Rising Through the Ranks | A Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization (Part V)

And so it begins––my fifth and final post in this series detailing some of the main tips and tricks of the trade when it comes to Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.  In a moment I’m going to dive into a final grab-bag of tidbits that will help boost your SEO ranking, but first, I wanted to take a moment to think back to the five steps I’ve already described:

Step 1: Optimize your keywords.

Step 2: Optimize your content.

Step 3: Optimize your title.

Step 4: Optimize your tags.

Step 5: Optimize your use of Google Analytics.

As you can see, many if not most of these points are geared towards altering what you do on what I like to call the “micro” level.  The idea is that, if you can fine-tune your material down to the sentence or the briefest keystroke, you’ll suck in the readers who might have eluded you up to this point.  And this is true!  … to an extent.  There’s no such thing as a perfect fix when it comes to SEO, particularly for the struggling blogger or audacious self-published author.  It’s tough to compete with corporations and rival blogs and authors in the same field or genre, when they can afford to pay a company to “link-build” or otherwise generate rank-boosting digital content for the paying customer, especially if you’re one of the many writers struggling to make ends meet, whether financially or in terms of the time and energy you have available to dedicate to your own SEO process.

The good news is, all of the steps I have described are easy to replicate, or involve tweaking your already-existing habits to include an extra step.  Crafting and using keywords, for example, should only add thirty seconds or so to your usual blogging time.  Google Analytics, on the other hand, might soak up an hour of your time––but only once a month, or once every six months, depending on how often you find it useful to employ.  The key is, as always, to pick the steps that you can incorporate into your routine, and that actually help you achieve your vision for your own materials.

With that thought in mind, I thought I’d round out this five-blog series with five final––and brief!––thoughts on how best to maximize your SEO process.

Step 6: Optimize connections between your own materials.  Many search engine algorithms are smart enough to exclude internal links, so providing a list of links to my own blog posts as I did above won’t automatically boost my SEO.  But what it does do is make it a whole lot easier for my readers to navigate my material, and browse from blog to blog––and reader behavior does boost my ranking.  Make sure your digital content is easy on the eyes and easy to navigate, and also make sure that your readers can find your other platforms––whether Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, or Tumblr, or some other––with as few clicks or keystrokes as possible.

Step 7: Optimize external opportunities for links.  Your SEO is most powerfully influenced by links from external and respectable sources, like .edu and .org websites.  The higher the search engine ranking of the website that refers to your digital content, the greater the effect on your own ranking.  Don’t forget to be ambitious when it comes to asking websites to list a link to your content––as my mother tells me, the worst thing someone can say is “no.”  And if you host an event such as a reading or a book signing, make sure every email and piece of promotional material that goes out lists your email and website (or websites) in full.  That way, if you’re quoted in a newspaper or a blog, the link is right there.

Step 8: Optimize your page speed.  This one just makes sense, right?  If your website loads slowly, readers may grow impatient and simply move on, particularly if they’re trying to read on their mobile devices.  Search engine algorithms are smart enough to take this loading speed into account when they generate your ranking, so don’t underestimate the value of a streamlined, elegant, and speedy interface.  (You can check your current page speed using Google’s handy page speed tool.)

Step 9: Optimize your goals.  It is possible to sabotage your attempts at SEO, as with many other things, by attempting to do too much at once.  You don’t want to reach a point of burnout, when you’re so sick of trying to keep a hundred balls in the air by sheer willpower, and you’re not enjoying the process of creating your own digital content any longer.  Baby steps, baby steps.  Your readers know when you’re not having fun, and when you’re no longer writing for them but rather for a set of 1s and 0s.    The truest secret to creating masterful, authentic, and valuable content is to really love what you do.

Step 10: Optimize your optimism.  SEO can take time, and energy, and money, and perhaps a chunk of your peace of mind (if you’re not able to follow step 9, that is).  But SEO is not the enemy, and low web traffic doesn’t have to be a problem. It’s a start. You’re only going to learn more, and grow your reader base, from here.

Keep in mind that SEO isn’t magic, and it isn’t deliberately trying to be difficult.  It is, instead, the natural byproduct of human attempts to best utilize a system––a mathematical algorithm––and to stand out in a crowded marketplace.  You may just need a little boost.  SEO is a rocket engine powering through the clouds of material obscuring your voice from your readers.  With a little time, and a little care, you can master the basics of SEO!

Check back every Wednesday as I begin a new series.  If you have a question about any of these tools for self promotion, would like to hear from me about something specific, or have other big news to share, please comment below!

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

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