If you start a blog (or website), you probably want to have readers—and you wouldn’t mind if you actually become known world-wide for your knowledge about porcupine mating habits or subsea engineering or book editing. So if you are as new to this as I am, you may have never heard the term SEO. That stands for “search engine optimization.” And what it means is helping Google and Bing put your site to the top of the list when someone types in “porcupine mating habits.” If you don’t come up in the first 5 or 6 listings, searchers will probably not find you.
The Science of SEO
SEO is a huge science and art. This is because everyone in the world wants to be at the top when a term is searched. That means that even people who don’t have real knowledge but want to sell you printer ink want to be at the top. But Google and Bing and other search engines have another agenda—and it is not to make you or the printer ink people money. It is to give their customers (and I know you are one of those, too) exactly what they are looking for as soon as possible. Because that is why we use Google, is it not?
When I Google “what’s the difference between a porcupine and an echidna,” I get a website that tells me exactly what I want to know. When I ask The Google when did Gerard Manley Hopkins die? it pops up right to: June 8, 1889. It’s amazing. (Does anyone remember the arcane searching protocols you used to have to use when you searched Alta Vista? You don’t remember? Well back in my day, we couldn’t just type what we wanted to know. No, we had to use quotes, and certain words, and use “and” and “or” correctly. All while we were walking to school in the snow. You kids are so lucky these days.)
Anyway, Google wants to find good content and not have their customers click on spam or other junk. So they have developed sophisticated algorithms which search sites and decide if the site is one that would answer the question their customers have.
Google also has billions, nay trillions, of searches from which they can discern exactly what people are looking for. Don’t you find it interesting when you go to type in a search on Google, you find Google filling in the rest of it for you? You are amazed to find there are a lot of people out there interested in the differences between porcupines and echidnas. Google has analyzed this data and as part of their money-making enterprises will share some of it with people who have websites. So later I will tell you about some of the tools you can use to find out how your website is doing on Google and if you have the right words in your website so Google can tell their customers you know about porcupines or books or homeschooling.
One of the main things Google looks at is the blog post title to see if there are words in the title that match the searches customers are making. I need to be more discriminating in naming my posts. That is why I titled the previous post “How to Make Money Blogging.” That is something people search for. They don’t search for “Why You Might Want to Blog.” You want your titles to be meaningful to people, but you want them also to be meaningful to a machine that cannot really understand sarcasm or parody or nuance. You may, that is, we may, have to be more blunt in our titles than our sensitive and literary selves are inclined to be.
But the main reason right now you need to know about SEO is so you will make the right choices when you put your website together—you want to make SEO-friendly choices.
Don’t Look Like a Spammer
What you don’t want to happen is for your website to look like the website of a spammer. (I use the term “spammers” to encompass all nefarious undeserving sites that neither you nor Google ever wants to come to the top of a search). Google has certain things it looks for in a site to make sure it is legitimate. So, you are going to want those things in your site. And Google will alter their algorithms periodically to try to filter out the spammers and find the good stuff. But as soon as they do, the spammers adjust their sites accordingly. If Google is looking for content, the spammers hire people to rewrite content (found on the internet) that will bring people to their site so they can sell them watches or work-at-home scams. I just read something about the danger of being “over-optimized” for SEO.
Spammers read the same SEO advice that legitimate bloggers do, and they have learned to put the words Google is looking for into their sites. But they do it a little too well—at least better then we plodding bloggers who are more interested in our content than selling things. So Google decided that a good way to weed out spammers is to watch for sites that are a little too professionally optimized for SEO. So the SEO game has already changed slightly in the time I started reading about it. And it will keep changing as spammers keep trying to outwit the system.
But the advantage you and I have is that we have exactly the kind of site Google is trying to find. We are offering new, unique, and interesting content for a niche of searchers. Google wants to find us, and we want to be found. So it ought to work out. I will find out if this is the case.
I will confess right now that I have not spent a lot of time on SEO on my own site. I am starting to look into it and think more about it. But it is hard to put SEO-friendly words in posts that are not yet written. So I am working on posting and organizing my content and telling you about what I have learned about building a website (or blog).
Next step is to look at a few Bluehost site options and then to start working in WordPress on your site.