Monday, July 10, 2006

[Traffic] Search Engines & Topicality

Once you have a fairly high Google Page Ranking [GPR], at least 5, I suspect, preferably higher, writing about topical subjects might increase your readership.

However, merely writing about, The World Cup, for example, won't necessarily get you any extra hits. Just think about the millions of people who will have been writing about The World Cup every day.

The title of your post is the most important factor. As far as I can tell (and this is all vood-doo since no one told me this, I just worked it out for myself), google looks first to the post title to match words in a search. For example, if someone was searching for "The Blah-Blah Restaurant, Katmandu", anyone who had written a post with those words in the title would come up higher in a search then, for example, someone with the same GPR who had written a post called "My favourite Place for Dinner" and then only mentioned the name and place of the restaurant in the main body of the post.

Not because I was looking for readers necessarily, but because I like my blog to be a useful service that provides and helps the spread of information, I decided to title some of my posts "where to watch the world cup in san francisco", not really stopping to think what effect this would have on my stats. I really hit the nail on the head. The number of people who searched for that exact phrase was incredible, and since I am the only person in the world to have a post with that exact title, my readership over the month of the world cup just soared.

Now, it was nice while it lasted to have all those extra readers, but the world cup is now over and I am expecting to drop back down to my normal level of readership but I thought I would share this here, so other food bloggers can see the effect that effective, searchable titling of your post can have on your stats.

It's something to think about...

This Post was written by Sam from Becks & Posh


Derrick said...

I would argue that you should always choose a meaningful title not to boost your search results, but to help your readers. Most Internet-based readers skim, so if your title is relevant rather than "My favorite restaurant" you're doing a much better service for your regular readers, not just your itinerant ones.

And yes, I think Google does give precedence to title text. It's an easy text string to parse out, so it makes sense.

Amy Sherman said...

It's all voodoo to me. My most popular post by far is one titled Perfect Peanut Sauce. If you search for "peanut sauce" on Google it often comes up first. Why my post? There are literally thousands of peanut sauce recipes titled peanut sauce and yet mine rises to the top.

Sam said...

derrick - i think the two go hand in hand. If you make things clear for your readers, then it will be clear for the rest of the world too and you will probably get more searches coming to you by the by. I wrote those world cup posts with that title because I thought it would help people find people find places to watch the world cup. And it probably did, especially judging by the busyness of belden alley on sunday.

I definitely agree about the post title meaningful to your current readers - like i mentioned on FBS recently, there is a lot of competition in the RSS reader, and if I am not immediately hooked into what someone is talking about, especially if they dont make it clear inthe first 3 lines, then I am more likely to skip it.

Amy - i did a search for peanut sauce and you came up number 3. Maybe precisely because your post has those words in the title (a lot of them dont), in conjunction with your high page rank, and maybe something to do with the space between the words too on the title is why you come out so high? That is a wild guess. i have no idea. Maybe many other people have writtenabout peanut sauce but they called their post something different?

paul said...

The words in the title are important, but the content needs to be just as right on too.

I'm sure you had a few people point to your World Cup post as a valuable resource. Which not only brings you traffic, but increases your popularity in Google, and hence your GPR, which of course brings more traffic...

A well-though out title also helps because of the high numbers of people skimming RSS feeds. A good headline always grabs 'em.

drbiggles said...

Oh Amy. Have you been racing after your stats again? Still?

I give my titles their names based upon how I feel at the moment or how much caffeine is coursing through my veins.

I alwasy figured it was the content and commenting keeps it current. I did a post about adjusting flame height on old gas ranges that is still rolling along in the comments even nearly a year later. And two years ago I did a post about the caja china roasting box. I still get comments on a weekly basis and I'm #3 in google.

Yeah, I dunno. It all basically comes down to magic.

One thing I do know is that if you put a link in your post and reference someone's blog such as eggbeater, use 'eggbeater' as the link. This will be googleable. However, if you link to eggbeater and use something cute such as, "her", no go.


Rachael said...

The question of course, isn't how many people stop by, but how many stay for more than a second...that is what I hope to be able to improve on, but really dont know of a way other than having compelling posts/pictures....

Chris said...

I like crafty, fun headlines, but I too think that a plain "say what it is" headline will do better in the search results. I recently read an article that said that journalists and editors are now more search savvy. To woo Google, they sometimes decide to go with clear, descriptive headlines over witty ones.

I agree with Rachel that it should be as much about being a sticky site. Time spent should be a metric that's almost as important as total visits.

I'm also interested in new (unique) v.s. repeat (loyal) visits, but I can't get those in my Sitemeter.

Sam said...

I like crafty fun headlines too,
so sometimes I do the crafty bit in a sub heading, with the sensible approach in the title.

That's also why I like writing for, because I am required to have fun withthe headlines and it is my favourite part of the job.

Rachael - I have no idea of working how if/how long my readers stay. My imagination certainly tells me they can only possibly be stopping by for a second for two. But it if they got here via a search engine I must assume I have written some information they are looking for and might stay longer. Normal, regular blog readers are less likely to do that, I think. For them I need to be more imaginative with my post, I would assume.

Chris said...

I also wonder if absolute headlines make a difference. For example, I wrote a post today about some ricotta recipes that didn't work out to well. I used the headline "Ricotta regrets." I wonder if something like "I hate Sorrento ricotta" might draw more search visits.

Like Amy says, a lot of it is voodoo and I'm not in this for pure traffic anyway.

Jess said...

Interesting topic, Sam!

Hmm, I'm one of those whose title rarely spells out what's in the post. I like teasers, but I guess they may not be driving traffic. My World Cup posts have been titled thus far:

The Other F-Word
Requiem For A Team
Dance Me To The End

Interestingly, I get the most hits from people searching on "guayabas," a word I did include in the title for that post. But I'm willing to bet a whole can of them that none of them are in Britain.

Kalyn said...

This is an interesting discussion, and one that I'm sure is useful for newish bloggers. Out of all the posts I've written, the one I get the most search results for is one called "How to freeze fresh basil". Every time I check my search results I have 2-3 hits from that post.

By the way, Sam writes the best headlines of the 60+ writers at Blogher!

Sam said...

oh yes - the "how tos" - I had forgotten that my "How to trim an artichoke" post gets a lot of attention too.

Silverbrow said...

Sam - If you install statcounter, or google's analytics, you're able to see how long each person stays.

Amy Sherman said...

For those who want to fret over their stats, I recommend and, they are better than sitemeter and both give you plenty of details to obsess over!

Cate said...

I was just coming to mention Statcounter too. Pretty nifty little tool, and free to boot. You can not only see how long each visitor spent on your site, but their path while there and infinite other little details to obsess over, which I do, of course. ;)

It's always interesting to see the search results that land people on my site. Cracks me up with I see "girls playing footsie" as one of the result - betcha they're REAL disappointed. ;)

juliebean said...

Thanks for this info. Sam !