Step 3: Optimize

In this Step 3 I’m going to spend some time talking about SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. It’s not a topic I like, mainly because there is a dark side to it, and also because it detracts from the actual act of putting out great writing.

It is, however, an ‘integral’ part of the internet.computers

What Is SEO?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of optimizing a webpage or blog for easier indexing by Search Engines. SEO can be divided into two categories: white hat and black hat. For obvious reasons we’re not going to even talk about black hat SEO techniques, since that would just get you penalized by Google. For more information on that topic, check out this Wikipedia page.

1. The Permalink Mess
The first step to optimize your WordPress blog would be edit the blog’s permalink structure. Permalinks are the URLs to each of your blog posts … by default WordPress displays nonsensical URLs for specific posts that make no sense to search engines. You can change that to suit your tastes by heading over to Options > Permalinks and tweaking the Customize Permalink Structure section. Novelr uses /%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/%postname%/ – but there are other ways of doing it.

Detailed tutorials about WordPress permalink tweaking can be found here and here.

2. Sitemap For Spiders
A sitemap is a document that links to all the pages in your blog. It functions like a table of content for search engines: they know where each chapter is and it helps them list your blook. How do you put up a sitemap in WordPress? Easy. Download this plugin, upload it to your blog and activate. Then include a link to your sitemap on your main page. Presto! For blogger users head over to Google Webmaster Tools and follow the instructions there to include a sitemap for your site.

3. Use Categories Wisely
How are your announcements going to mix with your actual story? How are you going to present character profiles? Categories (or labels in Blogger) help by telling your readers which part of the blook they are at.

4. Site submissions
This is another facet of blog marketing that I regard as a necessary evil (sorry, I’m just a poor writer at heart). This step entails submitting your blook to directories all over the web and then fervently praying that it actually gets listed. Directories are like the Yellow Pages of the internet: they are respectable (and give you good Search Engine love), but nobody actually flips through them unless in an absolute emergency. Some directories to try: Dmoz, Bloguniverse, and Globe of Blogs.

5. Meta Tags
A few years back meta tags were all the rage in SEO. Meta tags are invisible information embedded within the site, designed to tell search engines what the page was about. Today meta tags are pretty much useless in getting a better search engine ranking, and spamming the keyword tag with variations of keywords related to your site might get you a thumbs down from Google. If you wish to edit your site’s metadata – keep things simple. Of note is the description tag – it gives you some control over how search engines describe your site. For in depth information on metadata read this.

Commenting and Trackback in Blogger

I’ll like to mention Haloscan in this post, for those of you who have decided to go with Blogger. While Blogger comments cut it pretty fine they do suffer from the lack of trackback. Haloscan allows you to use a comment and trackback service that feels like WordPress and allows you to connect with other non-blogger blogs. And integration is not an issue – they have very good step by step guides to integrating their service with Blogger. Sign up for Haloscan here.

Human Readibilty

Now that we’ve covered optimizing your blog from a search engine point of view let me talk about us humans. This part shouldn’t actually be here – I find that I subconsciously list down what I like and don’t like in websites and implement them in whatever blog or site I have control over. But for the sake of being thorough:

1. Big fonts rock. Novelr uses a large Georgia typeface and I’m personally pleased with the way my words read on this blog. If you want readers to seriously consider reading your content online you need to make it easier for them: the screen tires eyes faster than the printed page.

Big fonts help negate that effect.

2. Use a neutral background. Try reading a novel online. With an shocking pink background. Just give it a try.

3. Break the monotony of text. It is really daunting to face a page full of words. Black and white. Boring. Try adding a picture or pullquotes to draw attention or to create interest. And then place it where the reader would likely see it … near the top of the page.

4. Less is more. Don’t clutter up your sidebar with a plethora of flashing buttons, revolving text and ‘cool’ effects. They’re not cool. They slow things down and detract from the core of your blook: your writing. And adding all these to your blook brings us to our last point:

5. Keep load speeds down. I absolutely hate clicking on a link that takes ages to load. I lose incentive to find out what that site actually has to say – after all it’s such a pain just trying to load the header. Keep your blook lean and kick out all unnecessary elements that take time to load. It’ll make life a lot easier for everyone involved.

And there you have it – basic blook optimization from both a SEO and a Readibility perpective. And by basic, I mean basic. There are loads more SEO and design sites out there that discuss the latest tips, tricks and methods for getting your blog/site/blook search engine love. And it’s not my field of expertise to talk about these topics in depth. Google is a great tool in instances like these – you just have to love them back.

This post is part of the Ultimate Blook Guide series. If you enjoyed this post you may subscribe to Novelr’s RSS feed.

Go to Step 4: Copyright!

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Category: Writing Web Fiction