I’m in the process of writing an e-Book, which I plan to release soon. One topic I touched on that I think an entire article should be dedicated to is SEO. Most writers are concerned with just one thing, writing, and the reality is that focusing on that alone can only take them so far.
Writing isn’t just about creating an article that mesmerizes people. It is also about getting as many people to read your writing as possible. In most cases, there is no point in writing an article if no one will read it, especially online.
I have been learning the basics of search engine optimization – how content gets ranked in the search engines. As a result I’ve been able to make some changes to my site which have resulted in significant growth in search engine traffic. At the moment, an average of 800 people visit WritersinCharge from the search engines every day, so I believe I have a few insights that can help you take your blog to the next level.
Some of these tips helped launch my blog in the search rankings, and some of these tips helped increase my traffic by over 200% in only a few months, so make sure you utilize them on your blog for better results.
What is SEO?
Most writers are only familiar with the process of writing articles and getting them published. Very few people really know what SEO is.
SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization, the process of optimizing your website in a way that is search engine friendly. It’s publishing content that’s search engine friendly, and building quality offsite signals that helps the search engines know that your website deserves to be ranked well for a particular keyword.
In most cases, SEO isn’t just set-and-forget or something that you can do once and expect to be ranked well for every keyword. Of course, traffic to your articles will be consistent, but you have to keep optimizing for new keywords to get them ranked, and in some cases you have to keep optimizing even pages that are already ranking well for highly competitive keywords.
In a few words, SEO is the process of optimizing your online presence, optimizing your content to be search engine friendly and getting links, shares, votes and other signals to make it rank.
I know the process might be a little complicated right now, and that’s exactly why I wrote this article. I’ll be giving you a basic breakdown into how SEO works, so that by the end of reading this post you can take necessary actions with your blog and begin to get results.
Why You Should Care about SEO
I keep hearing from people who hate marketing and who are not ready to learn the “jargon” of SEO. Most people write online, yet they believe that all they need to do is focus on what they’re good at, writing, and expect the results to come.
It just doesn’t work that way!
Traffic is the currency of the web, and no matter the quality of your content and your eloquence with words, you won’t survive online without traffic. And traffic, my friend, is what brings results. It’s what brings sales, it is what leads to subscribers, it is what brings about clients and it is what leads to fame.
Search engines control a larger fraction of all the traffic online, and a great way to ensure you are getting as much traffic as you want is to learn how SEO works. Here are a few quick benefits of SEO.
- It helps you get discovered; by publishers, by readers, by fans, by fellow writers, by clients and by the media. Getting your message heard is important, and search engines help make this possible with little effort and possibly no fee on your part.
- Targeted traffic; an added advantage to getting your content ranked well in the search engines is that you get targeted traffic. Most people only use the search engines when they want real solution to a problem, and this can be your leverage towards getting the results you want. Search engine visitors are people with real problems who desperately need a solution. They’re not just visitors from other sources like social media who just happen upon your website because the headline compelled them. These people weren’t interrupted by ads, nor were they forced to click over from a social media site due to the cleverness of your headline. They have a problem, they need a solution and they came to you – through the search engines.
- Results that can be tracked; While it’s easy to go for an advertising campaign you think might be effective, you can’t really be sure of what works until you track your results. Search engine traffic is easy to track and optimize for even better results.
- Long term results; Unlike traffic from other sources, or online advertising campaigns, you only need to optimize a particular content once and reap the benefits for years to come. I haven’t done any conscious SEO for this blog for months now, and I’ve seen an almost 300% increase in search traffic.
Terms You Should Know
I will be talking about some terms below. These terms are used generally in the SEO community, and I will also be using them in this article so I think I should give you an idea of what they mean.
Keywords: Keywords, or key phrases, are words or terms used to discover your website in the search engines. Examples are “writer”, “writing website”, “how to make money writing” etc. If you could rank for these words/terms, whenever someone type them into the search engines your website will come up and you will get traffic when they decide to click through to your site.
Backlinks: Writing quality articles well-optimized with keywords alone won’t help. You also need backlinks to get your rankings to improve. Backlinks are links back to your articles from other websites online as a signal of recommendation of your article. The more backlinks you get, the better it is.
How to Optimize Your Content for the Search Engines
Now that we’ve covered some important points above, let’s get straight into the main article. Here are a few tips on how to optimize your content for the search engines.
