Change.gov Launches, But Can You Find It In Search Engines?

If you’re looking for more about how the Change We Need will be implemented by incoming President Elect Barack Obama’s administration, good news! He’s got a new transition website up: Change.gov. Bad news — you’d be hard pressed to find it in search being both new and being untargeted toward any search terms.

SEO 101: Know your audience. That means know how your audience is searching for you. What do people likely want from this new site? Chances are, the campaign itself hasn’t thought of this. That’s because the title tag of the home page says this:

<title>Change.gov</title>

Ugh. The title tag is the most important place where a site owner can directly tell the search engines what they are hoping to rank well for. For the new site, apparently, that’s just “Change.gov.”

At the very least, something like this would have been better:

Change.gov – President Elect Barack Obama’s Transition Web Site

That would almost certainly help the site do better in searches for “president elect” and “president elect barack obama,” neither which it currently ranks for.

OK, even if this change wasn’t made, the site will likely do well in a day or two or three for these terms, as people start to link to it. But why not speed things along?

Now change.gov, as it turns out, is a popular search term right now according to Google Trends. People are hearing about the site, trying to reach it as many people do, by entering the domain name into a search box.

No problem — on Google, the site ranks tops for that. Microsoft lists it third. Yahoo doesn’t have it in the top results at all — ouch. The blame here is with the search engines, not the web site — it takes them time to find it and see links that help them decide it should rank tops. Google wins on this front, Microsoft is pretty good; Yahoo, fail. By the end of today or tomorrow, all will likely have it ranking tops.

But how else might people be seeking the site. Back to Google Trends, where we are told this about people searching for change.gov:

Related searches: www.change.gov change.com obama transition website barack obama transition team obama biden transition project

Back to the site’s title. It should be using some of these terms, given their popularity and relevancy. The one I did above? I wrote that before I even saw this related searches list. Now seeing the list, I might do this:

Change.gov – President Elect Barack Obama Transition Website

That matches three of the terms on the list. If I really wanted, I might make the title longer by putting Biden’s name in there. But that’s probably not necessary.

Along with title tags, you want content that’s relevant to a particular topic. That helps you go after other terms people are looking for, since no one page can match everything. Now remember this popular term?

barack obama transition team

Somewhere, there should be a page on the site that answers this query. That means good content, and then the content helped by a solid HTML title tag reflecting those terms.

Good news — there is a good content page here. Bad news. It’s in need of tweaking. The title?

Obama-Biden Transition Project Staff and Board | Change.gov

That’s good, and especially given when the page was written, there was little keyword research to draw from. But seeing that people are looking for “team,” I’d get that word into the title tag and as part of the body copy itself.

Let’s go to Google Trends to see some other hot searches, for some ideas. How about this: michelle obama bio.

There’s a great page on the site for Michelle Obama’s bio here, but it sadly doesn’t say “bio” or even “biography” once. Title? “Meet Michelle Obama.” Cute, but let’s make it “Meet The Future First Lady: Michelle Obama Bio” or something with that word. Hopefully, the page can outrank this at Squidoo, currently second on Google for michelle obama bio. That’s actually a pretty decent page, but it’s always nice for the official page on something to come up first.

I could go on, but you get the point. When people aren’t thinking SEO is all about “snake oil” and spam tactics, they often think it’s all about getting links or making sure sites are search engine friendly toward being crawled. I think it’s a good reminder that the bedrock of success with SEO starts with words. Think of your audience. Use the words they are using to find you. Write copy correctly from the start, add a search engine friendly architecture and good things flow from there.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | How To: SEO | SEO: General | Top News

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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