SEO: Yes or no?

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Marketing: SEO

Is search engine optimization right for your blog or writer’s website?

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the (totally legit, Google-approved) way to make sure your site ranks well in search engines when people look for terms that are relevant to your site. I cut my Internet marketing seo signteeth in the world of SEO, writing copy designed to draw in those rankings—but is it the best fit for a writer’s blog or website?

Let’s dig in—but first, some announcements:

Hey! May is over—tomorrow I’ll announce the winner of a 15-page edit from me. Missed out on commenting last month? No worries—I’ll give away another 15-page edit to one lucky commentator this month! Winner will be drawn at random; each comment from June 1 to June 30 counts as one entry; winner to be announced on the blog in July. So come join in the conversation!

We’re done discussing tracking your blog—but if you have any questions about getting more from Google Analytics, feel free to pop in and ask!

Have you joined Julie Coulter Bellon’s Jump Start WriMo yet? I’ve got a quick pep talk post on her blog today, o if you need a pick me up, read & join in!

What is SEO? (And what isn’t?)

Good “white hat” SEO is NOT using tricks, hidden text, redirects or cloaking to show search engines one thing and your website visitors another. Search engines like Google don’t like to be manipulated that way, and when they catch you, they’ll dock your rankings.

Good “white hat” SEO IS about making sure your site is designed to attract both search engines and, even more importantly, visitors. It’s also designing your site so as to not impede search engine “crawlers” that read it. Above all, it’s understanding what your visitors want and how they’re trying to find it, and making sure your site is there when they look for it.

Oh man, I love this stuff.

I like that idea. So how do I do SEO?

Ooh. This answer’s going to be a little circular, but the basic way to do what I just said is to understand what your visitors want and how they’re trying to find it, and then making it easier for them.

Helpful, I know. Let’s break it down.

Understanding what your visitors want & how they’re trying to find it

A very, very basic way to understand what your visitors are looking for is to flat-out ask them. You might or might not get a good response from a poll (and often, if open-ended questions aren’t an option with your software, you might be giving people the wrong options), but it could be worth a shot.

Short of asking your visitors what they want, you can look at how people are interacting with your site to try to understand what they’re looking for, and if they’re finding it. One of my favorite ways to look at this is to look at the analytics data, especially focusing on what search terms (“keywords”) people are using to find your site, and what pages or posts are the most popular.

However, this is only reflective of what your website is currently performing well (or maybe not so much) with. If we’re looking to expand on that, we’ll need to do a little research and a little legwork. But that’s for next week. First, we’re going to talk about whether all this work is worth it.

Yes, is all this SEO work worth it for a writer’s website or blog?

Good question; I’m so glad you asked.

The answer for what we’ve discussed so far is a resounding YES. How often do you go on a website looking for something specific and can’t find it? How often do you turn to Google for an answer instead? How often do you use Google? I’m guessing the answer is lots.

We want to minimize the frustration of not being able to find something on our site. We want to keep our visitors from wandering away empty-handed, sad and dejected. We want to be there (if we have the answer!) when someone turns to Google.

SEO is all about making it easier on your visitors

We want to make our visitors happy. And that should be the #1 rule of optimizing any website: Fulfill your visitors’ needs. SEO is really about making it easier for your potential visitors to find you, and for them to find what they’re looking for on your site.

In this market, SEO is probably NOT about driving direct sales. If someone is Googling the name of your book—or even your name—then they’re probably already in the mode to buy, and yes, you’ll want to capture and help those visitors (or hope they go right to Amazon or B&N or what have you). But frankly, you should be ranking well for those terms already.

SEO stands to help you improve your ranking for other terms, especially more generic ones—but when’s the last time you typed in “good sweet romance novel” at Google? Perhaps never? Do other people search for those terms, and if they do, are they likely to buy your book? Although it definitely can and does happen from time to time, odds aren’t great—but SEO can help to expose your name, your books and your writing to a greater audience.

Next week, we’ll dig into the hows of doing SEO, including “how can I make this work for me?”, especially in light of the last paragraph.

What do you think? Do you search for books? What are the top searches that find your site? What does that tell you?

Photo credits: Seo sign—Superboreen; SEO shirt & LOLkitteh—H Vasco

Series NavigationSEO: Keywords, Research and Links, oh my!

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