SEO is about people

Hello Website owner. We found your page using Google and we would like to offer you our SEO services so that you can be found on Google! I get this kind of e-mail now and then, but I don’t really get them.  Why exactly do I need them?

No writer, or any other kind of small business presence on the web, needs to pay for that kind of oxymoronic website service.  SEO is a simple tool that can help to enhance your web presence, so yes it is something you want.  But there is no reason to pay for it.  To have a Search Engine Optimized web presence, all you need to do is to know what appeals to search engines.  There are no tricks or high tech skills involved in making search engines want to be your friend.

Search engines are actually very easy.  Don’t think of them like some celebrity or some literary agent who helped the latest writing sensation in your genre get published but whom you are certain wouldn’t read your manuscript in a million years.  Search engines will read anyone’s manuscript.  But much like any good agent it is the goal of search engines to find and promote the really good websites that people will flock to because of its value.  The nice thing is you don’t even have to do anything.  In the old days perhaps you might have had to submit your website to capture their notice but these days they are constantly sending out their little robot spider slaves to track down websites that are worthy.  If you are worthy they will notice you and all you have to work on is being worthy and easy to notice!

Search engines are a little bit snooty and hard to please when it comes to being their best friend—getting that golden spot of #1 in the search rankings is a full time job.  But you don’t have to be best friends; you don’t have to hold onto that number one spot.  Just being in the same circles with your search engine friends will get you invited to all the best parties and make you super popular.

You only have to be a little blip on the radar of the search engines for you to start getting what you need from them.  Don’t waste a lot of time and energy on it and certainly don’t put a lot of money into it because there are better things to put your time and energy and money into than SEO.  Just be yourself, aim to please your target audience and keep in mind that you want the search engines to notice you.

Maybe you understand your target audience fine but you aren’t so sure you understand the search engines.  Let me fill you in on some of the key points to remember when optimizing your page for search engines.  SEO is really all about three things: Keywords, Links and Content.

Keywords for SEO should be honest
    • For every page or blog post come up with some keyword phrases that fairly and honestly represent the content of that post.
    • Place your keyword phrases in prominent positions: Titles, headers, sub headers, categories, tags, and description snippets. Make sure they are also in the main body.
    • Keywords are like salt, you need to use them in moderation.  It should always sound natural and not like your trying to cram as many keywords in the title as you can.
    • Use keywords in tag and category systems more liberally.
    • The higher a page is in your hierarchy of pages the more it will influence the search engines.  Place your more important keywords on these higher pages.
    • Don’t spend a lot of time with meta tags, especially meta keywords, they have been so overused and abused that search engines hardly pay them any mind these days.
    • Be fair, honest and natural in your use of keywords.  Avoid tricks and cheats.
Links for SEO should be natural
    • Incoming links or backlinks, links to your website from other websites, tell the search engines that someone other than you thinks your website is worth reading.
    • Mention your page and its links often on social media sites. How to use social media without being a spammer.
    • Always aim to get your link shared by others without having to ask—this is the trick to “going viral.”
    • Use a handful of social bookmarking sites, article sharing sites and other places where you can generate backlinks to your content.
    • Post on “do follow” sites.  Links posted with blog comments, and Yahoo answers are two examples of “no follow” link types which are supposedly not indexed by search engines.
    • Editorial links, when other blogs and information sources to link to your website as the source of their information or as a good place to get more information, are gold!
    • Provide others, friends and fellow writers, with testimonials, book reviews etc. The more natural a reciprocal link is the better.
    • Getting your link on a few key lists or directories of websites relevant to your content is good, but should be done in moderation and carefully.
    • Link exchange schemes, and paying for links are never a good idea. Search Engine punishments can bury your site so far down the ranks nobody will ever find your website.
Content for SEO should serve your audience
    • Make your website and its content for people, not for search engines
    • Have original and valuable content.
    • Make it easy to share and make it something people will want to share.
    • Keep adding more valuable content twice a week if possible—five times a week is better.
    • Search engine bots have been trained by their masters to put more value in websites which serve real people well.

Let your target audience be your guide to SEO.  If you know and use the keywords they are looking for the search engines will help them find you.  If you know where your target audience looks for links or who they trust to recommend new websites, get your links in those places the search engines will notice.  Not only that but also they will guide others with similar interests to your website without any further effort on your part.  If you give kickass content that people appreciate and enjoy they will spread the word and the search engines will notice.

SEO starts and ends with people.  Gearing all of your efforts at your target audience naturally leads to a search engine optimized website and this leads to more people finding your website and the growth of your audience.  This is the new face of SEO today.  It’s not about tricks and fooling poor witless robot spiders.  Its about pleasing people, giving them something valuable and knowing how to find them.