Interview with an SEO Expert

This week, we talked to an expert on SEO about all the questions you may have on maintaining a successful website with the best practices for SEO in 2024.

What makes a website SEO friendly?

SEO friendliness takes a lot of things into account. Keyword density and placement, properly using “ALT” tags (which is also important for ADA compliance), and context that is relevant. Meta tags (title/description) for search are also important.

What kind of factors do search engines consider when ranking?

Search engines don’t want to be scammed. They can tell when people are using gimmicks or tricks to skew their SEO scores. Every time the algorithm changes, and people freak out, it’s often because they like shortcuts instead of doing the work.

How can I find relevant keywords?

Chances are you didn’t invent the industry you work in. Use Google trends / search / keywords to find out what is relevant to the specific page you’re working on. If you’re targeting a local market, research that specifically and compare it with larger scale results.

Why is my organic traffic dropping?

Is your content stale? Is it relevant? Keep your content fresh. If you have a blog, utilize it.

How long will it take to rank on search engines?

Could be 2 weeks or 2 decades depending on your content (first) and SEO (second). SEO happens naturally to some extent if your copy is presented well.

 How long should my content be?

Long enough. Sometimes people write novels, sometimes nothing. Present your content in a way that makes sense to humans.

How often should I be adding new content?

Is it good quality content, or filler because you feel like you need to be adding things? Go for quality over quantity but if you can manage both, great!

What are some common SEO mistakes I should avoid?

Don’t put 600 keywords on one page and then list every city on the planet. Keyword density targets are usually small. Overdo it and you’ll lose points fast. Don’t go changing your URLs to ridiculous long-winded keywords. For example, your about page is your about page and should simply be /about; it should not be /about-the-best-car-dealership-in-new-york.

Above all else, remember that your target audience is usually human. Your goal is to engage humans by engaging search engines to get humans to your website. If your website isn’t geared towards humans (simple & concise language), and focused on specific content, then you’re wasting your time.

For example, if I click a keyword in your paid ad for “ice cream” and your page is entirely about salad, I’m going to bounce. Follow the funnel logic (before funnels were a keyword) and SEO drives people to your website, and your website is supposed to convert them by encouraging them to participate (by communication, interaction, sales etc.).

Don’t fall for large company gimmicks that include services like monitored/recorded phone calls as part of their SEO package. Some companies charge many thousands of dollars and do almost nothing for you. If you want to monitor and record your incoming calls, get yourself a good phone service (most good business plans offer this anyway).

Finally, keep your websites fully maintained. Making sure your website is up to date will usually also keep things running safer and smoother. Outdated plugins or scripts can put your website at risk. Any visible risk can often be seen by crawlers, especially if there is a malware or other security issue. These things also affect the speed and reliability of your website, which can greatly impact your search performance.

Catch up with Josh:

What is SEO and Why Should You Be Interested?

Last month we talked about managing your social media content and audience. Now it’s time to discuss SEO, keywords, and getting people to visit your website. When you hear the term SEO, you may be thinking, what even is that? Or, does that really pertain to me? Everyone with a website should be thinking about SEO.

What is SEO?

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of designing your website and content in a way that will increase its visibility on search engines such as Google and Bing. Organic traffic from search engines is one of the main ways a website gets viewed. 

There are three main types of SEO: on-page, off-page, and technical. Off-page and technical SEO refer to the optimizations that occur behind the scenes of a website. On-page SEO on the other hand focuses on aspects of the web page itself such as content quality and how much it aligns with what people are searching. This type of SEO can be the easiest for you to control.

The simplest way to begin optimizing your website is to find out what people in your audience are searching for and then create relevant and optimized content using these popular search terms. Use a keyword tool like Google Trends to research what people in your niche are searching. Once you have this information, create the type of content that your audience wants to see. Blogs, videos, interactive tools and more all work in different ways to serve your audience. Research what those you are targeting want to see and model your content accordingly.

Why Does SEO Pertain to Me?

