Resources for Writers
Improving your Search Ranking: Tips for Bloggers
At writing.ie we love WordPress – this is a custom designed WordPress site by the brilliant Design For Writers whom we could not function without. WordPress is a ideal for writers to build their blogs around as it free platform, Google friendly, and easy to use. The following info though, applies to any platform whether your blog or site is custom designed, a WordPress or a Blogger.com site.
Essentially a website or blog gives you a shop window on the web, a place for people – potential purchasers of your book if you are published, or agents to whom you have submitted, to find you. And note, if you are an emerging writer looking for a publisher or representation, the first thing an interested editor may well do if they like your work, is to Google your name to find out more about you. Try it yourself and see what comes up – now might be the time to remove those stag party pictures!
With a good Google ranking, potential book purchasers will find you organically – so how do you achieve a good Google ranking? Build a site that’s easy to navigate, easy for search spiders to crawl, and which uses good keywords in the places Google (and other search engines) are most likely to find them. So what do you do first?
What to do before your first post
Search engine optimization for blogs is not only about content, but site structure as well. If you are using WordPress, customizing your settings is the first step to blogging SEO success.
Many blogs are accessible by both the http://yourdomain.com and http://www.yourdomain.com. WordPress sets your root domain to http://yourdomain.com by default. There’s nothing wrong with this format, but some search engines have trouble with processing both names for one domain.
If you prefer “www” at the beginning, it’s a good idea to change this setting before posting. When someone tries to access your blog with the other domain, the blogging software will activate what’s known as a 302 redirect sending people to the http://www.yourdomain.com web address. Deciding on a single root domain upfront helps maintain link integrity.
To add “www” to the root domain, log in to your WordPress account, and go to Settings>General. You will see a field for WordPress address (URL) and Site address (URL). Make sure to add www to both. This will make sure that your default URL contains the www that is more widely accepted and linked with.
Easy to navigate
Your site navigation refers to your top-level pages, like your home page, your about page, your contact page, etc. Ideally you want your pages listed in your navigation bar, and maybe also in your sidebar, so readers can instantly find what they’re looking for. WordPress has a built-in menu function and accompanying widgets in all their themes that should mean you will build an easy-to-navigate site. Ensure if you are not using WordPress, that your navigation is simple – use a single bar detailing the key areas of your site and allow content to drop down from that in subsections.
This refers to the code behind your website. It should be clean, fast-loading, easy to read, and compliant with the latest HTML version. Again, WordPress will almost always keep you in good stead here, unless you’re using a theme that is out of date or poorly written. You can test your site’s compliance and speed using online tools like http://tools.pingdom.com and http://validator.w3.org. While both might seem a little technical, you should be able to learn some useful information about your site from each.
Google’s searches work by a system of keywords. As Google says, “A keyword is any word or short phrase that describes a website topic or page. The more a keyword is used by searchers and websites the more attraction power it has.”
If you want your website to attract searchers, you need to use strong keywords in your website titles and website text . These brief words should realistically identify and describe your site. You can identify the highest ranking keywords in your field by visiting Google’s Key Word site. (Also check out See also: Keyword Tool for Beginners and Keyword Video.)
Keywords should appear on webapges:
- In the title
- In some (but not necessarily all) sub-headings
- In the first paragraph
- In your image alt tags
- In your meta description
- In the anchor text of links from other pages on your site
Besides your chosen keyword, though, you want to also be sure to sprinkle in some synonyms. Google has become really good at understanding what a page is about based not only on the chosen keyword, but also by looking at closely related words.
Google webmaster tools
You can get a look at exactly how Google sees your site by logging into Google Webmaster Tools, and using the “fetch as Google” tool. This will help alert you to problems on your site that you might not be aware of, such as malicious code (if your site’s been hacked) or crawl errors that might result in a lower ranking.
To get started, you’ll need to set up an account. Visit http://google.com/webmaster/tools and click the “sign up” button in the upper right corner of the screen. You will need a Google account to sign up, but this is free and easy to obtain – and if you already have a gmail account, you’re all set.
Next, you’ll need to add your website to your webmaster tools account. To do that, click the “Add a Site” button and enter your site’s URL. You be asked to download an HTML file from Google, then upload that file to your site’s root using either an FTP client such as Filezilla or your cPanel file browser. This allows you to confirm to Google that you do own the site. Once the file is uploaded, click the “verify” button.
Google will now begin crawling your site (they’ll do this anyway, but adding the site to Google Webmaster Tools allows you to control how and when they crawl), reporting errors, and letting you know about any problems they find.
Make crawling simpler with a sitemap
A Sitemap gives Google all the information they need about your pages in one file, rather than waiting for their spiders to index your pages organically. This can help Google find pages and posts it might not otherwise discover, and help make the discovery process faster.
You can manually create and upload a sitemap (Google provides the instructions here: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=183668), but if you’re using WordPress, it’s much easier to simply use a plugin. Many of the SEP plugins offer this feature, and there are a few stand-along plugins that will create Sitemaps as well.
Monitor for Malware
Uncontrolled malware infections spell disaster for websites and blogs. This generally means your site has been hacked, and if Google discovers it, they will include a nasty warning in their search results. Left unchecked, they’ll delist your site completely – it’s definitely not a good user experience to visit a potentially dangerous site.
Fortunately, if your site is registered with webmaster tools, Google will let you know about any suspicious files it finds. You’ll see these notifications when you log in.
A good website or blog increases your visibility on the web, and paying attention to how Google sees your site, which pages are indexed and when, and watching for hacking will all help keep your site in Google’s good graces and improve your sites ranking.