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.

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

Welcome back to my five-week series on Search Engine Optimization (or SEO)!  I’m back this week to speak to the specifics of Google Analytics and what it can do to boost your digital platform.  Three weeks ago, you’ll remember, I launched this series with a brief history of search engines and an inquiry into the necessity of SEO.  I investigated a few ways in which we can better employ keywords.  Two weeks ago, I dedicated an entire blog post to talking about matters of content.  Last week, I opened up the possible Pandora’s Box of metadata by showing some of the benefits of maximizing your SEO through the use of carefully curated titles and tags.  

Analytics, on the other hand––Google Analytics is its own unique creature, and unlike the other SEO tips I’ve already described, Analytics exists outside of your material.  It is a third party, so to speak, and consulting a Google Analytics report is a little like consulting a book review written by an independent literary critic: sometimes, it’s hard to know just what to do with the material.  In this blog post, I hope to unravel some of its many mysteries for you.

Step 5: Optimize your use of Google Analytics

What is Google Analytics, in the first place?  As you will already have guessed, it’s an offshoot of––or a service provided by––Google for producers of digital content.  If you own or otherwise run a blog, that’s you.  Google Analytics tracks the traffic to your web pages, particularly the number of times individual (or “unique”) internet users access (or “hit”) your pages, how long they stay on a given page, and their general demographic data.  Best of all, it’s free!

In order to set up Analytics, you first need to have a Google account (if you have a Gmail address, or use Google Documents, you already have one).  Then, you log in to the Google Analytics home page by clicking the “Access Google Analytics” link in the top right corner.  If it’s your first time using Analytics, Google immediately provides a handy and relatively intuitive tutorial on how to set up your websites to be tracked.  In simple summary, for any website platform other than WordPress, you will copy a short digital code that Analytics generates for you and insert that code into the HTML of your blog’s template.  (WordPress provides a handy plugin that does this for you, with a little tweaking.)  If you’re not familiar with HTML, that’s okay!  You can type “How do I use Google Analytics in Tumblr” (or any other platform you can think of) into a search engine, and find several step-by-step tutorials.  The trick is not to be daunted by the fearsome language of code!

Once you have successfully set up Analytics for your blog, you need to give the service a good span of time to collect information before checking back.  Google Analytics only tracks content going forward from the date it is installed, so it can’t retroactively give you information on the traffic to your website.  I recommend giving yourself about a month before logging back in––a month will give you a good chunk of useable data.

And then?  It’s as simple as clicking a link to view the compiled reports.

So, how are Google Analytics reports useful to the self-published author?

What Google Analytics really does––what it really boils down to––is it sheds light on how users behave once they access your digital content.  You will quickly see what material is popular––more people will “hit” that material, and stay on those webpages longer––and you can easily measure what impact your decisions have on your readers.  Did you adopt a few of the SEO tips I’ve talked about in previous weeks?  Google Analytics will show you if they’re working.  Did you alter what content you provide?  That’s easy to track, too.  Did you host a reading at a local bookstore, or promote your book using a seasonal discount on social media?  The “audience” reports on Google Analytics will show you just how effective that outreach has been in boosting traffic to your blog.  You can use the “Content Experiments” feature to test the efficacy of specific changes––whether you shake up your website design, or start using meta tags, or adopt some other change to your method.  There’s even a specific report you can run to view details about traffic directed to your website by search engines (check out the “Acquisition” tab, then the “Search Engine Optimization” sub-tab).

Essentially, the benefits of Google Analytics to SEO are manifold.  I could go on and on about how much I love using the Analytics interface, and how I used to watch in real-time as my blog posts were accessed in various cities and regions across the globe.  Google routinely updates the features offered by its Analytics service, and every year (sometimes, every month!) I stumble across some new and great application it provides.  Google Analytics is the ultimate resource to help those of us who are striking out on our own to tailor our digital content to our readers!

Once again, I find that I’ve run out of room—check back here next Wednesday as I wrap up this five-week series on SEO.  I have a few final tips and tricks to help you maximize your digital platform, and you don’t want to miss a single one!

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.