Do you remember as a kid playing a game called Tag-Your It, where there were no balls, bats, batons or objects of any kind involved. Just a group of children running around, touching each other and passing an imaginary tag of your ‘It’ on to someone else. There wasn’t anything other than our own imaginations to signify what we were doing or who we were trying to reach.
Unlike the imaginary tag we played as children the tags we use today on our web and blog sites are far more visible, but as with our childhood game, may not play as vital a role in where we find our web-blog sites, articles and press releases on a search engines list page as we are so often led to believe. In the bigger picture of site mapping and SEO rankings, what search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing are looking for may have more to do with what they find in your profile, the title of your page or article, it’s opening paragraphs and overall style-content than with any particular tag or key word attributes.
Back in the early to late 1990’s the use of tags and keywords played a vital role in how SE’s rated-ranked you on their list page of websites. But as more and more unscrupulous webmaster’s found ways to use this information as a means to nefariously woo reader’s into their own sites, all the SE’s (except for Inforseek and AltaVista) moved away from using this model.
In an effort to separate the wheat from the tares they began to spread the criteria net of ranking wider and wider by taking into consideration things like; overall appearance of your sites structure, ease of navigation, text anchoring, style and content. And of course there was still the all powerful HTML, Meta tags, URL structure, sitemaps, schema tagging, rich data snippets, web crawling and indexing.
On Google’s Webmaster Tools site they clarified this even further by saying, Focusing too hard on specific tweaks to gain ranking in the organic results of search engines may not deliver the desired results. Search engine optimization is about putting your site’s best foot forward when it comes to visibility in search engines, but your ultimate consumers are your users, not search engines”.
Now this may all sound really great to someone who see’s the world through code and syntax, but to the average writer such as myself, once you get past the part where we’re talking about content, style and anchored text, you have pretty much lost me.
Oh I get the ‘tag’ part simply because it’s not that difficult to understand the need for words, phrases or ideas that help a reader connect the dots from one page to the next. And if I really want to stretch myself, I’ll force my brain to try to partially wrapped itself around the codes written into my site’s name (and even then it will take at least two cups of really strong coffee). But as soon as we start talking about ‘meta-data’, HTML, improved URL’s and creepy crawler robot’s rummaging through my web-blog site, you’ve completely lost me.
So what is the solution? How does an emerging author or writer like myself get their web-blog site or article on the first one or two pages of SE’s such as Google, Yahoo or Bing where it can be seen and used?
Do we go back to school and learn how to write code, design websites and use software such as Adobe Dreamweaver, HTML Editor or Web Studio 5.0? Or if that doesn’t float our boat, maybe we could hire someone to design our sites for us so that we not only dazzle our reader’s but meet all the criteria popular SE’s are looking for.
What will it take to move our site or prose from obscurity to front page news?
I don’t know about the rest of you, but if I had wanted to be a web designer I would not have taken all those creative writing classes, and if I had the money to pay someone to design the site for me, I’d be working on the edit to my book as well as strategizing on the best way to publish and promote it instead of researching this blog.
So what’s the answer? We know that it’s important to be socially visible on the net. We also know that there are only so many hours in a day and being a writer of any kind will use up most of them. And with the added responsibility of having to do the majority of the promoting and marketing of our literary wares, how do we balance the need to do all we can to make our sites attractive enough to draw reader’s and SE, without abandoning the central reason for having the site in the first place?
In the process of digging out the answer for myself I’ve come across some great advice, and not surprisingly some of the best came from Google’s Webmaster Tool site itself.
In Google’s help manual, Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide (originally written for Google’s own web teams), Google not only cover’s the technical aspects for optimizing a websites best chance for getting on the first one or two pages of their list site, but they also give some really helpful advice on things that you and I (the author and finisher of our web-blog sites) can do that will not only improve the overall look and feel of it, but will actually (in this humble writer’s opinion) improve our credibility as writer’s as well.
And the best part is, it won’t’ take us hours and hours of pouring over other sites to get what we need (though it was the hours I personally spent doing just that, that finally rooted out an article where they gave me a link to one of Google’s site ranking tools ) In the guide they have a section on creating unique page titles, improving site structure, making site navigation easier, incorporating images, optimizing content and using analysis tools so that you’ll know where you are as far as real-time site viewing and link use etc.
And for the geekier minded, there is still plenty of techie stuff to keep the blood pressure going.
The bottom line? For just a few hours investment, people like you and me can create a pretty decent web or blog-site by combing an aesthetically pleasing site, great content and easy navigation. Through engaging content, a site structure easy enough for my Granny Melba to use (and don’t think Granny can’t shuttle her way around a blog site) and thoughtfully chosen words we can turn strangers into visitors, visitors into friends and friends into a community of followers that will help keep our names on the first two pages of search engines.
So what steps have you taken to raise your list ratings? Are there any tricks of the trade that you’ve found that helped move your article from obscurity to visibility? Share the ride and post your comments here.
From the laptop of an uncensored dreamer