Optimize this, pal

Next to “hegemony,” the word I hate most is “monetize,” used nearly as much and ultimately meaning just as little. Every week I see some half-wits, occasionally quarter-wits, burning up the question line at Yahoo! Answers wanting to know how they’re going to make the maximum amount of money from their me-too blogs. The vast majority of these people won’t earn back enough to pay for a domain registration — consider that Robert Stacy McCain, who has traffic numbers far in excess of mine, still has to remind us ungrateful bastards to hit the tip jar, and he’s on Blogspot fercrissake — but I don’t have the heart to tell the youngsters that anymore.

McGehee, however, does:

If you peruse discussions about website design you’re bound to stumble on exchanges about this or that picayune strategy that will optimize your site for search-engine friendliness by about 0.0001% and give you that HUGE advantage over other, similar sites that will earn you the HUGE internet dollahz. It’s just like overhearing a conversation among 90-pound teenyboppers about how they all need to lose another five pounds and then they’ll be sooooo-o-o-o happy.

Some such strategies make a tiny smidgen of sense. And then there’s this one:

The one that has always made me shake my head in disbelief is “friendly URLs.” Allegedly, if the URL leading to a particular page contains a human-readable description of its content, that will cause Great Google®y Moogley to put your page higher in its results. And supposedly the earlier in the, er, URL that human-readable description appears, the better.

WordPress, as run here, offers something called Pretty Permalinks. Seriously. By WordPress standards, the permalinks used here during the second Movable Type regime (9/06 through 9/08) were downright cute and cuddly: they spelled out, to the extent permitted by space considerations, the actual post title. When I ported those 4061 posts over to WordPress, I cut out the cute and gave them nice, prosaic numbers, like the seven thousand and odd posts from the first Movable Type regime (8/02 through 9/06). The few remaining long, stringy single-post URLs serve mostly to redirect traffic from trackbacks, and they remain in place because no one is going back to reedit their old posts to accommodate mine. (I occasionally add another one, in case I find an instance where someone has followed a trackback to the dreaded 404 Zone.)

You knew there’d be a punchline, and this is it: Every Monday morning there is ample evidence that the search engines have no problem finding me at all, despite my having trashed four thousand allegedly-better links. Or, as McGehee puts it:

If you’ve got the content, you’ll get the traffic. All else is snake oil.

It’s a wonder snakes aren’t on the endangered list these days.





14 comments

  1. fillyjonk »

    14 October 2009 · 7:30 am

    Does the “Pretty Permalinks” code put a little pink Hello Kitty bow on the permalink? (Sorry, that’s what it makes me think of).

    I join you in the hatred of the word “monetize.” And every time I log into Blogger, it’s there staring me in the face: “Do you want to ‘monetize’ your blog?”

    I don’t quite know what that would entail, but I suspect it involves pain and the selling of one’s soul. I make enough money at my daily gig to be comfortable; I don’t need to be trying to scrape every last penny that I can out of life.

  2. CT »

    14 October 2009 · 8:05 am

    Calling them “pretty” is unfortunate, because I consider text-based permalinks to be functional — moreso than the number-codeish ones you use. When I glance at a URL from, oh, let’s say my blog :) I instantly know the date it was written, and probably the subject. That’s without having to click the link and reading the page. Big time-saver.

    As for the Google-juiciness, I think it does help, provided you have real content to back it up. But that’s just a side benefit.

  3. CGHill »

    14 October 2009 · 8:38 am

    I don’t doubt the usefulness in that particular instance, but it seldom comes into play here: what I remember is bits of text here and there, not URLs or even titles, unless the titles were unusually good (or unusually bad). Then again, that’s just me.

  4. CGHill »

    14 October 2009 · 8:39 am

    Oh, and I note with some amusement that a scraper catering to SEO types has picked up this article — almost certainly without reading it, I’d bet.

  5. Lisa Paul »

    14 October 2009 · 9:41 am

    I’m with McGeeHee on the content thing — with the caveat that your least typical content will get you the most traffic. I write about wine, farming, sustainable living and our hilarious Green Acres back to the land adventures. But it’s the throw-away post I did on being a Donny Osmond fan that continually gets me the most traffic. That and the search string “cowboy horse sex” which has NEVER been addressed on my blog.

  6. McGehee »

    14 October 2009 · 10:21 am

    Okay, now you’ve gone and given me a new blurb for my tipjar.

  7. CGHill »

    14 October 2009 · 10:28 am

    Now that’s just evil. Not wrong, just evil.

  8. McGehee »

    14 October 2009 · 10:36 am

    I figure I’m okay as long as I don’t imminentize the eschaton.

    Which my parents taught me never to do in public anyway.

  9. fillyjonk »

    14 October 2009 · 12:04 pm

    “imminentize the eschaton.”

    Is that like gleaming the cube? ‘Cos I don’t understand that, either.

  10. CGHill »

    14 October 2009 · 12:21 pm

    “Immanentizing the eschaton,” somewhat overly simplified, means “trying to bring about heaven on earth” (cf. various cults and almost every political campaign of the last several years).

    Source, so far as I can tell, is philosopher Eric Voegelin, who asserted that “gnostic speculation” on the part of various hungry-for-small-s-salvation types constitutes a rejection of capital-S Salvation and an attempt to establish a more earthly version. (See also Gagdad Bob, though he wouldn’t word it that way. I think.)

    Addendum: Hmmm. There’s a Wikipedia entry on the phrase.

  11. McGehee »

    14 October 2009 · 12:45 pm

    Also, don’t emanate into the penumbra.

  12. fillyjonk »

    14 October 2009 · 1:07 pm

    Oh. I think my brain was interpreting “eschaton” as “escutcheon,” which kind of leads to a mental dead end.

    But as I tend to stay as far away from culty types as possible, I probably wouldn’t have known it even if that particular neuron wasn’t misfiring today.

    And another question: is emanating into the penumbra anything like peeing in the pool?

  13. CGHill »

    14 October 2009 · 1:10 pm

    “…is emanating into the penumbra anything like peeing in the pool?”

    There’s a Roe v. Wade joke in there somewhere, I just know it.

  14. McGehee »

    14 October 2009 · 2:01 pm

    I think Scalia has that admonition on his office wall.

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