What is SEO and How

I know this photo doesn’t convey a post on SEO exactly but it was the best I could do. Your brain doesn’t really care anyway. You just need there to be a picture here. So here you go.

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I’m so unqualified to talk to you about search engine optimization that even the idea of this post is hilarious. My own site is not well-polished, littered with typos, I don’t hire any professionals to do any of anything for me, no fancy logo that I hired a freelancer in Portland to design for five figures, no impressive webpage design, no paid-for templates or infrastructure, just me on my home desktop with a mug of coffee, WordPress login, and access to Google search when I need to figure out how to do something.

Yet in terms of getting my name out there and generating buzz, I think I’m doing okay. In fact, I’m doing more than okay and it’s a total hoot how well I’m doing because I have no clue how I got here. Well I had no clue. To write this post, I did some deconstruction and tried to unpack the path I took to see if I might be able to offer some useful insights on, err… SEO.

Damn, I can’t even type that sentence with a straight face. It’s as absurd as me offering expert advice on molecular engineering. Anyway, take it or leave it, here are my observations on how to optimize your SEO.

Not all hosting services are created the same

Without doing anything more, all things being equal, in Google searches for keywords, a WordPress hosted site seems to get ranked higher than other sites. So there’s that. Again, it could be an urban legend or maybe it’s correlation not causation, but either way, word on the streets is WordPress websites rank higher in Google searches and, frankly, if you run the tests for yourself, at least it appears to be true.

The non-Wordpress sites that rank higher are super duper more popular, whereas you only need to be like okay popular with a WordPress site to rank well.

Your domain name contains keywords

About your domain name. Here is where you do as I say and not do as I’ve done.

A domain name that includes a critical keyword relating to your line of work will give you greater online visibility and higher page rank. I didn’t do this, and it’s hurt my market visibility as a result.

The absolute most popular websites in tarot are sites where the domain name includes the word “tarot.” If you’re a professional astrologer and you want market visibility, then your domain name has to have the word “astrology” or “astrologer” in it. If you want business as a feng shui consultant, you’ll want to include “feng shui” in your domain name. When your primary objective is to sell something, then you had better make sure you optimize your market visibility through your chosen domain name.

I went with “benebellwen.com,” which I don’t regret because at this point my long-term road map for the work I do under that name is going to be broad in scope. Also, generally, published authors are going to go with their author names for their official websites, so for my case, considering the totality of circumstances, I’m cool with my domain name.

However, if my primary objective and top priority was to gain clientele as a tarot and astrology business, then I might have gone with a domain name or at least a tagline (you can add taglines in the “Settings” section of your site account… just search for it) including those keywords.

Consistent and frequent new postings on relevant topics

Let’s say you want to gain online visibility as a professional tarot reader. Then to make sure Google search results is recognizing you, you need to publish new blog posts on your site about tarot and do so consistently and frequently. Slowly but surely, the SEO spirits (that’s what they are to me, magical spirits) will start to pay attention and your site ranking on the topic of tarot will go up and up. That’s how you gain online visibility as a tarot reader.

One way to help yourself out is brainstorm a master list of keywords that are directly and also tangentially related to your field.

Let’s say you’re trying to promote a book on Taoist sigil crafting (gee who could that be). Don’t focus only on Taoism and sigils. Broaden your master list of keywords. Witchcraft, sorcery, Buddhism, pantheon, spell-crafting, magic, ceremonial magic, traditional Chinese medicine, Wu Xing, paganism, eclectic Wicca, just keep going. Then when you’re thinking about content to generate on your site, refer back to your master list of keywords and make sure you utilize those keywords prominently in ways that will gain you traction in all of those keyword offshoots.

Relevant blog post and page titles

The single most important thing you can do right now for your website is to make sure the titles and headings of your content pages optimize relevant keywords.

For example, if you are writing a blog post about the zodiac sign Libra, then consider just being direct and making sure “Libra” and “zodiac sign” are in the front end of the title for that blog post.

