It’s 2017—a new year, a new you! Time to get your name out there and grow your personal brand.
Wait! You haven’t optimized your online presence yet?
You’ll have to take care of that first.
As a freelance writer who wants to establish yourself as a personal brand, you must first create a strong SEO strategy (short for search engine optimization) for your website. Otherwise, potential clients and recruiters who are searching for people with your expertise online won’t be able to find you. (And if you haven’t made a professional freelancing site at all, what are you waiting for?)
Okay, let’s try that again. It’s 2017—a new year, a new SEO strategy!
SEO, Say What?
Creating a search engine optimization strategy sounds like a daunting task. It’s not that bad. But it is helpful to understand how search engines work.
Designed by expert mathematicians and stealthy programmers, search engines filter through the massive virtual data storage system that we call the internet. It’s a complex information science that requires mathematics-based technology to maintain. SEO attempts to bridge the gap between those super-smart designers and the average computer user.
Let’s take Google as an example.
With the help of several complex algorithms, Google uses “spiders,” also known as GoogleBots, to “crawl” around the web and look for new pages. When a bot discovers a new or updated site, it adds the site to its comprehensive index of sites. Then, it looks for links to other pages and logs them as pages to check out later on. The bot then processes all the words, content tags, and attributes on the site. When a user conducts a search, algorithms search through the spiders’ index for sites that match the query. The sites that show up first in a search are the ones that Google deemed the most important and relevant.
A good SEO strategy demonstrates to Google that your site is important, relevant, and should show up right away when someone conducts a search. But you cannot trick Google into crawling or featuring your site. Optimization is about figuring out how your target audience looks up digital information so your site development is more effective—it’s not about tricking users into visiting your site.
Hey, Wait! We’re All Important, Aren’t We?
Yes! Everybody’s site is important. But competition is vast. Did you know there are over 152 million blogs on the web? It isn’t enough to merely run a blog anymore. You have to stay up to date on SEO best practices and maintain strong online communications.
Digital significance is a tricky beast to understand because search engines take hundreds of factors into consideration to determine it. Let’s break down some key elements.
One system Google uses to establish the importance of a site is PageRank. PageRank is a link-analysis algorithm that measures the number of incoming links to a site. That means the more sites that link to your page, the higher your chance of a better ranking.
But, of course, it’s not that simple. PageRank doesn’t just count how many links you have, it also measures the quality of those incoming links. Links from important sites weigh more heavily than links from less important sites, according to Search Engine Land. This takes time to develop because you cannot control whether other sites will link to your site. There are ways to optimize your content and increase your chances of getting linked. But we’ll come back to that shortly.
Keep in mind, algorithms can detect spam—so don’t try to trick the search engine with paid links or any other linking scams. They’ll figure you out and you run the risk of your site being banned.
Internal linking is when a page from one domain links to another page within the same domain. As Search Engine Watch explained, creating an internal linking structure can increase your ranking because it helps Google spiders crawl your site.
Search Engine Land also detailed how to optimize your internal linking structure. In short, it’s helpful to insert links to your own published and relevant content throughout your site, but do so in moderation. The benefit of this tactic is twofold: internal links encourage visitors to stay on your site, while demonstrating the breadth of your knowledge and expertise.
But What About Relevancy?
An important site is great, but if it doesn’t contain relevant content, then it’s useless to the searcher. Consequently, search engines must determine relevance.
Search engines use text-matching algorithms to display pages that match the query. This is where keyword usage plays an important role. Strong keywords are words that are most likely to be searched by your target audience. Keyword search tools such as Keyword Planner and SEMrush can help you figure out the most searchable and popular keywords.
Some tips to consider:
- Choose keywords that are relevant to your content.
- Use your keywords at the top of your home page.
- Never use inappropriate keywords.
- Do not overuse keywords.
Refer to Google for more advice on how to choose the right keywords.
Cell phone usage for digital communications has been on the rise for a while now. In fact, about 60 percent of online traffic comes from mobile queries, as Business Insider noted. In response to this influx of mobile usage, Google decided to start rewarding mobile-friendly sites with better rankings. It also gives out lower ranks to sites with mobile pop-ups. These are important factors to take into consideration when working out the kinks of your SEO strategy.
Even if Google didn’t do this, optimizing your site for mobile usage is a good idea because it helps increase the chances of users finding your site in the mass abyss of websites out there.
Load Times and Images
Don’t you hate when you have to wait forever for a site to load? So do search engines. In fact, Google ranks sites with high load times poorly.
One way to manage your site’s load time is to keep your home page simple. Don’t publish too much content on the front page and don’t bother with dynamic features unless absolutely necessary. Also, choose images with smaller file sizes so they load more quickly.
Speaking of images, don’t forget about the quality of the images you display on your site. High-quality images rank higher in search engines—plus, your users will like looking at nice photos.
HTML and Metadata
Lucky for us, HTML and metadata are not hugely important. In fact, popular search engines often neglect them. That being said, including metadata can only help your position. It’s a bit complex, so check out Google’s SEO tips for more specific information.
Oh, Yeah! Don’t Forget About Your Content
Google said it best: “The only way to keep your website at a proper place of search results is—as general it sounds—[by] providing content that people are both interested in and are looking for.”
That makes sense, right? So, how do you optimize your content and increase the chance of someone finding your site and maybe even linking to it?
There’s a ton to say about creating killer content, but to keep it brief, we’ll talk about two key factors as they relate to SEO.
Organization and Value
Search engines analyze the structure of your website, so you must keep your website organized. To accomplish this, lay out the content into separate pages. This strategy has a second benefit: Organization improves the user experience and encourages visitors to peruse for longer.
But organization is not the only factor: the perceived value of a site is also important. Users want to gain something from visiting a site. If your site is not engaging, people have no reason to linger and they probably won’t come back.
One way to engage your audience is to maintain a blog with a regular publishing cadence. You might post articles about real-life problems, and then provide tips, strategies, and solutions. Work to educate your visitors on useful terms and definitions, provide updates and refreshers on previously learned information, and report industry news and trends. And don’t forget about your credibility! Including quotes from industry experts, customer testimonials, and statistics from reliable sources helps establish your trustworthiness.
Keep these action items in mind when finding your online presence. This is one of the most important steps to creating a personal brand. Once you have a solid strategy in place, make sure you update it regularly by following (and adapting to) changes in the SEO industry.
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About the Author
BiographyMore Content by Allison Mandel