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Must we always be "goofballs" when sharing links to Permies on social media?

 
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Hey, I just had occasion to share a link to the permies.com forums in a closed FaceBook group. For whatever reason (I am assuming something to do with schemas and our SEO strategy) Facebook chose to ignore the /forums/ link I pasted in and instead did its autolink to the front page, providing this as the large-print caption where I shared the link:

Permaculture and Homesteading Goofballs

I know Paul likes to describe himself as a goofball and we often do lots of goofball stuff here, but in some social media contexts that "goofball" is potentially off-putting, or so it seems to me. At that moment, I was responding to an "anybody else here into permaculture?" query in a very serious thread about hard times, before an audience of people looking for solutions but maybe not for goofballs, if that makes sense.

Curious why FaceBook chose that headline, I went to look at the front page of Permies.com, which I haven't visited in some months (I usually bookmark the "recent topics" forum view as my entry point to the site). It's had a very nice facelift with the new icons and it's responsive for easy viewing on hand-held devices, so it's overall completely awesome. But sure enough, the genuine large-print H1 page heading is "Permaculture And Homesteading Goofballs" which explains why that's what showed up on FaceBook.

If this was a deliberate branding choice than no worries -- I'll just be more careful not to paste the permies link anywhere that stuffy people would not be impressed by a link to goofballs. But it does seem to me that it would be handy to have a more "square" entry link available for social media sharing.

What little I know about SEO also makes me doubt that having "goofball" in all of our social media inbound anchor texts is a winning strategy, unless we actively want people searching for goofballs to find us.

One easy kludge solution (if anybody but me agrees there's a problem) would be to make the homepage H1 header "Permaculture and Homesteading" and then use CSS to style the word "Goofballs" at the end without including it in the actual H1 header.
 
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Good point and good easy solution!
 
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Suppose for a moment that for some search the permies.com home page comes up at number 10 on page one. At that point to move to number 9 it is really about the title.

Rick, Adrian and I spend a very large amount of time discussing what should be the title... What is most likely to get people to click on our thing instead of the thing at number 9.

I am open to a list of suggestions. This is what I came up with.
 
Dan Boone
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OK, that answers my question, it was a carefully-considered branding choice. Cool, that takes it out of my pay grade.
 
paul wheaton
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I think that Facebook should have picked the title of the thread that you shared. I'm surprised it didn't.

Dan, you are quite the expert at SEO so I am thinking that you know exactly what I'm talking about when trying to move from position 10 up to position 1. It's all about being more enticing than the other options on the list.

My flea control article used to say something about organic flea control. And it stayed at number 7 for many many months. And then I change the title to

Die fleas! die! die! die! Organic flea control.

And it mysteriously shot to number one.

It's All About The Poetry in the title. And I am open to suggestions for better poetry.
 
Dan Boone
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Well, just to be clear, I tried to link to:

https://permies.com/forums/

But FaceBook converted that link (for reasons unknown) to:

https://permies.com/

And picked up the "Goofballs" page title from there.

I didn't get it at first, but now I totally understand what you were trying to do with the Goofball titles now. As I understand it, Google adjusts the position of a search result based on how many people click it. So if Permies.com "naturally" should be at #10 but lots of people click that title instead of titles higher on the page, Google will start to show Permies at #7 or #5 or whatever. Very very important.

Sadly, this sort of "human engineering" creativity is not something I'm really good at. If I was better at it, I might be wealthier than I am. But I have learned from bitter experience that things I think ought to be clicky aren't as clicky as I would hope. So if I can come up with some "better" suggestions, I will share them. Right now all I have is the idea that "Permaculture and Homesteading" ought to be more clicky than "Permaculture and Homesteading Goofballs" because who the heck is looking for goofballs? I know I already have too many goofballs in my life! But I have just a tinge of spectrum disorder (I suspect) and I know that what seems reasonable to me is not what makes other people into wild runaway viral internet stars.

