Before You Worry About “SEO”, Build Alliances – Here’s How

Hey everyone, it’s Kernook here. I’ve spoken about readability before, and discussed a few thoughts about numbered review scores for and how they can hinder the process. It’s about time to dive into big buzz words.

To be clear though, fancy nonsense like “SEO” and “niches” sound nice. However, they don’t mean a damn thing if you can’t write to be understood.

Go here, learn about readability first.

Assuming you’ve done that, let’s move on. By now I’m going to assume that you’ve got a firm command of the written word. Failing that, at least you know what REI means, and how it should be used. Now, it is time to talk about SEO, or “search engine optimization”, and why newbies need to go slow with it.

In general, big bloggers tell you to test out all kinds of “SEO” concepts on your own. They give you vague hints, but that’s about it. Why do they do this? Well, there’s two main reasons:

  1. Optimizing content for the search engines dynamically changes constantly. We never quite know when the next shift will occur.
  2. They’ve built up strong habits and know how to play the optimization game in the first place.

Guides about SEO that you see on the top page are “updated”, and I use that term very loosely on a regular basis. Yet, to attract the most readers they need to be intentionally vague. It’s kind of like the “catch all” horoscopes you find online. It can apply to anyone… and it’s vague enough to be relevant.

Even when they leave the post alone for a year by accident, that doesn’t matter. As long as they remain on top and you’re the fool clicking on it, they benefit from that click, even when you don’t.

A distant, yet often true third detail is that they don’t want the competition. Here’s the deal, if more bloggers know how to battle against the search engines, that means there are more bloggers they have to compete against.

When people complain that blogging tends to be an over-saturated market, we’re not joking. I don’t care about the competition. In my eyes, if more anime and gaming fans get into blogging, the more we can discuss these rich and diverse forms of media. If you want to be a blogger that’s fine with me.

That being said, I’m going to assume you have absolutely no idea what the major aspects of “SEO” happen to be, or how they’re used. This guide truly is intended for absolute beginners, so let’s dive into this thing.

So, What is SEO?

The acronym stands for Search Engine Optimization. This is a big stupid “buzz phrase” that confounds some of us, and pisses off a vast majority of others. However, it also encapsulates the core foundations required to be noticed on the internet. This includes things like “keywords” that drive traffic to your website.

To put this simply; if you’re optimized in the search engines, that means the little crawlers searching the web for content will like you. You want them to like you. If they do like you, then you’ll trend towards the top pages of search engines.

We focus so heavily on that detail because bloggers want eyes on their work, and they want eyes quickly.

That is the first mistake every blogger makes… battling the search engines fails to look at blogging from a more cohesive standard. You do need to do that, it’s true, but at first you need to start slow.

The simplest thing you can do is use social media. I assume you know what social media is; use it. Post up links when you have them, chat a little, chill out a little. If you’ve got buddies, have them share it on their timelines or re-tweet that link out.

Share your stuff on Reddit too. A lot of bloggers tell you not to do this, but again if you’re small, you want to get your links out there. Just don’t be a jerk about it… there are plenty of places you can toss up a link or two daily without being offensive. r/TellThePeople is a good place to start, and r/Promote is another one that’s much larger. That second one is also pretty full of spam, though.

I do have readers that come over from Reddit so I do know this tactic works. You’ll notice I write blog posts about RWBY, and you can be sure that I share those posts in the Reddit communities that allow me to do so. The key thing is to be social in the wider communities you’re part of.

This is part of good SEO practices, and early on that is what you need to bank on. Chances are good that your keywords aren’t perfected yet and you may not have completely discovered yourself as a blogger.

For the absolute novice, SEO will mean one thing, getting your name out there, and that’s it.

Don’t just optimize for Google!

Stop doing that. Bad blogger, no cookie. Do you want to know why you’re struggling to get thirty or so hits a day? Everyone and their mother optimizes for Google. The fact is, there are several search engines out there. They don’t all work in exactly the same way. Some pick up keywords differently, others rate a website and its authority on the internet more loosely.

Bing, Baidu, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo…

Those are all search engines that can and will display your content on the top page. If you know how they work, you’ll get eyes on your site. That list was just off the top of my head. There are plenty more where that came from. If you want to get eyes on your work, don’t follow the mindless masses… play around and find the engine that works best for you.

You need to understand something. If you’re only optimizing all of your content for one engine (Google), you’re missing out on the possibility of what other smaller engines can offer. Everyone goes for Google, that’s the big one.

If you’re a little-known blogger, aim for the top of a lesser used engine, because you’ll just have an easier time. Learn about each of them. They’re not all mindless Google clones, don’t pretend they are. People use Google as a baseline, but if you find that you struggle to hit a top page in a Google search, check around.

Bing or DuckDuckGo might be easier for you… and here’s the thing, the more traffic you get, the more Google’s little crawlers will like you more by default…

No, sadly I’m not joking.

That’s what makes Google the dominant search engine for so many people. It truly is the “catch-all” of searching… and that also makes it a complete and total pain in the ass. If you are getting frustrated trying to hit the top page in google, you’re not alone. That’s just the nature of the beast.

If you optimize for the others, Google will eventually pick you up, and as you learn that process, you’ll learn how to win the Google search too. You do have to be willing to play around with your keywords a little bit early on. The pros aren’t lying, that’s a cold, hard fact.

Don’t sweat it, though.

Depending on your content, the other engines may be better off for you anyway. You’ve got to understand that the pros you’re battling are SEO masters, and they play for keeps. They may also have a team or a network they partner up with.

They know how to play more than one of these systems.

