Web 2.0 Web metrics

Museum exhibition names and SEO

Ross Dawson alerts us to an article on CNet titled ‘Newspapers search for Web headline magic‘, which has some bearing for museums and how they title their exhibitions, at least on their websites.

Dawson has writen about the phenomenon of different print and online headlines for newspaper stories before, and the CNet article brings it into sharper focus.

Pithy, witty and provocative headlines–the pride of many an editor–are often useless and even counterproductive in getting the Web page ranked high in search engines. A low ranking means limited exposure and fewer readers.

News organizations that generate revenue from advertising are keenly aware of the problem and are using coding techniques and training journalists to rewrite the print headlines, thinking about what the story is about and being as clear as possible. The science behind it is called SEO, or search engine optimization, and it has spawned a whole industry of companies dedicated to helping Web sites get noticed by Google’s search engine.

Let’s have a look at the exhibition names of some of our current exhibitions and their Google AU placings for a search for their key content.

Great Wall of China: dynasties, dragons and warriors
Search term “great wall of china exhibition”
Ranking #1
Search term “great wall”
Ranking not on first page

Other histories: Guan Wei’s fable for a contemporary world
Search term “guan wei exhibition”
Ranking #4 (after UTS Reportage story on the exhibition)
Search term “guan wei”
Ranking not on first page

Our new home Meie uus kodu: Estonian-Australian stories
Search term “Estonian migrants exhibition”
Ranking #4 (our Migration Heritage Centre ranks #1)
Search term “Estonian migrants in Australia”
Ranking #7 (our Migration Heritage Centre ranks #1)

Ecologic: Creating a sustainable future
Search term “environmental exhibition”
Ranking not on first page
Search term “sustainable living in Australia”
Ranking not on first page

Inspired! design across time
Search term “design exhibition sydney”
Ranking not on first page (Powerhouse Museum home page ranks #2 behind Sydney Design 06)
Search term “Australian design”
Ranking not on first page

Bayagul: contemporary Indigenous communication
Search term “Indigenous identity”
Ranking not on first page
Search term “Aboriginal identity”
Ranking not on first page

With the exception of the Great Wall exhibition and a small exhibition of Estonian migrants, it would appear that common terms used by the general public to describe the content of major permanent exhibition galleries are not ranking highly in Google.

This is not easily fixed.

At the Powerhouse Museum we have been pro-active with search engine optimisation (SEO) and this has been a contributor to the rapid rise in visitation accompanying the launch of our collection database. To improve Google rankings we would require a rewriting of the advertising copy created to describe exhibitions, and, possibly a renaming of these exhibitions on the website. Common search phrases and keywords would need to be upfront in the body copy, as well as in page titling and used throughout. Whilst “contemporary Indigenous communication” might be the most accurate description of the contents of an exhibition, it is unlikely to be a popular search phrase, and it would be prudent to ensure that more commonly searched phrases like “Indigenous identity in Australia”, “Aboriginal identity” and the like pepper the exhibition’s poster page. This is not just important to attract general visitors. If you are not using the search language of high school students and teachers then your museum’s resources won’t be visible to them in Google either.

Because Google also examines backlinks, or how other websites link to your pages, it would be important to ensure that the key themes were clear to potential linkers as well.

If you are wondering how to do this then you can check the wording used by other websites to link back to yours with this nifty free SEO tool from We Build Pages.

Like newspaper headlines in print now are beginning to diverge from their online counterparts, museums need to examine their naming and descriptive conventions to ensure discoverability of their content.

Collection databases Web 2.0

Google co-op search experiments

Jim at Ideum encouraged me to have a play with Google’s Co-op Search.

In about 5 minutes I set up the start of a global museum collection search.

Give it a go – either by using the box below or visiting its own page museum collection search.

Then contribute your own museum collection URLs to it by following the instructions on the search page.

Obviously this only works for collections that have been well spidered by Google already. It won’t pick up those that aren’t – I tried adding the Victoria & Albert Museum’s image search without much success, for example. Others that are well spidered like ours and the Met Museum work very well.

Google Co-op is really a way of refining the results of standard Google by focussing its results on an aggregated selection of URLs – think of it as a way of performing multiple advanced searches at the same time.

Web 2.0

100 other search engines

SEO consultant Charles Knight reminds us that there are many other search engines that Google, Yahoo, MSN search.

Knight classifies these alternative search options into several categories – recommendation engines (social searching), metasearch (multiple searches through one interface), AI and human search (ask a question, get a ‘real’ answer), clustering searches (which give you new ways of navigating results), and of course those that search a niche subset of web content.

The list is worth a peruse – whilst Google may, at least in Australia, massively dominate the general web search space (Google and its geographic variants represents well over 90% of search traffic to Powerhouse Museum) – this almost certainly will not always be the case in the future.

Interactive Media Web 2.0 Web metrics

Jenkins & Shirky discuss Second Life, virtual worlds, social media

Some quite fantastic dialogue between Clay Shirky at Corante and Henry Jenkins.

The discussion goes well beyond Second Life and moves across the sphere of virtual worlds, games and the social communications that are emerging from these environments.

Jenkins –

I do not even think that Second Life represents the future of multiplayer games — it represents one end of a spectrum of player experiences which maximizes player generated content and minimizes the prestructured experiences we associate with most computer games. World of Warcraft represents the other end of that spectrum and so far, that model draws more customers. My own ideal lays perhaps some place in the middle. As such, this becomes a debate not about affordances but about the desirability of professional entertainment versus the pleasures of participatory culture. It also becomes an exercise in mapping what some have described as the pyramid of participation in which the harder it is to create content, the higher the percentage of participants who will chose to consume content someone else has produced. What’s striking to me is not that so many people still prefer to consume professionally generated content (it has always been thus) but what a growing percent of people are willing to consume amateur content and what a smaller but still significant percentage of people are willing to generate and share content they produced themselves. Second Life interests me as a particular model of participatory culture.

Shirky –

Games have at least three advantages other virtual worlds don’t. First, many games, and most social games, involve an entrance into what theorists call the magic circle, an environment whose characteristics include simplified and knowable rules. The magic circle saves the game from having to live up to expectations carried over from the real world.

Second, games are intentionally difficult. If all you knew about golf was that you had to get this ball in that hole, your first thought would be to hop in your cart and drive it over there. But no, you have to knock the ball in, with special sticks. This is just about the stupidest possible way to complete the task, and also the only thing that makes golf interesting. Games create an environment conducive to the acceptance of artificial difficulties.

Finally, and most relevant to visual environments, our ability to ignore information from the visual field when in pursuit of an immediate goal is nothing short of astonishing (viz. the gorilla experiment.) The fact that we could clearly understand spatial layout even in early and poorly rendered 3D environments like Quake has much to do with our willingness to switch from an observational Architectural Digest mode of seeing (Why has this hallway been accessorized with lava?) to a task-oriented Guns and Ammo mode (Ogre! Quad rocket for you!)

In this telling, games are not just special, they are special in a way that relieves designers of the pursuit of maximal realism. There is still a premium on good design and playability, but the magic circle, acceptance of arbitrary difficulties, and goal-directed visual filtering give designers ways to contextualize or bury at least some platform limitations. These are not options available to designers of non-game environments; asking users to accept such worlds as even passable simulacra subjects those environments to withering scrutiny.