It might not be the best idea to be creative and title your post “Balancing the Scales of Life” or whatever. Yeah, that’s cute, and I like it, and it’s a lot more original than the blog title “Libra: The Zodiac Sign of blah blah blah” but guess which one is going to get more views and search hits due to better SEO for “Libra”  and “Zodiac” keyword searches.

Also, keep your strategic keywords near the front, or first 64 characters of the title. Don’t wait until the last word of your title to mention “Libra” if your blog post is all about Libra. Think of a title where “Libra” is the first word. Yes, that helps.

One paragraph that answers a popular question perfectly and concisely

Google now has this thing called Rich Answers. Say you type into the Google search engine a question, like “What is tarot?” The SEO spirits scour the internets for the best site with the seemingly best answer and plasters the paragraph that answers the question at the top of the search results.

For example:

The dictionary definition appears at the top, though it isn’t always the dictionary. Oftentimes it’s a private website that has done a stellar job answering that question in a short, succinct paragraph on a webpage that has a clear, relevant title with strategic keywords.

Also, I hear that

  • tags or list tags in the html of the post will appease the SEO spirits and get you higher up in the rankings. To optimize your chances at becoming the Rich Answer, figure out what the heck
  • tags are and use them, make sure you follow all the other tips here, in particular clear headings with relevant keywords, and also make sure you write in short paragraphs. Keep all your paragraphs short and succinct.

 

A good way to brainstorm blog posts and thus content for your website is to answer interesting questions. Try to foresee what interesting questions people in your target market might search for on the Internet and then write a blog post that answers that question. When you draft your blog post, make sure you comply with all the prerequisites for optimizing the post as a Rich Answer.

Permalinks contain relevant keywords

The URL to your blog post on how to read tarot courts should not be janedoe.com/asdf1234jk/. Make sure you’re renaming the permalink with relevant keywords. If the post is about tarot courts, it should be janedoe.com/tarot-court-cards or whatever. You get the point.

Add tags and be strategic about how you tag

Tags help get your blog posts and website noticed. Do not ignore the “Tags” section of blog posting. Add those goddamn tags with commas. Remember that master list of keywords you’ve got stashed in your work files? Utilize those keywords as tags.

Also, before you hit publish, scan the post you’ve just written to see what keywords in that post leap out at you and be sure to tag it.

However, a warning: take the Middle Path when it comes to tagging. If you overuse and abuse tagging, search engines will be the wiser and ignore you. For reals. If you flood your site with tag noise, the magical SEO spirits will ignore you. It’s got to be just right. Hence, Middle Path.

Name your image files with relevant keywords

When you upload image files to your website, be mindful of how you’re naming the image files. For example, if you upload an image file that happens to have snapshots of Alpha Beta Tarot Deck, then name that image file “Alpha Beta Tarot Deck.” Don’t leave it as “IMG_0000233” or “DSC12388.”

That way if and when someone searches for image files of that deck, they’ll come across your image, click on the link, and land on your website. And if your web design is attractive enough to captivate them, you might have just earned yourself a new fan, perhaps even a new prospective client.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that certain popular yet focused image searches will pull up images from my website near the top. That’s because I got into the practice of naming my image files based on the post topic or with relevant keywords for SEO purposes. So if you’re writing a post about reiki, it might not be a bad idea to use the keyword “reiki” in every one of your accompanying image files.

If the photo happens to showcase the Celtic Cross, include in the filename “Celtic Cross.” Photos uploaded as part of a webpage peddling your astrology reading services can be named “Book an Astrology Reading” or “Astrology Reading Services” or “Birth Chart Reading.” When I upload photos of tarot cards for my deck reviews, my naming system is “Deck Name Deck Creator Name 001,” “Deck Name Deck Creator Name 002,” “Deck Name Deck Creator Name 003,” etc. That way whether you search for the deck name or the deck creator’s name, I’m optimizing my chances that you land on one of my photos and thus click onward into my website.

