I’ve made a separate page just for search engine optimization, because of all the services I provide it is the most misunderstood.
Why Does SEO Matter?
SEO is the buzz word of the moment because people so seldom bother to go past the first page of a Google search. Think of all the times that you’ve tried to google something and not been able to find it. How many pages deep do you go, before changing your search terms to something more specific? Three? Ten? If your page or post is on page 100 of the search results, your content will never get discovered. Yet most times you run a search, the number of results isn’t 100-200, it’s more like one or two million. So there’s a lot of competition for those coveted page-one spots! No wonder SEO is a valuable skill!
What Is This SEO Stuff?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is just a fancy way of saying that you’ve done everything you can to help your site get discovered by search engines like Google. SEO used to be more of a science than an art, because “black hat” developers would pull all kinds of tricks to get pages ranked higher on search engines. However Google is constantly reshaping their algorithms in order to bury these black hat techniques. These days much of what looks like good SEO is the exact same stuff you would be doing if you just create really high-quality content and present it properly. This is no coincidence, as Google’s algorithm is meticulously designed to reward those who are making the best possible content, and to punish those who are looking for a cheap shortcut to land on page one. Even if someone comes up with a brand new trick to get your site highly ranked, it’s just a matter of time before Google figures out too, and they will punish all those tricksters by burying their sites lickety-split. These days, once you know the keywords you are focusing on, SEO is more similar to the art of high-quality marketing content.
Um, Can You Be More Specific? How Does Good Content=Good SEO?
The reason SEO is an art, not a science, is that the best search engine optimizers are also great content writers. This work is about the details, but it’s also creative work. You don’t want someone who is just going to stuff your keywords into the page in an ugly mess. This is especially important for writers, because their diction is their trade. You want your site optimized, but if you hire the wrong person they will mangle your prose by stuffing keywords where they sound awkward.
The things that differentiate a great content marketing writer from great writing in general also help rank a site in search engines. For example…
Good content marketers are conscientious about shaping the content in ways that make it easier for vision-impaired folks to read.
Guess what? Google and Bing can’t see your site’s images, so things that improve accessibility also improve SEO
Web content is structured more like an outline than a novel. Notice the way that this page is broken up into sections, with headers. Notice that the entire page is only about one thing. A good digital marketer will understand that people often skim webpages to get to the content they want, and will design the page to assist with this. She will think about how much content should be on one page, versus additional pages.
Guess what? Google’s robots will scan the content the same way, so things that improve readability also improve SEO.
Linking is the essential element of the world wide web. Before the Internet had videos, long before computers could handle downloading an endless stream of kitten pics, it was all about links. A good digital writer will always link back to sources. She will provide as many links as she can, but only when those links are useful. She will label links so that a web surfer is making an informed decision about what is behind a link, before they take the risk to click on it.
Guess what? Search engines are going to look at the number of links and how they are written to determine how to rank your site and those of the sites you link to. So smart linking also improves SEO. Most importantly, Google is going to see if other people are linking to you, which people only want to do when your site is rich with high-quality content.
Is your site well-organized? Does it have a sitemap? Does the navigation make sense? What about the categories? Is everything clearly labeled? When someone sees the title of a blog post, does that give a good indication of what that web page contains? A good content marketer will always be conscientious not only about what she is trying to say, but also putting that content in the place the reader expects to find it.
Guess what? Google’s robots will analyze your site’s structure, so a well-organized site is also going to help optimization.
Good SEO = Good Content Marketing
Seeing a pattern here? Good writing and editing is all about getting the details right; so is good SEO. This is why authors, who have decades of experience creating beautiful writing, hire me to shape their content. If you have written a beautiful novel and don’t know how to translate that content into a website, I can take that beautiful prose and reshape it into a site that will best promote your book.
What’s the Number One Thing I Can Do to Improve My SEO?
Keyword research! In fact, if you don’t do this, none of your other SEO efforts matter! No joke.
What Is Keyword Research?
SEO is all about knowing the best keywords.
Keyword research is when your search engine optimizer evaluates a huge list of potential search terms to determine which ones you should focus on throughout your website. These are the keywords that the most people are searching for, but also that that other sites aren’t optimized around. SEO is all about knowing the best keywords. If you can only afford to do one thing for your SEO, have it be the keyword research. Properly armed with the best possible keywords, a good blogger can reap huge benefits without a full site-optimization makeover. On the other hand, if you hire someone to optimize your site around the wrong keywords, all your efforts will be wasted.
My Web Developer Says Her Fixed-Price WordPress Site Project Includes SEO…What Does This Mean?
