Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Challenge: What Are The 10 Most Useful Web Pages On White Tea?

This page is about a problem that you can help solve if you are a blogger or tea company webmaster, or if you have any web presence whatsoever. The gist of this post is that I am challenging bloggers and webmasters to come up with a list of, and then link to, the 10 pages that they think would be the best and most relevant pages to return in online search results related to white tea.

Why this challenge?

I work very hard on RateTea. I have now put in over three years of work designing and maintaining the site. Although I have received some help from the other two site admins, Sylvia, and Gretchen (who worked with the site two summers ago), and Sylvia still works on the site's graphic design, I do the bulk of the work (programming and writing) myself.

The site is not performing as well as I would like it to in search results for certain search terms, and there are numerous websites outranking it that I personally believe to be much less useful or relevant, and that do not seem to reflect the same sort of work that I've put into RateTea. Let me give you one example of a search query which I find particularly frustrating. Here is a screenshot of a google search result for "white tea":

RateTea's page on white tea is buried deep within this search. When opening a clean web browser and running a non-personalized search, it displayed first on the 11th page of search results; google webmaster tools shows that its average rank is 180th in the list. With my personalized search results, on which I have +1'ed RateTea's page, it is still on the fifth page. Barely any people travel this far. I think this is unfortunate both for RateTea, and for tea culture in general, as I will show, many of the search results that are returned before RateTea's page are ones that I think most people would agree are far less useful or informative than RateTea's page.

RateTea's page is not the only one that is getting buried...there are numerous pages by bloggers and tea companies that I would like to see on this list that are also buried very deep in this search (much deeper than RateTea's page).

RateTea's page on white tea:

I want to invite you to visit RateTea's page about white tea. I personally think this page is an outstanding, unparalleled resource for information about white tea--but I am biased because I have an interest in promoting my own site, so I would like to ask you to view the site with a critical eye. My intention for the page is that it can be a central resource on the topic of white tea, where people can go to find:
  • An introductory article defining white tea and talking about its production and origins, hyperlinked into articles on related topics, like the various regions producing white tea, caffeine levels, etc.
  • Listings of over 200 white teas sold by numerous different tea companies, including a lot of small tea companies selling very high-quality, single-origin white tea.
  • Currently, 50 reviews of white teas, and growing.
  • Pages on specific varieties of white tea (currently listing seven different types, with an article on each one, and, similarly, listings and reviews of each one).
  • (These are less important to me but I think others may want them) Top-rated and most-often-rated white teas on the site.

What pages are outranking RateTea?

The first search result is Wikipedia's page on white tea, which I think is a good resource and a good first result to return, although, like many Wikipedia pages, it has considerable problems and could use more work by editors. However, the second site, WhiteTeaGuide, I think pales in comparison to RateTea, in terms of usefulness and accuracy. There is not only less information on that site, but the site provides no identification of authorship, cites no sources, does not provide any contact info, and does not link to many other useful websites. It is a complete mystery to me why this site is the second result returned. The third link is to Teavana's category for white teas, and the fourth, a single, brief article on (which shows no evidence of being maintained and contains two broken links). Although I can understand how Teavana's page would rank highly, none of these pages offer anywhere near the sort of exhaustive resource that the page on RateTea offers.

Many of the pages returned, including some from tea companies, have blatant misinformation about white tea, such as myths about white tea's caffeine content. An Amazon search for white teas ranks very highly on the list, but this page is just a generic listing of products, unlike RateTea which takes great care to orient the information towards tea drinkers and tea culture, providing both more informational content, and indexing each tea by particular style (like white peony, silver needle, snow buds, etc.) and by region of origin.

If you browse through past the first few pages (but long before the 11th page), some of the sites that appear in search results are even less relevant or useful. I find this rather demoralizing. It's frustrating to work so hard to create a resource which I know to be really outstanding, and which people repeatedly tell me is useful and informative, only to see it buried so deep within search results while less relevant sites are returned first.

How can you help?

Google and other search engines decide what pages to return in large part by who links to a given website. I really have no idea exactly why some of the sites are ranking higher than mine. It's particularly demoralizing to see such brief articles that aren't even being maintained being returned so close to the top, when I am painstakingly checking RateTea to keep the articles up-to-date, incorporate new information, fix broken links, etc. Google does weigh some factors (like the domain name) which could partially explain the presence of some of the less useful sites with "whitetea" in their domain names. But in the end, if you want to see RateTea's page on white tea to rank highly on a search like this, people will need to link to RateTea's page on white tea. But I don't just want you to link to RateTea's page, I want you to link to all the best pages on white tea. Link to informational websites whose information you think is the most accurate, companies selling the teas you personally believe to be the best teas, bloggers talking about tea culture, whatever pages you think would be best for an all-purpose search on white tea.

Therefore I am asking you to:

  • Visit RateTea's page on white tea, and type in a search for yourself (the search results may be different if you use personalized search, so try it in a different web browser if you want a clean search), and visit some of the sites. See if you really agree with me that RateTea's page is more useful than any number of the pages returned on the first few pages of results.
  • Brainstorm and search creatively for other pages on white tea.
  • Publish a blog post or webpage about what you think the best top 10 search results would be for a search query on "white tea". Include live links to all the sites that you are highlighting.
  • Even if you do not have a website or blog, you can still help by sharing the pages you wish to highlight on social media.
This will help restructure the search environment surrounding white tea, and help out all of the best websites on white tea. I am not going to ask you merely to link to RateTea, only to consider for yourself what sites are out there, and to publish your own top 10 ranking of what you think the best or most useful search results would be. If RateTea is on your lists, then great, but if not, then at least I know that I need to spend my time improving the page on white tea rather than working to promote it and boost its search rankings.

Thank you!

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