Friday, May 12, 2006

Cricket Subscription Links and Google Coop: A How and Why Guide

The Short Version

Cricket ground details and fixtures in a Google onebox, now available via my
Google Coop subscription links.

The Long Version (Including the 'How' and 'Why')

Google had a big day Wednesday, announcing the release of Google Trends, a new Google Desktop release, the upcoming release of Google Notebook, and most excitingly -- Google Coop.

Philipp has already provided a good Coop overview, so rather than rehash old ground I'm going to explain the reasoning and process behind creating the International Cricket subscription links.

Note: My
Google Coop Profile provides live previews of these links along with the ability to subscribe to them.

What and Why

As frequent readers will know, I'm a cricket fan, enough so that I created The Cricketing Yak.

The site includes a Google Map of test cricket venues, and while building this I found it unusually hard to find fairly basic information about many of the grounds -- things like official web sites and precise stadium locations took far more than just searching for the ground's name or city.

Now Coop
let's me provide a better solution, by putting these details where I expect them -- in the search results. Coop subscription links let you define a search query pattern, and then a onebox result. Anyone subscribed to your profile gets this onebox when a search they execute matches your pattern.

What to Show?

Each onebox can have three lines of text (with links), plus a title and 'more link'. This limits the information you can display, though as a user it ensures you're results are uncluttered.

As a guide I'd suggest:
  1. No spamming! (more on this later).
  2. Show only the information people are going to find useful for this specific query.
  3. Save users time by linking to related services (maps, calendar, email, etc.).
  4. Only link back to your site if it provides useful additional information.
My philosophy is to keep the result concise and relevant -- and I've done Google's job for them, by providing links to related Google services (map and calendar).

For the cricket venue box, I chose to display:
  • The full ground name with a link to the official web site as the title and more link.
  • The type of cricket venue it is, with the city/country location.
  • An exact Google Maps view of the ground.
  • A link to local weather observations from the venue's city .
Notice anything missing? No link to my site! Why? Because the other information is more relevant.

I don't have much more useful information at my site, so there's no value to the user in directing them there.

For the cricket match schedule box I'm showing:
  • The next scheduled match at the ground (with the date and match description) as the title.
  • A link to add the match directly to your Google Calendar (tricky!)
  • And this time I'm including a link to watch the live scores at The Cricketing Yak.
Potential Downsides? Losing Traffic!

I'm providing useful information, previously available at my web site, directly within the search results -- and in one case, I'm not even linking back to my site. Seems like an unusual way of gaining traffic 'eh?

True, but it goes a long way towards building trust and with only four lines/links, you might have more information to share -- if so, link to it -- but make sure the link makes worth their while. Don't just spam them!

Potential Upsides? Gaining Trust and Authority!

Losing traffic may seem like a Bad Thing, but what you're trading in is trust.

Google Coop lets trusted contributors affect the search rankings by using topics and labels. As a web site owner this is a Very Good Thing. But it only works for people subscribed to you, and to get (and keep) subscribers, you need to maintain their trust -- spam them and you'll lose them.

By providing relevant, useful information, you encourage users to trust you and stay subscribed -- meaning your site labeling will be affecting their search results. It's very white hat SEO, as your success at drawing visitors towards your site depends entirely on your ability to maintain their trust.

Break that trust and they can (and will) ignore you with a single click.

Update (28/05/06): See also my Upcoming Book Release subscription link.


  1. Loved the final.

    Thanks for giving me enough hope to continue my "coop voyage": it's hard but I admire Google for "opening" its doors to simple users like you (!) and me.

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