As a writer, building an audience is a difficult and daunting task if you don’t have a publisher backing you up. Nowadays, publishers and agents like to see an audience already built in the digital world. Having a website, email list and social media presence are three things they expect to see. Understanding SEO (Search Engine Optimization) will help increase visibility through all digital mediums. Check out these ways to help you improve SEO on your website.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO IMPROVE SEO?
First off, all search engines use a program called a “Crawler”. The better the crawler, the better the search engine. Google has it nailed down and has for years. Their crawler goes through the entire web and ranks, codifies, and places web pages based on a multitude of factors. These factors can either help or harm your website.
When you are trying to build an audience, people need to be able to find you. If they’re window shopping for writing help and what other authors are out there and you are sitting way in the back in a dimly lit room… Well, you get the idea. Nobody will see you.
So, write your blogs and build your website for GOOD SEO COMPLIANCE.
STEP ONE WEBSITE USABILITY
First off, take a look at your blog in terms of website usability. This is broken down into five factors and contrary to what some people think, usability is a determinate built into crawler algorithms. It is not a personal opinion on how great a website is for their personal experience. Overall, it’s broken down into five important parts.
Does your website help the user get the information they are looking for? Does a search engine have enough information to point them to this web page? Is there difficulty in finding the needed information, and what is it? Are there broken links?
Professionals would perform a specific search for exactly what your website provides and see where you show up. For example, if your blogs are on “Writing Help” but when you query that in a search bar, nothing comes up. Perhaps a little tweaking is in order to get things right. Using stuff like YOAST if you have wordpress can definitely help with that.
How quickly can users find what they are looking for? Is your site easy to navigate or does it take ten plus clicks to get them to the page they need to be at? Are there parts of your website that interfere with their ability to navigate the site?
Remember, it isn’t about having three clicks or less to find additional information. It is about having a simple to use navigation bar and links to appropriate information within the blog itself. Users need to be able to follow information while using simple cues within the text or because of graphic images.
Part of this falls into how much time a user spends on your site. Less time on a site can have a negative impact on the determination of efficiency. Ultimately, the more time spent will help overall website usability and therefore greatly Improve SEO ranking.
A good example of BAD learnability are those CLICKBAIT style websites with a million ads cluttering the page and in order for you to read the next two sentences, you have to scroll around and find the NEXT button. They play on several aspects of SEO and ad time to make their money, but those sites are a great example of bad things. Besides, they annoy me. You should focus on proper ways to improve SEO instead of trying to trick the system.
A user should be able to find what they need. There should be easily clickable links leading to internal and external content. When you write a blog, it should be about something helpful. For example, an author might also want to know if there is information I have about character development.
So, users shouldn’t spend a long time figuring out how to use your website or where to get pertinent information. Fortunately, this shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve if you’re a writer offering tidbits of upcoming books and writers help.
Does your stuff stand out? What makes your website the GO TO for the type of information you are offering? Will a user come back to you again and again for information? Search engine crawlers track this kind of info.
A user needs to be able to remember your website and get back to it. Either that or they should be able to type something about your site to find you in a search engine. If this is happening, the powers that be take notice and mark your website as a memorable one.
Also, make sure your page titles have key words within them. Your page title, Meta description and Slug should all be coordinated to send a user directly to you when they put in the appropriate key words. Whatever your blog or author site is about, it should be filled with ways for people to find you again and again. Re-finding you is just as important as seeing you for the first time.
This is simple. Broken links, infinite loops and paths to nowhere are a bad thing. When a crawler goes over your site and finds these, it decreases your trustability and ranks you lower in the search. If it is bad enough, it might not rank you at all. Take the time to go over every link and make sure they go somewhere.
External links are especially important because sometimes they change.
SEO USABILITY HELPS YOUR SEARCHABILITY
Remember, google uses a multitude of factors to determine the ranking of your website. The more time spent on the site, the more a user clicks from page to page internally and the more often they visit you… Well, the higher you are in the rankings.
Think of it like the window shopping again. With SEO usability, you are shuffling up closer to the window and further out of the dimly lit corner. You WANT people to see you and read your stuff, right? Building an audience is impossible if there is no visibility.
So, you should want to Improve SEO and not ignore it.
The vast majority of blogs started never breach 500 hits a month. Just like an author learns plot points, tempo, exposition, and story arc, we must also learn to write for the internet. It’s different.
