Friday, December 4, 2009

Number 1 on Google

Dr. Hook and his Medicine Machine may have fixated on getting their picture on the cover of The Rolling Stone magazine. Athletes hope for Sports Illustrated covers. I suppose politicians hope for the conservative or liberal magazine of choice. But for a writer who writes on the web and tries to attract readers through search engines, the goal is to be number 1 on Google for the critical search term(s).

My article, Book Review: Lost Letters of Pergamum, from June 2008, has for a long time been the most popular article I've posted to this blog. It's companion, More Thoughts on Lost Letters of Pergamum, doesn't get near as many hits. Some of my other book reviews get some traffic. Otherwise it's a known reader in Rhode Island, a known reader in north Georgia, a mystery reader in Little Rock, and me who look at any of these pages.

I can always tell when some class somewhere has begun a study of The Lost Letters of Pergamum, for I get a few hits from that locale on the article. They show up in my sitemeter stats for a day or two, then things go quiet till next semester.

But Wednesday and Thursday I got a lot of hits on that article, many more than just one class studying the book. In fact, I think the hits came from five different institutions of higher ed. I wondered what was going on. At least one of the hits indicated they accessed the site after searching on Google for "review of lost letters of Pergamum". So I did the Google search for that term.

And there I was, number 1 on Google. Even ahead of the Christian Book Shops page reviewing the book. Ahead of the page. Ahead of Barnes and Noble. Ahead of 12,799 other sites.

Those who have been at this Internet writing game for a while, and who know more about "search engine optimization" (SEO) than I do, say that somehow, through magical al-gore-ithms, Google can tell what is good writing and what isn't. Or maybe it's what is popular writing and what isn't. Either way, my review seems to have passed Google-muster and risen to the top. It must have always been fairly high in a Google search, because I wouldn't have been getting the occasional hits if it hadn't. Research shows people rarely look past the first page of hits, and even more rarely go past page three.

But to rise to the number 1 position for the most important search phrase is validation. I must be doing something right. Since I wrote that article long before I had even heard about SEO, either I'm a natural at that new practice or the writing must be fairly good. Either way, I'll take it. Time to get back to my SEO-based writing, trying to figure out how to write informative articles that incorporate search terms and that are written with excellence, not with mindless repetition of those terms.

It's a good feeling.

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