Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Search Engine Optimization

In the mid to late 1990's, I spent a surprising amount of time "optimizing" my organization's ranking on search engines. In essence, I would make sure that when someone typed in our name, or something very close to that name, our website would pop up in the first five "hits". Since then, SEO (search engine optimization) has become an INDUSTRY designed to cut in at the front of the result-line when some unknown stranger blithely types in a keyword search.

An Industry?

There are actually companies who are paid to audit other organizations' sites, recommend strategies for improving result list results and/or manage the optimization on a longer term contract. There are thousands of these consulting companies but most focus on American, Canadian and United Kingdom clientele.

As in the old days, there are strategies that fall in accordance with the policies and guidelines set out by major search engines (like Google) and then there are techniques that ignore these conventions and look for sneakier ways to improve results. Since money is the driving force for the these activities, linking searchers with the BEST information is not really a priority.

So how does this kind of activity affect the information we find on the Web? I wonder what kind of influence it has (and will continue to have) on the quality and accessibility of information. Perhaps, such activities will only further enhance the role of libraries....?


John Kemp said...

Or, perhaps, we'll only get the results that Big Brother (i.e. the very rich) wants us to get. And, with our every need so well provided by such wonderful altruistic benefactors, why would we even need libraries?

Christina Neigel said...

Ah, John, such cynicism! I think this optimization and other related activities is what is going to reinforce the library's importance in maintaining a democratic society.

John Kemp said...

The spirit of hope and faith is a beautiful thing. On a related note, I would think that, optimally, we would want to educate the populace to be able to search and find information as well as a library tech would. It might serve to make us almost redundant in a circulation desk sense, but we'd still be needed in other areas.

Unknown said...

I think it means that we're going to have to move the Internet Information Retrieval courses LIBIT teaches, and start teaching them around oh... grade three?

After all, just because someone knows how to use the internet doesn't mean they know how to recognise that they are (or are not) getting quality information. They need to learn how to recognise what that even is

A person isn't going to come into the library if they think they can get the same info at home (less work). Libraries are going to have to advertise the 'we can do it better' aspect a lot more.

I also find it interesting that the LIBIT 130 (Children's Literature) is the only one that crosses over with the education program. Working with someone in that program, I can see a real need to also put the Internet Information Retrieval courses as part of their program.

Students tend to only work as hard as they have to to pass. If their teacher lets them get away with inferior sources (possibly due to their own lack of knowledge), why would they learn to search for anything else?

Genevieve said...

I have two points to make. Search engine optimization is an established industry as Christina has pointed out. Our job is to source the best search engine providers so we can enhance our ability to promote a contemporary library brand. The second point is that our children are learning how to use computers in schools as early as kindergarten. By grade three they are introduced to the internet and how to search for things. However, the school library is still the 'chief source of information' if you'll pardon my plug from LIBT115.

Christina Neigel said...

I have just been reading some research about how children search for information on the Web, and it is revealing some pretty interesting findings including the fact that children do not appear to have the cognitive abilities (never mind the background) to effectively select resources. So, where does this get taught? I am not so sure it is happening in understaffed/resources school libraries!