If you’re a blogger, you’ve probably heard the term “SEO,” short for “search engine optimization.” You may even know what SEO is (a method for improving your website’s ranking in Google and other search engine results). But why should you care about SEO? Because few people look past the first page of results when they do a web search. If your website doesn’t come up in the top page for a particular keyword (your name, your blog name, the title of your book, a product you are selling), you will lose readers, fans, customers, and clients. SEO can get complicated, but here are a few basic tips you can use to improve your site's visibility on the web:
1. Content is King
Your best overall strategy should be to create great content that others will want to link to and then sprinkle that content with keywords that people are likely to type into search engines. The more frequently your content is updated the better, which is why it’s great to have a blog on your website.
2. Understand How Search Engines Work
When a search engine’s “bots,” “spiders,” or “web crawlers” go trolling around the Internet, they search the content of your website and take special notice of keywords that are repeated or emphasized using bold face type, headlines, or hyperlinks. Remember that when writing the titles and content of your blog posts.
3. Google Analytics
Install Google Analytics on your blog and/or website if you haven’t already. Even if you use another metric like SiteMeter, StatCounter, or Wordpress’s built-in stats, nothing compares to Google Analytics in its comprehensiveness. Once it’s installed, you can track which of your posts are the most popular and write more posts like those. You can also see which keywords people are entering into search engines to find your site and drop some of those into future posts. For example, two of the most popular posts on the first blog I started were “Mila Jovovich” and “wrist surgery.” If I were still posting to that blog, it would make sense for me to write a follow-up post about my wrist surgery and to mention Mila Jovovich (and other celebrities) now and then.
Write a list of keywords for which you want your book (or other product or service) to show up in web searches. For example, I may use “memoir,” “fashion,” “modeling,” “fashion model,” “French memoir,” “Paris memoir,” “modeling memoir,” “fashion memoir,” “Linda Evangelista,” “Christy Turlington,” and “Naomi Campbell.” Then I would insert those keywords into the tags, titles, and content of my site. If you’re serious about improving the SEO of our website, you may want to subscribe to a keyword research service (they’re not cheap) that will tell you which keywords will bring the most traffic to your site.
5. Page Titles
Page titles are the words displayed in a reader’s browser or browser tab (depending on settings) when she visits your website. For example, if you visit my website, you’ll see "Meghan Ward: Author" on your browser tab. My blog shows up as "Writerland," and a specific post within my blog will show up as the title of that post (“Constance Hale Has a Crush on Verbs,” for example). Page titles are built into the HTML code of your site, so you may need a web designer to help you optimize them. Check out this post to learn more about Google & SEO-friendly page titles.
Incoming links are golden. You want your targeted keywords (see 3 & 4) to be hyperlinked from other sites (the more popular the site the better) TO yours. For example, you can to read an excerpt from my modeling memoir or check out my freelance editing services by clicking on the hyperlinks in this sentence. The more different sites that point to yours, the better. But how do you get OTHER sites to point to yours? For starters, you can link to your site from your She Writes profile, your Twitter profile, your Facebook page, your Linked In page, and your Goodreads page. You can write great content so other bloggers are more likely to link to you, you can write guest posts for other sites that point back to your site, you can invite other bloggers to guest post for you (They will most likely link to the post from their own blog, Facebook page, or Twitter account), and you can comment on other blogs, which leaves a link back to your own blog.
7. Contextual Text
Using your keywords in the text of your post (contextual text) without hyperlinks will also improve your SEO. For example, many authors post at the bottom of every blog post a little blurb that goes something like this: My memoir, Paris On Less Than $10,000 a Day, is a coming-of-age story about a young fashion model trying to make it in the cutthroat modeling world in Paris, France at a time when supermodels Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington refused to get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day. To learn more about my book and my freelance editing services, visit my website, Meghan Ward (dot) com. See how many of my keywords I managed to get in? Some will be hyperlinked, but many will remain contextual text. And the best part about pasting all that at the bottom of every post is that now I’m free to write about butternut squash and Hula-Hoops without worrying about how I’ll squeeze in a mention of fashion models and France.
8. Meta Tags
Meta tags are words or phrases that are built into the HTML code of your site that are not visible to readers. You’ll most likely need a techy person or web designer to help you insert them into your site. Just remember that Google does not use the keywords meta tag, but it does use the description meta tag and a few others.
Social media is, above all, social. Your best SEO will result from the love you get from other bloggers who link to you, ask you to guest post, and guest post on your blog. So once you get Google Analytics running, update your titles and metatags, and write a few posts about wrist surgery, get out there and make some friends!
What about you? Do you have any SEO tips?