Thursday, September 6, 2018

An Open Vocabulary Tagging Experiment for Discoverability

Does tagging content with terms from a shared, publicly available controlled vocabulary make a difference in increasing content discoverability on the web? A colleague of mine proposed finding out by experimenting with tagging the same content, such as two identical blog posts, differently: one with terms typical for posts on the blog and one with terms from a publicly available controlled vocabulary. Then after a few weeks the statistic of visitor traffic to the two post versions would be compared.

Wikidata  and VIAF, were chosen as the sources of publicly available controlled vocabulary terms. Since VIAF contains only name authorities (proper nouns), I used terms just from Wikidata in my blog tagging experiment, whereas my colleague used terms from both Wikidata and VIAF in his blog post tagging experiment (The Open Web Tagging Experiment on the Ol' Patio Boat Blog).

The preceding blog post on The Accidental Taxonomist blog, "Using Linked and Other Open Vocabularies," had been posted twice identically, except that one version was tagged with terms from Wikidata, linking to them, and one was tagged with terms that have been created and used just for The Accidental Taxonomist blog. I did not linked to either blog post from other social media, as I usually do. (Now that the experiment is over, I deleted the duplicate blog post with the lower number of visitors recorded.)

After 18 days, I checked the statistics for the number of visitors to each blog post. The version with the blog's own tags (the tagging feature supported by had 72 visitors, and the version without blog tags but with links to Wikidata tags had 104 visitors. (By contrast, this post "An Open Vocabulary Tagging Experiment for Discoverability" had in the same period attracted 119 visitors, without any tags or links to Wikidata terms during this period.)

The conclusions are not certain, but it appears as if links out to Wikidata may have helped in that post's discoverability, since the post with those links had more visitors. It also appears that blog tags do not seem to help significantly in discoverability, since of the three posts, the one with those tags had the least number of visitors, although the tags are useful for finding specific posts once you are on the blog's home page.  The results of my colleague's test of two identical posts with and without tagging were different, though. He concluded the opposite, that coping Wikidtata and VIAF headings into a post with incoming URLs had no effect, but putting metadata into Blogger tagging field did increase visibility. However, his visitor traffic in both cases was very low, so the difference was perhaps not statistically significant.

As for this post, which had no tags, but the highest number of visitors, that could be attributed to a post title with more searched key words and phrases in it.

Search engine optimization is a big and ever-changing field. Rather than try to game the search, I will return to my method of posting about my blog posts on social media and hope my connections will share and repost. 

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