1. Heading Tags
Heading tags are tags like H1, H2 etc., to H6 and are used to let the search engines know how important a particular heading/subheading is. The heading tags can be used to highlight important “point headings” in your article. The H1 is the most important and mostly used for the article’s title. The H2 tag is commonly used for the subheadings and the other tags are used for probably less important point headings. To see these headings in action, the title of this article itself is in H1, and the point above that says “How to Optimize Your Content for the Search Engines” is in H2.
Heading tags lay emphasis on a point, better still if that point includes a keyword you plan to rank for.
The heading tag can easily be abused though, so make sure you only use it when there is a “point heading” you need to emphasize.
2. Use Special Formatting to Highlight Points
Bold, Italics and Blockquotes can help place more emphasis on your points so that readers get your point while at the same time letting search engines know that the keyword or key phrases highlighted is very important. Special formatting can be used for definitions, keywords, key phrases and even whole paragraphs. It all depends on the point you want to pass across and how much emphasis you want to place on it.
3. Break Down Your Points Using Bullet Points, Numbers etc.
Bullet points, ordered lists and use of numbers also break down your points and make your articles easy to understand, and as a result they prove to the search engines that you know what you’re doing and are focused on the readers, which in turn helps improve your rankings.
4. Keyword Density, Synonyms and Co-occurrence
Keyword density is the level of your keyword use in a particular article. Synonym usage is your use of synonyms to represent your main keywords, so as to make your article look natural, and co-occurrence is the process of using terms that co-occur.
Search engines are becoming smarter daily and are starting to work more like real humans, so with a simple process they can easily detect what is natural and what isn’t. A great example of co-occurrence is the use of “pet” and “dogs”; these two words usually co-occur and, naturally, you will come across the word “pet” in almost any article that talk about dogs.
The keyword density is the level of your keyword use in an article. In this respect I’ll recommend that you don’t worry about this and that you don’t try to use any keyword excessively. Just write with a particular keyword in mind and let your writing flow. Also try to use synonyms in your articles and don’t just stuff it with the same keyword.
5. Use Images to Aid Rankings
If you’re writing for the web, using images not only help your readers better understand your article – it also helps your rankings. There are several things you should consider when using images for SEO benefit and here they are below.
- Image Description: What does your image description say about the image you’re using? Does it have anything to do with the keyword you’re trying to rank for? If not, make sure it does.
- Alt tags: The alt tag is a shortened form of alternate text, a text that is rendered whenever a reader of your article mouses over to your image, and it also helps the search engines better understand your content. It is also the text that shows if a browser can’t display images. Using the keyword you want to rank for as an alt tag can also help your rankings.
- Image URL: Your image URL should also be optimized to help your rankings. For example, if your article is about “dog feeding”, you will get better results if your image URL is something like http://www.website.com/dogfeeding.jpg compared to if your image URL is http://www.website.com/image1.jpg – Image URLs can also have huge impact in how your content is viewed by the search engines.
6. Keywords in Headings, First Paragraph of Article and in URL Slug
Having keywords in your headings, main article paragraph and URL slug can also have significant effect. The keyword in the title and first paragraph introduces the keyword to the search engines, the keyword in headings and subheadings emphasizes the keyword and the keyword in the URL increases your chances of being ranked well.
A great example of keyword in the URL slug if you’re trying to rank for the keyword “dog feeding” is http://www.websitename.com/dog-feeding.html instead of something generic like http://www.websitename.com/article-1993.html
7. Interlink Your Articles
You can also ensure search engines find it easy to crawl your articles and give it more value by linking to related content on your blog in each of your articles. So that you see how this is done, interlinking will be more effective if I were to link my guest blogging guide whenever I publish an article about guest blogging on this blog. The keyword, “guest blogging guide”, is linked to an article on my blog and as a result will get a little link boost the more popular this article gets.
What You Can Do Outside Your “Website Sphere” to Influence Your Rankings
I shared a few tips above on what you can do to your content to increase its chances of being ranked well in the search engines, but the reality is that a huge part of the results you get will be influenced by what happens outside your site and people’s vote of recommendation of your content. This section will be explaining what can be done outside your website to increase your rankings.
Step #1: Gain Authority Backlinks that Influence Results
For a very long time now, links have been controlling the web and I’m sure they still will for years to come.
Search engines don’t just rank content based on how well-optimized it is for them, because such metrics can easily be gamed. What they focus on instead, is vote of trust from other websites. In other words, search engines value natural and organic backlinks on other blogs more than anything else – which is why the first thing you should do outside your website to help improve your rankings is to gain backlinks.
I know you don’t want me to get too technical, and that you will also like to get as many people to see your writing as possible. That is why all the techniques I will be explaining in this section will be focused on helping you gain authority backlinks that influence results.
