Government SEO: What Does Your Local Government Web Site Offer Visitors?

I’ve been thinking about government SEO and asking myself how local governments could use their websites to help them govern more effectively and save money. The question led to this post.

Building Bridges in Communities

Reading through one of the local weekly papers in my area I noticed a large public notice announcing a public hearing for the replacement of a bridge leading into a nearby town from one of the major north-to-south roadways that provides the main access point into the center of town.

The announcement provided a fair amount of details about the bridge project and the meeting, as well as a phone number to find out more and to get a copy of the written plan for the renovation of the bridge. It also included an email address which you could use to send comments about the plan. But something was missing…

What was missing was a web address where readers could see the plan online, download it, and possibly post comments for others to view. If that written plan was placed online, people with an interest in the plan wouldn’t have to call and take up the time of someone sitting at a government desk. There wouldn’t be a need to spend money on postage and copying costs mailing the plan out to people who could otherwise view it online, or have people come into their office to view the plan in person. Good government SEO starts by putting important information online, and then by making it findable.

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Will Google Bring Us Tabbed Windows on TV?

There’s been some recent news about the possibility of Google working with the Dish Network to bring searches for television programming and YouTube videos to TVs, reported at places like the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ article tells us that besides actual tests of a Google settop box that allows searching for TV programming, that Google has “been talking to a range of other television-service providers and hardware makers, prodding them to use its Android-based technologies to offer a broader range of programming, a more personal experience and ads.”

If Google were to start providing a program guide for televsion and web videos, what would it look like? My suspicion is that it would be more like something we tend to see on the Web than many of the television program guides offered by cable services. And it might bring us tabbed windows on our TVs, like in the following images:

Screenshot from Google patent filing showing a front window with information about a movie, and three tabs at top with movie names and times.
Screenshot from Google patent filing showing a front window with information about a news broadcast, with two tabs above showing names and times of news shows.
screenshot of a single tv program with sidebar information about the show, and a tab above showing the show name and time.

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A Time and Season for Search: How Data Mining Can Influence Search Advertising

With more than 3 billion search queries a month, a search engine like Yahoo might be tempted to take a close look at, and analyze the data it receives in its search logs. That data might tell it what people tend to search for at different times of the day, and different days of the year. The search engine may also be able to tell sometimes whether those searches were performed by men or women, by people in different locations, and may look at other information they might have about those searchers.

That analysis, that collection of data, might be helpful in deciding what to show searchers in advertisements, and in other content displayed to people looking for information.

A flow chart showing different kinds of user data that could be analyzed to identify popular products and concepts that could be used to target advertising and the display of content on the Web.

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Why a Search Engine Might Choose Something Other Than Meta Descriptions for Page Summaries in Search Results

A misconception about web pages that lingered for a long time on the Web was that most people who visit your web site will enter your site on your home page. Another one is that the meta description you choose for a page will usually be what a search engines shows as the snippet, or summary, for your page in search results.

Search engines have made it a lot easier for a visitor to enter your site at pages other than your home page. And the summary, or description snippet, that those search engines provide about pages listed in search results are more likely to be taken from text on your page that matches the query terms used to find your page, especially if your meta description doesn’t include that text.

You’ve created a web page, carefully chosen a title for that page that carefully describes the contents of that page, and uses a keyword phrase that you hope your audience will use to try to find the page. You created a meta description for the page that is persuasive, engaging, and (you hope) likely to convince visitors to click on the link to your page when they see it in search results.

How likely is it that a search engine will show your page title and your meta description when your page does show up in search results?

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How a Search Engine Might Choose Text for Quicklinks or Site links

Sometimes when you search at one of the major search engines, you’ll see an extra set of links showing up under one of the listings in those search results. Referred to as either quicklinks or site links, most often those will show up for the listing at the top of the search results like in the following image:

A search result for WordPress, showing additional links under the listing for the main page which point to other pages on the site.

Sometimes, those extra links will also appear for pages listed a little futher down in search results as well. A lot of questions have been raised about how those search engines decide which pages to show as quicklinks or site links, and the reasons why. I’ve written a number of posts about whitepapers and patent filings from the search engines that have provided some clues to answer those questions, and there’s a list of links to those posts at the bottom of this post.

But, another mystery surrounds those quicklinks or site links, which is how search engines might decide upon the text used in those links. I haven’t seen an answer from any of the search engines previously. At least, until now.

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