A few people have asked why I didn’t cover SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in my books and the reason is simple—because I couldn’t give a rats ass about it. Obviously I like the traffic I get (and think I get a decent amount, especially from search engines) but I’ve always worried more about what I write than being #1 when people search for “awesome”.
So many clients ask how to get their website to show up first in searches, and the honest answer is that there’s no guaranteed way to do it. How Google actually picks what shows up first and what shows up five pages deep is not entirely known to the public, and any time someone figures out a way to “game the system” the system is quickly changed (Google, like me, doesn’t tolerate bullshit).
Instead of SEO, focus on your content.
- Keyword research only goes so far. You can use tools to figure how many people are talking about what, but unless you (a) know the topic enough to be considered an expert and (b) know it’s a topic your audience actually cares about, it doesn’t matter. You don’t need a keyword tool to figure out what you know and what your audience likes.
- Create content people want to or are incentivized to share. What can you write that provides value? Solves a common problem? Gives insight into your work that isn’t often shared? No amount of mailing list signup popups, huge share buttons or blinking text will get someone to share content if they don’t want to share it. There is a huge correlation now between content people share with others and content that ranks well in search engine results.
- Draw your line in the sand and tell your story. Actually standing for something is a good way to both build and define your audience. You can’t (and shouldn’t) try to cater to everyone. There’s a specific, niche market that will resonate with your voice, so talk directly to them and address what they want to know. Be honest, be yourself, and if you feel strongly about a topic, let that passion shine through. Look at this article (or any article I’ve written for that matter), it’s pretty clear how I feel about the subject matter (and oddly enough, how I feel about rats asses…).
- Ignore any/all “tricks” to get better search results. If there’s a snippet of code guaranteed to place you higher in Google, ignore it. If there’s a website that takes $30 to link to all your blog posts, don’t give them money. Everything unethical or too-good-to-be-true is, and you’re better than that. As much as Google rewards good content, it possibly punishes your website if you do anything untoward to beat the system.
- It’s better to get your content in front of your audience than into a search engine. If you’re lacking in the traffic department, go find where your audience spends their time and interact with them there. Guest post, share on forums, offer advice/insight for free. This draws people to you (and your website) in an honest way.
- Easily make content look good when it does appear in searches or social media. Simple SEO plugins that let you update titles and descriptions to look and read well in search engines takes a few extra minutes. There are always ways to make your content look and read well on social media sites, mostly be adding meta information to blog posts. Here’s how on facebook, twitter (still in beta) and pinterest.
- Finish with a call to arms. Every blog post or article you write should have one thing to do next (not lots of things to do next). If you want to focus on social media sharing, do that. If you want to build your newsletter, add a form for that. If you want people to buy your product, have a feature for that after every post. If you have lots of things after every post, you’re diluting your audience’s focus to the point where they might not do anything.
Good content becomes good SEO. So if you spend time on the first part, the second part will happen naturally.