What is SEO and Why Does it Matter?
SEO is an acronym for search engine optimization. In plain English, how to write for Google, Bing, and them so your article shows up on page one or two of results search. It matters because, in short, money.
Yes, money. Corporations pay thousands, if not millions, to rank number one on Google search. They want their name to show up, not their competitors when people search online for a product.
But, how this matters for us writers?
To summarize, SEO is about discoverability. We want whenever someone searches, for example, a specific book, for our title to show up. Similarly, if an agent or an editor is searching for us, to find information that aligns with our brand.
SEO also matters to writers, bloggers, and non-writers too, because when people search for information online, they rarely go beyond the first page or two.
Hence, knowing about SEO helps you to decide how to write to increase your chances of ranking higher. Or, if you are the one performing the search, what to read.
In my case, I got lucky in the sense several of my posts have ranked number one or two on Google and Bing search. I said lucky because I do not purposely write for SEO, not originally. Nonetheless, my content ranks high.
I have also noticed, posts that rank high on Google do not necessarily translate to ranking higher on Bing or Yahoo. Thus, I guess they all have different criteria.
So, what am I doing right? I am not “the expert” but there are a few things I have learned, whether by research or by accident (mostly by accident) that may help you too.
Write For Your Audience
This is nothing new. I wrote a whole post about it. Write for others. Have a specific, ideal reader when writing. It sounds like voodoo; it sounds crazy advice. Trust me, it helps immensely.
Google claims its algorithms search for posts that help the user. Whether true or not, we should aim to help our readers. It should be what is in it for them, not us.
Therefore, my writing voice and style changes from post to post because I imagine different audiences.
Despite the different voices for different audiences, it is still me. But this me ask himself, why would people read this? And then writes the post to answer a specific question or two.
Still, several best practices are industry standard for SEO (as in, it cannot hurt to follow them). And, of course, there is my contrarian advice.
Read below. It works for me and it will work for you as long as you are authentic.
My SEO Tips for Beginners
Here are a few SEO tips for beginners. These are industry standards. Make sure to include them in your posts.
Less critical, but in the ‘it cannot hurt’ department, aim for visual symmetry. You want your segments to look balanced in the page. This is subjective. Still, trust your judgment. The human eye loves symmetry.
My Contrarian SEO Advice
You cannot have SEO without readers. Views, clicks, etc., are initiated by people seeking information.
By the way, no SEO article online is going to tell you this (a lot of their advice is generic and requires you to pay extra money). But it helps immensely to have a point of view. Generic articles rarely get views. Strongly opinionated ones generate comments, clicks, and shares. They invite discussion.
Yes, controversy sells. So do perspectives. Thus, if you want to rank higher, stand for something.
When you stand for something you are not bland. People want honesty and authenticity. Hence, if you like something, make the reader feel your joy; if you are against something, make the reader feel the disdain and outrage.
Remember, SEO measures reader engagement as much as popularity.
Consider your reader’s needs and what can you give them that nobody else online can. Remember, the SEO bots would not rank high articles people do not read and share. Thus, do not write for bots, write for people.
To summarize, following SEO best practices will improve your odds of ranking high. However, if your articles do not provide a strong voice and point of view, you will have a hard time finding a readership.
Reader, are you still intimidated by SEO? What other tips would you add?