Backlink Building Techniques You Can Use as a Writer
Below are some of the top backlink building techniques you can use as a writer. All the techniques listed below are based on my experience, some massive and some slight. You don’t have to use every technique listed, just focus on one or two and let the results come. However, if you have more time on your hands and want results quickly, you can develop a schedule for all the techniques listed below and still get results.
Guest Blogging: Guest blogging is my favorite content marketing technique, and it is also my favorite link building technique. I have been writing guest posts for around 2 years now and the very foundation of this blog is built on guest blogging.
Most people are only aware of guest blogging as a marketing tactic, but the reality is that it can also be effective for link building. When you write guest posts to be submitted on other blogs, most of them will allow you to include a short “author bio” with a link back to your website. You can use this opportunity to link to your content with a keyword you want it to rank for and get results from doing just that.
I won’t be going into the nuts and bolts of guest blogging in this section, as I have written quite a lot on the subject already. Below are some of my favorite guest blogging resources that will help you learn how guest blogging works, how effective it can be for backlinks, and how you can use it for just that.
- The Ultimate Guide to Guest Blogging
- An Inside Look into the Results of 31 Guest Posts in One Week
- Why Guest Blogging is More Powerful than You Think
If you really want to use guest blogging for link building make sure you click the above 3 links and read those articles right away. Bring out your pen and paper, jot down new things you learn and work on implementing them right away. The faster you act, the better your results.
Article Marketing: Article marketing is another tactic writers can use to gain backlinks to help their content rank. It’s just like a basic version of guest blogging, and if applied properly it can help you get great results.
There are countless directories online that thrive on free articles written by others. They publish hundreds/thousands of articles every day and are favored by the search engines as a result. The good news is that most of them will allow you to link back to your site, and you can also use this opportunity to link back using the keywords you plan to rank for.
I’ve written a few articles for article directories in the past and the results are good – I still get new backlinks today whenever someone syndicates an article I wrote a year ago – so make sure you give article marketing a try if you think it is for you.
I haven’t written any articles on article marketing and how it affects SEO yet, but here are some good resources online to help you with your article marketing efforts.
- List of 50 Article Directories by Traffic and Pagerank
- Pat Flynn’s “Niche Site Duel” Backlinking Strategy (includes some quality tips on article marketing and a few resources)
Forum Participation: You can also improve the rankings of your content in the search engines by actively participating on forums. Look for the top forums in your niche, create a permanent account, update your signature with two links – one to your homepage and the other to any of your favorite articles you want to rank well – and start contributing regularly on these forums. Whenever you create a new thread or respond to an existing thread your signature will be displayed below your message, and it will also have an effect on your rankings as a result.
The key to effectiveness in a situation like this, though, is to have a few trusted forums. You shouldn’t have too many – or too few. Five forums is a good starting point, but make sure you’re always active on them all to get the best results.
If you’re confused about which forums to start with, a good place to start is Big-boards.com. Big-boards.com is a database of the top forums online in every niche, and you can find the top forums in your niche by filtering the results you’re shown, or by searching for keywords using the search box you are provided with on the site.
EBook Distribution: It only takes a few hours to research and write a quality 4 – 6 pages report that has potential to be shared across the web, and this short report can have significant impact on your SEO if you know what you’re doing. Most ebooks are in PDF format, and every search engine indexes PDF files and as a result values the links in them. You can also gain more quality SEO backlinks by writing short reports relating to your field, embedding a few keyworded backlinks in them and submitting them to the top ebook sharing sites online. The search engines will eventually end up indexing the ebook, and as a result add more value to articles you link to.
To really get results you need to ensure you only distribute your ebook to the right sites, and you can also share it on forums and as well encourage other bloggers to share it with their readers. If you’re looking for a list of ebook distribution sites to get started with, here’s a resource that helps with that below.
Document Sharing: This also entails the process above but can be extended to PowerPoint presentations and the like. Create documents that are useful, valuable and contain a keyworded link back to your site and submit them to document sharing sites for quality backlinks. Below is a resource designed to help you find the best document sharing sites online you can check out.
Press Releases: Press releases can also be quite effective and they are often cheap and easy to publish. A press release is often news announcing a new feature about your business, and you might want to try making it a little bit informative. Make sure you include one or two links to articles you want to rank well on your blog, with or without backlinks, and then submit them to the top press release sites. Below are some resources to help you find top press release sites to try.