However, I also know that the clickthrough factor is just one of Google's many ranking factors. Another one is backlinks and the words (anchor texts) in those links. Put another way, we badly want for people to share the permies links on social media and we would like the words in those links to be keywords that people are searching for.

That's why I had a strong aversive reaction when Facebook put goofballs in my link preview. I was in a context where goofy and funny is not sexy at all -- a bunch of people in that thread had just suffered an economic setback and were looking for survival help. I'm just one person, but I thought it worth pointing out that our choice of an irreverant funny quirky page title (which I now understand to have been engineered for clickability) is a negative factor for sharing the link in certain contexts. Of course it's very hard to judge how many less links we get because of the behavior -- it might be a very small number, especially if people don't know they will get goofballed until after they do.

And I also think that the "anchor text" factor is a problem, but one of unknown magnitude. An awful lot of links these days are "machine-assisted" like this one -- people don't get to pick the anchor text, a machine picks the anchor text based on cues from our page. (We discussed this last week in the context of putting keywords in URLs.) The ultimate goal is to have in those anchor texts keywords that people might use when searching for us; any keyword in those anchor texts that people aren't likely to use is "noise". To my eye, goofballs is a noise word in this context.

But the really hard thing is weighing up all these different factors and deciding which ones to give the most weight. Is the on-page click-ability more vital than the ineffable number of backlinks we might loose out on due to "goofballs"? Probably yes, my gut tells me. Is it more vital than having cleaner anchor texts in our social media links? That one I think is a closer call, but I dunno. And it is more vital than both of them together? If we knew the answer to the individual questions we could do the math, but we don't so we can't.

I'll think on it. If I can find something that seems better on all factors, I'll propose it. Right now I'm drawing a blank.
 
pollinator
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Dan - It is freaky how much several of your recent posts agree with my way of thinking

I think some may describe Paul as a lovable goofball, but generally the definition is not uplifting:
https://www.google.com/search?q=define+goofball

There must be at least a few goofballs on permies, but I struggle to name a few. I would use words like genuine, helpful, friendly, troll-free to describe the permies community.

I think it may be interesting to do some type of informal poll to see if people here like being labeled goofballs, or if they have alternate ideas.

I totally get the concept of injecting humor into a title to improve CTR, but I have also seen many times where it does more harm than good.

CTR is so strange to predict - I have done a fair amount of testing over the years with paid search ads, and almost always, my boring ads that seemingly list a bunch of related keywords perform better that carefully crafted messages that everyone likes better when compared to the seemingly random smattering of keywords. The problem is nobody carefully reads the listings on a SERP, they just click on the most likely listing as soon as the page loads.

The Flea sample makes total sense to me, because if you have fleas, you want them dead as soon as possible. Unless of course you are running a flea circus, but I doubt they would be googling how to "get rid of fleas" or "flea control."

I also get that Paul calls the shots for branding here, and has final say on using goofballs... My thoughts on this matter are of course subjective

I wouldn't call myself a goofball, but I do self-label myself a "geek" for marketing, websites, permaculture, etc.

I doubt everyone would identify with being a geek - here is a fun wikipedia article on it:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geek
 
paul wheaton
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I think Henry Ford once said that if he asked his customers what they wanted they would all say that they wanted a faster horse.

The message here is not to ask people what they self identify with.

Nor is it to ask what people like better.

It is all about what will get more clicks. And not just clicks, but traffic that will help us to Build a Better Community. We want to be at the top of the search results and we want the people that come to us to love being here.

I think the current title is really quite good to help us with our goals. But just as the television show The Tick was really good, Firefly is even better.

I am open to that which is better.

I think Rick made an excellent point when we chose this title that the first word needs to be permaculture and the next word needs to be homesteading. So we have to start there and come up with something that says community but with a little more pizzazz.

Further, I am of the opinion that if you have too many words in your title it dilutes the Google juice of the words that really matter. Therefore brevity is our friend.

