Second Life suffers from a problem. The problem is it’s a lot more like real life than the web, and like real life, stuff is hard to find. What do I mean by this? Well, when you’re surfing the web you can easily find just about anything you want in moments, thanks to the wonder that is Google. I remember in the bad old days before search engines, you generally followed links from other people to interesting content. Now it’s all available at the tap of a ‘search’ button.
In real life, things aren’t so easy. If I’m looking for a store I have to dig through the yellow pages or pound the streets. Second Life is much the same. The virtual streets are there to be walked and a player can easily wander and browse for hours. We have a version of the yellow pages in ‘find’, but how often does it show you what you want? In my experience, not often. This means shops are making less money than they could and residents aren’t able to find what they are looking for.
For example, do a search for ‘games’ or ‘game’ and you get a limited list almost entirely populated by casino games. Searching for games in Second Life you would never realize there are first person shooters, a
Space Invaders game and even a fishing game! What does this mean for Second Life? It can only mean one thing, Second Life’s content, to the average user, will seem bland as the search results from a ‘find’ simply don’t produce any useful information unless you know exactly what you want to find.
How can we fix this? Well, there are two things to be done. The first can be done by every player and will not only drive business to your locations and increase your profit, but will make the game easier to use. What you need to do is search optimize your property descriptions, your profiles, and anything else that can pop out of a ‘find’ search in Second Life.
What does this mean? Well, it means if you run a clothing store, don’t just name it “Bobs Fashion” and write no more in the description box, it means think carefully about the keywords you could use to attract customers. How about writing in:
“Bobs Fashion – custom designer clothes, skirts, dresses, hats, shirts and accessories. For all your shopping needs”
See what I’ve done? I’ve populated the shop description with many useful words that players search for in find. Look at how many great keywords I have hit up! To make it easy, I made them bold for you all. This means all those searches for clothes that players were doing that once never showed up Bob’s Fashions, now have a good chance of displaying Bob’s Fashions right in front of an interested buyer’s eyes.
The smart among you will notice some problem with my keywords. They’re all in plural form. A search for ‘buy dress’ won’t turn up Bob’s Fashions. If you really wanted to optimize your site or personal description you could consider adding another paragraph, perhaps along the lines of
“The best dress and skirt shop in town. Find a blouse or shirt to fit you today and the matching hat and shoes”
In that description I have included the singular form of all the keywords to further increase the keyword coverage of Bob’s Fashions. This should be something everyone considers in addition to their standard keyword strategy.
See how now and player search for dress, dresses, shopping, shop, etc etc has a good chance of pulling up Bob’s Fashions. Suddenly Bob goes from zero visibility on ‘find’ to great visibility. And as in real life, there are proven results from this effort in Second Life. With this search optimization technique I have helped a couple of friends see a definite increase in traffic, and now I offer it to you, for free. I invite you to try it out and tell me how it works out for you. I’m happy to be contacted for advice as well. Later this week I will bring you another tip, courtesy of my experiences at my employment, Netconcepts, a web design and search optimization company.
But we haven’t got to what Linden Labs can do. Well, first I think they should acknowledge that there is a problem connecting users to the content they wish to enjoy because it’s so hard to find what you’re looking for. Working to improve their ‘find’ system would help a lot, but that is likely to be long and arduous work. Partnering with Google would be even better, imagine if a Google search turned up a Second Life shop, complete with link! Ok, unlikely I know, but fun to imagine.
While Googling Second Life would be great it’s unrealistic. What could be done is to implement something like Google Directory, and let players specify which of several categories their properties fall into. A location could be set as a casino, club, adult, store (clothes), store (other), game, and so on. This could be used both as a way for players to search, and as a filter to impose on any ‘find’ a player undertook. Search for games and filter out casinos. Search for shoes, and only search ‘adult’ to find those bitch-heels you’ve always wanted. The power to find what players want could be simply and easily put back into the hands of the player.
I invite the Lindens to rise to the challenge, and I invite players to work to make their properties more search friendly, for everyone’s benefit.