2011 is the year of the Rabbit. That rabbit is DYNAMITE! Okay, so I had to find a way to make a rabbit seem badass, and that gave me an opportunity to use a gratuitous Monty Python reference. Making a rabbit seem hard core is not all that easy, you know. I want you guys fired up for 2011. 2010 was the Year of the Tiger. Easy. Then I looked up 2011. Year of the Rabbit? Great.
We dare not risk another frontal assault… ha ha ha ha ha. I’ll stop :D. For those of you who have no clue what I am talking about, here is a clip. You aren’t a true writer until you quote Monty Python way more than is socially acceptable. All right, back to business…
Welcome to WANA Wednesday, based off my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. This is the day I dedicate to making your social media experience more enjoyable and productive. Today we are going to discuss search engine optimization (SEO). I want you guys tearing up the search engines Killer Bunny-style. Don’t panic. I am all about making this fun. And yes, technically I am making this Blogging Part III. Why? Because if you don’t understand how search engines work, no one will FIND you–okay the site that sells Zanex and cheap Prada purses will find you. But we want readers to be able top locate all this lovely content that you guys are going to be posting this coming year.
Most of you following this series understand that you need to be blogging. That’s great! But one of the big problems I notice among writers is there is a chronic failure to understand how search engines work and how to use them in our favor. What good is posting content if no one can find it, right?
What I am going to teach you today is going to help you rise even more above the masses of competition all clamoring for the public’s attention and money. Unless you happen to already be a household name, your social media platform is more critical now than ever.
As a debut fiction author you will be competing against counterparts who have a solid social media presence and a blog following. Are you prepared? If not, the odds are not in your favor. According to the BEA, 93% of novels sell less than 1000 copies. A solid social media platform can make all the difference. In earlier blogs, we have discussed using our name as a brand. Anything else will cripple a platform and leave an author stressed out and spread too thinly. Our goal is to get our names to do the heavy lifting (sales) so we have time to write.
So why is a name so important?
Today we are going to have a quick lesson on how search engines work, because there is no point in blogging regularly if you don’t gain a large, committed following. By the end of this lesson, I am sure it will be much clearer why your name is so critical.
Think of search engines like a codependent personal genie bent on making you happy. Meet Google the Codependent Genie. Anything you desire is his will to supply. Google, your personal genie, will rush out and find whatever you require because he wants you to be happy and not have to wait.
The Internet is like one giant master closet full of everyone’s “stuff.” Now some people are like my grandmother and everything is neatly labeled, categorized and organized. Our personal genie can rush into the closet, look at the side of the “box” and know exactly what is inside. Yet, other folks on the Internet are more like my mother (okay, me) and they have all kinds of boxes that would have been labeled “Miscellaneous” if only we could have found the box with the Sharpie markers. So either there is no label or there is one giant vague label “My Crap” or “Writing.”
So let’s slip into the shoes of our poor little codependent genie, Google.
Oh, my little Google, you are powerful indeed. Here’s my wish…
(You type) How do I write a prologue for a novel?
What your codependent search-engine genie SEES is…
How do I write a prologue for a novel?
So our little genie knows you get impatient and begin smacking buttons on your keyboard if you have to wait more than three seconds. He also knows he has less than a second and a half before his mistress gets testy. And he also also knows that if he takes too long or doesn’t return with quality stuff, that his beloved mistress might decide to use another codependent genie (Bing, Ask, Yahoo) and leave him alone in cyberspace with no one to serve. If enough mistresses do this, he knows eventually he will fade away and die and be banished to the realm of AOL.
Our genie, Google, is very motivated.
So as Google the Codependent Genie whizzes into this giant storage closet known as the Internet, he knows that his fastest approach and the one more likely to return quality goods is that he needs to look at the sides of the boxes (think Internet files). He glances at the labels and brings back the files that have been precisely labeled first.
These “labels” are known as tags. Tags are metadata, which means, “data about data.”
When you add tags to your blogs, you make it easy for other people’s codependent genies to go to your stuff first. The genie will look to the labels first. Only after he has located the “boxes” with labels will he then take the effort to look inside the box for what his mistress has requested.
How do I write a prologue for a novel?
