Friday, January 18, 2008

Christian Content SEO?

I've noticed this week that the top search phrase that leads people here is "how to keep a prayer journal" which of course sends them here to the post of January 4th. If you go to google and type that phrase in, you wont see the link to that post until you go to page 2 (as it stands currently, anyway) and it's the second one on the page.

Because I own an online retail business, I know a little bit about SEO (Search Engine Optimization - a fancy phrase for "how to get ranked higher in google so people click YOUR links first"), but I don't know nearly enough about how it all works, to really "work it" the way a lot of people can and do. It's all a part of internet marketing and it's a good way to get your name/product/work/brand recognized. Not only do I not know enough about really working it out well, I just don't have the time to initially invest in it, and then to consistantly maintain and upgrade. I'm a busy mom with 900 loads of laundry every day, I don't have time to do all that stuff.

I do a few things at the store to make sure my products can be located if someone were actually looking for that particular design, but for the most part, I rely on word of mouth advertising - mostly by other kind bloggers who link to to my store, and kind recommendations from customers who have shopped there and enjoy the products. From a strictly business point of view, most would say I'm not doing nearly enough to get my brand "out there" and establish my business. While it is my dream (however unrealistic it might be) to see the business do well, and while I was a fairly successful salesperson in the retail/services industry when I was in the workforce, I'm really really bad at successful self-promotion.

If all of this makes Christians feel somewhat squeamish, I can understand that because it doesn't really sit well with me either. In a moral sense it really does fly directly in the face of being meek and modest and not going out of one's way to draw attention to one's self. On the flip side of that of course, is the idea that being SEO savvy to promote the gospel is not at all a bad idea, and one that brings glory to God. Indeed it seems like a bit of a paradox, but in this world of electronic communication it's one of those strange things we're all dealing with every day. Even if we never give it much thought - just by using google we're all dealing with it. We've all come to expect to find what we're looking for there, and hope we don't have to wade through page after page to find it. We're relying on the work other people have done in the area of SEO, to make our searches a little easier.

Most folks who are 'in the know' about all this SEO stuff, will say that if you don't rank in the first page of google (top 10), you're not going to do very well traffic wise. Other experts argue that the top 5 spots are the key targets to go after. The theory goes, that if someone has to click more than 3 times (once on the link, once on the page, once on the specific product) they wont bother to click at all. So, being ranked anywhere other than page 1 of google puts you in 4th click territory (click to page 2, then repeat the process above). It all sounds very weird I agree, but that's what the experts like to tell us. Maybe they're right, I don't really know. I do know that the first time I read that I thought about my own research methods and knew it didn't apply to me because I scan for text content in the descriptions, and will click several pages in google until I find what I'm looking for. I suppose a lot of people do the same thing, but that more people will settle for what they find on page one -simply because popularity is usually what puts you on page one, and it's likely that this is where the item is they're looking for.

All of this online marketing business came to mind when I noticed folks were looking for ways to keep a prayer journal. It may be cliche, but the truth of the matter is, I really don't care one way or another how important google thinks that phrase is - if just one person clicked that link and took my suggestions for themselves, began a prayer journal and is currently working toward a richer prayer life, then to God be all the glory and amen! It just blesses my heart when I know someone was in turn blessed by something that edified me too. This is one of the sweet fruits of fellowship, even if it is done in this strange electronic world we're fellowshipping in. Would I be tickled pink if even more than one were blessed the same way? Well sure, but then I might be tempted to start blogging for the quantity instead of the quality, and that's a trap a lot of Christain bloggers very easily fall into. I've been there myself and have to remind myself NOT to do it, on a regular basis (its the reason I removed my blog from all those blog ranking sites that tell you how 'popular' you are - it's a real ego booster [or by contrast a good way to feel like no one cares one way or another what you're saying] and I hate that). If, in some way someone has figured out how to blog for both quantity without compromising quality, and without letting the high traffic be what motivates them, then my hat is off to them. As for me, I can't do that and balance it all out.

I'd be interested to know your thoughts on this. Does your blog's "rank" really matter to you? Do you put your traffic (readership) first, or do you focus on content first? Is there a practical way to balance all of this out without letting it all go to your head?