Time </li></ul><ul><li>Learn SEO in 30 Minutes a Day </li></ul><ul><li>69 Free (or low cost) Tools to Improve Your Website </li></ul>
    43. 48. Bibliography <ul><li>Beel, J., Gipp, B., & Eilde, E. (2010). Academic Search Engine Optimization (. Journal of Scholarly Publishing, 41 (2), 176-190. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.binghamton.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lxh&AN=47198480&site=ehost-live </li></ul><ul><li>Black, E. L. (2009). Web Analytics: A Picture of the Academic Library Web Site User. Journal of Web Librarianship, 3 (1), 3-14. doi: 10.1080/19322900802660292 </li></ul><ul><li>Cahill, K., & Chalut, R. (2009). Optimal Results: What Libraries Need to Know About Google and Search Engine Optimization. Reference Librarian, 50 (3), 234. doi: 10.1080/02763870902961969 </li></ul><ul><li>Griffiths, J. R., & Brophy, P. (2005). Student Searching Behavior and the Web: Use of Academic Resources and Google. Library Trends, 53 (4), 539-554. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.binghamton.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=tfh&AN=16811207&site=ehost-live </li></ul><ul><li>Houghton-Jan, S. (2007). Twenty Steps to Marketing Your Library Online. Journal of Web Librarianship, 1 (4), 89-90. doi: 10.1080/19322900802111445 </li></ul><ul><li>Hsieh-Yee, I. (2001). Research on Web search behavior. Library & Information Science Research, 23 (2), 167-185. doi:DOI: 10.1016/S0740-8188(01)00069-X </li></ul><ul><li>Jansen, B. J., & Spink, A. (2006). How are we searching the World Wide Web? A comparison of nine search engine transaction logs. Information Processing & Management, 42 (1), 248-263. doi:DOI: 10.1016/j.ipm.2004.10.007 </li></ul><ul><li>Kim, J. (2009). Describing and predicting information-seeking behavior on the Web. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 60 (4), 679-693. doi: 10.1002/asi.21035 </li></ul><ul><li>Liaw, S., & Huang, H. (2003). An investigation of user attitudes toward search engines as an information retrieval tool. Computers in Human Behavior, 19 (6), 751-765. doi:DOI: 10.1016/S0747-5632(03)00009-8 </li></ul><ul><li>Liu, S. (2008). Engaging Users: The Future of Academic Library Web Sites. College & Research Libraries, 69 (1), 6-27. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.binghamton.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lih&AN=28789040&site=ehost-live </li></ul><ul><li>Malaga, R. A. (2009). Web 2.0 Techniques for Search Engine Optimization: Two Case Studies. Review of Business Research, 9 (1), 132-139. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.binghamton.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=44231928&site=ehost-live </li></ul><ul><li>Riley-Huff, D. A. (2009). Web Services As Public Services: Are We Supporting Our Busiest Service Point? The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 35 (1), 65-74. doi:DOI: 10.1016/j.acalib.2008.10.004 </li></ul>
    44. 49. Bibliography cont… <ul><li>Rushton, E. E., Kelehan, M. D., & Strong, M. A. (2008). Searching for a New Way to Reach Patrons: A Search Engine Optimization Pilot Project at Binghamton University Libraries. Journal of Web Librarianship, 2 (4), 525-547. doi: 10.1080/19322900802484248 </li></ul><ul><li>Smith, J. A., & Nelson, M. L. (2008). Site Design Impact on Robots. D-Lib Magazine, 14 (3/4), 1082-9873 . </li></ul><ul><li>Sorensen, C., & Dahl, C. (2008). Google in the Research and Teaching of Instruction Librarians. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 34 (6), 482-488. doi: 10.1016/j.acalib.2008.09.015 </li></ul><ul><li>Sweeny, M. (2007). Information Architecture and Search Optimization: Beginning a Beautiful Friendship. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science & Technology, 34 (1), 36-38. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.binghamton.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=28742079&site=ehost-live </li></ul><ul><li>Watry, M. (2006). Increasing awareness and access to special collections and archives at the University of Liverpool. SCONUL Focus, (38), 93-94. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.binghamton.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lih&AN=23593229&site=ehost-live </li></ul><ul><li>Welch, J. M. (2005). The Electronic Welcome Mat: The Academic Library Web Site as a Marketing and Public Relations Tool. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 31 (3), 225-228. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.binghamton.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lih&AN=17319878&site=ehost-live </li></ul><ul><li>Whang, M. (2007). Measuring the Success of the Academic Library Website Using Banner Advertisements and Web Conversion Rates: A Case Study. Journal of Web Librarianship, 1 (1), 93. doi: 10.1300/J502v01n01•07 </li></ul><ul><li>Zhang, J., & Dimitroff, A. (2005). The impact of webpage content characteristics on webpage visibility in search engine results (Part I). Information Processing & Management, 41 (3), 665-690. doi:DOI: 10.1016/j.ipm.2003.12.001 </li></ul>