It’s helpful to make the most of obscure subjects that you happen to be posting about, which might have less image filenames already archived on the search engines. That way you have a chance at being one of the top images that come up in searches. For example, if you write a post on Antoine Court de Gebelin, it might not be a bad idea to name your image files with his name, or if you’re talking about a very specific system of astrology, like Porphyry, ID that system in the filenames of the images accompanying that post. Bank on the possibility that not many folks are writing blog posts on Porphyry so that if and when someone runs a keyword search for Porphyry, your image file and thus blog post gets to be near the top.

Your site must be mobile-friendly

I don’t really know what that means in technical-speak, but a ton of my techie friends tell me this, and all the time. So according to the hierophants of the internet, aka techies, you get bonus points from the SEO spirits if your website is mobile-friendly, meaning when you go to the URL on your smartphone, it’s got a smartphone version of your site (that looks slightly different from how your site looks on your desktop computer).

If you’re using WordPress, and I swear I’m not being paid to advertise for them, but WordPress helps with all that. I don’t do anything different and I automatically get a mobile-friendly site. Just– something to look into. I’m not here to teach you how.

Be a leading authority, the go-to guy or gal on the subject

When lots of people are linking to your site or talking about your site on social media, the SEO spirits come to believe that you may be a leading authority on the subject matter as revealed by the frequent keywords generated from your site. So if those keywords hub around the word “tarot,” then maybe, just maybe, you’re a leading authority on tarot. For that, search engines will reward you with greater visibility when people run keyword searches on the topic of tarot.

Okay, but how do you achieve that objective? You write interesting articles on your site, of course. Duh. How do you write interesting articles? Here are a couple more professional pointers I’ve been taught over the years:

  • Do some good old fashioned original research and write informative, valuable articles. Think like an academic and provide content that people want to link to and cite as an authority to prove some sort of point they’re trying to make over in their own corner of the web. If you are that authority that people cite, you’re golden.
  • Write on newsworthy topics. Think like a journalist. What’s newsworthy in your field of expertise? Write engaging articles on these topics to generate public interest.
  • Tutorials and instructables are super popular. Offer informative posts on how to do something. That’s your post title. “How to [insert something click-baitey].”
  • Lists. These get lots of link love. People like reading blog posts that list stuff because it’s easy to absorb the information, it’s light, and you don’t need to exert too much brainpower to read it. Share a post that lists out your top ten favorite tarot readers. A list of your top ten favorite tarot books. A list of your top ten favorite tarot websites. A list of tarot decks, a list of tarot decks that feature cats, a list of tarot conferences, etc. People, like. lists. People link to lists. People share blog posts that are lists via their social media. The great thing about lists like “Five Most Important…” or “Top Ten…” is people will want to offer their input, declaring that they agree with you or totally disagree with your list, but either way, they’re talking about your list. SEO spirits take notice.

You gotta EAT

You will be ranked high in search engines if you’ve got (1) Expertise, (2) Authority, and (3) Trustworthiness. When you’re writing about something somewhat scholarly, support your content with links to accredited professionals or organizations. When you write first person accounts of your experiences, that’s considered authoritative. Rankings are based on your EAT, so you’ve gotta EAT.

To better understand how Google defines these EAT terms, check out the linked Guidelines below. I’ll get to that in a sec. But basically, in your “About” section, figure out how you can use strategic keywords to flag your expertise, like the word “Certified,” or “Licensed,” or “Author of” or “Award-winning author of” or “Bestselling author”… Expertise is also earned by years of experience, so if you’ve got over a decade of professional experience in the field, that’s totally worth mentioning.

Authority is what others think of you, demonstrated by who is linking to your website. The more sites that link to you as an authority source, the more you are considered an Authority in the field. So try to get lots of link love. One way to start is to start with yourself and build up your good SEO karma. Link to others and ping them so they get link love and up their authoritative value. Soon enough folks begin to return the favor and you will get link love in return.

