Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Search engine optimising

I confess: for a person who relies on people finding the content I provide online, I haven’t really paid any attention to how well I’m found there. Surely, I’ve thought, if my name is on it and people search my name, the content shows up. Therefore, I haven’t actually googled my pen names to find out if they are there to be found. I know, I know, but it simply hasn’t seemed important. Not until this week.

This is a cautionary tale.

I began to pay attention to how people found me a while ago when I noticed that I got huge traffic to both my blogs from one website. It seemed legitimate enough – it had the word ‘blog’ in it – but I wasn’t born yesterday so I checked it up. And what do you know, it turned out to be a porn site. What they thought to find on my blog, I have no idea. However, it made me wonder how they ended up on my blogs. I don’t provide adult content, there aren’t any risky photos – unless you count the covers of my books, but those can only entertain for so long – and I write mostly about books.

Was there something wrong with my search parameters?

So, after procrastinating for a couple of days, I finally googled one of my pen names, Susanna Shore. I chose it because that's the name on my G+ profile so I figured it would show up first. The results were somewhat dismaying. While the first link led to Susanna Shore’s web page, most of the links on the first page – and we all know only the first page counts – pointed to other Susanna Shores there are, an academic and a singer among them. Link to my G+ profile was only on the second page and even long dead Susanna Shores from the 17th century came before it. Not good.

So what to do?

There’s plenty of information about SEO out there and most of the time you don’t even have to look for it; I get tweets at least once a day about how to optimise my online visibility. And I actually read most of those posts. I just haven’t done anything about it. Now I would have to.

I started with my G+ profile. I really believed I had it optimised already, but apparently I had done a blotchy job. This timely shared infographic served as a reminder of what exactly needed to be done. I didn’t follow it to a t, but I took a good look at my profile and made some changes. Then I looked at my Twitter profile and my blogs. My Twitter profile is made for my publishing name, Crimson House Books, so linking it with my G+ profile isn’t very straightforward; I actually considered changing the profile name to Susanna Shore too, but that might be confusing. That wasn’t such a great problem though. It turned out my blogs didn’t mention my pen names anywhere. No wonder the search engines couldn’t find them.

Another timely share taught me about Google Authorship. It allows you to link your online content to your G+ profile – or the other way round; I haven’t really figured it out properly yet. However, I signed to it and added a by-line to all my blog posts. I also changed all the search parameters that were, quite frankly, lame. The results weren’t mind-boggling, but more of my blog posts appeared when I searched my name, with my G+ profile photo attached to them. Also, my G+ profile moved to the first page. And as a bonus, the porn site can’t find my blog anymore. Of course, another spam site has taken its place, but one can’t always win.

I still have quite a bit of work to do optimising my search results. Next, I’m going to link my G+ profile to my web page. The instructions are here; now I only have to follow them.

I’m fairly sure that optimising everything through Google+ will work the best for me. I have absolutely no data to back this claim up, but – let’s face it – Google is the biggest search engine there is and they’re bound to prefer their own content. I think you should try it too; it’s not as much a chore as I may have made it sound. Just open your G+ account and follow the instructions.

So, this was my cautionary tale. If you’ve done better with your SEO efforts, I salute you. If you’ve been lazy like me, take a look at all your online profiles. Perhaps you could brush them up too. Here are the links again, but there is a lot more information out there.

Do you have tips to share for SEO? Please do. I’m sure I could do better. 

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