The goal of the AAPG Public Outreach Committee when it launched PetroleumGeology.org was to inform a curious and at times conflicted public about what it is petroleum geologists do. We wanted to show where oil and gas comes from before it hits the headlines, and to talk about the people and processes involved in getting it there. A lot of hard work went into the researching and designing of the site.
Now that the site has been launched, the work continues. We have our message, but now we need people to see it! There are several techniques web designers use to improve the visibility of a web site.
The main route web surfers take to a site is the search engine. Google is the most popular search engine, and there are a number of criteria Google uses to determine where a site will show up in its search results. (The higher a site falls in search results, the more likely a person is to click on that link.)
Google uses a program to crawl the Web, following link after link on web sites to read and index content. The easier it is for Google to follow these links, then the more it knows about a particular web site. We made sure that all of our links on PetroleumGeology.org are text links (rather than pictures), and we tried to be as descriptive as possible with the link names. That, along with the descriptive paragraphs and titles on each page, gives Google more information to store concerning the site. The more information Google has, and specifically, the more times Google sees certain keywords or phrases on a site (i.e., “petroleum geology”), the higher Google will rank the site when people search for those phrases.
The other thing Google is primarily concerned with is how important a site is perceived to be. Google determines this in large part by how often a site is linked by other sites, and what sorts of sites are doing the linking. If a web site is linked in many different places, then Google will assume that site comes highly recommended and will place it higher in its search results. It’s like having a restaurant recommended to you by several people — the more people that recommend it, the more likely you will be to give it a try, right?
Now, imagine if some of those people giving the restaurant recommendations were food critics or chefs. You would likely give their opinions an even greater weight. Google does this as well. It looks at the information it has about the sites that are linking these pages, and if a site is linked on a page that has a high Google ranking, Google will give its link (its “recommendation”) that much more weight. Sites that have such influence include educational institutions and large organizations (.edu and .org domains). So, getting linked on a University’s website, for instance, would give a strong boost to a site’s ranking.
This is where we are now in our efforts to spread the word about PetroleumGeology.org. We want to have PetroleumGeology.org linked everywhere and anywhere it can reach people who are interested in the full story of energy in the world today. AAPG’s affiliated Societies and Surveys are only one place for links. Blogs, educational institutions, personal home pages and more are perfect places to put up a link. If you have a blog or web site, do your part to spread the word about PetroleumGeology.org, and put up a link today. Tell Google (and the rest of the world) that it’s important to spread the word about where oil and gas come from. Your voice matters!