With Trustworthiness, provide a link on your site to your terms and conditions or privacy policy. Don’t act scammy. I don’t think I need to spell it out for you, right? Intuitively we can all spot scamminess and guess what, so can the SEO spirits. So just don’t be scammy and you should be all right when it comes to the T of EAT.

Take the time to do guest posts and interviews

I can literally measure spikes in traffic to my site, booked reading requests, and course orders when I’ve done a guest post or an interview. Lots of folks who end up working with me will tell me they first heard of me from the interview I did with so-and-so or they read my guest post on so-and-so’s site. So just in terms of good old fashioned marketing, it’s good PR to do guest posts and interviews.

In terms of SEO, when your name appears on multiple sites and if those sites are popular, then your something-something some-sort-of ranking goes up. I got real technical there, I know. Stay with me. I don’t really know what happens, but it’s like internet magic. It works. Just trust it. Do guest posts and interviews. Lots of them.

User engagement is important

So, like, the SEO spirits know how long users stay on your website, the path of their clicks, and how much of your site they’re reading or engaged with. The longer visitors stay on your website and the more clicks they make to read other pages within your website, the better your site’s user engagement metrics. The better your site’s user engagement metrics, the higher you will rank in search engines.

Thus, think of ways to keep the attention of your site visitors. One page or post should contain a hyperlink to another page or post that you anticipate the site visitor will be interested in and will actually click on. For example, click here to download this free glossary of gemstone correspondences, provided to you as both DOCX and PDF files for your convenience. Or check out some budget-friendly and practical feng shui tips you can incorporate into your home and living space today.

In other words, think about how you can retain the attention of your site visitors. How can you create content on your site in a way that induces people to stay a while longer? If you want the SEO spirits to be pleased with you, then you’ll think long and hard on that question.

Tap in to incidental markets

While you’re going to key your SEO to your target market (meaning, if you’re offering psychic reading services, then you want your SEO tailored for visibility amongst those who would specifically type in keyword searches relating to psychic reading services), also think about incidental markets and how to gain visibility in those markets.

For example, I also happen to be Asian American. (Could you tell?) So I’m in a unique and somewhat naturally qualified position to appeal to the intersection of body, mind, spirit topics and the Asian American Diaspora. Tarot, astrology, reiki, numerology, meditation, and the law of attraction appear to be polyamorous bedfellows, so if you specialize in one of the above, then try to tap into the others as incidental markets.

Brainstorm a list of all your interests, communities you are a part of, and your identity. Are there ways you can incorporate those incidental aspects of who you are into your online presence so that you can capture clientele or interest from those incidental markets that other, say, psychics, or other tarot readers, or other astrologers or shamans are not able to reach?

I love cooking and showing off what I’ve cooked or baked on my social media and then using hashtags relevant to the dishes or to the food blogging community. Guess what. As a result, I’ve landed several prominent food bloggers as my clientele and even got some who previously knew nothing about tarot to become interested in tarot. The lesson here is you never know which incidental market you might be able to gain great clientele from, simply because you identify closely with the members of that market.

Are you a newbie? Then optimize with low-popularity keywords

If your website or blog is brand spanking new, then you are way late to the party for the more popular keyword searches like, um, “tarot,” or “astrology,” or “numerology.” I’m not saying don’t even try, but maybe be smart about how you try. Start by optimizing with low-popularity keyword searches to improve your site ranking for those keywords.

Let’s say you’ve started a tarot blog to go along with your professional tarot reader website. There are a couple of different angles you can go with this. Local is always loved. Maybe you want to market yourself as the premier tarot reader for XYZ city, or county. If you hedge on nobody else in your region doing the same thing, then when someone from your area searches for a local tarot reader, you’ll come up first. Another angle is to brainstorm obscure sub-topics within tarot and write loads of articles on those obscure topics (with keyword optimized titles of course) so that if and when someone happens to run a search for that obscure topic, you’ll be one of the first sites that comes up.