We set this new title just a couple of weeks ago. I wonder how we are doing in the serp results.
 
paul wheaton
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I just checked. We are on page 4 for Google. And I saw a lot of icky sites ahead of us.
 
Dan Boone
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If I search on "permaculture" right now the first Permies result I get is the forums link, on page 3:

Permaculture Forums at Permies
www.permies.com/forums
A popular forum for discussion of many permaculture topics.



That's the link I tried to put on FaceBook, that got autocorrected by Facebook to the Permies front page with the goofballs. I would have been happy with that page title too in the Facebook site summary. I think we need to run down as a separate mystery why FB wouldn't let me link to the forums page, to make sure it's a FB thing we can't fix instead of some sort of data schema tweak we too-cleverly implemented on our end.

Then I get the Permaculture Playing Cards link at Richsoil.com on page 5.

I clicked through 29 pages of search results and (unless I missed it, though I checked twice) I never did find a Google result for the permies.com front page. So at first impression, I'd say designing the front page title for maximum clicks is not focused on the current top SEO priority, which should be to get the page high enough in the SERPs that it has a chance of getting clicks at all.

Everybody gets different results from Google these days based on their individual search histories, so comparisons are tough. I did get very similar results when I tried it in a clean Chrome tab with no cookies for whatever that's worth.

 
pollinator
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I fully understand Dan's concerns. It's already very hard to get people in the Midwest to take anything other than traditional, giant mono-crop farming seriously. Many people here still scoff at the idea of organic food, and if you mention no-till you can see their eyes fog over. The "goofball" moniker may be endearing to some people, but it very much rubs me the wrong way. At the same time, I've worked in IT all my adult life, have built websites for people, and I understand the need for a gimmick of sorts in order to stand out from the crowd. It's a hard spot.
 
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Todd Parr wrote: The "goofball" moniker may be endearing to some people, but it very much rubs me the wrong way.



I'll third that. I resisted creating an account here for a number of visits because of "goofballs". "Goofballs" are not my people. I don't belong there.

When I search for something about cob and ended up here...
and searched for something about rubble foundations and ended up here...
and searched for something about rocket stoves and ended up here...
and searched for something about fruit trees and ended up here...
and searched for something about natural insulation and ended up here...
and searched for something about scythes and ended up here...

then I relented. I guess these are my people after all.




But let me be productive.

Paul Wheaton wrote:the first word needs to be permaculture and the next word needs to be homesteading. So we have to start there and come up with something that says community but with a little more pizzazz


Here's a list. Probably none of these will be just the ticket, but maybe one will prompt or spark the phrase that becomes just the ticket.


Permies.com forums! Permaculture and homesteading wonks like you!
Permies.com forums! Permaculture and homesteading geeks like you!
Permies.com forums! Permaculture and homesteading buffs like you!
Permies.com forums! Permaculture and homesteading brains!
Permies.com forums! Permaculture and homesteading brainiacs!
Permies.com forums! Permaculture and homesteading for the genius and the common man!
Permies.com forums! Permaculture and homesteading, wisdom and experiments!
Permies.com forums! Permaculture and homesteading experiments and experience!
Permies.com forums! Permaculture and homesteading wisdom and science!
Permies.com forums! Permaculture and homesteading, bookworms and earthworms!
Permies.com forums! Permaculture and homesteading friends!
Permies.com forums! Permaculture and homesteading mentors!
Permies.com forums! Permaculture and homesteading guides!
Permies.com forums! Permaculture and homesteading gurus!
Permies.com forums! Permaculture and homesteading yogis!
 
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Totally SEO illiterate here, just wanted to say that 'goofball' never bothered me although now that I hear how others perceive it I look at it differently....that is the best thing about the forums, I think, on any subject.

I like one of Michael's suggestion's especially.....

Permies.com forums! Permaculture and homesteading friends!



maybe a variation could be.....

