One Dutch Editor, One Nomad Writer

All the SEO basics writers will ever need

All the SEO basics writers will ever need

Welcome to a new blog filled with information and SEO basics. That acronym means Search Engine Optimization and helps you hit the top Google rankings for anyone looking for what you have to offer. Any writer looking to set up their website or blog will need to figure out SEO basics at one point or another. As a copywriter these basics come natural to me, but for other writers who mean to grow their audience, it can be quite the maze.

In this blog, we’ll pass by all the major terms and tips and tricks to make sure your readers know where to find you. From a website without a blog to a YouTube channel, these SEO basics are what you need to gain more followers, subscribers, and anything in between. 

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SEO basics tip #1: use keyphrases

The thing Google loves most is to be right. It rewards websites that provide the information people are looking for with a higher ranking, and thus more views, and thus a higher ranking, and so on. Generally speaking, the top 3 links on a search page get about 95% of the non-ad clicks, so hitting the top 3 is essential. Using keyphrases is the most important step to improving your SEO basics.

The keyphrase should be connected to the main theme of the blog. It’s both the subject of the blog and the word(s) people Google for to find your content. So if you write a blog about worldbuilding, “worldbuilding” should be your keyphrase. But if you make the topic too broad, people won’t find what they are looking for – leading to a penalty from Google. If you make it too specific or use the wrong keyphrase, people won’t find you or the information you want to share. 

The YOAST plug-in for WordPress websites shows us how to fill in the keyphrase used for our last blog. YOAST is the recommended SEO-tool to use for bloggers and website creators that admittedly don’t know what they’re doing otherwise.

How to find the perfect SEO words

What SEO does is communicate to Google about what information is shared on the page. 

Generally speaking, you should use a common term as your keyphrase that appeals to a wide audience. However, this rule of thumb can get you into trouble, as well. What if you want to write two blogs about worldbuilding? Or several? For example, there’s a vast difference between blogs about geographical building blocks and constructing a clothing style for common folk from scratch. In that case, we should focus on the specific subject, like clothing style. If you’re not sure what phrasing to use to be as specific as you can be, I highly recommend playing around with Google Trends. For our blog, we focus on the US market as our readers will look for US sources when they write English.

Graphs like the above set apart Worldbuilding in blue, ‘creating world map’ in red and ‘clothing style’ in yellow. More stats about these exact queries are here.

How to use tags

Alongside keyphrases, we can use ‘tags’ that apply to the writing. Those are like tiny keyphrases that tell Google what people can find on the page. So if we add the tag ‘how to’, we can reach a broader audience when people search for ‘how to start worldbuilding’. With tags, it’s less important to add the words “how to” into your text, but it doesn’t hurt, either.

When you pick relevant tags, stick to the words people will commonly search for. For example, if you write about creating a clothing style as part of worldbuilding as part of a larger series on worldbuilding, your keyphrase would be ‘clothing style’, with added tags such as ‘fantasy’, ‘worldbuilding’, and ‘how to create’. Don’t worry about ways to spell words, pluralize them, or misspell them. Google’s smart enough to count those toward your search results.

Penalties from Google

Google penalizes over usage of tags and keyphrases. Once up a time, bloggers added the keyphrase in white text at the bottom of their page. Readers couldn’t see the keyphrase repeated over and over, but Google thought the writer used the words in the blog a lot, and raised the blog’s priority in search results accordingly. Once Google caught on, though, it adjusted its algorithm and began to penalize writers for overusing their keyphrase. So here too, you need to find a balance. Generally, a ratio of 0.5%–3% of the words should be your keyphrase. 

Snippets, summaries, and descriptions

Building onto the worldbuilding keyphrase, let’s take a closer look as to how the blog or YouTube description looks like. After all, a YouTube description holds the same function as a snippet or summary.

When writing your snippet or description, it’s important to keep in mind who your audience is. Who do you want to reach? And what words will they likely use to find your content?

