Google rank

Little bit of a Great Harmonic Google Convergence going on here. Jon Udell mentions in passing his rise and fall from the top of the “Jon” results. Stephen Downes replies in a amusing comment that he defeated Stephen King and Stephen Hawking — only to be conquered by the last of the Norman Kings.

Meanwhile, my colleague at KSC, Jenny Darrow, writes a somewhat frustrated post about people not understanding it’s content and connection that will make them findable on Google — not some secret technical voodoo.

Her response to those that complain their sites are not ranked highly?

I’m not a guru in web analytics but I can tell you a few things that might help you get a higher rank.

Write. Update. Contribute. Link. Reciprocate. Did I mention write?

And she’s right, of course.

I’m no Jon or Stephen, but I’ve slowly floated up past my “Caulfield” namesakes. And while I’ve always known I’d never displace my good friend Holden, I’ve left others in the dust: Patrick Caulfield, Pop Artist. Brian Caulfield, Tech Writer for Forbes. Several CEOs. Many VPs. The secondary sites of Emma Caulfield, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer star.

The MANY secondary sites of Emma Caulfield, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer star.

And just a couple weeks ago, I finally made it on to the first page. And I was pretty chuffed with myself.

But here’s the thing. Click to the second page of Google results. Five spaces behind me is my wife, an artist. Apart from getting the URL with her name in it, what did she do? She did her art, but she opened it up to the world. She showed pieces half finished, talked about her technique. She hooked into a vibrant community of practice. She announced new posts on a behind the scenes Google Group she’s on with other artists. She invited feedback. She acted (sometimes) on the feedback. She shared unreservedly her progress with her technique, and kept nothing hidden.

Was she trying to rank highly? Not at all. She was trying to have a conversation about what she did right and what she did wrong, and trying to figure out better ways of doing it. In the process, through quickly absorbing what other people in her community of practice already knew about the medium of colored pencil work, and by making a creative leap past that (once again, guided by this community), she’s invented a new colored pencil technique (involving the use of pastelboard) which allows her to get painterly effects in a fraction of the time standard colored pencil techniques allowed.

How revolutionary is the process? Ann Kullberg, Queen of the Colored Pencil World, said she was absolutely shocked at how much the method improved rendering speed (you have to understand the colored pencil artists are used to putting in as many as 50-100 hours on a work — Nicole can render similar effects in as little as a day, and often with increased vibrancy not traditionally associated with colored pencil).

Ultimately, her new technique represents an incremental step. But it’s an incremental step from precisely the very edge of a community’s knowledge, and that’s what makes the difference. Nicole has amazing natural talent, but she was able through the network of an online community to do what she does better. She was able to get support for what she did, feedback from artists and buyers, technique advice from experts in the field.

And now she’s number fifteen on the Google “Caulfield” results.

But at this point, that’s really beside the point, isn’t it?

The fact that you’re not ranked highly on Google is not a problem. It’s a symptom. It’s a sign that you are not taking advantage of the Networked Age for professional development or communication.

Fix that, and leave the Google results to heaven.


2 Comments on “Google rank”

  1. How can we get the message to academics (especially those at 2nd tier colleges and universities who have difficulty accessing big grant money and 1st tier professional journals) that they should write using blogs?!? Writing daily in a public way would keep them, well, writing…wouldn’t it?

  2. Mike says:

    You know, this is a really good question — and it gets to the core of the issue. Until people use blogging to try to achieve something (rather than just to blog) they invariably don’t get it.

    That achievement might be communicating with an audience, or a Community of Practice, or potential co-authors — but until they do it professionally, they won’t get it.

    I think the situation today is a parallel to a student coming in in 1985 and saying to his history professor — so how do I use the library for research? And the professor saying “Library? What do I look like, a librarian?”

    Until we create a culture that sees networked approaches as central to what we do professionally, we can’t teach students how to be effective in this new world.


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