Permies.com forums! Permaculture and homesteading friendly folk(s)

 
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I agree that the term is off-putting, and it would seem to be counterproductive.

I like this site. I have my differences with some of its members, and some parts of its focus, and one or two of its policies, but the good parts massively outweigh those enough for me to disproportionately spend a lot of time on here.

I've learned a lot, hopefully a few people have learned things from me, I've made friends, and have an opportunity very close to what I've been looking for, plus another one that hadn't really occurred to me. There is a lot of overlap in the people involved in those categories, and I think you mostly know who you are. I'm ahead.

"Goofballs" puts me off. I don't really want to hang out with goofballs (although there are some for whom the shoe fits, but that's just my opinion). I want to hang out with intelligent people, of which there are plenty. I think that's worth emphasising.
 
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"Goofballs" doesn't bother me, but the again, I'm at a stage in my life where I no longer give a rat's ass what people think of me.

I like the suggestion of....
"Permaculture and homesteading friendly folks"

While Paul has taken some flack for making this a safe forum to be on, this forum really, really is full of friendly folks. (Thank you, Paul! If it made a difference, I'd give you ten whole pies!) With all the negative and aggressiveness out there on the Internet, it's nice to have a safe haven here and be able it converse with other friendly people sharing a common interest.
 
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Firstly, Facebook does lots of very odd things. Sometimes it selects a picture almost at random and won't let you change it. Sometimes it changes where it is drawing information from. Sometimes (as is probably the case here) it finds some metadata it wants missing, so follows the page back to its root and pulls the metadata from that page instead. Anyway, onward.

It's worth noting that internet tracking means that, depending on what search engine you use, your own previous searches will influence what you get. SEO has gotten trickier over the years as well. I know that just searching the word Permaculture puts Permies in the top 3 for me, along with other non-icky sites. I spend a lot of time on the subject and the site, though.

Out of curiosity, I did a search using a search engine that doesn't track your site history with internet explorer (which I never use so lacks any search history there either) and found that Permies comes up as number 4 after the Wikipedia entry, Permacultureprinciples.com and Permaculture.org. That's pretty impressive for a term with so many different sites centered around it. That's like typing Organic and being on the first page.

Honestly, I feel like that success is in spite of the 'Goofball' title rather than because of it. It's lighthearted, which isn't a bad thing, but also doesn't encompass the level of deep thought this site offers up. (For the record, we ended up half way down on page 2 when I search for the term Goofball) SEO is a lot about quality, interactivity, word density and linking. Use of weighted words in titles has an impact and isn't something we can control much since it is a forum. The best thing one can do for SEO is to ensure you have a high level of quality and strong engagement. Allowing for ease of G+ notations can have a pretty major impact on Google searches as well.

I feel like the Goofball title doesn't really have any major impact for our SEO, but may send a skewed message to some people as noted above by others. I'd much rather see words like "Thoughtful", "Insight" or "Exploring" used. Google used to have an amazing tool for searching out the best keyword options but have since moved to Google Trends, which I find far less useful when planning out keywords. The more related the title is to the content, the more likely it is to have some sort of positive impact. Too generic and it gets lost in the sea of other similar titles. Too far adrift and it becomes something the search engines ignore when deciding how to rank a site.
 
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Would something like TinyURL work for people trying to post directly to a specific page? I don't use Facebook, so I have no idea how they do things. TinyURL also provides a preview version of the link so people can go to TinyURL and see what the original link was before proceeding to its destination. It appears you should be able to add 'preview.' to the beginning of a TinyURL link to get to the preview page, or they also have a cookie they can add that does it for you automatically by clicking the Preview Feature link in their side menu.