Our genie will look for articles and blogs with those three words—write, prologue, novel—in the tags first, and only after that will our little friend sift through the body of the material for those words.
Tagged items will always be at the top of a search and on the first page. This will be important for later when we continue our lessons about blogging. Who among you go to the second page of a search unless you just absolutely have to? Tagging makes the difference between being first on the page versus being relegated to Internet Limbo on page 4.
Tags are also critical to defining you as an author (your brand), much like the boxes in our closets define us as people. If you went into my closet and noticed stacks of boxes labeled, guns, Guns and Ammo Magazines, ammunition, survival manuals, camouflage, snares, rain gear, this would form an impression.
Similarly if you went in my closet and found crochet, quilting, cross stich patterns, thread, fabric, sewing, batting, needles sewing machine parts, you would also form an impression.
So what if you went in my closet and saw guns, romance novels, dragons, crochet, architecture, self-help, babies, cooking, Dr. Seuss, Martha Stewart, political science, 6-Pack Abs in Three Weeks, Judo, How to Train Your Dog? What impression would you form? Would it be positive?
Or would it be more like seeing a recipe that called for beef tips, chocolate, Marsala cooking wine, marshmallows, yams, jalapenos, corn, and jelly beans? Not too appealing, right?
Our blogs and our tags serve to define our brand. The content and tags associated with our name are important. What potential consumers, an agent and an editor see associated with our name is vital in how they mentally define us. Are they going to define us as Quiche Lorraine or Dear God! Who Let the Kids Cook?
As an example, here’s my list of tags:
Kristen Lamb—Kristen Lamb, writer, author, speaker, teacher, social media, publishing, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blog, blogs, blogging, We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, branding, marketing.
Notice all the tags were simple. These tags were all nouns that, if typed into a search bar, would serve to help someone else’s little codependent genie find me FIRST. Generally with writers I see one of two errors. Either they don’t use tags (or don’t use enough tags) OR they use tags that are so obscure they are ridiculous.
And yes, notice I put my name in the tags. Why? Because I want to become a brand name. I want that when people think/say, “social media for writers,” Kristen Lamb comes up first.
Like, say “Tiger Woods” and…okay, bad example.
Say, “Warren Buffet” and you think billionaire. Conversely, say, “billionaire” and one of the first names that comes to mind is Warren Buffet. I want my name to do the same. Say, “Kristen Lamb” and people think social media for writers….and vice versa.
Also, what if someone meets me and all they remember is Kristen and a couple random details? But they liked me and wanted to buy my book? I could happen! 😛
If they google… Kristen, writer, social media then who will pop up? See, this stuff is pretty awesome 😉
Here’s an exercise. Free write a list of all the words that you would like associated with your brand name. If someone forgot your name, but was describing your work to a clerk at Barnes & Noble, what words would she use? Write as many as you can think of and highlight your favorites.
You may also want to give a copy of this list to those close to you. Have them highlight their favorites or add any you failed to list. We don’t see ourselves the same way others do and that will help you get perspective and eliminate emotional distancing. Some of us it took years to say, “I am a writer” aloud unless we had wine first. So how do others view you? It’s important.
Also, go back through your blogs if you are already blogging. Do your tags make sense? Are they too vague? Too general? Too obscure? Are your blogs even tagged at all? If, not, then tag them so people can find your content.
We will continue next week with Blogging IV, and tips to help you guys rock the Year of the Rabbit, Killer Bunny Style :D. Taking no prisoners.
Until next time…
Give yourself the gift of success for the coming year. My best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books!
This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness
Jane Friedman (Editor for Writers Digest Magazine) posted her 10 Best Tweets of 2010
Two New Bloggers that Have Captured MY Interest (I am a raging geek, so I totally dig these)
Manon Eileen is blogging on psychology and philosophy and their influence in storytelling. Simulated Reality in Schitzophrenia & Brain in a Vat
Another new blogger Peter St. Clair has some awesome posts this past week. Read about Jim Jones and Dexter–Crafting an Anti-Hero all on the same site! Yes, my leg is thumping.
Shennandoa Diaz has an excellent blog. Key Elements of Strong Fiction.
