Google Bots and SEO
I want my website to rock, and these strategies help. I approach this from an English professor's point of view, as I have taught in universities for many years. I place search engine optimization (SEO) in two easy categories. The first has much to do with writing and English:
1. Solid formatting with concise language and key terms:You probably employ these already, so this can be an opportunity to re-analyze and tweak things a bit. I try to model these features in this article.
2. Technical computer formatting: Google forces us to employ computer langage that flags the site for crawling. When I am feeling a bit snarky, I recall the title from a famously subversive Nirvana song--"Rape Me." But, we have to call Google to attention, making ourselves vulnerable to being crawled (no disrespect intended). Please return tomorrow for a discussion of this category. Today, I will focus on 1.
I first started to explore SEO when I created this site, and found myself an amateur, thinking I was an expert. I was not being effectively crawled, nor were folks dropping by the site. I found that I had fallen into the stupid traps of the inexperienced, those of us with high ambition, but little knowledge of SEO. I still have a ways to go in targeting Google, Bing, and Yahoo—the big 3, but I will share what I have done so far. This article works for all search engines, but tomorrow's discussion will be specific to Google.
I know this information is out there, but my purpose here is to simplify and synthesize the process, creating some links for you along the way. According to Gitbub, originally founded by the big boys at MIT, SEO is the first place to start with your page, but if you are like me and didn’t do that, you can start now.
Text and Page
1. Generating new relevant content daily
The only strong way to bring new readers to your website is to create new content frequently. This can take various forms, but a great method is to generate text and articles in a blog, daily if possible. Start one if you haven’t already because the regular practice of writing will create fresh content to attract the search engine. The robots that do the crawling notice new, rich content and will soon ignore the site without it. Don’t let a robot think you are invisible, and writing is good for the brain as well. Writing daily can be a great way to produce a book, in pieces (don't forget to collect and save them as you write). The pressure to post helps motivate me to write.
2. Organizing with Purpose and a Focus on Specific Key Terms
When you began your site, you probably defined your purpose—the reason you wanted readers to come in the first place. It's always a good idea to rethink and re-evaluate, and if you haven't focused already, you can always remodel. Robots detect a lack of purpose and focus. So, identify what your specialty and generate a list of key terms. This list will serve to define the scope of your site and provide essential terms for later use. You will employ these throughout the time you manage the website.
To keep a record of this list, I recommend using Evernote (free app or download) or OneNote (part of the Office Suite), programs that help you organize material for your site—all the documents that are not published to the site, but you still need to keep. You can create an SEO notebook in one of these programs to save lists, brainstorming sessions, drafts, research, images, sites, etc. They also help in finding things quickly to use for copy and paste. Both programs sync to your mobile devices so that you can access them whenever you have a brilliant idea or want to review your strategies.
Remember your key terms list is flexible. You can add or subtract when necessary. If you are familiar with concept or mind maps, generating one for key terms might help clarify and generate ideas, while organizing at the same time. There are many fantastic (and even free) programs available on the web or in applications and extensions (Freemind is excellent) . Also, many are compatible with Evernote or OneNote, so that you can sync your maps.
3. Using Header Hierarchies: Website Titles and the Pages Within
Notice that the items in this heading are like the folder system on your computer. Websites contain pages, pages contain sections, sections (sub-pages) hold articles, and so forth. Now that you have your key terms, employ them everywhere in the site, not sureptitiously throwing them without purpose. But, use them with strategy and stealth. Ideally, your website title should focus on the name of your company (and key terms perhaps).
Once you’ve done that, you can generate page names using content and keyword related terms. Specific ones are best, but you also must be brief. If you examine large sites that publish many articles, such as Technoratiand Social Media Today, the tags for their pages are specific, concise, key terms. So, “Social Media” is a better tab than“Blogs,” and if you’ll look up on my page bar, I have failed in part. The term "Blogs" is not specific enough to point to the content in that category. Another example is the “Home” tag--imprecise. In writing this, I paused to change mine from “Home” to “Darin’s Biography,” which tags my name and the type of content located there.
4. Writing Articles with Strong Format--Headings, Bold, Bullets, Numbers
Bold headings with key terms help to focus bots, who are like skilled speed readers, using textual features to scan documents. They make the bots pay attention, asking them to, "read this." Headings also serve to help your reader by chunking and organizing information. Bulleted and numbered lists also command attention, highlighting key terms. As with all textual features, you don't want to overuse lists, but when employed sparingly, they can make words and phrases stand out to bots and readers.
Note--bots ignore images, so provide text to go with your graphics. My blog service provides a caption feature, making this easy.
5. Placing Content Key Terms in the Introduction, Conclusion, and Body
Throughout the website, as you create content to fill your pages, keep your key terms list handy because it will help you maintain focus and provide the words that will resonate with search engines. Googlebots are picky little buggers who ignore the site if key terms are too few or to many. Remembering this is essential in the introduction and conclusion because, as any good reader, the bots focus on these paragraphs to pull main ideas and terms. Double check to ensure that your key content terms are present. The body is important too, but less so for SEO. In everything you write, correct spelling is essential because bots will ignore your key terms if they are misspelled, and readers will become annoyed. I am a terrible speller, which is funny because I have taught English at universities for 12 years. I did not teach spelling, however. My computer is a great, but imperfect, assistant in this area.
6. Creating Key Term Links
Links are essential to the livelihood your site, and I will speak of two kinds: places within your site and without. Both are essential, the first to keep readers in your site and to easily navigate it, and the second to provide content rich links that the bots will love. Highlight words or names to create a links, rather than just saying “click here.” This does not emphasize any content terms. For example, I write and link to content in this passage: “Powerful key terms are a topic I discuss in Literature, Writing, and Empathy." Another example is "the work of the scholars Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, E.O. WIlson and Susan Blackmore influence my thinking.” The names I drop in the second link are important scholars, a plus for content richness. Both these illustrations are links within my pages.
These principles also apply to external links. The Googlebots love external links because they are both content rich and network complex--connecting across the web. Readers usually enjoy them too. They have the choice to follow them or not. The Googlebots link I just gave you is an example of external linking that emphasizes a key term.
SEO Basics Wrap-up
I hope you can see this part of SEO is easy and that maybe you are already doing it. If not, you can start now. Don’t feel like you have to accomplish everything in a day, but soon is best. I have found that the strategies I mention here also strengthen my writing while, at the same time, making the Googlebots pay attention to my site.
I am now going to start fixing SEO issues I've noticed while writing this. My readers are awesome and I appreciate you. Thank you for dropping in. Please return tomorrow, and we will negotiate the next steps of SEO together.
You experts out there, what did I miss or get wrong for this area of SEO (there is more to come on marking up the document head tomorrow)? You who are novices in SEO, what questions do you have and where did I confuse you?