Another angle is to optimize in long-tail keyword searches. Long-tail keyword searches are basically longer phrases being searched rather than single words. So for example, rather than just a visitor looking for stuff online on “astrology,” the visitor is running a long-tail keyword search, like “astrology for beginners.” (If you’re a newbie, don’t use that one; that’s too popular and the market there is oversaturated already.) Maybe “astrology for poets.” Or “reading tarot for veterinarians.” Optimize in these low-popularity keywords or long-tail keywords so that you gain market exposure to those who just so happen to be searching specifically for such niche topics.

Forecast upcoming keyword trends

So you say you’re psychic, eh? Well then predict this: what will be the upcoming trends in your field? Are Kipper cards going to be the next big thing? Is there going to be a return to cartomancy with poker playing cards? Is everyone in the astrology world going to suddenly move on over to sidereal? See if you can predict upcoming keyword trends and get ahead of the curve by publishing contents on that subject matter first. Then when the trend finally peaks, people searching keywords for that trend will arrive at your website first.

Read the Guidelines

If you’re super serious about mastering SEO for your website so you can gain exposure and be one of the cool kids on the Internet… and you’ve got time to do some intense reading, then check out Google’s published user content guidelines for search engine optimization and how they do their site rankings. It is a 160-page PDF published by Google in March of 2017 and as of this posting, is Google’s latest edition of its Guidelines. Read carefully and formulate your SEO strategy around what you’ve read.

Bonus Topic: Social media hashtags

Not SEO related directly, but still worth a mention. #tarotreadersofinstagram #Librasforlife #spiritualseeker

No, but seriously. First, if you’re looking to do business as a professional services provider in the spirituality consulting industry, then you better get yourself some social media accounts, like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. If you’ve got time to do some more reading on this blog, check out “9 Easy Ways to Increase Publicity for Your Professional Tarot Services” and “Intermediate Publicity Tips for the Tarot Professional: Your Platform.”

Instagram hashtags need to be one of your BFFs. I can’t tell you how many people who have nothing to do with the tarot world happened to click on a hashtag I used (like #newenglandclamchowder, I kid you not, true story) on a photo I posted to my Instagram account who just happened to also be into tarot and astrology who then became a subscribed reader of my blog and has booked several tarot and astrology reading services from me. That’s right. New England clam chowder. You never know. So hashtag it.

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Being mindful of SEO is worth your while. When your site content gains more public exposure, you widen the net you can cast over your target market, which translates directly into more sales for the services or goods you’re offering. Quality work matters, but it isn’t enough, especially if you’re an e-commerce focused spiritual entrepreneur. Now armed with the foregoing checklist, audit your own website to see how you stack up and what you can do to improve your SEO. I can’t stress it enough: writing out your SEO strategic plan and then proactively implementing it will get you the exposure you’ve been secretly pining for.

7 thoughts on “What is SEO and How

  1. What an amazing thought provoking and inspiring article- thank you.
    You have helped me make a few decisions about my planning and I appreciate the effort and time you have put into this.
    I wish you much success Rosina

    Like

  2. Fabulous article, Benebell! Interesting to see the incidental market you are picking up with your food posts. Makes me think my nature and travel photos might help me pick up clients/readers, too! Thank you for the tips!

    Like

  3. Hi Benbell! Wonderful SEO post from someone who thinks she doesn’t know what she’s doing! 🙂

    Lots of good advice here. I’m not so sure if Google “likes” WordPress or not, but I am sure that Google doesn’t like anything better than Blogger. If you put up a WP site with 400 posts, and a Blogger site with 4 posts, that anemic Blogger site will still rank higher than your WP site. (you know that Google owns Blogger, right? 😛

    Thanks Benbell!

    Liked by 1 person

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