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Google Trickery and Other Acts of Search Engine Optimization

Will Baude at Crescat Sententia laments that the site is only the ninth entry in Google for university of chicago blog. I confess to being quite surprised, given that everyone and their dog links to the site and it's got a page rank of 5. (That's the same as this site, and as you might notice, Serious Law Student and I duke it out for the top spot for Columbia Law Student Blog most days.)

Being the ever-helpful fellow that I am, and in the process of trying to solve a small query with regards to Crescat's trackback feature anyway, it seemed a good time to list some basic search engine optimisation advice. This is nothing but the basics, but maybe some fellow bloggers would find this kind of thing helpful:

1. Target search terms in your TITLE tag: Pages are generally more authoritative for terms found in their TITLE tags. Crescat's tags, for instance, say only "Crescat Sententia." If they want to own the term "University of Chicago Blog," then changing their title tag to include those terms would help greatly. For instance, my site's title tags now say "A Columbia Law Student Blog - Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil." Because everyone links to me with either my name or the words "Three Years of Hell," I pretty much own those terms whatever is done with the TITLE. It was only after I changed the tags, though, that I was anywhere near competitive for terms involving Columbia.

2. Include metatags: Google doesn't give metatags a lot of weight, but it's one of the few areas where you can really help yourself out in search engines. And Google does occasional actually use the description metatag to describe what a page does, so using them can be quite effective. When you write your description and keywords, you should make sure to target the terms that you want search engines to associate with you, even if it makes the wording a bit stilted. For instance, for this site I use:

<META content="Columbia Law School, Law, Law School, JD, Applying to Law School, First Year, Law School Experience, Three Years of Hell, Becoming a Lawyer, Anthony Rickey, 1L, First Year, law student, new york, legal"
name=keywords>
<META content="Anthony Rickey, a Columbia Law School student describes application, preparation, and survival of a JD degree." name=description>

3. Measure: Google changes its rankings quite often, and if you really want to be on top, it pays to pay attention every so often. As you can see in the sidebar, I use the Googlerank plug in to do this, but just searching Google for the terms you care about every now and then works as well. If you like to do things manually.

I should get back to my Con Law reading. With any luck, someone finds this helpful...

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Thanks for the pointers : )

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