Writers and SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Okay, stop yawning. I know that title doesn’t get you all excited to read on. But, my friends, this is important. As a writer you must build your platform. Part of that means having a website and/or blog that is showing up on search engines and attracting traffic. And a key to being successful at that is SEO.
In Randy Ingermanson’s latest ezine (which I highly recommend; you can sign up on his website), he published an interview with Donovan Kovar, an expert in SEO. With Randy’s permission I am republishing that interview here, for your reference. I hope you give it a read and find it useful on your road to publishing success.
Marketing: SEO 4 U
In early August, I flew to Chicago to be part of a two-day workshop with Perry Marshall, a guy I consider one of the best marketing teachers in the world. I’ve been following Perry for years, and he routinely delivers great ideas.
Every so often, Perry runs what he calls a “four-man intensive.” Four marketers gather with him in a room and they spend two days analyzing the web site of each of the four in turn.
Perry charges big bucks for this experience, and it’s worth it. He’s a fountain of great ideas.
What makes this work incredibly well is that Perry augments his own years of experience with the expertise of his four clients. The four generally come from widely different markets, and they cross-pollinate each other with their very best ideas.
I was the only fiction writer in the group that met in August. One of the other four was Donovan Kovar, an expert in “search engine optimization” (generally called “SEO”).
The goal of SEO is to increase traffic that comes to your web site from Google and the other search engines.
It only took me a few minutes to see that Donovan knew way more about SEO than I did. What surprised me was that he knew way more about SEO than Perry. In fact, Perry hires Donovan to do the SEO for his own web site at: http://www.PerryMarshall.com.
That’s a pretty powerful stamp of approval.
I learned a huge amount during the four-man intensive. My main goal was to get a vision for where my web site is going, and that’s exactly what I got. Vision. Tons
A few weeks later, Donovan generously volunteered an hour of his time to go over my web site with me on the phone. In that hour, he gave me a new strategy for increasing traffic to my site. I’ll be putting that strategy into place soon.
I asked Donovan for an interview for this e-zine. If you don’t have a web site, you don’t need SEO. But if you ever plan to launch a web site or a blog, you will.
Every published author, every agent, and every publishing house has a web site. And (based on what I’ve seen of their web sites) most of them could use some serious help in search engine optimization.
We can only scratch the surface here. My goal is to get Donovan to explain the basics for beginners, to define the key ideas in SEO.
On to the interview:
Randy: You’re an expert in SEO. For those who are new to the party, what is SEO and why is it important to anyone with a web site or a blog?
Donovan: SEO stands for “search engine optimization” and refers to “tuning” your website for the keywords that you want to be found for. Just as you would tune your radio into a station you want to listen to, you want to tune your website for the keywords that people are searching on. This is the first step in making it so you can be found online…
Randy: Most SEO experts say that SEO starts with “great content.” What is great content, how do you get it, and how do you know it’s great?
Donovan: It’s been said that “Content is King” and “Keywords are Queen” when it comes to search engine marketing. This is probably true. The key to using content for SEO is to write about what people might be searching on. It doesn’t need to be world class writing to rank in the search engines, but if it IS good writing (and people can find it) than those 2 factors can work together to increase your credibility and the success of your website. Use the keywords in your page’s/post’s Title and again in the content (i.e. “How to Write a Novel”) — and if you are blogging, create TAGs for those keywords as well. All of these things work together to help the search engines to find your content.
Randy: Everybody agrees that incoming links from other web sites are a Good Thing for a web site. But what about outgoing links? Do those help you or hurt you? And what about internal links from one page within the site to another page?
Donovan: One way to think of links, as if they are a kind of “root system” for your site. The more that link into your site, the more strength it has. Interlinking your pages, or from posts to pages, using relevant keywords, is best practices and strengthens the internal structure of your site even further. Linking OUT to other resources (that are truly relevant and pertinent) is also best practices, because it shows that you are dialoguing about information — and providing resources in your site/blog. Do these things in a moderate fashion and avoid “geeking out” with them. Links occur naturally like this, which is what makes up the web, and overdoing it can just make yoursite look messy — and work against you.
Randy: People often talk about “black hat SEO”. Any comments on that? What are some stupid things that one should never do on a web site that might get it blacklisted by the various search engines?
Donovan: Honestly, no one reading this needs to worry about being banned or “black hat” stuff. Black Hat refers to using automation to create massive amounts of links or manipulate the search engines in a number of different ways. Just keep adding original content (or reposting other people’s relevant content) and your site’s authority will grow naturally over time.
Randy: You just used the word “authority” for a site. For those new to the SEO game, what does “authority” mean and how is it measured?
Donovan: As you follow best practices, generate relevant content and get more backlinks to your site — it will gradually be recognized as an “Informational Authority” in your niche. This leads to better rankings and more traffic to your site.
Randy: You did a great job helping me improve my SEO strategy on my web site. What would it cost for one of my e-zine readers to hire you for an hour to make some recommendations for increasing traffic to their site?
Donovan: Yes, I offer a 1 hour Go-To-Meeting where we look at your site or blog, and all of the components within it, and evaluate where you are, where you want to be, and how you can get there. I take this opportunity to share with you as much strategic information about your site as possible, and I record our session for you — so you can review and implement it at your own pace. Everyone I’ve done this with reports it’s a great and insightful process that’s well worth the cost.
Randy: Thanks for your time, today, Donovan!
The key thing to know about SEO is that your site will get more traffic if it has high quality information that people are looking for, AND if you take some intelligent steps to help the search engines help you.
As writers, our job is to provide that high quality information. The job of the SEO guys is to tell us how to help the search engines find us.
Final note: I wrote a testimonial for Donovan which you’ll see if you click through to his web site. I believe Donovan’s got the goods on SEO, so I’m glad to tell people about him.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, “the Snowflake Guy,” publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 28,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.