Google works in mysterious ways.
Some years ago I used a local ISP as my web host and domain registrar. While the people there were nice and mostly helpful, everything had to happen manually (setting up a new MySQL database might take several days depending on their technical guy’s workload) and with a handful of different domains their fees were becoming remarkably expensive.
Eventually I made the switch to online (US-based) “do it yourself” registration and hosting services. There was a learning curve associated with this, but even figuring out how to set up a new MySQL database (for example) took a lot less time even as I fumbled around working out where things were located. However at the time I really didn’t understand the domain transfer process. I was nervous. My primary domain at that time was johnlacey.com, though I registered johnlacey.net with the new service primarily so if there was any downtime I would at least have a workable email address. I transfered all my web services over to that new email address. (It helped me a lot too since the previous email address with johnlacey.com was now obscenely overwhelmed by spam.)
I basically moved my haphazard blog to a subdomain on the new domain, blog.johnlacey.net. I decided to really pour a lot of energy and time into it. Some weeks I was posting a new entry every day of the week. I decided this would be a personal blog and that I would use johnlacey.com for commercial purposes (once I figured out what the hell it was I wanted to do with my life).
I commented in a lot of places, always including a link back to that blog.johnlacey.net location.
In all this time, johnlacey.com laid barren. Not a piece of content there at all. I recently resurrected it. I started writing about content creation and social media since they are things that appeal to me and things that I work on myself.
I don’t want to dwell upon it for too long but I should probably just tell you… There are thousands of people in the world who have the name “John Lacey” or some variant thereof. There’s an Australian artist (no relation) with that name. There’s an American Revolutionary War hero of that name. There’s even a television show from the late eighties/early nineties called “Dear John” whose main character has the name John Lacey. When it comes to my name as a search term, there is a lot of competition.
The thing that interests me the most is that both sites – the one that was basically abandoned for years and the one I pumped a lot of energy and time into – are doing well in Google. (The Australian version of Google has johnlacey.com in 4th place though blog.johnlacey.net doesn’t appear on the front page. The International/US version of Google has blog.johnlacey.net in sixth place, and johnlacey.com in seventh place.)
I took inspiration from the website of Alister Cameron (after we discussed it in a webinar session) and changed the permalink url to my ‘about’ page from ‘about’ to ‘john-lacey’ and linked to a lot of different web services I use with my name linked.
I guess the things I’ve taken away from this process are two-fold.
- Make sure your name (or business name or keyword/s) are used when people are linking to your website: I went to great lengths to politely ask my friends that when they do link to me that they do it by name. As long as you do this politely and explain your motivation (search engine optimization) people are usually happy to oblige. Of course when you comment on blogs this thing is automatically very easy because they are set up to link to the site you specify with the name you use.
- Your name (or business name) are keywords; think about your keyword density: When I blog I scarcely refer to myself in third person. I will say “Today I set up a new blog at this domain.com.” I don’t turn around and say “John Lacey set up a new blog at this domain.com.” That would give the illusion that somebody else is writing my blog posts for me and that goes against everything the ‘personal web’ represents and of course it’s not true! But you still need to use your name in enough places for Google to associate your site with that term.
This is where the repetition of “John Lacey at Twitter” and “John Lacey at Stickam” and “John Lacey at BlogTV” (etc.) on the about page becomes so valuable. But what else can you do?
If your blog theme allows you to include the blog author name (and if it doesn’t easily, there are always hacks around this) on each entry, do this. If you include any photographs of yourself make sure you include your name in the ALT and TITLE tags. You can include a short bio on the bottom of each entry (if appropriate) that includes a link to your site within your name. For example:
There is probably an opportunity here too if people are talking about you (and saying things that you’d like to share with your readers) to quote them on your site. They will use your name and in the context of that quotation using your name in a blog entry will be normal since you are not referring to yourself. Great for testimonials.