What Is SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?

What is SEO? Here are the basics of learning search engine optimization.

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What Is SEO

What Is SEO?

When I think about SEO, what always pops into my head is a joke by the awesome stand-up comic Pete Holmes. He has a joke about how the internet has taken away the longing for knowledge. Holmes uses an example of someone not knowing Tom Petty’s hometown.

Before the internet, you had to read and talk to people until you found the answer. The search for the answer was a much longer process. Nowadays all we have to do is spend less than a minute on our smartphones.

Holmes makes a great point here. This is how we regularly seek knowledge. We have a question, we Google it, and we are on our way.

The search engine results pages (SERPs) are prioritizing what information we gain. Luckily, search engines are great at showing us relevant information (for the most part).

Since I founded Effective Nerd, I have had the chance to work with many indie creators and artists. They are all extremely talented and creative. These creators are doing their best to build their community, improve their craft, and do awesome work.

Indie creators are great when it comes to building communities on social media and engaging with their audience. However, I have also noticed that many creators have a lack of focus when it comes to running their websites.

They finish their projects and use their website as a kind of bulletin board for their products and services. While this is the intended purpose of most websites, there is a lot more to it than that.

For example, I have interviewed almost 100 indie creators. There have been many times where I Google the creator and my interview has better ranking factors than their website.

This shouldn’t be happening. You should be the first listing for your name and project. As much as I love telling people about my favorite creators, I want them to go to your website before they check out Effective Nerd.

Today I want to discuss basic SEO strategies that any indie creator can implement on their website. I assure you that any indie creator that implements these strategies will see an increase in people viewing their work. I want indie creators to be as successful as possible, and a big part of online success is running an excellent website.

RELATED: Beginner’s Guide To SEO

What Does SEO Stand For?

SEO is short for “Search Engine Optimization”. The term is used to describe how websites are interpreted by search engines. Services such as Google and Bing are constantly scanning webpages on the internet and ranking them based on their pieces of content. These are the results you see when you use a search engine.

For example, say you search for “Horror Movie Reviews”. Google is going to give you the websites that best fit that search description, such as Bloody Disgusting or Horror News. You won’t get results for unrelated websites, such as websites about gardening or cooking.

This is why we love search engines so much. We search for something we need, and the results deliver. The search engine algorithm is set up in a way to give you websites with the most valuable and high-quality content.

Having a good SEO strategy for your website will help you show up in more search results. More search results mean that more people are going to see your awesome artwork and great content. As an indie creator, it is very important that we are getting as many eyes in front of our work as possible.

I would like to add here that SEO is not about “tricking the algorithm”. These are not shady practices used to fool search engines. In fact, most SEO strategies are based around providing the best user experience on your website.

This is a win-win for indie creators. People visiting your website are having a great time, and search engines will help you find new fans.

Big search engines, such as Google, are smart. They know if you are trying to trick them. SEO strategies work to highlight websites that are already awesome.

It is very difficult to get good Google rankings on bad content. Even when dealing with computerized algorithms, providing value and being genuine is still extremely important.

RELATED: Having A ‘Collaboration Over Competition’ Mindset

Why SEO is Important for Indie Creators

Let’s say Jane Smith is an artist. She has a basic website that shows off her artwork. Other than that, the site has small About and Contact pages.

The website serves its purpose. People who go there can see Jane’s art and gather information about how to make a purchase.

How many Google search phrases do you think include Jane’s website?

She most likely will only show up in the top ten for searches like “Jane Smith art” or “Jane Smith artwork”. Now, think about who would type these phrases into Google. In order to search “Jane Smith art”, you already have to know that there is a person named Jane Smith and that they make artwork. This keyword will most likely only be used by the creator’s friends, family, and current audience.

Jane is missing out on people looking for artwork that aren’t already familiar with her. Though her website functions properly, it is not using its full power to show people her work. Because of this, Jane’s art career is not progressing as fast as it should be.

I see this story a lot with indie creators, including myself. We pour ourselves into making great work. We make a website and put our work out there for the world.

The only people that see it are a portion of the friends we have on social media. We have aspirations to turn our creativity into a living but are having trouble getting more than a few people to look at it.

This is why I think it is important for indie creators to have at least a basic strategy for both SEO and running their website. Making sure that your website is in tip-top shape will help you increase your reach and find new people who will love your work. Your biggest fans are out there. They just haven’t found you yet.

What Is SEO Search Engine Optimization

How Does SEO Work?

Search engines periodically send out web crawlers to add pages to their index. These web crawlers look at every factor of your website. They use this information to figure out where your web pages fit into the grand scheme of the internet.

For example, say you make a blog post about your favorite paper for drawing with color pencils. The web crawler scans this post, understands that it is about art supplies, and files you among the other websites about art supplies.

Next, a person is curious about making art with colored pencils. They search Google for “supplies for colored pencil art”. Your website does not show up until the 65th result. Your blog post is about colored pencil supplies, but only paper.

However, let’s say another person is specifically looking for paper. They search Google for “best paper for colored pencils”. There you are in the 5th search result. This person sees the link to your site, clicks it, and now you have a new friend.

Now, being in the 5th search result is great. A lot of people will see your page. However, it would be better to be in one of the top three results for your blog post. This is where SEO comes into play.

You go back into your blog post and make a few changes. You make sure that your images are the correct size and write an additional paragraph about your second favorite paper for colored pencils. These changes don’t change the hard work you did on the article, but it does tighten things up a bit.

A few days later, the web crawlers scan your site again. They see that you made changes that will improve the experience of your viewers. The pages previously in the 3rd and 4th slot are not as good as your new and improved blog post.

Your page starts showing up in the 3rd organic search results for “best paper for colored pencils”. This article is getting twice as many viewers as it was before.

Please note, this is a very simple view of search engine optimization. SEO can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be. It really is about implementing the best practices that make your website great.

While there are many advanced strategies for site and page SEO, I am just focusing on the basics in this article. Each one of these topics can have entire books written about them. I want to give you a general overview of these concepts.

Factors That Influence SEO

Here are a few of the factors that are known to influence SEO. This is not a comprehensive list, as search engine algorithms are complex and have many unknown variables.

  • Internal Linking
  • External Linking
  • Page Speed
  • Title Tags
  • Meta Tags/Meta Descriptions
  • Alt Tags
  • Page Title
  • Keyword Optimization/Keyword Research
  • Site Readability

For more information on these topics, and how to increase traffic to your website, check out my beginners guide to SEO.

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