This doesn't address the 'goofballs' issue but rather circumvents it. I guess I never really looked at the new homepage to notice it. If the TinyURL works on Facebook then I imagine other people could have a similar experience where they immediately go to the substance of this site and be initially oblivious to the goofballs reference. It does seem to connote something other than what this site is geared towards, but doesn't bother me either. I think the Facebook issue is just that, a Facebook issue. The way they manipulate links and the relationship of goofballs and permaculture are separate issues as I see it.
 
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If I had seen the word 'goofballs' as a descriptor of this site, I would not have bothered to check it out. It is very off-putting and not indicative of anything meaningful.

You have to decide if you merely want to attract goofballery-seeking clicks, or more quality participants to whom that does not appeal.
 
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Goofballs isnt really a word they use in my parts but if I saw that I would think it's a bunch of people mucking about rather than a serious community
 
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what about permaculture and homesteading 'pioneers' or 'ground breakers' or ' innovators' or 'trailblazers' ?
 
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I'm actually okay with goofballs... but I've grown up in a city that proudly self identifies as weird. As it does seem to make many people uncomfortable, I've quoted below my favorites from other suggestions. I would be completely turned off of any name that claims friendship with people I don't know, or that someone has set themselves over me as an 'AUTHORITY' such as mentor or guru. People have to prove themselves to me before they would earn either position.

Mike Cantrell wrote:

Todd Parr wrote:

Permies.com forums! Permaculture and homesteading geeks like you!
Permies.com forums! Permaculture and homesteading for the genius and the common man!
Permies.com forums! Permaculture and homesteading, bookworms and earthworms!



Judith Browning wrote:what about permaculture and homesteading 'pioneers' or 'ground breakers' or ' innovators' or 'trailblazers' ?



If you really want a word that portrays a similar meaning, perhaps Eccentrics. I think in common usage, an eccentric has more power, wealth, or knowledge than a goofball; and so is taken more seriously while still having the same character.

(don't you hate when your mispelled word is a different word entirely)
 
Rick English
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So far, nobody has given "goofballs" an endorsement. Opinions range from "goofballs" doesn't bother me to it does bother me.

I am now slightly concerned that "goofballs" is having a negative effect on CTR instead of a positive one...

 
paul wheaton
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Rick English wrote:So far, nobody has given "goofballs" an endorsement. Opinions range from "goofballs" doesn't bother me to it does bother me.

I am now slightly concerned that "goofballs" is having a negative effect on CTR instead of a positive one...



The only place it has been used is on the home page, and the home page appears to not appear close enough to the top of any search to make a difference.
 
Neil Layton
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paul wheaton wrote:

Rick English wrote:So far, nobody has given "goofballs" an endorsement. Opinions range from "goofballs" doesn't bother me to it does bother me.

I am now slightly concerned that "goofballs" is having a negative effect on CTR instead of a positive one...



The only place it has been used is on the home page, and the home page appears to not appear close enough to the top of any search to make a difference.



I'm not an expert on this, but I was under the impression a site appears higher on search returns the more people click on it, and more people are likely to click on it if there isn't something alienating in the site description? To put it another way, maybe it's so far down the results because of the "goofballs" label, not in spite of it?
 
Todd Parr
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Neil Layton wrote:

paul wheaton wrote:

Rick English wrote:So far, nobody has given "goofballs" an endorsement. Opinions range from "goofballs" doesn't bother me to it does bother me.

I am now slightly concerned that "goofballs" is having a negative effect on CTR instead of a positive one...



The only place it has been used is on the home page, and the home page appears to not appear close enough to the top of any search to make a difference.



I'm not an expert on this, but I was under the impression a site appears higher on search returns the more people click on it, and more people are likely to click on it if there isn't something alienating in the site description? To put it another way, maybe it's so far down the results because of the "goofballs" label, not in spite of it?



That seems like a reasonable assumption, especially when you consider that people that are here will tell you they almost didn't join because of the goofballs term.
 
Something must be done about this. Let's start by reading this tiny ad:
A rocket mass heater heats your home with one tenth the wood of a conventional wood stove
http://woodheat.net
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