So why does SEO pertain to you and your website? When people are searching for a product you sell or a service you provide, you want your website to show up at the top of their search results so that they are more likely to see it. A higher-ranking search result is made possible by SEO. 

Let’s say you wrote a mystery novel and you want more people to visit your website and ultimately purchase the book. Writing a blog on a relevant topic, such as a certain type of technology used in the book to solve the mystery, may drive more people from that niche to your website. This in turn gives them the opportunity to see your book on other pages of your website. It is not always about getting people to see the content itself, but also a way to drive them to the website as a whole and see the product or service you are selling without directly searching for it themselves.

Think about it, when was the last time you made it to the last page of your search engine results before finding what you were looking for, or even giving up? Probably never. You want your audience to find your website as soon as possible after searching, or there’s not a very likely chance of them finding it at all. 

If you have a website, SEO is something you should be thinking about, and it is something you can do yourself with a little research. Start by looking for those relevant keywords and begin tailoring your content to what your audience wants to see. The higher the search engine ranking you have, the higher your chance of being found organically.

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Creating An Effective Instagram Bio

Having an effective Instagram bio is a key factor in growing your audience since it is the first thing profile visitors will see. Potential new followers will see your bio and profile before making a quick decision whether to stick around or click away. Optimizing your bio in 150 characters or less in a way that showcases your brand identity is pivotal but tricky! Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Keep It Short & Sweet

The number one tip when it comes to creating your Instagram bio is to keep it concise while continuing to be informative about your brand and personality. You want to communicate who you are and what you offer as soon as a visitor clicks on your profile. If they don’t know why they should follow you at a quick glance, your bio may not be effective enough. Between users’ short attention spans and the 150 character limit, you must strive to grab visitors’ notice right away.

Use Keywords

Your Instagram bio should contain keywords relevant to you and your brand that describe who you are and what you do as an author. This will increase your visibility online in search results to help new people find you and attract a target audience. For example, you can use words like “author” and “writer,” or more genre specific words like “romance,” or “mystery” to attract the right kind of readers to your page. As a starting point, brainstorm words that your ideal readers may use as search terms on Instagram to find books and authors similar to you. Instagram SEO will help your profile and content to be shown in search results.

Add a Call to Action

A call to action encourages page visitors to do something, whether that be to follow you, click a link, send a message, etc. This is a good way to get people interacting and engaging with you and your content right away. Choose a call to action that aligns with your goals and include it in your bio to optimize your audience’s sense of curiosity. We recommend including a link as your call to action. Try directing users to your own website where they can buy your book online, a newsletter sign up, or even a link in bio tool such as Linktree. A link in bio tool will show all of your most important links at once! Your bio is the first thing Instagram users will see when they visit your page, and these few simple tips are a great way to get started with your optimization. Your main goal is to drive readers into some type of action, such as following you or buying your book. Check out these fun bio ideas for some more inspiration on what to add to your profile and how to have an effective Instagram bio!

Generating Awareness with Influencer Outreach

With the prevalence of social media continuing to grow, influencers are becoming incredibly powerful tools in content marketing. Generating awareness with influencer outreach can be incredibly useful when it comes to relationship development. A simple Instagram post or story can go a long way in terms of making a lasting impact on consumers.

Using Bookstagram to Generate Awareness Around Your Book

A bookstagram is an Instagram account dedicated to — you guessed it — books. The bookstagram community itself is massive. It encompasses authors and readers who love sharing their passion for books. This can be a great place to share your book, especially if you have a budget. Unlike in newspapers or on the radio, people who follow these influencers and engage with their content are a lot more likely to love books. If you connect with bookstagrammers that have a specific niche that is relevant to your book, then you are placing your book directly in front of an audience that is likely your ideal audience for sales.

