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Search Engine Optimization for the Brave at Heart

Charlotte Ashlock Posted by Charlotte Ashlock, Executive Editor, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Charlotte Ashlock is a crazy idealist trying to make the world a better place! 

I'm sure everyone would love to be the number one Google search result in their field.

I'm sure everyone would love to be the number one Google search result in their field.

The question is how?

If you search for "SEO tips," it can be hard to separate the gold from the dross. Everyone's peddling their own crackpot theory, not to mention all those shady firms offering to scam the search engines for you (these scams are referred to as " black-hat" SEO .)
First, don't try to "scam" the search engine.

"Black-hat SEO" exploits loopholes in Google algorithms to artificially inflate the apparent worth of a piece of content. For example, sites that are linked to more often get ranked higher, so a wizard in black-hat SEO might create hundreds of fake sites and charge you an exorbitant fee to make all of them link to your site. In the short run, this "link-farming" and other cunning black-hat SEO practices could give you a boost. But in the long-run, Google is sure to notice what you're doing and penalize you for it.
Secondly, build your links in a way that builds shared value.

Call up trusted friends and colleagues with websites, and tell them, "I wrote an article recently which might really interest your clients. Would you consider putting it on your resources page?" Put some thought into match-making organizations with articles so that you're offering genuine value. And of course, offer to link them in return. This "white-hat" SEO practice is called "link exchange" and is mutually beneficial. White-hat SEO is focused on ways to build increased value for consumers of content, rather than finding ways to "work the system." Curious about how many total links you have right now? You can check the number of websites that link to yours on a tool called Alexa.
Thirdly, update often. Abandon self-consciousness in favor of spontaneity.

If you worry about making your blogs perfect, writing them becomes a real chore. You need to battle this self-consciousness, or you'll never achieve the update frequency that spells "freshness" and "relevancy" to the Googlebots. So, don't think about your blog posts as something they'll bring up in your funeral eulogy. Instead, re-envision blogging as something you do in ten minutes while eating your midnight snack. Sure, you worry those ten minutes might not be good enough to show the world, hasty and slapdash as they are. But how do you know that until you test them? The proof is in the pageviews. Be bold! And if you get in trouble, just blame me.

Fourth, mention influencers: Books, people, and ideas that are related to yours, but better known .

If you mention a book's three most best-selling competitors in the book description, it gets much easier to find on searches. Google will favor you if your text indicates you're related to something popular. So mention your competitors by name when you talk about what sets you apart. You can also create a page dedicated to honoring your heroes and influences. This means that people who google your heroes (or your competitors) might get YOU as a related result!

Fifth, calibrate the size of your niche using Google Keyword Tool.

This tool will tell you how many times any word or phrase is googled in a month. It will also generate a list of related words and phrases and tell you how often THEY are googled. You can find out the level of demand for any given idea, and how people phrase themselves when they search for that idea.

You can also know how much "competition" you have (in terms of other people blogging and writing about that same idea.) When you write, you should use keywords that have low competition and between 20,000-100,000 monthly searches. Like Goldilocks, you need to find the search term which is not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

  • Not too hot. If there are more than 100,000 monthly searches (as with the word "leadership, which receives over 6 million searches per month) the field is simply too wide to conquer.
  • Not too cold. When I search "drucker leadership" I get 1,900 monthly searches, which indicates the niche is perhaps too small to drive large amounts of search traffic to my site.
  • But just right. "Servant leadership," on the other hand, gets 60,500 monthly searches and has low competition. The niche is big enough to register, yet small enough to stand out.
Did you find this helpful? Do you have SEO tips of your own to share with me? Please email me.