Or how everything I learned about Search Engine Optimization came from being named Meghan Trainor
Folks often refer to SEO as The Dark Arts or Witchcraft, but while predicting SEO behavior can be a bit baffling, the building blocks of a good SEO strategy are remarkably clear, scientific even.
The mystery comes in the prophetic aspects of how these many elements come together, predicting what will work, or even knowing when, or if, something has actually been beneficial. Even a rock solid SEO strategy can take a long time to yield visible results in analytics. That said a good SEO strategy reaps benefits continuously long after it’s implemented. It’s like a seed that grows into a healthy & resilient plant.
Sometimes you’re trying to build up a web presence from zero and solid SEO strategies can help speed this process along. Sometimes your web presence can take a random hit, say if a pop-star with the same name comes along and knocks your indexing from number one to….somewhere on page 37. Let me be clear, I’m not particularly interested in having the “top spot” on google, but if I want folks to be able to find me online at all I really have to have my SEO game on point. Even when I’m not being actively kicked off the internet altogether for this hilarious coincidence. Allow me to share what I’ve learned with you in my struggle to be found online at all after All About That Bass dropped.
Search Engine Optimization specifically refers to the techniques used to ensure your website rises in the internet search ranking based on a wide array of factors. Many think of SEO as something that happens in the construction of a website, but it includes many important external factors like social media and even your personal reputation! The two general categories are on-page SEO and off-page SEO. Again, I’m going to stick with aspects of SEO that will be easy for you to manipulate so this is by no means comprehensive.
On-page SEO refers to things like site architecture, code and web content. I’ll highlight some things you can do if you’re using web builders like WordPress, Squarespace, Wix and even Tumblr. On-page SEO can be an almost infinite topic but I’ll try to address a few helpful adjustment that are in the technical capability of most folks who have some kind of web presence that they can modify.
Off-page SEO can be thought of as links to your site and social media, and let’s consider that those do overlap a bit for practical purposes. Most folks I know are doing a great job with social media already, maybe without even understanding how this is helping their SEO. But off-page SEO can also apply to your interactions with folks in physical space. What is the reputation of your art, business, brand, project, or mission, in your community? Do you mention your site or social media handles at public talks or events? Do you use hashtags at the start of talks or have your website on your business cards? If off-page SEO sounds like good old fashioned marketing and networking you are not wrong.
What are your goals, or thinking from a data perspective, your conversions? A conversion typically describes the path from arrival on the site to a completed call to action like selling something or getting someone signed up for your newsletter. Analytic software is very good at tracking this path for you. Other more abstract websites conversions are also trackable but require some real creativity in how you analyze the data. Are you looking for more customers? Your next gig? Do you just need a beautiful portfolio site for a few select eyeballs like potential galleries or applying for grants? Is your ideal audience local or global? Who are you? How do you describe who you are or what you do to the world? What is a metric of success for what you are trying to achieve?
Your goals should inform a handful of keywords that you should use in your website writing, like page content and blog posts, but also in other locations like your metadata and image descriptions. Some keywords are very general, like artist, restaurant, jackets, while others are more specific like Seattle Educational Law Firm, spiderferns, The Spider Ferns, witch, science, WitchScience, or Brooklyn mayonnaise specialists. These more specific keywords have lower search volume and are therefore are more likely to show up at the top of internet searches.
Note there are a few things that can really hurt your SEO. I’ll only focus on the ones you might be at risk of committing.
- Security issues
Make sure your site isn’t throwing errors or security warnings. Invest in hacking prevention tools.
- Spamming lite
Don’t unnaturally post your site or blog posts all over the place wherever you can, like in comments of other blogs or too many times on social media. Be strategic about when you launch a site or post, Monday morning is a great time for new content. On sites like Twitter it’s ok to repost a few times, but on other sites keep it to once.
- Paid links or followers
This is not only lame because you’re not growing a real audience, but site crawlers can detect this and it can hurt you.
- Stuffing or thin content
Don’t overuse keywords or phrases to the point where it doesn’t make grammatical sense. Also don’t post often with brief or repetitive content. Instead start by posting less often with dense, quality content.
Overwhelmed by how to integrate all this? Well, I’ve created a checklist for you emphasizing relatively easy but important SEO adjustments for my target audience:
The most important thing you can do is check your metadata description, that’s the subheading that shows up in search results and how your site gets indexed. Here you can see that my metadata was just pulling the first few text snippets it found on my homepage, so I updated it to be a clear description of who I am and what I do. Most website builders or blogging software should have an interface something like this to manually update the SEO descriptions.
Pick your keywords and use them properly. The more distinct keywords and phrases the better. You don’t want to “stuff” or overuse your keywords, so if you have a longer list to pull from this is less likely to happen. In particular try to use keywords and phrases in headings and subheadings.
3. DESCRIPTIVE LANGAUGE
In addition to keywords and phrases, use descriptive language everywhere you can. If you are writing web content or blog posts try to explain the content in the first text section on the page. Add tags when possible.
Here are a two places to focus attention on descriptions:
a) Images including images names, captions and alt attributes. asd4w7949z48a1.jpg
is not as helpful as
b) Blog Titles, like headings and subheadings, are a great place to be really clear about content. You can usually customize your blog urls as well.
is not as helpful as
4. NEW CONTENT
Create new content on your site frequently, if you have a blog be sure to post frequently. If you have a static site do try to update the homepage or add new relevant pages when you can. Use social media to alert your community to new content.
Link to and from your site, use links in your web or blog content and solicit linking from external sources like press or peer sites.
6. SOCIAL MEDIA
Again this is one place where most folks have good linking and SEO practices already in place. Link to your site in all your social media bios, and as I mention above post when you have new content. Use consistent language to describe who you are and what you do. Engage with your community both on and offline so you are more likely to get reposts or links.
You should use high quality images as often as possible. Also check what images are being used or not when you post to various social media sites. Images are a powerful tool in driving engagement. The post below, with a default icon instead of an image, is an example of a missed opportunity to create more interest. Usually social media sites will use the first image used on a page or blog post, but you can often find a tool to set the social sharing image manually.
If you have access to analytics tools don’t be afraid to take a look from time to time. Find a few key metrics that make sense to you and focus on those. You may gain insight into keywords you didn’t know were paths to your site or regions where your site is more popular than you realized. Finally, over time you can see your hard work with SEO paying off in your numbers and conversions.
You can learn more about my work and offerings as a Digital Stategiest at my website. I purposefully have my freelance business page inside my artist site because this helps the SEO for the web property I’ve had since 2004.
Finally a word about the term WitchScience. I recently started a Patreon account to allow folks to support me and my artwork. I wanted to point out that I used that term because WitchScience will gain better traction in search results than my actual name, which is obscured by the problem of sharing it with a pop-star. And after my trouble with getting kicked off digital spaces I had been using for many years I made the strategic decision not to even test it with a new platform. I hope developers will start to build tools that help validate folks with names like mine that may trigger problems with on-boarding or authenticity.
Note that using this term in the title of my Medium article helps my ownership of this term in searches. This an example of a unique keyword being used effectively!
Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article or any of my other writing or art projects I would certainly appreciate any support you can send my way.
Good luck out there!
Lead photo courtesy of Kelly Fleek, publicist and one half of the legendary Seattle band The Spider Ferns.