Thursday, November 11, 2010

Shakespeare SEO

SEO, for those not in the business, stands for "Search Engine Optimization" and is shorthand for "the bag of tricks you use to get your site listed high in Google search results." If you're in the web business, you live and die by your SEO. And many of the people that hang out here have their own web sites. So I thought it might be fun to open up a thread on people's own SEO experience and tricks.

Some questions:

* Do you follow your search engine statistics, so that you know how your traffic is finding you?

* What key words do you score well on?

* What key words do you score lousy on, and wish you did better?

* What efforts are you making to improve your positioning?

For my part, I score very well (#1 Google spot) for "How old is Romeo" and assorted variations (how old was romeo, how old are romeo and juliet ...). This is a very specific question, yes - but it's also a very popular question, and #1 spot always gets you a nice bit of traffic. How'd I get that spot? I think it has a great deal to do with the amount of comments on that page, causing the keywords to show up over and over again. So it's more than just the post title, although a good match on the title also has a lot to do with it.

I pretty much own the "Shakespeare geek" search results, but that's to be expected. It's a pretty unique phrase, and I'm all over the net with it. It's not perfectly unique, though, and there are other generic "geek" sites that will periodically do Shakespeare content ("Gifts for the Shakespeare Geek", "Shakespeare for tech geeks" and so on). But in general I'm happy with being clearly identified in that top spot. I'd like to think that if somebody's searching that, they're looking for me. Or if they didn't know I existed, then they'll be glad they found me.

But what about the big traffic? Shakespeare as a keyword by itself is too big to tackle with just a little ol' blog like this. The subject's been around too long, and too many large-scale sites have had too much time with too much content. That search will be forever filled with the likes of Wikipedia, MIT and others.

I'd love to get some second level traffic, though. I score pretty well on "Shakespeare blogs" but not as well as I'd like, primarily because while people might search for "blogs", that's not a word you typically use to describe yourself. Want a quick lesson in SEO? Search Shakespeare blogs and then search Shakespeare blog. Note the differences.

One of the frustrating side effects of SEO, particularly with respect to our chosen topic, is that time is not a major factor. Many of the results you'll find are updated infrequently, and some have stopped altogether (i see sites that have not been updated in over a year). For people like me who try very hard to get up content every day, it's annoying. I understand it, I just don't like it. :)

Ok, that's enough from me for now. How is everybody else faring in the google wars?


kj said...

Good questions and issues! Here are some thoughts.

I think I have good content. That's why I do what I do. "Write good content and they will come" is a pseudo-mantra for Bardfilm. But I know that people won't realize that the site has good content if they can't find the site. And they might not find the site because other sites with content that isn't (perhaps) the best have better SEO.

I do check my statistics, though not in an enormously-detailed way. I try to avoid "tricks" to improve traffic. Instead, I try to post relatively frequently with things that I wish were available on the web.

I also occasionally guest blog at a well-known Shakespeare site that's a little geeky but really quite great.

Other than that, I'm not sure I'm doing anything actively to get traffic.




Duane said...

Have you considered more use of the word "movie/movies" in your content? People in general don't google for "film" as much.

I wish the mantra of "build good content and the traffic will come" was still the primary objective. While it's still true, it's a little bit like being in school and your mom telling you "Just do your best", even though everybody else is cheating. At the end of the day you got a C- and the dumb jocks all got A's, but at least you feel good about yourself. Until you realize that instead of A's and C's we're talking about money. That doesn't feel so good.

kj said...

That's the good side of having a blog that is purely for educational purposes! I'm here to educate and to talk. Any funds that the blog brings in (mostly through Amazon links) goes directly to films, books, and movies that then show up on the blog so that the cycle can continue.

Perhaps I could change the name to "BardMovie"—but rebranding is so difficult! What if you were to change to Shakespeare Nerd?

I admit that I, like many bloggers (I suspect), like the traffic. It's very gratifying to know that a thousand people have--however briefly--brushed up against my thoughts and the kinds of things I like to think about.


kj said...

. . . aaaaaaand what about you? What do you use to check these things? How do you work to get all the Shakespeare traffic on the internet? What's your least-viewed post? What's your least-viewed post that really ought to be much higher?

And how' that "Shakespeare and Bob Dylan" thing working out for you?


Duane said...

Well, the "long tail" taught us that there really is no such thing as a least-viewed item. I've got about 1500 posts up, and that's not counting various archives and search results. Most of them will not be seen for months at a time. But every now and then somebody will trip on the right-worded google request and land on a question I answered 3 years ago.

As for "least viewed that should be higher"? Often, my posts are just links to other Shakespeare sources. But sometimes I'll try to sit down and write some original content, for example my "Why Does Romeo?" post that gathered up the most common questions about Romeo and answered them all on one page. I wish those did better. That's unfortunately one of those cases where google tricks get in the way of your own voice. I didn't write it for SEO, I wrote it the way I wanted to write it, and the traffic suffers for that.

Google Analytics is, of course, the absolute must have for tracking your statistics. If you're not using GA, or some very highly regarded competitor, then quite frankly you're not to be taken seriously. With GA turned on you can find out who is hitting your sites, where they're coming from and why (i.e. "700 hits from Lifehacker because you had a comment in a post about Kurt Vonnegut"), where they are in the world if that matters to you, how long they stay on your pages, where else they click, and so on. You can find out that for your most popular page, the average time on your site is 5 seconds. That's not good. That means that either a) people didn't like what they saw, b) you answered their question and now they're done, c) you let them link off to another site too quickly, or d) you didn't give them anything else to do once they got to you. I regularly watch for this and then go back and update my older (but popular) posts, adding additional "You might be interested in ..." links, associating crucial keywords with other content in the site, and so on. Give people more things to click on so they'll stay on the site longer.

Quick GA tip : By default, Analytics will only show you complete days, so you'll be looking at what happened yesterday. However, you can click on the calendar widget and voluntarily ask for today's stats. Check that page out a few times during the day to get a feeling for how and when your traffic's coming in. Did somebody just link you unexpectedly? What about those Twitter posts you're putting out, what time of day do they get the most click throughs?

kj said...

Last question: What is your single most-viewed site of all time?

And a harder codicil to that question: Why?


Duane said...

Site? or Page?

For Site, I can actually tell you. On my own personal blog -, which is no longer actively maintained - I would post commentary on American Idol. During Season 4, I think it was, contestant Bo Bice came out and did an acapella song. Just stood at the mic, no music, and sang it. While watching, I googled for the lyrics to the song and copied them into a post.

That single post catapulted me into Google's radar, and I started getting multiple thousands of hits a day. Eventually it dropped off, of course, but for awhile I'd gone from like 0 to a billion in 3 seconds. Good times. Perfect storm, there -- a massive, trending audience (American Idol listeners), a topic that people google frequently (lyrics), and a particular event in time that I was ahead of the curve on (that song, which most people had never heard before, and now simply had to have).

As for this particular site? Over time it's certainly been "How old is Romeo?" but "Bawdy Shakespeare" is always up there in the top 5, and "Shakespeare Jokes" is climbing the charts fast. "Romeo's Last Words" also gets periodic spikes because it shows up as a crossword puzzle clue every couple of months, causing a massive influx of people googling for the answer (which is, "I die").

When The Tempest and Coriolanus movies come out later this year, I'm hoping to see some upswing in searches for related topics (I will be watching). I think that's wishful thinking, but still.