A Writer’s Guide to Google
Writing isn’t easy. When asked if turning out a daily column was hard to do, Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith said “Why, no. You simply sit…
Writing isn’t easy. When asked if turning out a daily column was hard to do, Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith said “Why, no. You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”
Luckily for writers in the digital space, marketing your writing and making sure it gets read is much easier. Search engines like Google drive enormous amounts of traffic to websites all over the world. Ranking your content Google can be the key to driving readership for your writing. As long as you pay attention to what matters, your articles can rank on Google and drive tons of readership as well.
DO: Choose a title that is rich in keywords
You knew that titles were important ever since you first put pen to paper (or fingers to touch screen, depending on your age). Every writer knows how much a title can affect readership, but did you know that it also has a serious effect on your Google rankings?
That’s right. The single most important factor in determining where your article will pop up is the title. Titles tell Google which keywords you should rank for, so not only is it important to choose a good title to get people to click (which, coincidentally is another important ranking factor) its important to lay keywords that coincide with the subject matter into it as well.
DO: Place your Title in the URL
Most publishers know that this is an SEO must. But for those of you publishing in less savvy places, or running your own blogs, remember to always use your headline in the article’s URL (assuming you abide by tip 1 and include those all important keywords in the title!) By default, many blogging platforms use the date or a random series of numbers as the URL, change that to include your article title. Separate words with hyphens, and eliminate as many unnecessary words and folders as possible.
DO: Use rich snippets
No, I’m not talking about an expensive pair of scissors. A “rich snippet” is a line of code that causes Google to show more than just a line of text when your articles pop up in search. Stuff like stars for reviews, movie times and video thumbnails can all appear in search now. The most common example of this is Google+ profile images being shown under the titles of articles that bloggers write, these are known as “Authorship” snippets:
The reason to do this is twofold. One, it greatly increases (seriously, like doubles) the number of clicks you will get when people see your article pop up in Google. In addition, the more you write and the more your articles are read and shared, the most prestigious your writing becomes in Google’s eyes, and therefore each subsequent article you write is more likely to rank highly.
For the sake of brevity, here is a link to learn how to set up authorship for your writing.
DON’T: Skip over the links
Google judges web pages by how many links they have pointing to them from other websites.
There are some SEO gurus who will advocate leaving links out of your article. They would argue that by linking out to other pages, you are siphoning off Google “juice” to those pages.
However, if you do include links, you can then reach out to those to whom you linked, and usually they are more than happy to repost your article from their websites to show off that they are mentioned in the press and blogs. The benefit from gaining these links far outweighs any possible (though unlikely) reduction in ranking power from linking out.
DON’T: Republish on Your Blog
Google has stringent rules on the same article being published on multiple websites. They actually will PENALIZE sites that duplicate content. Now, you may want other websites to syndicate your writing, but if you publish an article someplace republishing your works on your own blog is generally a bad idea. Google may demote either your blog or your publisher’s page.
There is a workaround to this however, using a trick known as canonicalization. It’s a little technical and easy to mess up, so I don’t recommend implementing this without the help of a seasoned pro.
A good alternative is to just post links to your published writing instead. And, if you absolutely must duplicate the articles on your own online portfolio, make sure to add a link to the original page at the bottom.
DON’T: Stack Keywords
Popular SEO theory state that you should load up your writing with as many SEO related keywords as possible. While it is advisable to use keywords in headlines and section headers, Google has since updated their algorithms for this tactic so keyword stuffing is no longer a good idea. Not only does it not help your rankings, its pretty effective at ruining your writing as well. Stick to writing solid, entertaining content and the keywords will stack themselves.
DO: Optimize Images
Just like you can put keywords into the title and URL of your articles, so too can you fit keywords into the images you use. Keywords can be fit into the image titles, image caption and the “alt” text (this is the little box that pops up when you roll your mouse over a picture for a few seconds). To avoid overdoing it, vary up the keywords you use and remember…don’t stack!
DO: Ask your publisher about their SEO strategy
If you have a great place to publish your content (like, for instance, the Huffington Post), then it’s a good idea to ask what their SEO techniques are. You’ll want to make sure proper techniques are being implemented, and that they share your articles on social media feeds and partner sites (links!!). In addition, you can usually pick up a few tips.