While I really enjoy my gadgets, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a huge techie. I can sort out a little HTML coding to create a link or add a Paypal button, and I often get the privilege of having a computer handed over to me as my husband says, “What am I doing wrong?” when it doesn’t do what he expects. When it comes to SEO, I have a fair grasp of the basics and I figured I might as well share them you since I have no writing woes to throw at you this week.
What Makes Me the Expert?
Okay, I’m no expert. Let’s just clear that up right away. However, like my obsessive habit of tracking packages whenever I’m emailed a tracking number for something I’ve ordered, I love tracking my website stats. And those stats show an interesting thing: The majority of my visitors come from search engines.
Yes, despite wasting gobs of time on Twitter and Facebook (and Google+ and LinkedIn to a lesser extent), most people who stumble their way into my website have tripped over something left on the floor of a Google or Yahoo search. And since SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, clearly I’ve done something to optimize my website for search engines….which is kind of cool, but makes me wonder what I could be achieving if I didn’t waste so much time on social media.
A Bit About SEO
As I wrote in that paragraph just up there, SEO is search engine optimization. It’s the things you can add to your website and blog posts to make your blog/website more “visible” to search engines like Google and Yahoo. There’s tons and tons of technical stuff about how searches are done that involve creepy things like crawling and spiders, but let’s just keep it simple for now.
Let’s Get Visible
In addition to the tons of info about how search engines search, there’s even more information (most of it repetitive) about SEO tips. Some of them are going to be about 300 miles above your head and are probably only understandable to the true techie nerds. We’ll leave “those” tips to them. But let’s cover a few things you can do yourself to wave a big PICK ME sign to search engines.
1. Use your words and use them wisely:
What is this post about? SEO. Good job, you passed the reading comprehension portion of the test. Have you noticed how I’ve naturally worked the term “SEO” into the text. That’s important because search engines have learned that people like to cram keywords into their posts in an attempt to get noticed. Like the guy driving the overly flashy car and wearing half a gallon of cologne, these people are trying too hard and, just like that guy getting ignored by women, those trying-to-hard posts are getting ignored by search engines.
Search engines have now learned to be selective (aka “picky”) and will instead opt for sites that work keywords in naturally. If you look at my Saturday Selections, you’ll notice I mention the movie (or book) title now and then, but I also substitute words like “film” and “movie” for the title. If I used the movie title over and over, I’d be ignored (and the posts would be annoying to read).
2. Work your keyword into your first paragraph:
Search engines love it when you make their life easier and tossing your keyword into your first paragraph makes them super happy. So, as you see above, I naturally worked my keyword into the intro paragraph. This isn’t a cut and dry rule, and you can get by waiting until paragraph two or three, but why wait? You want your readers to know what you’re writing about in your post anyway, so don’t be coy. Put it in the first paragraph. And of course, you should work that keyword into your post’s title.
3. Change your URL slug:
This is a tad techie, but don’t worry, it’s fairly simple especially in WordPress. As you’re drafting your post, you have the chance to edit the end bit of the URL that will become the web address for your post. Changing that URL ending (click Edit) to a two- to four-word keyword-filled slug helps get you noticed. So, instead of SEO-for-the-SEOblivious, I changed it to say SEO-tips-blog. Simple and searchable.
4. Add info to your photos and images:
Again, slightly techie, but this isn’t difficult – although it is easy to forget. When you add a photo to your post (or edit the photo), you’ll see a box for Alt Text. Fill that in with a few keywords and you’ve just put on a big bright T-shirt to grab a shirt engine’s attention. For example, in my Thursday Travel Pic photo, I added the Alt Text of Belize, Xunantunich, Central America. You don’t have to create a huge list, just three or four related to your photo.
5. Link to Your Content & Link to Other People’s Content:
Honestly. I’m not techie enough to get why this works, but linking to your own content (such as when I say to check out my latest Saturday Selections post) or linking to other sites’ content (see below), bumps you up in search engines. Obviously you don’t want to overdo this otherwise your entire post will be a mess of links, but tossing in links where they are relevant and helpful not only guides your readers to more information, but gives you a little SEO boost.
6. Keep your blog/website active:
Although it doesn’t seem like it when you’re searching for something and end up a list of web pages that are three years old (ancient in tech terms), search engines would rather look at an active website than a website that’s just been lying fallow for months. This is why content mills are huge business. Webmasters (and mistresses) know the importance of keeping content fresh if their site is going to stay at the top of a search engine listing. So keep your pages updated, add new content, and keep sharing with the world your thoughts, images and adventures!
Thanks everyone, now get SEO-ing! And for more on this, check out Moz’s guide to SEO for beginners.
* * *
TAMMIE PAINTER IS THE AUTHOR OF THE TRIALS OF HERCULES: BOOK ONE OF THE OSTERIA CHRONICLES AND AN ARTIST WHO DEDICATES HERSELF TO THE TEDIUM OF CREATING IMAGES WITH COLORED PENCILS.