November 3, 2010

Are you optimized for your category?

How your website is found (or, he added darkly, not found) depends on what category the searcher is searching for.

That statement is not as stupidly obvious as it first appears. Yes, it’s a Duh, but a Duh with interesting implications, because of what we call “category mismatch.” Every search defines the category wanted, whether the search terms are vague (“widgets”) or more specific (“welded widgets, wisconsin”). Google, Yahoo, Bing and the seven dwarfs dutifully look for the most relevant exemplars in that category with those limits.

But that’s where it gets interesting, since finding your hoping-to-be-found website might involve…

• what you believe your category (or categories) to be,

• what your website content might say your category is, to human readers,

• what your website code might say your category is, to search-engine robot readers,

• what categories searchers are actually looking for.

There are multiple opportunities to get a broomstick in the spokes. Your site, for example, may not be written with all three audiences, two human and one robot, in mind. Most sites aren’t. Or your title tags may not feed the robots well. Most sites don’t.