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Academics and SEO
November 18, 2012 - 6:02pm

A funny thing happened when I was writing something about Digital Writing Month: I googled it and the first “hit” was my post over here at IHE (it’s not anymore, but it was on November 2). I was more than a little shocked and a bit guilty; it felt like I was taking credit for something that I had little do with creating. But this is the nature of the Google search algorithm: as the popularity of the actual website increased, it surpassed my post in the rankings. But my blog post had the “heft” for lack of a better word, of being hosted on a “legitimate” website, one that receives a high-level of traffic daily.

Since I moved over here to IHE, I’ve neglected some of the better advice I learned from James Mulvey, founder of selloutyoursoul.com, a must-read for anyone looking to transition out of an academic position, particularly in the humanities. I learned a lot from him about SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. It’s about making your blog (or other online content) more present in Google searches (or Bing or whatever you are using). The idea of using literal titles in posts, including a concentration of key words or terms, etc, were all things that I was trying to do over at CRW 1.0 but abandoned when I moved over here.

I’m not sure why I did that; part of it, I think, was that I no longer had access to real-time stats of my blog, so I didn’t know where or how people where finding my blog (therefore not all that invested in making sure that Google found them). I also took for granted the built-in audience (and SEO elements) that IHE already has. They paid experts to maximize traffic (which includes hiring people like me to blog for them – content still matters!), so why do I need to worry about it. They hired me for my writing and (in my mind) nothing else.

Then again, as my Top Hit status shows, it still matter. I realized my mistake after making my Xtranormal video: if I had been paying attention people finding my video, I would have name it “How to Read of College” rather than “How Not to Read for College” (because, let’s face it, who searches that?). As I participate in Digital Writing Month, I am wondering about this issue of visibility: how are people going to find my digital writing after this month is over and the hashtag is gone?

I haven’t been using any of these tricks over at Chasing Laferriere, and I should really start. There are only 20 posts so far (hopefully I’ll double that number this month) and perhaps one of my aims should be to “optimize” the pages that already exist, as well as make sure I am more aware moving forward, to make sure I get traffic thrown my way (and not just because of filthy and inappropriate web searches – it happens when a novel/movie you are writing about is titled “How To Make Love to a Negro”).

(And yes, if I was really concerned about my visibility, I would host my own website, with its own domain. Baby steps. It was one of the elements that I didn’t get done last summer. Maybe this summer. When I’m not frantically trying to get a manuscript finished.)

And my concern with “visibility” is not only because I am on the job market, but an honest attempt to try and engage with a larger community of academics who are interested in Dany Laferriere, life writing, revision/adaptation, and the postcolonial condition. In last Friday’s #digped chat (raw archive of the tweets can be found here), we talked about new “citation” practices, given the evolving nature of what we cite/reference and why. I always see citation as a form of conversation, but the issue of preservation and curation came up, too. To be cited is to be archived; much like the more hits you have, the higher up you get on the Google search, the more people cite you (and link to you) the more you are cited and linked to.

I know this is an imperfect metric, and I certainly don’t want to be simply measured for my research output solely on this, but I think it’s important, as academics, to think about how others will find our work and then hopefully engage in meaningful discussions about it (especially as it relates to their work). I want people to read my work, but more than that, I want people to comment and leave feedback on my work. I want them to share their work, so that it becomes a larger forum for like-minded researchers (in English or French, which I should probably make clearer on the webpage).

I write about timely issues here on IHE, which helps with traffic, but when one’s research isn’t “hot”, how does one drive traffic, and more importantly for me, the right kind of traffic?

In the spirit of this post, I’d like to announce that I am now working (part-time) with academiccoachingandwriting.org as a blogger and to help them with their social media presence. I’m pretty excited about the opportunity. Follow them on Twitter and watch for my posts! 

 

 

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