March marked the two year anniversary of the launch of this site, Atchison Online. Over the past two years, the entire community has participated in adding great content to the site and as a result, Google now ranks AtchisonKansas.com as an authority site for Atchison. Two years to the day we launched, Google decided to bump the site up to the top 10 results for topics such as Atchison events, shopping, lodging, restaurants, businesses, and even the granddaddy of them all - "Atchison". Thanks to our website team and great community participation, Atchison now has a beautiful online presence to easily share with the world.
Why top rankings are so tough to get
If you aren't familiar with how websites work...here it is in a nutshell. Even though you may have the most awesome site in the world, if Google doesn't think it is...it's not. Google has to trust that you're providing quality content that matches what people are looking for. Sometimes a website will jump right to the top of the search index if it is about something that no one else has a site about. You are then the authority site on that subject. However, it gets tougher when there are already many sites about the topic you start a site on. And even tougher if you do what we did - put a brand new site on an existing domain name that Google had already banished!
When we first built the site, we used the domain name atchisononline.com. Of course, that's the name of the services we provide to the Atchison community, with the website being the main service. However, our goal was to be one of the top 3 sites for Atchison. In order to do that, we knew we needed a powerhouse domain name.
With a little research, we found out that the domain name atchisonkansas.com was being held hostage by a domaineer in Overland Park. This company had bought a bunch of Kansas town names back in the 90s, and had put up auto-content that served no purpose, hoping that the cities would want to "claim" them. Google knew the site was not maintained and junk content, and had delisted it from their search index. We knew it would take some work, but decided to buy the .com domain for $600. Then started the hard work of convincing Google that we were out for the good of all with great content about Atchison.
Local businesses are always looking for ways to advertise their business. Although we couldn't claim top listings in Google for organic search results, we could sure bring them some website visitors through our internal marketing efforts. We were able to get a handful of businesses to sponsor full featured business pages in the local directory, which not only helped their own businesses, it helped create unique content, which Google loves. (Insert shameless plug for sponsoring your own business listing - call us to get it set up!)
One of the key parts of the site is the collaborative event calendar. The goal was to have one place to list every event in Atchison. A tough undertaking, but made possible by the fact that anyone can add events. It was a success, and over 600 events were listed in Atchison for 2016! That was 600 additional reasons for Google to think this was a site to take notice of!
Blogging our way to being noticed
In the summer of 2016, we started a blog to be able to share local news and positive stories from an insider's point of view. There's been so many great stories to tell, although there's never enough time to get to them all! But the few articles that have been posted were a great success, both with the local audience and website visitors outside of Atchison interested in getting to know more about the town. (Insert shameless plea for more writers!)
The future of Atchison - online
By becoming an authority site on our beautiful town, we - as a community - have a big responsibility. We can no longer blame other organizations for our town not having an amazing website, or not being able to find information about events or businesses. We can actually do something about it! Start with creating an account. Then, ad events. Claim your business listing and make it beautiful. Become an editor and write about what you are passionate about in Atchison. It takes all of us to keep Atchison strong and beautiful, both off and online.