I've been reflecting on Joel's comment in a recent SE Podcast that Mi Yodeya has excellent content but a rather small and, right now, essentially not growing (contrary to the summary in the show notes) community.

Most likely, the mechanism that gets the most new people to look at the site is search results. Consequently, this is likely to be a mechanism that we could influence to increase the number of new people who look at the site, a small percentage of whom would end up contributing new content. There are other mechanisms more targeted at potential participants that also ought to be considered, but I think that at the very least, search results deserve consideration.

The absolute main way for us to get high on many people's search results is to have lots of excellent content on diverse topics. That's already the main thing we focus our efforts on, as it should be.

I'm wondering (and I know I'm not the first to do so) if we should pay a little bit of additional attention directly to search engine optimization (SEO), and whether there are any best practices we ought to have in mind in that realm that could have a significant impact on our placement in search results. I know that SE already does a bunch of stuff behind the scenes along these lines, very effectively, but it may be that there are additional things we should be doing, especially given the idiosyncratic nature of our content, which includes a great deal of non-English and transliterated text.

To this end, I propose a chat session with whoever SE has on staff to work on SEO issues, so that we can discuss the various potential issues, brainstorm possible enhancements either of community practice or of the SE engine, and discuss what is or isn't likely to have an actual positive SEO impact. Whoever's working on localization issues could also be good to talk to.

Could this be arranged? Mods, could you please suggest this to SE staff?

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This post has been brought to their attention. –  Double AA Nov 27 '12 at 19:09
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related meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/q/40/759 –  Double AA Nov 27 '12 at 19:11
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@DoubleAA, Thanks and thanks. The question you link to (now also linked in the question) could well be the main issue worth considering. Extra attention on that from someone who knows SEO in general and what SE is doing about it in particular may prove very helpful. –  Isaac Moses Nov 27 '12 at 19:13
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@DoubleAA, I still think that that particular solution (dupli- or tripli-cating every transliteration in place with alternates) is the path to madness. I'm wondering if there's something a lot less intrusive that would have a significant impact. –  Isaac Moses Nov 27 '12 at 19:23
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Other tactics worth evaluating: manually creating many tag synonyms for each transliterated tag (e.g. as someone did for shabbat) or manually adding many alternative transliterations to the bottom of the tag wiki for each transliterated tag. Still a bit maddening, but orders of magnitude less so than trying to do that in the content. –  Isaac Moses Nov 27 '12 at 19:34
    
Yeah, the only way I can think of that would not make the "add all the options to each post" option maddening would be if there were a cross-ref list and back-end automation. I don't think SE is set up to offer that. –  Monica Cellio Nov 27 '12 at 19:59
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1 Answer 1

up vote 14 down vote accepted

I did a little bit of digging, and the results look generally okay for the site:

  1. You definitely show up when my search keywords match words in the title
  2. Google is already handling some transliteration differences automatically (though not all)

Some issues I noticed:

  1. Mi Yodeya is on the low end of the spectrum for average-views-per-post in the last 6 months (#77 out of 91)
  2. Often Mi Yodeya shows up farther down the page of search results, rather than first on the page.

Number 1 could just mean that this is a niche site and so there aren't a lot of people Googling for these questions. Or it could be related to Number 2, in that people are Googling for these questions, but are finding their answer on another site.

If it's the latter, the question becomes whether your answers are better than those other sites. If they are not better, then you're probably asking and answering the wrong questions (need to focus on more niche questions that don't already have good answers on the internet). If they are better than what's out there, then you need to work on your page rank. The best way to do that is to get influential sites to link to you.

That last part is a good thing to do anyway, because it also helps with community outreach and getting new users to the site.

So, takeaways:

  1. Spend a very small amount of time thinking about your titles: "Are we getting the right keywords in them?" There may be some things you can do here, but probably the wins will be small.
  2. Spend some more time thinking about your questions: "Are we asking / answering the right questions? Are our answers better than what's already out there?"
  3. Think about who you can reach out to in your community. Maybe you did an initial round of that when the site launched, but now it's time to do another round and say "Hey, I know we were pretty new when you checked before, but look how good we're getting now."

Things not to think about:

  1. Tag synonyms: they won't affect SEO at all, since only the first tag is included in the title and synonyms never appear on the page.
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Thanks very much for the quick, thoughtful response, and especially for directing us away from fruitless activities. –  Isaac Moses Nov 27 '12 at 20:28
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I get that Google partially handles the transliteration differences issue, and that tag synonyms are not the answer (SEO-wise), but is there anything we should consider doing to pick up where Google leaves off, i.e. to help people find stuff here even if they're searching using a different transliteration than the OP did? –  Isaac Moses Nov 27 '12 at 20:32
    
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@Isaac There's really not much you can do about transliterations, except putting multiple versions in the title or body of the question, and both are probably terrible ideas. Otherwise it's just pick whichever one is most common, if there even is a most common one. –  David Fullerton Nov 27 '12 at 20:39
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You may be right that there is nothing really to do to solve the issue, but just to point out that your searches with words from titles were using the same transliteration scheme as the target which may have skewed your results. I suspect if you varied the scheme from the target's you wouldn't find it as easily. I don't know what your Hebrew skills are like (האמת היא שהחלפת ערמות היא מלא מלא צברים) but I suspect there is at least one regular in the NY office who could provide you with some reasonable alternate spellings. –  Double AA Nov 28 '12 at 5:27
    
@DoubleAA You're right, I don't know Hebrew at all :) Mostly I just took keywords from question titles on the site and noticed that Google was matching similar-but-not-identical words that seemed to mean the same thing. –  David Fullerton Nov 29 '12 at 21:55
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