By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The vagaries of search

Yes, I’m looking for help from the brain trust again.

A year ago I published a free, online edition of my book on dwarfism, “Little People.” Unfortunately, I’ve done it in a way that renders it nearly invisible to Google.

Here’s how I handled it. I uploaded the book to a subset of my personal Web site. The top page for the book is Then I registered the domain name and set it to forward to that page.

My other ventures are not exactly invisible to Google. But when I Google “Dan Kennedy” “Little People”, a link to the book doesn’t come up until the eighth page. And when I search for text inside the book, it doesn’t come up at all.

Interestingly, “Little People” is better represented on Google by Cape Cod Today, whose publisher, Walter Brooks, was kind enough to serialize my book last fall.

Yes, I know I could get a hosted solution, but I’m not willing to spend any money. Would it help if I moved the book to a higher level? (Example: I could do that, but I don’t want to bother unless it’s really going to make a difference.

Or I could set it up as a Blogger or site.


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  1. Bellicose Bumpkin

    You should have links to it from other sites that google is indexing.Part of google’s page ranking is the number of links to it from other sites.

  2. Anonymous

    Dan,Do some reading on what’s called “search engine optimization.” Bellicose bumpkin is right that the main element in Google’s (secret) formula is apparently what sites link to your pages. What kind of address your page has is less relevant.It also matters how popular other content on your site is. That’s part of your problem — if your book was hosted by the Globe site, or another other site with good traffic, that would increase your ranking.I also notice that your pages don’t have enough references to your name. You have “Dan Kennedy’s” on your book page, but not “Dan Kennedy” except at the bottom. Put your name on the page in more places. Link from every page you can think of to the book page. Get others to link to it.And pay attention to metatags — the hidden words on a page. You can read about that in discussions of “search engine optimization,” often abbreviated SEO.Finally, different search tools vary. Note that Microsoft’s Live Search (often better than Google, though less used) finds your book on the very first link, when I search for these four words: dan kennedy little people.

  3. John Farrell

    Any interest in re-releasing it as a trade paperback? If so, I would recommend CreateSpace (formerly CustomFlix). No intro charge to offer your book as print on demand. You handle all formatting, cover, etc. They make it available via Amazon and take a % for every book you

  4. Steve

    I’m having the same problem with a domain for my brother-in-law. I know that links from other pages help. I know that the other pages should be in other domains for them to really “count”. I think Google changed the rules a bit a while back to thwart Google bombs.But that’s about all I know, and that ain’t much. I’ll put links to the book on all my pages, for whatever good that’ll do. BTW, I assume you know that the link to the book in the sidebar is different from the link you give in the article. I think consistency helps. But I don’t know for sure.

  5. Dan Kennedy

    Steve: I had lost track of my inconsistent URLs, and I’ll try to remember to fix it. I suspect it might help a little to move the whole book up a level so that it’s not a subdirectory of my personal site, but what do I know?

  6. Steve

    Oh, and another thing you might do – sign up for basic service at a tracking site like The basic service is free, and I haven’t noticed any uptick in spam from using it. You’ll be able to see who’s visiting your sites and where they’re coming from, etc. And using it will create yet another page that will reference your URL. The pages I track seem to do better in the Google rankings. I don’t know why.Do follow Anon 4:18’s suggestion and Google “search engine optimization” and look at the Wikipedia article about it – that might give you some ideas.

  7. Steve

    OK, I actually did the Google and looked at the results. My not-very-well-informed take is that you’re a victim of your own success here. There’s tons of links out there *about* the book, but very few of them actually contain the link *to* the book you’re trying to publicize. So you’re crowding yourself out.But I also just took a look at the photography URL I’m trying to publicize. The domain was registered about a week ago, and it has taken until this evening to start showing at the top of a Google search. Maybe you just have to wait a week and see if the domain name percolates to the top.