To give an example, someone who is looking for specific information on plate tectonics won’t be satisfied with a blog about developing clothing styles, and vice versa. On the other hand, a writer that’s looking for input on worldbuilding for beginners won’t be able to use that in-depth knowledge to their full advantage, yet.

Alexa Donne, one of my personal YouTube writing heroes, uses SEO in her “snippet” for YouTube; she repeats ‘save the cat’ and ‘story plot beats’ as a tag and ‘story beats’ as a keyphrase for her summary / snippet to attract an audience through Google.

How to use this in practice

Every blog has a title, a snippet (aka a summary below the video), a slug, and headings. Below, we can see the slug, which is what comes after redpenpalsblog.com>(slug). The title follows below, before the separator (-). What comes after fills out the title and can be used to captivate the audience. Typically, you have 60 characters including spaces to make the most of that title.

This image shows how to use the keyphrase in the snippet and how it will look if we post this blog about plate tectonics. The slug can be up to 60 characters and the snippet cuts off at 150. If you were to add in more, Google will break off the title and description.

As for the headings, it’s important that the keyphrase is used in the first heading, if possible the first two paragraphs, and definitely in the first paragraph. This tells Google, ‘Hey, this is what the people want when they search this term, we’re awesome. Support more of our content!’

Beyond the SEO basics

Some other requirements do not individually create as much of an influence, but they can add up. Google loves readability and wants information to be available to all people who use their services. This is one of the many reasons that writing for a starter’s audience pays off so well with regard to views and attention you get from this search giant.

Keyphrase density

Google, of course, won’t be fooled so easily. It needs confirmation that you’re not blasting on about developing a clothing style when the keyphrase is set to tectonic plates. So Google sets their crawlers (= web spiders that collect data for Google) to search for a ratio of 0.5%–3% in the keyphrase in the text. The free YOAST seo plug-in provides you with all the help you’ll need. The trick to writing SEO-proof texts is to use the keyphrase enough to convince Google that we’re on-topic. 

Outbound links

Outbound links are mainly an issue of connectivity. Google loves to expand on its current knowledge, and building a network is all about creating new connections. Linking to other sources outside our site is a great way to improve our SEO score. We always link to our personal Twitter pages in the Call to Action paragraph as the bottom, and I shamelessly plug my own website here because of this — 50+ links to a site, anywhere on the internet, leads to a SEO multiplier bonus of sorts. 

Inbound links

Any website benefits from inbound links. In a way, it’s a shameless plugging of your own website onto the rest of the vast network that is the Internet. In the case of this website, whenever possible, we refer readers to our other blogs to increase the number of links. As owners of the site it’s paramount that we add only useful and relevant inbound links to our other blogs, so we can create an in-house network that shares networks and knowledge, just like Google sets out to do on a larger scale. 

Text length and other technicalities

Google is a stickler for well-written content. It hates walls of text, so make sure to break up long paragraphs with subheadings when you reach that point. A line break won’t cut it; per paragraph, Google considers 150 words as the max, and per heading, it allows up to 300 words before it docks you points for being too densely written.

Google also hates passive voice. At 30% of sentences in passive voice, the plug-in starts to balk about readability scores, and the same applies for transition words. Google has a very weird notion of what are and aren’t transition words, but still it wants at least 30% of the sentences to start with one.

So, the way to deal with that is to write as if you’re taking the reader by the hand. We noticed that we get more views and likes on Twitter when we write for a newbie audience and explain or link to sites that support our blog.

Closing remarks

So how do we use this massive heap of information to our advantage? As I’m fond of doing, here is a handy checklist that you can walk through as you think about your content.

  1. What will the person looking for your information search for? (What is their customer story?) 
  2. What wording is most popular?
  3. Pick your keyphrase accordingly.

This all sounds like a lot, but in truth most of this will come naturally as you write. When you start the draft based on the keyphrase, that’s half the battle. The main tips here are to know what you write about (keyphrase) and to repeat that throughout the technical aspects of your blog. With these SEO basics covered, you should see a marked improvement in your readership!

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