Wednesday, January 12, 2011

SEO: Quick Tips for Libraries

If you've already heard a bit about SEO, you may find the idea terrifying, because the potential scope is so large. It can be a huge project requiring a great deal of time and expertise. But please don't run away screaming; I've got some quick tips that can get you started.

(I already know what SEO is; I want to skip straight to the tips)

Or you may be wondering, What on earth is SEO? Well, I'm glad you asked, because I've been doing some reading, and I'm learning a lot.

SEO is Search Engine Optimization. Basically, this means "making sure that people who are looking for you (whether they know it or not) can find you. So: you want them to be able to find you if they google you; for example, if they type "marketing non librarian." You want them to be able to find you even if they can't remember the name of your organization: "publicity not a librarian" (you can see that I don't turn up here at all, so I obviously need some tips!) Ideally, you want to be at the top of the page when someone searches for what you do: "library marketing blog" (again, not in the list.)

This applies to libraries in a big way. Don't you want people to be able to find you when they search for "teen events [yourtown]"? Or "job search help [yourtown]"? Or when they search for your annual "humpty dumpty festival"?

Of course you do! And there are some very simple things you can do to help this happen.

1. Web pages should have meaningful titles. Don't just have the title of every page say "Mytown Public Library." Include some descriptive information, such as "Mytown Public Library - Job Search Resources" or "Mytown Public Library - Teen Events." (By "title" I mean the stuff that goes inside the "title" tag, and shows up in the bar at the top of the window. But this could also apply to the headings you use.)

2. One topic per page is best. If something is important, it needs its own page. If your annual Humpty Dumpty Festival is a big deal, don't bury it in a mile-long listing of events - give it its own page, and this will help search engines find it.

3. Put relevant text on the page. So you've created a page for your Humpty Dumpty Festival. Don't just upload a pdf of your flier and leave it at that. Add some text that will make sense if you see it in the search results: "The annual Humpty Dumpty Festival is held the third weekend in September at the Mytown Public Library."

4. Don't put important information in images or in Flash. Search engines can't find words in images or Flash. So if important information - like the topic of a page or the name of an event - is only displayed in an image or in Flash, Google will not find it. If you're using images to convey information, be sure to use alt tags on the images. If you're putting information in Flash (for instance, in a slide show) then make sure the information is also available elsewhere in text format.

5. Links are important to search engines. In some way that I don't fully understand (yet), it changes your search rankings when you link to people, and when they link to you.

How do I get people to link to me?
I don't know! This is a tough question. I can offer a few suggestions:
-Take advantage of your community partnerships; offer to link to their site if they can link to yours.
-Add your events to online event listings. Your local paper, or other local sites, may have a section where you can list your events for free. This builds links, and as an added bonus, you get free publicity!

I'll leave you with a few articles about SEO.
This claims to be a list of basic tips, but it's not; it's a quick run-though of the potential scope of search engine optimization:

This is one of the nicest bare-bones guides I've seen:

A super-intensive (and graphically excellent!) beginner's guide: (full disclosure: I haven't read it all. But what I read seemed good!)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: a Love Letter

Don't worry, I'm not going to use the direct address. No odes here. But I am going to use this opportunity to talk about some of the many things I love about this book.
Why I love the cover:
I like the striking black and cream, and the simplicity of the design.

I especially like the starkness of the raven.

I love the font. I love the unevenness of it. I love the sharp point on the second stem of the N. I love the sweeping tail of the R. I love the asymmetrical slants on the beaks of the T. (Sorry if the terminology is confusing. Just look at the T and how it is asymmetrical, you'll see what I mean.)

And I love how well the odd, antiquated feel of the cover goes with the content.
Which brings us to...

Why I love the novel:

Pacing. This book doesn't rush; it takes its time revealing character, setting, system of magic, and story. There are footnotes. But by the end, I was utterly gripped. I stayed up until 4 in the morning to finish this book.

True unpredictability. I really enjoy not knowing what will happen, and the events of this book are truly original.

Love of books. It's a pervasive theme throughout the novel, and (of course) it rings deeply true for me.

Atmosphere. Victorian, gloomy, and mystical. Reminds me of the art of Arthur Rackham - check out this site and particularly, this image.

"Getting the magic right." When I read a fantasy book, one of my criteria for rating the book is the system of magic: is it well-conceived? Is it consistent? Essentially, is it believable?

Well, the system of magic in this book is well-conceived and believable, but for me it goes one step beyond that. When I read this book, there's a part of my brain that goes "Yeah! That's how real magic is!" It's much like I feel when I read a book with a child character, and the child character actually behaves like a child. I think "Hey, they got it right! That's what a kid would really do." Well...apparently I believe in magic, and apparently I believe that real magic is structured the way it's structured in Jonathan Strange.

Which is funny, because if you were to ask me, "Hey, Kate, if magic is real, what's it like?" I would describe something completely different. I would maybe have cited "Poison Study" or "The Name of the Wind." But neither of those books rings true for me the way Jonathan Strange does.