I recently attended a talk given by David McWilliams where he explained his economic theory based on Irish pubs and I was reading about the Irish connection to the birth of the internet and this naturally got me thinking about Irish pubs and SEO. Websites and Irish pubs are recognisable formats for information transfer. Both attempt to make you feel like you are in the right place at the right time. Both are trusted as authoritive(-ish) sources that generate repeat visits. Both create additional hard-to-pin-down qualities (the aboutness of a website and the “craic” in a pub). Both use complicated algorithms to satisfy information queries (pagerank and the process where the most trusted result to my question about who will win the 3:45 at Cheltenham will probably come from the person that shares the most amount of drinks with me). So, as St Patrick said to the pagan while explaining the holy trinity – Let’s break this shit down.
Irish pubs have a recognisable design known the world over. It will have a name over the door, a drinks counter, local characters, and places where you can rest (anything from polished wooden stools to planks on beerkegs). Likewise, websites use HTML to create pleasing visual resting places. They usually have head tags, title tags, body tags and header tags to help the visitor feel like they are at a trustworthy establishment. Layout and architecture are also important in both, as they need to be easily navigable and I know from personal experience that people move differently when in pubs and on websites. Irish pubs have niche areas where visitors get a more specific experience (the snug, the counter, the music corner, the hallway out to the toilets, old Jimmy’s chair) and it is a good idea to inform new visitors about them to help them find their way around. Site speed is also a factor. When there are large amounts of visitors in a pub, load-time can send people out the door.
Irish pubs are known for being full of conversation, or content. That content is best served in a natural way, using the language that a visitor is familiar with. Similarly, the content of a website needs to be relevant to a visitors needs. There is no point having content based on sport if your visitors are looking for music. That will lead to a high bounce rate (someone sticking their head in the door, having a quick scan, and moving on down the road to the next pub) and will reduce the time spent on site. If you see this happening, have a look at why it is happening.
Although Irish pubs appear to be self contained locations, in reality they are more like hubs or crossroads in a community. Connections run into them at the speed of a rumour. Irish pubs are defined by their links, and because of the diaspora they usually have backlinks coming from all over the world to them. Some of them can be high quality links like Barack Obama, but equally important are the number of neighbourhood links. These measure the popularity of the pub to the local community. So, if the local butcher or the GAA hero frequents the pub, you can be sure that it is a relevant place. This endorsement is vital for Irish pubs. Unlike British pubs, which are owned by corporate conglomerates, Irish pubs have owners. This brings with it an element of trust that the visitor can count on. The same logic applies to a website.
Of course, Irish pubs are famous for being social communities. They are frequented by social referrers whose primary behaviour is interaction, engagement and sharing. Like a website, time spent on site is usually a good indicator of a satisfying experience. However it could also flag that there is a problem with visitors getting stuck or lost there. Unfortunately, this can often happen. When the social referrers are in tune with relevant content we get that unique irish phenomenon called “the craic”. This is the holy grail of most websites – user generated content, or as it is known in marketingland, earned media. Irish pubs have different types of social referrers. You get the local businessman who just wants to relax after a hard weeks work (Facebook), the gossiper who flits from conversation to conversation picking up and dropping titbits (Twitter), the outspoken argumentative one who has seen it all (YouTube), the one who looks at the past through rosy coloured glasses (Instagram), the son of the owner who tries to be part of every group (Google Plus), the nerdy one in the corner reading a book (Tumblr) and the one who falls asleep and get his face drawn on by his friends (Snapchat). The combination of all these factors creates what is known to web developers as personalisation, and what is known to Irish pub-goers as “the local”.
So, for the day that is in it, Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit!