Teaching Examples

Are you making the most of your long tail?
April 24, 2007, 1:15 pm
Filed under: blogs, journalism, online, search, SEO

On Saturday (the day of the week when traffic to this blog is usually at its lowest), I saw a surprising surge in visits. Turned out a particular post had been linked on Techmeme, and it being a slow day, the link sat on the Techmeme front all day.

When I went into my FeedBurner stats, I thought what I saw would make a pretty good lesson for people who don’t understand the importance of SEO and bringing people to your site via search.

On the day in question, 427 visitors came. There were 473 visits and 763 pageviews.

But what did they look at? This blog has (well, had, on Saturday) 697 posts. So a visitor might have landed on any one of those, instead of on the home page.

The home page had 120 views, according to FeedBurner.

The post linked on Techmeme: 145 views (more than the home page).

The third most-viewed page on Saturday: 25 views (a lot less than either one of the top two pages that day).

Two additional pages were viewed more than 20 times. All others were viewed fewer than 20 times.

So here’s the math: 120 + 145 + 25 + 23 + 21 = 334. And 334 divided by 763 pageviews comes out to 44 percent.

That means 56 percent of the pageviews fell in the long tail, which is considered the secret to Amazon.com’s success — among other things.

In part, this explains why blogs that have been active longer tend to rank higher in the various databases, such as Technorati, that are designed to rank them.

A new blog has no tail yet — or its tail is very short.

News Web sites that lock up the archives behind a paid firewall have cut off their own tail.

Those 56 percent of pageviews that fall outside the most-viewed pages of the day are not individually valuable — you couldn’t hope to get an advertiser excited about buying space on one of those pages. No, their value lies in the aggregate. The more often someone’s Google search brings him or her to my blog site, the more likely that person is to bookmark the site, or add it to an RSS reading list. And the more interesting posts found by someone who comes to the site for the first time — by the Techmeme link, for example — the more likely that person is to return in the future.

How do you build up a habitual audience in today’s information universe of random searches?

You prove again and again that you are the destination where many of their searches end.

And that, my friend, is why the content in the long tail is the most important content on your site.

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Hiding your best stories from the world
March 27, 2007, 6:35 pm
Filed under: investigative, newspapers, online, SEO

So The Charleston Gazette, a small newspaper in West Virginia, won an IRE award for its investigative series about mine safety.

After years of covering the coal industry, [reporter Ken Ward, Jr.] offers readers an unparalleled portrait of the dangers inside mines and the breakdowns of regulation that made 2006 a deadly year. Using documents and data analysis, this Small Newspapers category winner detailed lax safety procedures, inferior training, poor equipment maintenance and other problems that contributed to deaths at Sago and other mines.

Sounds interesting. I went to their Web site and tried to find it. Searched in the current stories. Searched in the archives. Tried mine safety, “mine safety” and “Ken Ward.” No luck.

And — dare I ask — was there any online package for this series?

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How does Google rank your blog?
March 23, 2007, 1:57 pm
Filed under: blogging, blogs, SEO

Danny Sanchez explains it all to us, based on various sources and Google’s own patent application for “ranking blog documents.” (My mind reels when I think about applying for a patent on algorithms!)

Danny’s post is perfect because it neatly summarizes the how and why, then just points us to the compete original sources.

And if you’ve never tried Google Blog Search, what are you waiting for? Go ahead, try a search for online journalism. Or Barak Obama. Or Final Four.

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