So, here are a couple of helpful points to immediately up your SEO game.
HAVE QUALITY CONTENT THAT IS IMPORTANT TO THE USER.
Since I’m a writer and you probably are too, let’s look at it through that lens again. How many writer’s help sites have you looked at that start out with “Top ten ways to get your book started”? After reading the blog you realize there was maybe one good way. The others were “download this”, “Drink coffee”, “Read stuff in your genre”, “Sit in a quiet place”, and blah blah. Basically, nothing about the list was helpful and whether or not it is entertaining is suspect.
Don’t be that person. Sure, a top ten list on Pinterest is catchy, but ultimately if it is all fluff and nothing good you probably did more harm than good.
You want users to stay on your site and increase the DWELL TIME. They do that when the information is useful. Also, based on the research Google has determined that web pages with 2000 – 2500 words have the highest dwell time and therefore generally rank higher in searches for specific information. Just food for thought.
Now, If you’re writing a sci-fi or fantasy short story. People might not find that right off the bat, but you can have linkable content within your very searchable pages to drive those writers (who are also avid readers) to your page for a nice download.
Having users bookmark your website on CHROME is a big bonus to search ranking too. So, if you have any friends out there, ask them to bookmark your page.
PAGE LOAD TIME
There are some good sites out there to help you see what your page load time is. Having a fast time is especially important if a large base of your users are on a mobile platform. People will give a site a few seconds to load (Longer if they trust it) before saying “Forget it” and moving on to something that will open up quickly for them.
One of the biggest mistakes is image size. Using wordpress or whatever platform out there doesn’t discriminate with the size of an image. The bigger it is, the worse off you are. Generally speaking, anything over 75kb should be reduced. Use an image cruncher to help with this if you have a lot of images on your site.
The good and bad is that images are important for a positive user experience. But, without proper attention to size, they can actually harm you.
Think of internet writing as an outline. Using H2 Headers are important because they rank higher in the crawler algorithm. The H2 tags have to be relevant to the web page and also increase the user experience. Using them will increase your overall visibility.
Just like internal links, the outbound ones will help you. When a crawler determines your TRUSTABILITY, they partially look at what links you have to other sites and how those sites rank. Now, this doesn’t mean litter your page with outbound links so the user experience is difficult to navigate. It means you should consider referencing the experts so Google believes you know what you are talking about.
For this small part of your life, Facebook actually matters. How often your content is shared on social media platforms is very important. Pinterest is considered a social media platform and is one of the better places for authors to start a strong presence.
There are paid sites out there to build your social presence. Sharaholic.com is one of the top ones. I don’t recommend going that route until you have spent the time to fully optimize your site for SEO and built a great user experience. Otherwise, you’re just spending money on showing people a partially built product. If anything, they’ll remember that your stuff wasn’t so great and not click on it again.
You don’t want that.
This goes a little bit back to the H2 headings discussed earlier. This is also related to the overall usability and user experience too. Things that are a MUST on a website in terms of formatting.
- Using an easy to read font
- Having bullets or numbering when appropriate
- Breaking up content into chunks smaller than 150 words and is easily scrollable
- Having progressive layouts or interactive sections of text
- Using images (not too big though) to enhance meaning/experience.
All of this stuff will help set up your website into something GOOGLE LIKES and the USER ENJOYS.
This goes back to TRUSTABILITY and USER EXPERIENCE. People (and Google) need to know that they can reach you when they want to. As bloggers/writers this isn’t overly important a lot of the time, but it is in the grand scheme of website building. Make sure you have all the appropriate information and plug ins set up so you can be reached. I don’t recommend having your home address with a map listed and times you’ll be available on there.
That’ll set you up for a potentially creepy experience.
Use email based conversions to be able to continually reach out to users and have an effective email campaign to bring users back to your site. This is best done by providing useful content in the form of a free download.
A COUPLE OF DON’TS
Now that you understand how important using key words in your content, headings and title are… don’t go STUFFING them into every facet of the article you wrote. Too many can signal crawlers to think you’re doing that and they’ll hinder your visibility. It’ll also decrease the USER EXPERIENCE and make people less likely to go back to your site.
Don’t try to squeeze every ounce of SEO out of your site. Remember that the user experience is the most important piece and there must be a trade off there.
Quality content is KING. Whatever you write and publish, make it good. A good experience will translate to higher conversions.
Us writers need to stick together and support each other. Leave a comment if this was helpful!