Welcome, new Google search overlords (and helping you do the same)

First, I’m a bit uneasy living in a world where a company — Google — knows, or can know, so much about me. But I’ve long chosen to make my thoughts public, and to try to reach as wide a readership as possible. And your church, as an institution, depends on public recognition to sharing information, so let us proceed.

More than a quarter of my readers (hi!) get here from a Google search, so I’d be foolish to not use the tools they provide to get more readers to find me, and to identify me as a reliable, expert source and not a website generated automatically to sell certain odd products. The benefit to Google is clear, if indirect: to identify more reliably what searchers are really looking for, and thus improve the product they use to sell advertising. And as I noted yesterday, they provide robust tools for that, too.

The first step, I think, for blog writers and church site owners, it to provide the Google robot spiders that record the net meaningful information. Human beings are very good about identifying patterns in text — think about reading an address, or pulling phone numbers out of a list — but computers aren’t, and can use our help to identify

  • which web properties are mine (like my other blogs and projects) and which are run by friends and colleagues, and so have added value from the relationships.
  • which links are noted for reference, but are what you’d not want to endorse or identify with you. (WordPress does this by default in the comments, so people can’t hijack comments and leave links as a way of making Google think their site is more important than it is.)
  • contact information, like addresses and phone numbers, in a reliable way for re-use; say, to be made into a map in Google search, or downloadable to a mobile device. (More useful, say, for churches than bloggers).
  • when and where are events and public meetings are.

There are other options — including constructing recipes and making cultural reviews — but the list above will do for the meantime. It isn’t as hard as it may seem, especially if your church site or blog is based on WordPress, but if you hammer away at your site by hand you can add this detail with little trouble. (If you make links, WordPress gives you the option to add relationships.)

Detail from WordPress Link page
Use these controls in WordPress when you add a link to note your relationship with the other site or blog owner.

But I just wanted to raise the thought now — I’ll return to more theological blogging now — and refer you to this page at Google called “creating Google-friendly sites” and note the “rich snippets” section and the three current standards — Google allows all three — for doing what I described above. (I use microformats, but that’s just because that’s where I started.)

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