SEO may seem like an odd topic choice for a website devoted to novelists, after all, we write books, not web copy. But if you stop and think about it, even if it’s not our day job, most of us connect with our readers through the Internet. Specifically through blogging, websites, and social media. And that’s why staying current with SEO is vital.
But what is SEO? When the Internet was young and search engines new, a way had to be found to rank the order of websites that came up during a search. With that, Search Engine Optimization was born.
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is simply that, an algorithm that ranks websites when a consumer types in a query. The quandary comes when you compare the goals of the consumer, the specific search engine, and the website owner.
- The consumers want the most relevant information to show up first.
- The Search Engine developers want that, but they also want to be the go-to search engine for the most consumers.
- The website owners want their sites to come up first…no matter what.
Although all these goals are related, they are different. And, with these differing goals, we now have come confusion and competition.
In the early years of these algorithms, keywords were…well…key. The more keywords a website had, the higher up it would appear in the list of relevant sites. On the surface this appears to be reasonable. But, website designers soon found a way to trick the system. They’d load pages into a site with nothing but keywords. These pages had no information, just repeated keywords.
This little cheat frustrated consumers, because it frequently meant the best sites fell lower in the list. So the search engine developers began to tweak the algorithms and make them more complex. But clever website designers continued to find ways around the system.
For a while, content was king. It didn’t have to be good content, just new articles loosely related to the subject of the website. This led to content mills and article spinning (rewriting the same information over and over again just enough so it qualified as new).
There were also requirements of links to and from relative sites, number of hits, then number of unique hits, and hundreds of other little pieces to the algorithms.
There were so many websites using black-hat SEO techniques (cheating) that consumers were getting fed up. Essentially Google cleaned house, penalized those sites that employed these techniques and tried to restore more accurate website rankings.
So what does that have to do with smaller bloggers, especially novelists?
Personally, I think it’s good news. For me, I’ve always tried to deliver accurate, passionate content, whatever site I'm writing for. And in the past, by NOT employing tricks, these sites have ranked lower. Now these sites are easier to find because Google is rewarding quality content.
So ow do you deliver content that Google rewards, instead of penalizes? It’s really not that hard.
- Write from your passion. Passion is obvious in good writing. Don’t follow the trends, follow your heart when you’re finding a focus for your blog or website.
- Generate good, valuable content. This means correct grammar, as well as tightly focused relevant articles.
- Come up with targeted titles. Don’t throw out the keywords completely. But use them to reflect the actual message of your post. Not sure how to use keywords correctly? Here’s a post I wrote on Using KeywordsEffectively.
- Format your site and your content with the READER in mind. This means an easy-to-read font, block formatting, and short—targeted—articles.
- Keep a regular schedule. This is so critically important. Everyone who creates a blog wants his readers to return. But how can we expect that, when we’re never home. Meaning, we post sporadically and without apparent rhyme or reason. All that does is frustrate our readers and prove we’re not trustworthy. There is WAY too much competition for us to be lazy.
So, the demise of SEO has been greatly exaggerated. It isn’t dead—but it has changed. But the change is leveling the playing field, at least until someone finds a way to trick the system yet again.
Edie Melson is the author of four books, a freelance writer and editor with years of experience in the publishing industry. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, as well as a popular faculty member at numerous others. She’s also the social media columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and social media mentor for My Book Therapy. Connect with her through Twitter, Facebook, and her popular blog for writers, www.thewriteconversation.com.