Find out what your keywords are, and how easy it is to get them to trigger in the search results. Then play around with that. The truth is, search engine optimization is very complex and ever-changing, but if you know the bare minimum you can get by.

The Foremost Rule: Community

SEO helps you to get readers… but, you know, there’s other ways to do this. Frankly, these habits have fallen out of practice. I feel it is because of pure laziness.

We’re so focused on engines, we forget what other details help us to be “searchable”. I have two words for you; little and local.

Friends matter. Make them. Point blank, just make them. Building your community ensures readers come back. That’s always going to help you kick ass in the SEO sphere. Before you worry about search engines that we can’t completely predict, worry about what you can predict.

Invest time into your communities, both local and online. If you’re unknown, don’t hit the big places expecting success right away. Go to the small ones first, make a few friends, get a small following. That should be your first step. When you start to advertise your brand, go to the places where people already know you.

If you’re silent and anti-social, you’ve dropped the ball and you need to get started. Backlinking begets backlinking. References earn references. Ping-backs get you ping-backs.

Catch my drift yet?

You want your niche community talking. You want them talking both to you and about you in a positive and pleasant way. I don’t just mean online either. Hit your local community too.

Get yourself a halfway decent printer and use it.

Get yourself a business card template or just print out a series of simple rectangles on printer paper if you have to. Put the name of your website and a QR code on them. Cut them out and pass them around in conversation.

Ask your friends if they’d be willing to stick one in the corner of their car window. You do the same. Also ask to put a few of them in locations where your target audience likes to hang out. Before you put any hard money on getting clicks online, go get them yourself offline.

Some parks have bulletin boards, community centers have them too. Ask around, stick one up.

If you’re a food blogger, write a great blog review of a few small “mom and pop” places you frequent. After you’ve posted it, print that baby out. You’ll offer that review to the restaurant manager as a gift. Compliment the staff. If you’ve done your job right, they’ll take the free promotion.

Anime fan? Gamer? Collector? Do the same thing for shops and hobby places in your area. Going to a convention? Chat in lines, bring up a blog post you’ve done when it suits the conversation.

Write reviews on places you frequent. Give those reviews to the owners. Build that reputation. Small and local places want true and honest advertising. They love the shout-outs.

If they have a website and you’ve befriended the owner, go a step further. Ask the owner if they’ll link your review on their website. That’s a direct reference for them, and possible traffic for you.

Trust me, this works. If you’ve written an awesome review for them, they’ll hang it on their window because they WANT that promotion. Don’t ask for anything in return, just be kind and graceful.

Hint: A lot of people still like to read and hear about things they have a passion for. Confirmation Bias is a real thing in this world, and affirming the enjoyment of a particular topic puts you in good standing if you’re honest about it.

The point is, great word-of-mouth begets great word-of-mouth. That’s always going to be your strongest way to advertise. If people talk about you, they pass you around. You get noticed and you get known.

With the advancement of QR codes, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be doing this… bypass the search engines when you can, and in your local communities that isn’t too difficult.

If people search for your site directly, this will raise your SEO rankings because they are looking for your site, and that tells the engine you must be important. You want that, you need that, and it promises some real traffic, made by real people.

If you’re not doing this, you’re losing views and visitors from your target demographic and your local communities. Take an afternoon, pound the pavement and see what you can do.

Blog Together!

I shouldn’t have to say this last one, but talk shop with other bloggers. Leaving comments and socializing helps, sure enough… but take it a step further. Move outside of your core niche just a little bit.

Yes, that’s unconventional advice. Hear me out before you write me off.

You want to be innovative, and that means doing what other people aren’t. Form a small blogging circle that gets together once a month to share ideas and collaborate on loose-fitting subjects. It doesn’t matter what kind of blogger you are for these circles. Tangential posts can be a good thing, and if you pick the right topic everyone can benefit.

To use an example, pick a topic… say food. Now let’s say you’ve got three bloggers. Assume this group contains a media fan, a bush craft expert and a historian. Those are three vastly different types of writers, but food is a topic they can all talk about. The subject is loose enough for each of them to work with.

The media fan can talk about a cooking show, game or movie. The bush craft expert can discuss something they’ve built to help them make a meal. The historian can talk about food from a set time period.

Make sure all your posts are set to go out on a chosen day across your websites. Link to each other, give a shout out. There you go, you’ve got yourself a tangential collaboration, and the chance to reach out to a group of readers who might not have found out about you any other way.

This is why I say your niche doesn’t matter for your blogging circle, only that you chose an inclusive topic. You should be willing and able to step out of your core niche a little bit. Work with bloggers who are unlike yourself. That way, you’re not in direct competition for readers.

Making it a monthly thing means you’ll have your name brought up regularly. The more that you’re brought up in a positive way, the better it is for you. Allow your collaborations to be a fluid situation and don’t try to control the creative space too heavily.

It can be a very good time to write about topics together, and by the end you’ll have friends who understand the struggles of being a blogger too.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, when you think of SEO, you shouldn’t only be thinking about search engines as your only tool. I hope I’ve proven conclusively “SEO” is by its very name a misnomer. Optimizing your search results needs to be far more fluid than mass media guides would have you believe.

Let’s think about it this way: Search Engine Optimization… how do you get more optimized than people actually searching for your blog directly?

The answer is, you don’t.

It isn’t just about the little search crawlers that tell engines to like you. It’s about networking with others and thinking out of the box.

At the end of the day, easy line-of sight access to your work, QR codes, and tangential posts with those outside of your sphere will give you the edge you need.Those are factors you can predict.

You can continue to work with them, even when the engines themselves remain a mystery.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

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