If you have hired a designer or developer to build you a web site, they may have mentioned “an SEO-optimized theme is included” or “the site is optimized for SEO.” Usually this means that the developer is going to be smart about choosing a theme that is coded by smart people who have taken search engines into consideration when writing the theme’s code. It does not include any research to determine what keywords you should be focusing on, nor does it include using those keywords strategically throughout the site’s content.
It is important that your theme is well-coded enough that search engines properly rank and recognize it. However, most professional themes are going to be optimized for search engines, so you should consider this a benchmark, rather than a feature.
Common Misconceptions About SEO
SEO Myth 1: SEO will get your site ranked tomorrow
There is no magic bullet to good page ranking. SEO, like all marketing efforts, takes time. If you need traffic immediately, simply buy it with digital ads. One of the factors Google considers in how to rank your page is how old it is. Therefore, the very fact that your site is new means that Google isn’t going to rank it as highly. This makes sense, as search engines want to rank content that is reliable, and it’s often easy-come-easy-go on the Internet. All the more reason to be smart about optimizing your pages from the start!
SEO Myth 2: It’s all about the Most Popular Keywords
Big e-commerce sites and huge corporate brands design their sites to go after the most popular keywords, because those brands already get a huge amount of traffic. They don’t have to worry about competition. For smaller, emerging sites, competition is much more important. Say you have a very competitive keyword, that 100,000 people are searching for and another keyword that only 100 people are searching for, but not very many sites have optimized. Which one is better? The less popular keyword, by a mile! Because with the latter, that’s 100 people who will be finding your site every month, while with the more popular keyword, few will ever dig far enough into the results to find your content.
SEO Myth 3: The Right SEO Can Guarantee You Will Land on Page One for Every Search
I know you’re thinking, wait, didn’t I just say that’s what this whole thing is about? It is about getting to page one, but remember, how you are ranked depends entirely on what keywords people are searching for. The content of your website is already on page one of Google, if you search for a phrase that only exists on your website! Likewise, your ranking on a search results page will be very different depending on whether someone searched for “mystery writer” or “Oakland mystery writer.” Anyone who promises you they can get you onto page one of every search result is running a con. SEO simply doesn’t work that way. To be fair, no real SEO expert would even say such a thing. But sometimes when clients don’t understand how SEO works, they expect this. It’s why asking, “how do I get to page one of Google?” is fruitless. It all depends on the search terms!
When Is the Best Time to Do SEO?
For most people, search engine optimization is an afterthought. They are so worried about getting the site up as quickly as possible, they don’t give search engine ranking consideration until well after it is finished. Even if they know what SEO is, and why they need it, often they figure they will budget to get the site built and worry about search engine optimization when they have more content to be optimized. However, there are significant advantages to thinking about SEO right from the start.
Get a Great Domain Name
If you have a website called booksaboutbananas.com, and another website called janesmith.com, which is Google more likely to show to someone who searches Google for the phrase, “books about bananas”? Naturally, Google looks at the url/domain name as a strong indicator of what the entire webpage is about. If you get your SEO keyword research done before you even buy your domain name, you can have a big head start in getting found in Google searches.
Save Time and Money
Creating the structure of your website and uploading and making the content all take time. When you hire me to do SEO, I have to do all of those things over again, that your web developer or copy editor failed to do the first time. For example, if all of your photos have names like SDC63927, as they do when generically named by your camera, I need to rename all those photos. Either this means going into every photo and changing the name, or I can batch rename them…but this means uploading them all over again. If you have me doing SEO all along, I will choose SEO-savvy names when the photos are uploaded the first time. This is just one element, but this same thing would affect every part of your site: from the way your file folders are organized to the text of the web pages. Why pay two different professionals to do a task, when it can all be done most efficiently the first time?
Shape Your Content
Many people start a blog because they know they need to have one to represent their books or their business. It’s not like they actually have any idea what they are going to blog about. Sometimes they have a few ideas, but aren’t sure which, if any, are going to interest readers enough to build an audience. Doing SEO keyword research can give you this valuable information. Your keyword research will tell you what topics people are actively looking for, where your niche can be. The right keywords can be the seed for not just one blog post, but a whole series or even the single-serving topic the blog covers. If you have ideas you want to get out there, by all means, put fingers to keyboard. But if you’re grasping at topics in the dark, unsure what to write about, SEO keyword research can be the lantern that guides your way.
If you have more questions about SEO, drop me an email. In addition to SEO, I do consultations to teach my clients all the ins and outs of digital marketing.