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Top search result for “code maroon” is now… Code Maroon.

April 14th, 2009 by mdmcginnis

We have begun optimizing some of our sites for better search results, and making strategic plans for getting better rankings for www.tamu.edu.

Other than the main university site, which is the 800 pound gorilla, of course, most of our special purpose sites are intended for a limited audience. That is, they are focused on smaller long tail topics, so our first priority was to make sure they were findable by interested campus searchers.

For example, we didn’t need to be at the top of the Google results worldwide for “emergency notification system,” since we only serve one campus. We just needed to be at the top for “Texas A&M emergency notification system” or “code maroon”.

The problem is that we weren’t.

When I searched our Google Search Appliance, I found out that some pages from the new VPAPIT site actually ranked higher for “code maroon” than Code Maroon’s own pages did. The person responsible for the VPAPIT website graciously pointed this out to me, without smirking. He even offered some helpful suggestions for improving our rankings. Not only the VPAPIT pages, but some CIS pages, were outperforming Code Maroon.

Certainly, if your website isn’t the top result when people search for the name of your website, you’ve got a problem. I’ve said it myself, and I still believe it. Clearly something had to be done. I took it as a personal challenge.

The first thing we did was to add a KeyMatch to our Google Search Appliance. That forced the Code Maroon website to come up first in the search results, whether it deserved to or not. Okay, so it was the easy way out, but we were just beginning.

We quickly noticed one obvious problem: the Code Maroon pages were not called “Code Maroon.” They were called “Emergency Contact Information.” You see, they had been created before the current Code Maroon system, and we had never changed the titles. The words “Code Maroon” did appear in the headline, but that wasn’t a strong enough signal to Google. So we changed the home page title to “Code Maroon: Emergency Notification Service – Texas A&M University”.

That new title covered all the bases: if you were looking for the name of the service, or if you only remembered what it did. And since other organizations have emergency notification services, the title includes the name of the university. Really, that was the most significant change: we simply added “Code Maroon” to the title of every page, and to almost every heading. That is, instead of “Frequently Asked Questions,” we made it “Frequently Asked Questions about Code Maroon.”

I am happy to say that what we did seems to have worked. When you search for “code maroon“, the top results now come from the Code Maroon website.

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009 Search
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