Yahoo Answers: The final option on this list is Yahoo!’s very own Answer site. Thousands of people ask various questions on Yahoo every day, and some of these questions are from people in your niche. Answering these questions can help you build your reputation while also serving as a potential source of backlinks for you. Yahoo! Answers has a place for you to include your sources for the answers to a question, and you can include a link to your article that answers the question. Make sure you don’t abuse this method, though, as doing so can lead to you being banned.
Step #2: Use Social Media to Build Your Influence and Article Authority
Social media is becoming increasingly popular, and ignoring its influence as far as SEO is concerned has its dangers. While having quality backlinks is important, social media is quickly gaining influence, even with the search engines, so getting as many people to share your content can have great impact on your rankings.
How to Use Social Media for Effective SEO
Social media is quite simple, and not as technical, compared to link building. It’s about what we do almost every day, networking and socializing with people and getting them to spread the word about us. There is a simple rule when it comes to achieving success with social media, which also applies to real life interaction. That simple rule is this; just be AWESOME. People always talk about awesome, probably because they don’t have a choice. If you have a friend that is really awesome, you will always talk about that friend to your other friends, and if you have content that is awesome people will always spread the word about it.
Sometimes the talking won’t happen naturally, so you have to kick-start it. Below are a few tips on how to effectively use social media for SEO as a writer.
Get Influencers to Share Your Content: Connect with influencers and get them to share your content. Starting a connection can happen in so many ways. It can happen by you looking out for them and letting them know if something is wrong, telling them if there’s a problem with their site, interacting with them in the comments section of their blog and social networks, and sharing each and every one of your post while at the same time linking to them regularly. Influencers respect their big fans, and they will happily do anything to make sure they are happy.
Get Friends to Share Your Content: Friends can be your best support, both online and offline, so make sure you’re always leveraging your friendship to move yourself forward. You should realize, though, that friendship isn’t just about receiving, it is also about giving. You also need to be helping your friends share their articles while at the same time regularly linking to them, that way, they will be happy to repay the favor whenever you need it.
Understand What Works on a Particular Social Network and Tailor Your Content to it: Every social network is unique, so make sure you watch out for what goes well on the social network of your choice. Tailor your content towards the social network you want attention from and ping the influencers on that network to check out your work. Hopefully, you will be able to get a lot of shares, and as a result – success.
Step #3: Use Web 2.0 Sites to Bolster Your Rankings
Web 2.0 sites are also becoming increasing popular, and as a result their effectiveness should not be underestimated. Web 2.0 sites still work, and if you know what you’re doing they can be a great source of backlink to you.
How to Use Web 2.0 to Increase Your Rankings
Below are a few tips on how to use web 2.0 to make your content rank well in the search engines.
Online Content Hubs: Sites like Squidoo and Hubpages, known as online content hubs, are great examples of web 2.0 sites that can be used to increase your rankings. Online content hubs are just like mini blogs, and you’re free to publish your content, which will be available throughout the site, and reap the rewards.
Video Streaming Sites: Search engines are also putting more importance into videos, and having a video in your article has the potential of increasing your rankings by up to 50x so while it might be more convenient for you to write, try creating videos and embedding them in your content every once in a while.
The good news about videos is that you can also gain backlinks by submitting them to other sites. Just make sure you include a link back to an article on your blog. If you’re looking to get started here’s a resource to help you.
Image Sharing Sites: Another way you can use Web 2.0 to help improve your rankings is by using image sharing sites. There are countless image sharing sites online, most of which allow you to add a description to your images, and you can use this opportunity to gain quality backlinks to your blog. Most of these links won’t be anchor text links, but they will still add some value to your site so make sure you don’t ignore them. If you’re looking to get started the resource below should be of great help.
Online, writers need more than just content or fancy words or formatting, we need traffic to survive and a nice approach for that too. While this article is not the all in all when it comes to SEO, I believe it contains all you need to get some great results as a writer, or at least for now. Make sure you re-read the article, take some notes and implement what you just learned. Also make sure you tell a writer friend or two about this article. It will go a long way to helping their business.
P.S. I might have used some SEO terms you’re not that familiar with in this article (which I forgot to explain). I decided not to explain them because they might have been too advanced at this stage, and also because they will further extend the length of this article. If you’re completely new to SEO, it is worth learning more about it so make sure you check out the resources below to further help you understand SEO.
P.P.S. Kindly take a minute to pay it forward by spreading the word about this article. You only need to share it on one of your favorite social networks (more is appreciated, though) so please use a button of your choice below to share it with your friends; it could be on Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon or even by Email.