The 10-Minute Digital Librarian #3: Improve your presence on search engines

In our two previous posts, we’ve looked at how you can improve discoverability on two specific tools – Wikipedia and maps.

However, it is also possible to improve how easy it is for users to find you on the internet in general. You can do this through search engine optimisation (SEO).

This does not need to cost money, as opposed to the sort of paid advertising that often appears at the top of search results, or in your social media feeds.

Rather, it’s a case of making (often) small tweaks to what is on your website, and the way that it is structured, in order to mean that you rise to the top ‘organically’.

Many businesses with a strong focus on eCommerce do of course hire people to work on SEO, but this isn’t necessary, and there are many resources online to help you do things yourself.

Among the tips commonly given (and we’ll include links to interesting sites further on in this piece), the following can be helpful:

  • Make sure that you are using they keywords that your users may be searching for! Think about what these might be, and perhaps even use available tools to find out how often different combinations of words are searched for. Clearly, do not take this too far, as this could become annoying for users.
  • Keep content fresh, and organise it simply and clearly. Having a well-organised sitemap in xml format can also help search engines understand your site better.
  • Where possible, encourage credible external websites to link to you – this will increase your credibility and the value of your results for search engines.
  • When linking (externally or internally), make sure that your anchor text (the bit that changes colour and is often underlined) provides a short but meaningful description of where the link leads. Don’t just say ‘click here’!
  • Use alternative text or images – keep this short, but clear. This will also help people who have visual impairments.
  • Make sure that filenames and URLs are simple and descriptive – search engines can use these to identify relevant content, and they are also easier for users to work with.
  • Where search engines do not automatically crawl for content, be ready to submit your site to them in order to be found. Google is not the only player out there!

To find out more, you can simply look around for resources on the internet. The below offer a starting point:

For Google, there are beginners’ resources for SEO which include tips, videos and other materials.

For Bing (Microsoft’s search engine), there are also resources from the company offering tips.

Duck Duck Go is increasingly popular, given that it does not collect information about users. Articles in Search Engine Journal and Search Engine People offer a starting point for thinking about how to get noticed there.

Of course it’s not only traditional search engines that have an important search function. Sites like Facebook also make use of search, and you can improve discoverability there also. Look out for articles on improving SEO on other platforms also.

Share your experiences in the comments below!

Good luck!

 

If you are interested in library marketing more broadly, you should take a look at the work of IFLA’s Management and Marketing Section, which provides a platform to share expertise and experience.

Discover our series of 10-Minute Digital Librarian posts as it grows.