Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Guest Post: Using Your Writing to Brand Yourself on the Web

Had I been writing this post just before last March it would have been shorter and would have gone along the lines of “Content is King, writers produce content, write something up and post it on the web, blah-blah, capish?”.  The reason you’re not getting the tried-and-tested formula for writers who need to ‘get’ SEO is because just last March Google went ahead and carried out the most comprehensive search algorithm update this century.

Code named Panda, this Google update drastically changed the way Google’s search engine evaluates websites and web content and it, arguably, has provided writers with the means to truly rise above the pack.

Let’s take things from the beginning though. Even a rudimentary web search will give you thousands of pages on the web all telling you that SEO is links, it is meta tags, it is on-page optimisation, it is off-page optimisation, it is keywords (and their density), it is social tagging and Press Releases. In truth SEO is all about that and has always been but its core, always, has been words. Search engines were born to index text, long before php became a dominant web language and AJAX programming made it difficult for them to follow links, and words are what they really love.

Functionality and programming on the Web evolved along several different paths, none of them particularly search-engine (or indeed word) friendly, and thus the SEO industry was born, intended to help the indexing process along (and to game it, where it could). As a result SEO became fragmented into hundreds of small, disciplinary steps and writers, usually, were left wondering whether writing could really help them succeed in this task.

The Panda update has somewhat restored the balance. What matters now is content that is unique and special: unique in that it is as original as possible and special in that it has the kind of zing that only a real writer can bring to writing. Taken at face value this is a proposition writers should leap at (and they really should) but as you might expect with search, things are not quite that simple.

Google’s emphasis on brands cuts right across the board affecting Websites small and large alike. Whether you are a one-man band or a large multi-national corporation the approach is the same and what Google wants to see in our case is you, the writer, running your Website like it’s a business your life depends upon. Given the fact that writers, frequently, complain of lack of time when it comes to marketing and use that to avoid the process, Google’s insistence might not be a bad thing.

Whatever the right or wrong of Google’s action may be it is justified by the end-result: Better results in search, less spam, more organic searches, more organic searchers and more satisfied end-users. All of this is great news for writers who have the potential to successfully use the Web and SEO their websites, provided they are now willing to do a three things consistently:

A. Write original, targeted content – This is not a case of “waking up, turning on the computer and writing”. This kind of content needs thinking time first because, as a writer, you will need to work out a strategy for it: what are you going to post, when, how often, how long will each post be and what will it be about. You will need to tackle it from the potential reader’s perspective because now you are actually looking to gain an audience which is really suited to your writing. If you are writing a novel about serial killers, for instance, your research on serial killer psychology and their obsessions is what you should be writing about (not the old, keyword-laden text of “serial-killer writer here, producing killer copy for serial-killer SEO rankings”.

B. Personalize your content – While you might be OK with knocking out 1,000 words on almost any subject under the sun, if your content now does not begin to bring out your personality as a writer, you are likely to have fewer takers than you really deserve.  You see, when it comes to quality content you are competing with thousands of brands (and their in-house teams of paid writers), tens of thousands of other writers and hundreds of thousands of bloggers. It is quite unlikely that you will consistently be able to produce impersonal, technically flawless writing that grips. Your only advantage here is to use what no other writer, blogger or brand has and that is you. Let your own quirky personality shine through in your writing and start to build the kind of following which is devoted to you and your writing.

C. Socialise your content – The best writing on the planet is worth nothing if it is not read. And writing which is read (and clicks with its audience) is usually shared. This is a big metric in Google’s current algorithm and it also happens to sit nicely with a writer’s need for followers, social interaction and the need to create a brand name for themselves. So do make sure that you produce the kind of writing which makes people react, talk about it and share it.

Do these three things, as a writer, and you will soon find that not only does your website begin to rise in its search rankings and you begin to get traffic but you also begin to create what every writer who wants to find an audience really needs: a brand.

David Amerland is the author of Amazon best seller SEO Help and other titles. --ed.