The key in initially building durable relationships, in my experience, is to come across as genuine as possible. Considering the numerous amounts of DMs these influencers sift through every day, taking an unorthodox, new approach can help achieve the attention you desire. Here are some tips to help you pitch bookstagrammers and begin working with them:

Tips for Pitching & Working With Influencers

1. Design your pitch around how your book can be beneficial to the individual influencer and less about how they can be beneficial to you. Any salesperson will tell you that people are of course more interested in what they stand to gain, so always keep that in mind. For instance, when reaching out to a teacher influencer, emphasize why your book would be a great addition to their classroom libraries. What teacher doesn’t love free books!?

2. Be relatable. It’s basic human nature to be drawn to people who you can relate to. It further shows these influencers that you’ve taken the time to scroll through their feed to find out what they’re all about.

3. Do not expect large creators to share your book for free. Many of these influencers have huge, active audiences. Would you want to give something of value away for free? Probably not. Smaller bookstagrammers may be more willing to trade for a free book — but make sure they have a public profile.

4. Research before reaching out. If you write thrillers, it would be a waste of time to reach out to a bookstagrammer who only enjoys romance. Show them you know who they are. Social media bios are convenient, go-to places to find that kind of personal information – so utilize it!

5. Engage with the accounts you would like to work with prior to reaching out to them. Although this is not absolutely required, it is good etiquette, especially if you are hoping to get something for free.

All in all, generating awareness with influencer outreach can be extremely advantageous if approached properly. Authenticity is essential when building any type of relationship, so treat influencers more like people and less like brands.

Social Media for Authors: 5 Simple Solutions

In October I spoke at an Authors Guild event in NYC about social media for authors.  It was moderately attended at the library but there were over 100 online attendees, which I thought was impressive.  I realize that digital marketing and social media marketing are areas where many people struggle.  I have significant experience and success helping authors.  We even have a Social Media 101 Guide you can download for FREE.   In the meantime, I think there are a few things you can think about right now that can boost your progress.

5 Simple Social Media Solutions

Here are 5 simple solutions to common problems I have noticed when auditing social media accounts for authors.

  1. Use your photo as your profile picture.  The panel I was on in October was unanimous with loud head shaking (if you can imagine that) when someone asked whether they should use their book jacket as their profile photo.   No.  You may write more than one book, so what happens to the following you have built on the current one?  People feel more connected to people and tend to trust profiles that feature a person, not a product.
  2. Make a plan.  Posting here and there is not the way to gain an audience.  Algorithms like to get to know you and to find that you are reliably connecting with interested followers.  Decide how many posts you want to do on a weekly basis on specific days of the week around pre-determined time slots.  Figure out what your topics are beforehand and try to be consistent.  This is especially important on your Instagram grid.  Random posting looks messy and disjointed.  If you want to show people a great photo of you on vacation, use the Stories function.  Otherwise think about what you want to share and try to stick to the topics and themes.
  3. If you hate it don’t do it.  My colleagues agree that if you absolutely can not see yourself feeding a social platform don’t get started.  It looks worse to have an empty page than it does to have a small follower count, but an active page.
  4. Spend a few dollars.  When you are starting out try boosting or advertising a post to a target audience.  See what kind of engagement you get.  If it doesn’t work well, try a different topic or image.  If that doesn’t work consider changing your targets.  Play with the platform and spend $20 for 4 days of boosting.
  5. Play.  Yes, I am telling you to play with social media.  Try different combinations of colors, images, videos, text, themes, topics, audience targets, and bids for boosting to see what starts to stick.  People born before 1985 have a more difficult time using social media.  That’s ok.  I’ve seen otherwise completely anti-tech and anti-social people get excited about the amount of creativity they can apply to start a conversation or make an impression.

You Can’t Break Your Social Media

So writers, try testing out a few things and let your work entertain you in the process.  You can’t break anything when you start out, because you haven’t built anything yet.  Worry about mistakes when you have thousands of followers.  The only caveat is that you try to avoid the same topics you wouldn’t bring up at a party: Sex. Politics, and Religion

I would love to see the community you are creating on your social platforms.  Follow me at @mckinneymediagroup and I’ll follow you back!

For additional ideas check out our blog channel and search “social media”.  You can start with advice on timing: When Should You Start Being Active on Social Media?