We are growing used to the idea that simply making things available on the web does not necessarily make them widely discovered or discoverable. I have used the phrase ‘search engine interoperability’ in these pages already. This is a play on ‘search engine optimization’, which some do not like (although I think we should not avoid using a standard industry term). We value interoperability in libraries, and have spent a lot of time thinking about it and building it into our systems and services. However, we tend to think of interoperability in rather heavily structured terms, and to think of it as between library systems, rather than as between library systems and the rest of the web.
Those responsible for library websites, repositories or other systems are indeed now thinking much more about URL patterns, good titles and descriptions, sitemaps, feeds, and so on. In this context, I think it is useful to think about search engine interoperability as managing resources in ways which promote effective crawling, indexing and ranking by search engines. Thinking, in other words, about the robot users of our systems as well as the human users.
Given the importance of this topic, it is good to see that the Strategic Content Alliance in the UK has made several resources available to provide guidance on these topics.
- Guide to maximising your online presence (PDF)
- A checklist for value from the internet (PDF)
- Reports from the field – Experiences from those ‘at the coalface’ April 2011 (PDF)
In the high level description of this work they evoke the SEO rationale:
In an age when media, business, government and almost every aspect of modern society vies for the users’ attention, how can we ensure that the resources that are being created through public funds reach and engage with their constituent audiences?
The materials summarise good practice as interpreted by the Strategic Content Alliance. They go beyond what is usually thought of as SEO, and stay at a pretty general level. The reports from the ‘coal face’ are interesting, as site managers talk about their experiences trying to enhance their web presence.
Some of the same ground, with examples of good and bad practice, was covered by Ed Summers of the Library of Congress in a presentation that was well received at a DPLA meeting we both attended recently. Here it is …