Search engine optimization (SEO) is that bit of magic that makes web content discoverable, increasing traffic to your website for free. Truly, though, there’s nothing terribly magical about it. In layman’s terms, SEO is about selecting words that people might use when they’re searching for something in particular online. As content creators in the digital space, we can make smart choices about the copy in our headlines and posts, incorporating keywords and terms that are seen as desirable to search engines.
Why do you want to be seen as desirable to search engines? Because the more your content surfaces in web searches, the more eyeballs will be directed to your site, thereby increasing your reach—and the exposure of your work. Here, we offer you ten easy tips on how to optimize your content for search engines.
1. Use free search tools like the Google AdWords Keyword Tool and Google Trends to choose words based on what people are searching for most online. For example, is your name more often searched with the word “book” or “novel”?
2. Headlines of blog posts should be catchy and SEO-friendly—and URLs should match them closely, if not exactly. Despite the importance of SEO, we don’t want to create an online world of keyword-stuffed headlines. Work to creatively finesse SEO-friendly headlines that are also inviting to the reader.
3. Don’t bury your lead! In your post, place the most important words as close to the beginning or top of the post as possible. When Google crawls your blog, it will recognize these as most important.
4. Use Google’s Webmaster Tools to find out what keywords are searched most frequently on your site, and use those relevant terms in your content. This way, when readers do search those keywords on your site, they’ll be satisfied with the search results and will stay longer.
5. When linking away from a page, use descriptive anchor text. In other words, rather than linking to a book excerpt with the phrase “Click here,” use “Read an excerpt from Bitter in the Mouth here.” It makes it easier for both readers and search engine crawlers to anticipate what the linked-to content is.
6. Pitch your content! Inbound links to your blog or site from reputable and relevant external sites will improve your search rankings. Get your content out there via social media, links on your fans’ sites, placement on related sites, etc.
7. Cross-link from your site’s posts to other content on your site. Not only can this lead to increased pageviews per visit, but search engines also count it as inbound linking. Although this is not as weighty as inbound links from external sites, it will still indicate to search engines that your content is linked to, thereby increasing its credibility.
8. Tag your posts. Tags are a good way to further organize your content archive and can also keep readers on your site, giving them other clicking options. Tags should always be relevant, and can consist of names, titles, themes, or major keywords. A good rule of thumb is to keep your tag list for each post to ten or less tags. Google might consider anything more than that keyword stuffing.
9. Update your content often, as it gives search engines reason to revisit your site and crawl it for new content.
10. When naming your images, keep SEO in mind, as search engines include embedded file names in their crawl.
Ultimately, though, the thing to remember about SEO: Stay authentic. Don’t write for the sole purpose of appearing in search results. It’s not just about the volume of traffic to your site; it’s about the quality of traffic to your site.
Kristin Fritz, Senior Director, Content Marketing