Interview with C.C. Hart, author, artist, and neurodiversity advocate by author, editor and lifetime learner Stacey Dennick.
SD: What’s your most important take way from the five-week class on SEO you recently took at Stanford?
C.C. Hart: You don’t have to be a computer expert, or hire one, to learn how to launch an SEO program for your website. It wasn’t as technically difficult as I thought it would be. It is challenging. It’s not a simple undertaking, but I was surprised that someone like me, who I consider to have modest technology skills, was able to make changes to my website where I’ve been able to see improvements. One of the metrics I’ve put in place, when someone searches for me using the search term “C.C. Hart” I went from occupying four of the first results on Google, to now, I now occupy eight of them. It’s nice to see SEO in action; to see how it has improved my visibility.
SD: What are the simplest things web designers can do to optimize SEO?
C.C. Hart: Sit down and figure out what key words you want to be known for. That’s one of the first things I suggest anyone do. What do you want to be known for? Imagine that Stacey Dennick is building a website “Cat Lover Stacey.” Think about what people are going to search for that would bring them to your page. Are you offering health tips for cat owners? Are you writing about which pet insurance seems to be the best? Are you putting together a photo blog of cute pets?
In my case, I really want to be known as a neurodiversity advocate. So I wrote down a series of key words that have to do with neurodiversity: neurodiverse, neurodivergent, neurodiversity, ADHD, autism, synesthesia, Tourette—things that I talk about and things I want to be known for. Then, when you have those awesome keywords, the next simple thing to do is to make sure they are in your content on your homepage, and on your other various pages. Not so much that it will drive your readers crazy, but enough that Google’s crawlers will pick up on those words.
Title tags should also have the keywords that you want to be known for. With WordPress, I can go in to customization for my theme, find the title and title tags. I didn’t used to have a title tag. After I added my tag line, using all of my keywords, “author, artist, and neurodiversity advocate reframing synesthesia, ADHD, Autism, and other neurodiverse traits” I noticed my site ranking improving. Headers and tags made a big difference.
The tagline under the site identity is very important. You get 60 characters for that tagline. It’s interesting to see how companies use that space. For example, Pirelli Tires – Their slogan is “Pirelli tires go the extra mile” but they don’t use that for their website tagline. What they use is “Find the best fit for your car.” Another good example is Gillette razors. Their marketing tagline is “The best a man can get” but their website tag is “Men’s razors and shaving products.” Because they want to sell you something.
SD: Yes, and people are not going to search for “The best a man can get” when they want a razor.
C.C. Hart: Exactly! Your tagline is very valuable web real estate. You really want to take advantage of it for keywords. H1 headers too.
Organize your website so it speaks Google, and speaks to people.C.C. Hart
Another thing that Google really looks for, you need to have a website that speaks Google as much as it speaks to people. You need to organize your content in ways that Google will reward you by placing you on the first page when someone types in one of your keywords. Take advantage of your footer space. Google also rewards grammatically correct content. They also reward fresh content. Keep creating content on your site. Blog posts, whatever material you think your audience engages with, keep it fresh, keep it updated.
SD: What if you don’t have a narrow niche? Do you need to find one?
C.C. Hart: Yes, I recommend that you find a way to narrow your audience with keywords. And you can change your tagline if your focus changes. It’s okay to change your tagline, but not your site name.
SD: What’s the best way to learn how to understand the SEO data?
C.C. Hart: Go to jm-seo.org. It’s the website for JM Internet Group, run by my instructor at Stanford, Jason McDonald. He gives away free stuff, book excerpts, lots of information. He also has YouTube videos. I highly recommend taking his class.
Another thing you can do is to view/download the SEO guide from Google. Keep in mind that Google really wants to sell you ads, and to make you think you have to have an ad to launch SEO, and that’s not really the truth.
SD: As the web evolves, do the ways that SEO is determined change?
C.C. Hart: They do. Google is kinda sneaky. They make changes to their algorithm all the time. They change quite a bit. Sites are penalized for not having a mobile-friendly design. Their Penguin algorithm is an attack on low quality links. Panda is an attack on poor quality content.
Sites with many quality sites linking to them are rewarded.
SD: How can developers tell if their SEO is optimized?
C.C. Hart: Go to SEO profiler, https://www.seoprofiler.com. You have to create an account, but it’s free. You can have it analyze your website and give you some ideas of where you stand. For instance, backlinks. Are there are other reputable companies that link to your site? That’s one of the things that Google pays attention to.
Take a look the title and the title tag. Make sure your content is keyword rich. You also need to have internal links, moving the viewer towards a sale or other desired action. Link bait is valuable– offering something for free on your website, to get people to follow you, or to sign up for your mailing list.
SD: Thank you so much CC, this is such valuable info!
Stacey Dennick is a writer and editor specializing in helping writers craft their memoirs. She teaches several no-fee classes through Santa Rosa Junior College’s OAP program. Her own writing ranges from children’s stories, to non-fiction, with a playful sense of humor.
For more information about SEO, check out this guide by Moz.