Ask an Expert and Search: What You Need to Know

Now that Ask an Expert has been opened to the public, we need to pay particular attention to the quality of our answers, and how those answers will be evaluated by search engines. One of the primary goals for the new Ask an Expert was to get more bang for each answer by sharing them more broadly with the public. In order to share them with the public, they must be found by search… that is the primary method people use to find content on the World Wide Web.

Here are three things you can do right now to make your answers more discoverable:

1) Make sure that you include keywords in your answers that the public would use when they are searching. Don’t use academic language– use the language of the public. For example, it would be preferable to use the word teenager instead of adolescent in answering a parent’s question about their child’s study habits.

2) Do not cut and paste an answer from another document. Google (and other search engines) treat duplicated content very seriously. If you use content from another site (even another Extension Web site) it harms the discoverability of ALL content on the site. The Web is about linking. If the answer exists in another publication– link to that publication and include a couple of sentences to provide context in your answer. This will help with making the answer more discoverable on the Ask an Expert site, but will also help to raise the discoverability of the Web site you link to.

3) Link to good question and answers from your own Extension Websites, blogs and social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn). Links are the currency of the Web. Google, et al. look at the number and the quality of the sites linking to an answer to determine its quality. Without high quality links to your answers, they will never be returned in a Google search. If we want our best content to be found we need to point-it-out to the search engines. The way you do this is by creating links to it from other Websites.

Finally, and not directly related to the search engines finding our good answers, take a few minutes and complete your Ask an Expert profile. Your profiles in Ask an Expert are searchable, and will help the public in finding the expertise of the Extension system, but also provide rich information to the public as they evaluate the quality and trustworthiness of the answers we provide for them.

If you would like to learn more about writing Ask an Expert answers that are optimized for discoverability join us for a 30-minute Hangout on January 29 at 2 p.m. Eastern.