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Sunday, August 26, 2007

 

PART 1: An Introduction to Optimizing Your Writing Website/Blog - for Women Writers

One of WOW!’s Winter Flash Fiction Contest Winners Danette Haworth wrote in about a topic that is important to women writers, now more than ever—blogging and website optimization. Since website marketing is one of my favorite topics, I’ve decided to dedicate a few of the following Sundays to women writers looking to promote their website and/or blog and receive their well-deserved recognition! This topic can take thousands of words to completely cover, so I’ll take on one topic at a time. This is Part 1: An Introduction.

Danette Haworth writes:

“Weeks ago, I submitted my URL to Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Technorati, yet search results do not list my blog or my name. (My name appears in entries for other sites (like WOW!), but not for my own blog.

Is there something I'm not doing? How can I be more successful in this area?”

I know this can be extremely frustrating for a writer who wants to get her work out there, and I had to learn the hard way. When we first started WOW! Women On Writing, I’d spent most of my time perfecting the graphics for the website, getting the layout down, articles/interviews written, but I didn’t even think, or know, anything about SEO. Needless to say, when we launched that first day in September 2006, it truly felt like a let-down. We had this great content, a fabulous assortment of interviews from well-established authors, and we even garnered an interview with the senior editor of Writer’s Market at the time, Kathryn Brogan. We were perplexed to see that our traffic wasn’t peaking, nor had inclusion of any of the search engines! It felt like speaking to an empty theater. There was basically no one visiting our site.

The learning curve started there before I even knew what to expect.

I don’t like to fail—no one does—but I like to GO BIG!! So I quickly learned how to work with that magical voodoo called SEO and website marketing.

Side Note: Here’s a little rah-rah cheer for women writers: today, WOW! Women On Writing’s traffic has surpassed Writer’s Market and Writer’s Digest (to name a few), according to the worldwide web statistics at Alexa.com. We’re very proud, and that’s super news for women writers!

So how did we do this?

Let’s start with what Danette wrote: She submitted her URL to Google, Yahoo, and MSN.

For starters, the three search engines you mentioned can take six-weeks or more to have your URL show up and indexed. I still notice that to this day. We put up a new issue of WOW! and the articles are nowhere to be found in the search engines for a couple weeks. Our blog posts show up the same day though, but blogs are extremely search-engine friendly once you get them going. For website owners though, there are several things you can do.

Of course, we’re assuming you have killer content. After all, you’re writers right? So lets skip that part for now. We’ll get to that later.

Submitting Your Website:

Most websites come with a tool that lets you automatically submit your site to search engines. Or you can use a third party site to do this—there are tons of them out there. I’ve tried several and they all work about the same. For a minimal fee (usually $5-10 a month) you can take out the guesswork and have your website submitted to over 100 search engines across the web. And yes, there are hundreds, actually thousands, of search engines! Just do a simple search on “Submit your website”.

If your budget is tight, and you have time, you can always submit them by hand for free. Here’s a list of free submission sites: http://www.sitepronews.com/free-submission.html. This website, Site Pro News has a bunch of articles on the topic if you’re interested in diving in head first!

If you’re going to be submitting your URL, you should have a relevant title and description with key words used in your content. This is a whole other topic.

Angela’s Secret Tip:

Do you have a Google Search widget on your site? Sign up for Google Co-op ( http://www.google.com/coop/ ) and create your own search engine. Here’s ours: WOW! Women On Writing Search Engine. If you have content-heavy pages like we do and you want them to be noticed immediately, I add each page into our search engine so Google is forced to search that page. I’ve never actually heard of this as an SEO tip or trick, but just thought it might work and it does! Pretty sneaky sis!

Tips to Optimizing Your Writer’s Blog:

So you have a blog, doesn’t everyone these days? That’s one of the problems. How do you make yours stand out and get major traffic?

Optimizing a blog is different than a website, that’s why I’ll have to do this full article in separate parts to give you the full info. So, today I’m going to talk about blogs since that’s what Danette originally asked.

The blog is run off a different platform than a website, since most blogs are standard platforms which are usually hosted by someone else’s URL. Check the end part of your URL, if it ends in .blogspot.com then you’re not hosting it. If you look up at ours, we have our own host, meaning that the URL is unique and we can record our traffic and actually see in real-time how many people are visiting each page of our blog.

One of the problems with having your blog hosted by Blogger or something else is you’re basically in what we writers call “the slush pile.” But that’s not to say that you can’t pump up your traffic even with a standard cookie-cutter template. It may take you extra work though. But let’s assume that you want to be the best, GO BIG, and create a stir in the blogging world. By following these tips, you have the ability to do just that.

Give Your Template a Makeover!
Aren’t you tired of seeing the out-of-the-box templates that everyone has? If you are serious about this, hire a designer and give your blog that original look. But if you don’t have the money, try and customize the standard template with your own logo and color scheme. Do what you can to make it unique.

Feed Me!
These days every blog comes with an RSS feed, so use it. Make the most of it by adding a custom signature. If you don’t know how to access your RSS feed, or your blog doesn’t provide one, burn your own! Go to: http://www.feedburner.com. Decide whether you want to offer Full or Partial feeds.

