Tuesday, November 15, 2011

SEO—What is it and Why Should a Writer Care?

In this day and time, it’s becoming more and more necessary for a successful writer to have an online presence. For most of us that translates into a blog, Facebook page and Twitter account.

Without good search engine rankings, a blog can become more of a liability than an asset. To help raise those rankings it’s important to understand a few terms and how they apply. The first is SEO. This is an acronym that stands for Search Engine Optimization. Sounds complicated, right? Actually it’s not.

SEO is where, in the list of millions, your content will show up when searched, using a search engine. When you use different search engines—Google, Yahoo, etc., you'll notice that each will give slightly different results from any given search. But there are things we can do as writers to move our content up in the rankings. To accomplish this we have to have a basic understanding of how SEO algorithms work.

SEO used mathematical algorithms (or equations) to compute the ranking of any given site. The actual algorithms are extremely complicated, but what we need to know about them is relatively simple. First though, lets separate myth from truth.

There’s also a common myth that an article’s search engine rank is determined by the number of times the keyword is used. There was a time—early in the history of the Internet—when this was partly true. But no more

If this were the case, all a website would have to do is have pages of nothing but keywords to up its search engine ranking. Search Engine Algorithms have done away with that method of cheating. Algorithms are too well written to fall for that—and many have built in sensors that penalize websites for trying to cheat.

Here are some other truths about Search Engines

Nowadays, Search Engine Algorithms take words literally—and that can be good or bad
This means that they don't understand it when we make a play on words. For example, a recipe for vegetarian chili titled, Too Hot to Handle Chili will rank lower than one titled, Homemade Vegetarian Chili. This is because an algorithm uses the literal meaning of words and the first title doesn’t even have the word “vegetarian” in it. Often times a clever title will result in fewer clicks.

This doesn't mean we can't be clever—only that we have to be deliberate in where we're clever. Take that chili recipe, give it a title that can be searched literally, like Hot and Spicy Vegetarian Chili, but in the description use the clever tag line as too hot to handle.

Search Engine Algorithms also look for keywords 

Keywords are the words that appear in the blog post that describe its content.
Search engines read from the top of a webpage to the bottom, searching to see that important keywords are used throughout the page.

Here’s a good rule of thumb when determining keyword density
  • Always use the keyword in the title.
  • Repeat the keyword at least once in the first 50 words.
  • Spread the use of the keyword naturally and evenly throughout the rest of the article. In a 400 word article that would mean using the keyword a minimum of three more times. 

This should give any writer a good working knowledge of SEO. 

Any questions? If so leave them in the comment section and I'll check in and make sure they're answered!
Don't forget to join the conversation!


  1. Thanks for this. A couple of folks have tried to explain how SEOs work and I never quite got it. Now I do!

  2. Great info. Never realized the title made such a difference.

  3. Still trying to get this SEO stuff down--and this article is just what I need as a writer and editor and blogger.

  4. I also look up keywords with adsense. They have a nice tool that shows the number of times that word has been used in a search as opposed to the number of web pages that use it as a keyword. This helps me choose the best synonym to place my pages.

  5. I can't tell you how many articles I've read on SEO - and I still didn't truly understand it! This article is clear. Thank you!

  6. Glad to finally know how keywords work. I had no idea!

  7. I'm so glad to see this post has helped! Sometimes I think experts try to compliment things. Shellie, that is an excellent idea! I meant to address it and forgot. I should have know someone here would come to my rescue!
    Blessings All - E

  8. I'm like some others - I've never quite known what to do with what I've heard/read about SEO. I need simple-to-follow steps. Thanks for this info.

  9. Edie, do you have an easy-to-follow post, like this one, about tagging? I don't really get that one either.

  10. Oh. My. Goodness. I FINALLY get it!
    Thanks so much. :)

  11. Edie, thanks for that explaination. Helps bunches!

    ps. Got my book in yesterday, thank you so much! Blessings**

  12. Kim, and everyone who's asked. My post next Tuesday will be on tagging and composing titles, etc. Thanks so much for all your comments!
    Blessings, E

  13. Thanks! I'm just getting back around to all of this and taking notes to be sure i remember. Back to the tagging post now.