I recently revisited a web site that I worked on almost a decade ago, and one of my favorite pages on the site no longer exists, but its spirit and inspiration remains. The site was Baltimore.org, at the time for the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, and has since been rebranded to the more memorable, “Visit Baltimore.” Back in 2005, the Association told us that they wanted a page on Black History, and that they wanted it to rank well for the term “Black History.”
One of our early efforts wasn’t bad, but lacked the ability to generate a lot of interest and wasn’t really shared much by others. We weren’t really drawing a lot of traffic to the site for the term black history, and there were a lot of really good pages that deserved to rank well for the term. Ours just wasn’t competing.
I knew Baltimore had a rich history, filled with historic churches and schools and people that should enable it to do much better.
I woke up one morning with a thought in my head that we were trying to force the term “Black History” into prominence at Google without really giving people a glimpse as to why our page from baltimore.org should rank well for the term. I went into work that day, and asked one of the copywriters I was working with, Lisa Melvin, if she would rewrite the page, and ignore any concept of word counts.
Instead tell visitors about the famous people and places in Baltimore that showed its Black history. Lisa was working remotely, and she couldn’t see how serious I looked at the time, so she had to ask me to repeat myself. I did. And she returned a lengthy article that did just that.
I had told her to put the locations of these historical sites into the article so that people could visit them today. That was part of the goal of a Visitor’s Association website after all, to get people to visit.
Here’s a snippet from the page, which shows off history, and tells you were to go to see this historical places:
At 3,300 words, this was one of the longer articles we had published on a client’s site.
Within a couple of months, this page on Black History that hadn’t been getting much traffic, was the 6th most visited page on the site. Even better, it was bringing actual visitors to the site. Telling people about Frederick Douglas, James Hubert (“Eubie”) Blake, Fanny Coppin, Billie Holiday, and Oprah Winfrey, and their ties to Baltimore were the kinds of things that people wanted to learn about.
Letting people know where they could see the places where people lived, where events took place, and what kinds of impacts those things had, brought them to the website, and to the City.
We took a page about the words “Black History” and turned it into a real page about Baltimore’s Black History, and that made all the difference.