Button Up
Get your own buttons and place them in a prominent position on your blog (usually the sidebar) so readers can easily subscribe and read your posts on their own homepage or RSS reader. Use an RSS aggregator to make it easy on your readers. Here are a few:

http://www.feedbutton.com/

http://www.bloglines.com/

http://www.technorati.com/

But one thing to remember is to avoid ugly button overload! Don’t you get sick of seeing a blog with a whole bunch of buttons and widgets all over the place? This also slows down the load time. Remember you only have less than 30 seconds to capture your reader. Be spare, but make those buttons and widgets count.

What’s Your Topic?
Remember when you start your blog, it should have one main theme or topic in general. Focusing on one area will definitely help your blog have its own niche audience. Being too general won’t keep the readers coming back. I know what you’re thinking, our blog, The Muffin, has a plethora of topics, but they’re all geared toward women writers. Your topic doesn’t have to have a narrow focus, but you should consider your audience and who your blog is catering to. Is it about fashion? Art? Motorcycling? Okay, I know it’s none of the above, but if it’s about your journey as a writer, or a promotion for your forthcoming book, then tailor it toward that. Make one blog for your journey as a writer, and the other for your book. Keep the topics separate to create unique content.

Write Like You Know the Whole World is Reading
Try and keep your entries short, yet detailed. Write for your readers and for search engines. This is possible! I prefer writing for readers, but you can do both. Just make sure the key words you use are relevant to your content. Use relevant titles and tags. Make your titles leave the reader wanting more, because that’s what is going to show up on search engines. Don’t just say, “Welcome to my blog!” Think of it like you do the first sentence in your short story or article—hook that reader, reel them in.

Check your spelling. Use nice readable fonts in a standard size. Create unique stories. Other bloggers will be more likely to link to your blog if you have a story that sizzles. They may even quote it in their own blog with a link and create a viral effect.

Juice Up Those Links
Link to other blogs in your posts. This is an easy way to make other bloggers learn about your blog when they’ve never heard of it. For instance, I do this every month: I check bloglines and technorati and type in our blog address to see who’s chatting about us. I find the most interesting posts from readers that I never knew of! And like I always say, if you mention WOW! Women On Writing, I’ll add you to our blogroll, thus perpetuating the growing family of women writers and bloggers. You can create your own blogroll, just go to: http://www.bloglines.com/

Also consider the importance of links. For instance, in Danette’s case, it’s better to link to her blog like this: Danette Haworth’s Blog, than http://www.danettehaworth.blogspot.com. Why? Because link names hold more value than simple URLs. People can list a whole bunch of URLs, but if it’s associated with a key word or phrase, search engines are more likely to pick up on it.

Angela’s Secret Tip:

Buy your own domain name and host your blog under that site. Of course, our blog doesn’t have all the cool widgets that blogger-hosted blogs have, but if you want to increase your traffic ranking this is a great way to do it. For instance, we have a Blogger blog, but it’s an FTP blog. This means that when we post we get that dreaded spinner that old-school Bloggers may remember, but you know why it’s worth it? Every time we upload a new blog post that counts as traffic to our website domain name. It’s like a unique visitor is checking out your site and uploading content. Bonus on traffic ranking! Shhh... don’t tell anyone.

Okay, as you can see this topic is endless. Things are changing all the time, so I’m going to dedicate Sundays to helping women writers pump up their websites and/or blogs. Stay tuned! These were just some of the basics, more to come next week.

Happy Blogging!

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9 Comments:

Blogger Chynna said...

AwwwwwwweSOME! Thanks for this, Angela. Now I think I can go give my own site a chance. LOL

This was a really helpful post. Thank you for your wisdom, oh great 'net guru. ;oD

Chynna
www.lilywolfwords.ca

5:57 PM  
Blogger Sue said...

You've outdone yourself with generosity and with sharing valuable information. Merci Beaucoup!

7:52 PM  
Blogger Danette Haworth said...

Angela,

Excellent article! Informative, easy to understand, and well-laid out. I can't wait to put this information to use.

Thanks for mentioning my blog! I've actually bragged about your site on AW and Verla Kay, and I've got a link to WOW! on my daily blog, Summer Friend. I think WOW! is a great place to visit.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Danette Haworth said...

I was so impressed with your article I mentioned it in my blog Summer Friend today!

9:03 AM  
Blogger Angela said...

Thanks lady-loves for the kudos!

And Danette, I'll be sure to add your blogs to our blog roll :-)

Let me know how it works for you, and when you start seeing your blog come up on search engines, let us know. We'll be cheering for you!

Hugs,
Angela

10:39 AM  
Blogger Danette Haworth said...

Angela,

Did you wave a magic wand? Both of my blogs are turning up now!

Thanks again!

11:06 AM  
Blogger Angela said...

Hey Danette,

Congrats!!

And nope, no magic wands... I'll talk about the reason why in my next week's blog post. It's a little something I like to call 'link juice' -- how if high ranked sites/blogs mention you, you instantly go up on the PR ranking, thus getting into search engines. And no, I'm not just talking about ours, but also all the great links you've got going on TO YOU -- like your honorable mention at Whim's place -- to name one. ;-)

Cheers!

Angela

10:12 PM  
Anonymous katemoss said...

Thanks for the words of wisdom. Very timely. I wandered over from Danette's Summer Friends when she mentioned you. Now I'll have to browse around here, but this article certainly caught my interest!

Thanks again,

Kate

2:03 PM  
Anonymous Aaryan said...

Excellent article! Informative, easy to understand, and well-laid out. I can't wait to put this information to use.

10:48 PM  

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