  8. MeTheSheeple

    There’s free or cheap Web hosting out there once you have the custom domain. I’ve been using one service for about seven years now and pay nothing but the domain registration fee. The hosting includes some e-mail addresses, which can be used as POP accounts or as forwards.If what Steve said is right, perhaps you can find the authors of reviews or mentions of your book and ask them to include a link to the site.

  9. Anonymous

    Nothing that forwards will be visible to google. You have to either host it on a domain (rather than having the domain forward elsewhere) or do some DNS stuff that will resolve to the right spot without forwarding.

  10. Jed Leland

    Dan, a few suggestions:In the HTML, make the title of the main page “Little People by Dan Kennedy” instead of “Little People the book”. And add your name to the HTML title of each page of the online edition.Every place where you have the book title and subtitle at the top of the main text of the page, add your name, preferably next to the title rather than underneath it (you can do it in a smaller font if you like).A must – spend a little time with Google’s Webmaster Tools – free.Links to your page are important to Google, so don’t be shy about asking people to link to it.

  11. Dan Kennedy

    Jed: Excellent suggestions. What troubles me especially is not that “Little People” doesn’t rank high enough, but that when I enter certain specific search phrases from the book, they don’t come up at all, even though they do come up at Cape Cod Today. I have had a free host recommended to me that I will try, which will enable me to have a separate domain just for the book. And I’ve gotten some good optimization advice, too, from you and others.

  12. jed leland

    If the phrases don’t come up at all, then the likelihood is that those pages have probably not been indexed for one reason or another.Although I haven’t done a ton of research on SEO, I do know that one of the factors in ranking is the extent to which a site is considered an authoritative source, which I think is probably a combination ofa) How often that main site (ie. Cape Cod Times) is visited andb) for any given search term, how often someone clicks on the link Google offers up.So even after your site is fully indexed, you will probably find it climb up in the rankings, but it may never overtake the Cape Cod Times page.Google pretty much does eventually index everything, as long as it can find it. I maintain a site that has transcripts from the tv show “Deadwood,” on which there are HTML, Word, and PDF versions, and Google even indexes everything inside the PDFs. And that’s an AOL member page, so I don’t think the fact you’re hosting it on a personal space on Comcast should necessarily end up being an issue.

  13. Cliff and Valerie McKay

    Dan, I agree with everyone who is talking to you about search engine optimization. Inbound links to your site are important, but there are things you can do to make the site more crawler friendly. Someone suggested that you modify the page title – that should help for searches on “Dan Kennedy” and “Little People”. If you really want to improve Google’s coverage of your site, you would need to focus on the code you’re using to publish the book. Code generated by Microsoft Word can be problematic, and it doesn’t pass HTML validation. Some steps you could take would be to add a DOCTYPE declatation to the pages; use heading styles to structure the document (there should be at least one heading per page) rather than font and size; add meta keywords and description. Additionally, Google’s ranking is all about relationships, who links to you and who you link to. There were no links in the original because it was a print book – in the online version perhaps you could add links throughout the text. If you think that might interfere with the flow of the story, then you should add them to the acknowlegements and notes on sources. These are just a few ideas if you want to take the time to implement them – not easy with a busy schedule!

  14. Neil Van Dyke

    You need to have a permanent URL under a domain that you control, and get people to link through that.For example:, not only are you giving your hard-earned Google karma to Comcast (of all people), but all the links to you break if you ever stop paying Comcast large amounts of money.Also, if people linked to your Media Nation blog through, that would give a big boost to your book’s rankings and to anything else you put on your site.Even if you’re not ready to spend $10/mo. for shared hosting right now, some domain registrars provide a free “HTTP redirect” and “HTML frame redirect” services, which would let you give out URLs for services hosted by Blogger and Comcast. That lets you start building karma, and when you’re ready to upgrade your hosting, people can continue to use the same URLs as before.

  15. Dan Kennedy

    Neil: Have you ever been to You will be amazed. I’m Good advice, though, and thank you.

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