Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been touching on methods of increasing your SEO on your website/blog. The last time, I’d asked you to come up with five to seven keywords or key phrases that describe your genre/writing. This IS NOT your tagline or name. Your name is not one of your keywords. The reason for this is simple, if your website is in your name—which it should be because your biggest branding statement is your name—it will automatically come up on page one of a search when googled. Your keywords should focus on words someone who does not know what you write would google. For example my keywords and phrases for my site Romance Writer Sara Walter Ellwood are “contemporary western romantic suspense”, “cowboy romance”, “Texas romance”, and “Native American romance”.
What do you do with the keywords?
Your keywords should always appear in your page and blog article titles. The problem with this is simple. It can’t always happen. But if you can make it happen it should.
The other important titles besides your website and page titles are you blog article titles. The worst thing you can do is to not add a title to your articles. Even if it’s silly and doesn’t have anything to do with your genre, it should have a title. If you ignore titling your blog articles, you miss a very easy and important area to increase SEO.
The other place titles are important is within the articles themselves. Give titles to sections of your articles. It’s best if phrases with the keywords in them are used, but even if they aren’t, either a H1, H2 or H3 tag should be used. Okay, what the heck are they? Simply, they are the heading sizes. H stands for heading. The 1, 2 and 3 are the sizes. Most blogging platforms (WordPress, Blogger) have more than these three, but search engines only look for these three HTML tags. For example: in this article the subtitles Titles, Tags, Metadata and URLs are set apart from the normal text formatting of “paragraph” with an H3 tag, meaning I highlighted the text and increased the size by using the dropdown list on my platform. Or if you are good at HTML, you’d add the tag that way.
What this does is makes these subtitles more important than the rest of the text, at least to search engine bots. It’s not always possible to do this in a normal article, but you should try to use at least H3 tags where you can. You can see examples all over my website where I’ve done this, especially on pages.
Tags are the words used to describe an article or on a larger scale, if the website allows it, a page. They are bits of data that help search engines to know what the article/page is about.
Most websites/blogs all contain an area to place tags on both the pages and blog articles. In WordPress.org pages (the one on a self-hosted site) a plug-in that allows tags can be added to pages. In WordPress.com (the free one like my website) tags can’t be added to pages directly. And from what I’ve seen with Blogger the same is true for pages. To make sure the bots know what your page is about, present the keywords within the first line or so of your page content. I’ll discuss this in the next installment.
Most of us blog, it is the easiest way to add content to your website. But to get the most out of that new content, it has to be categorized and tagged. A category is a super tag. For example, I use my book titles as categories. This article is categorized under “Marketing”. An article can belong in more than one category, as with my Sneak Peek Sunday articles. They are categorized under “Sneak Peek Sunday” and whichever book I’m highlighting.
Next are the basic tags. Just as every article should have a title, every article in your blog should have at least one category and tags. If I’m writing an article about one of my books, I always use the book title, and my keywords as tags. I may also use keywords that describe that book in particular.
See, easy peasy.
Metadata and ALT Text:
Metadata is simply hidden HTML code that can be read by search engine bots. It is the information that shows up under the title of a website when it’s googled. Don’t be scared. I know if you’re like me, you know about zilch about coding and HTML. Fortunately, most blogging platforms realize this. They’ve created areas where you can put keywords that the website then converts to HTML.
So, how and where do you put your keywords so that it’s converted to metadata? The first and most important place is that tagline space that should have been filled out when the website was created. This information can be edited in the settings area on the Dashboard. The first line should be the website/blog title. Then usually below it is a place to put a tagline. Most authors automatically put their taglines. For example: mine had been “Stories about cowboys and the women strong enough to love them.” This isn’t bad or wrong, but it’s not complete. So I changed it to “Author of Contemporary Western Romantic Suspense — Stories about cowboys and the women strong enough to love them.” Do you see what this did? It not only gives my branding statement, it also includes my main keyword phrase. This is the statement that shows up under the title when my website is googled.
The other important place to add metadata is on photos. If you run you curser over most of the photos on my website now, a small pop-up will show a list of words or a description. Where is this information added? It’s actually rather simple. Again most blogging platforms allow for a place to add information it converts to metadata. On photos there are several places. Photo title, description and ALT text. None of these spaces should be blank. Every photo should have a title and it shouldn’t be the generic number your camera assigned to your picture. It also should have a description: what is this a photo of or what is it being used for? For example: the title for my cover of Heartstrings is “Heartstrings Cover”. The description (which you can’t see as a reader, but a search engine bot can) is “Heartstrings, a contemporary western romance by Sara Walter Ellwood”.
The last bit if information that is the most important is called ALT text. Think of this as tags for the photos. Just as articles should never be posted without a category and tags, photos should never be posted without adding ALT text. I usually use my keywords. For my example above, the ALT text for my Heartstrings cover is “contemporary western romance, cowboy romance, Texas romance, Native American romance, country music singer romance”.
So what does this do to your photos? It allows the search engine bots to read a photo just as it does your articles. You’ve made those photos important and searchable. This is also how images are posted to search engines. So, if you google my keywords “contemporary western romantic suspense” my photos tagged with these keywords show up in the Image section. If you want to see how this works, just hold your curser over the photo on the search engine image and a pop-up shows up that will list the site the photo comes from and the metadata information, which is pulled from ALT text.
This last section outlines another place information search engines rank as important. It’s also a way to cheat, especially if you can’t always title your pages or articles with your keywords. I’ll admit; I’m not sure if Blogger URLs can be changed, but WordPress allows for editing of a URL. I’ve edited the URL for every book related page and usually for every article I’ve created. For example: the page for Heartstrings has the “slug” or URL identifier of “heartstrings-contemporary-western-romance”. I changed the simple “slug” of heartstrings to the long one to include my main keyword phrase.
I also change the “slug” for the guests I have on my blog to just the author’s name. For example: the blog titled “Interview with Sharon Cullen” becomes the slug “sharon-cullen” instead “interview-with-sharon-cullen”. This doesn’t necessarily help me, but it does Sharon. It shows her as being important on my blog, and in a backhanded way, helps her SEO.
Hopefully, SEO is not as mysterious as it had once been. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll answer them either later today or tomorrow. If you’d like an email with your answer, leave your email address and I’ll answer both here for everyone else and email you so you don’t have to keep checking back.
Next week, I’ll be talking about how important it is to keep your content current and up to date, and the easiest and yet hardest way to do this—regular blogging.