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At the Top of Google Search Results

(L-R) John Andrews, Corinne Hill, Trey Gordner

(L-R) John Andrews, Corinne Hill, Trey Gordner

This panel addressed the problem of promoting libraries through Google searches. Trey Gordner, Founder and CEO of Koios, thought libraries could use some digital marketing. There are two ways to appear in search results. There are two ways to appear in search results; organic search results through “search engine optimization” (SEO) or though paid advertising also known as “search engine marketing” (SEM).  When you type in a search term into Google, you can get one or both type of results.
Organic Search

Organic search results from SEO gives searchers what Google thinks at that moment is the best possible result for their query at the top of the first page. Google looks at over 200 ranking factors which fit into four categories:

  • Site structure,
  • Linking (are you linking well to all of your pages, who are the people linking to you?),
  • Content (are you creating fresh content that’s interesting to visitors?), and
  • Engagement (how often do people come, how much time do they spend on your site? Are you answering a searcher’s need).

Paid Search

Paid search results from SEM are not just a function of who is the highest bidder.  Google gives a quality score to each bidder.  Every company wants to get to the top so Google adds in a quality score component and then creates an “Ad Rank” (quality score times bid score) which governs where your ad appears. People do actually click on ads.

Do People Click on Ads?

For non-profit organizations, paid search is not expensive. In fact, libraries can get $10,000/month in ad credits from Google with their AdGrants program.

Corinne Hill, Director, Chattanooga Public Library, was Library Journal Librarian of the Year in 2014. She will not buy databases or books that people do not use.  The library is presented as a free alternative to Google. They get over 100 views/month with a 9% click-through rate.  The library signed up for Ad Sense because it is a marketing tool and helps the library get in front of people’s eyes. They put the logo everywhere they can. One example of a successful service added to the library was to become an agent for passport services. The ad for this service gets 1,500 views/month and 75 to 100 clicks/month.

What does library advertising mean for stakeholders? The Friends group got a grant, and advertises for book sales, etc. which helps to keep the customers they have and brings in new ones. Advertising provides brand recognition. For staff, nobody is complaining about being overloaded with work. It does take some commitment. Patrons have pride in being a community member.

John Andrews, Internet Services Librarian, Washoe County (NV) Library System, used to tell his students not to click on banner ads at the top of search hit lists, but he had to change his tune a bit when he saw an instant correlation between people seeing the ads and using the services. 25% of usage for the year happened during the week the library’s service was advertised on Google. An ad for resumé help got 1,500 views/month, and there was a 33% increase in use after one month.

Do People Click on Ads?

We can deliver a service to people if they understand that it is offered in the library, but you need to be focused on what you are offering. 

Promotion of materials is important. For example, people know that libraries have books, but people want e-books, so you need to get the word out that e-books are in the library, not just on Amazon. People want a workaround to paying for e-books–that’s what the library does! The goal is to get both organic and paid hits through Google. It is a challenge to get books to show up in results when people are looking for things in a subject area, but with Ad Grants, that is possible. And the vendors do all the back-end work. The value of Google is to get to people who are not using the library yet.

Get the library into local conversations. We can create a curated list of similar books, show users additional content, and be relevant very quickly.

Local Conversations

If someone is not a library user, they can sign up for a card right from the search results. Frequently, users do not use the library website but they are big Google users. Ad Grants helps overcome this.

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