Make sure you stop by for Author Chuck Wendig’s Edit Your Shit Part III–The Contextual Edit
Author Jody Hedlund has a fantastic blog about Finding Your Blogging Voice
Need a great laugh? Holiday Survival with Bayard & Holmes & Tawna Fenske’s Peeing in Front of Spouses, Agents & Readers
#1 by Kait Nolan on December 22, 2010 - 2:13 pm
I always love these posts, which was why I bought and read the book–it’s awesome people! Don’t wait, RUN to buy it!–SEO was something that, other than having a good title for the post and the whole branding thing, I really didn’t GET before. So thanks for that.
Also, it would be SUPER if you could add the nifty WordPress widget for Subscribe by email. Because the Feed me button only seems to automatically take me to the feed reader service I no longer want to USE, and I really want your fab posts in my INBOX.
#2 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 22, 2010 - 2:21 pm
THANKS! I am so glad you said something. I changed backgrounds (wanted something new after a year and a half) and I had to redo all the widgets. Apparently I didn’t realize I hadn’t put that widget in the sidebar. Fixed :D. I am really happy you enjoy the posts/book so much. *hugs* Merry Christmas and thanks for your enthusiasm and loyalty.
#3 by Kait Nolan on December 22, 2010 - 2:30 pm
Fab! Subscribed! And I have to say, I can’t decide whether that first bunny is hilarious or totally creepy…
#4 by Peter on December 22, 2010 - 2:38 pm
As always, thanks for the shout out. I seem to get a lot more hits on a day you mention my stuff…lol
I’ve always had trouble coming up with tags for my posts, but I found that, at least in a WordPress blog, Zemanta has been awesome. Zemanta, among other things, suggests tags for you based on the content of your post. Sometimes it requires some manual tweaking, but for the most part, it’s spot on. To enable Zemanta on your WordPress.com blog, just go to Users, Personal Settings and tick the box labeled Additional Post Content.
#5 by lryanis on December 22, 2010 - 3:16 pm
I was totally wondering about Search Engine Optimization. Wow, what an eye opener!!!. For me, the tags had been like an after-thought. Something, I quickly do before I hit “publish”. I think I may go back and edit a bunch of my tags now. Thank you. This made my day.
#6 by Marwa Elnaggar on December 22, 2010 - 3:45 pm
Phew. Now I’m sure I’m a writer. I quote Monty Python way more than is socially acceptable. We are the writers who say… Ni! Ni! Ni! Ni!
#7 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 22, 2010 - 4:16 pm
You must find the mightiest tree in the forest and cut it down wiiiiith…a HERRING!
#8 by Donna Newton on December 22, 2010 - 4:06 pm
Kristen, you simplify my worst nightmares. A very cool blog!
#9 by Donna Newton on December 22, 2010 - 4:08 pm
Oh, and I am scared to say I don’t like Monty Python. I know, I know, you will kill me in February. I do, however, have a white hankerchief to wave in the form of my husband. He likes them enough for the both of us 😀
#10 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 22, 2010 - 4:17 pm
GASP! Ok…I like you still. *lip quivers* Ni!
Happy you like the blogs. It really isn’t that tough and a lot of fun :D. Track down the pixies. They breed 😉
#11 by Patrick Thunstrom on December 22, 2010 - 5:34 pm
Great advice, I really need to learn to code my metatags by hand so I can just apply them to my blog as a whole and let blogger’s tagging function do it internally. It would be so much more useful for me.
So, on those requirements of writers, is quoting The Princess Bride or The Labyrinth an acceptable substitute to Monty Python?
#12 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 22, 2010 - 6:31 pm
Of course! “Nothing? Nothing? Tra la la?” “Have fun storming the castle!”
#13 by Thaddeus Dombrowski on December 22, 2010 - 6:00 pm
“Or would it be more like seeing a recipe that called for beef tips, chocolate, Marsala cooking wine, marshmallows, yams, jalapenos, corn, and jelly beans? Not too appealing, right?”
First brown the beef tips in the wine. Then add yams, jalapenos, and corn and let simmer. A little chocolate might make it into a good mole. Marshmallows and jelly beans for dessert. It could work.
#14 by jesswords10 on December 22, 2010 - 6:03 pm
You continue to be extremely helpful as I tip my toes into this blogging pool. I’m learning a whole new vocabulary this week. Let them roll off your tongue: pingback, tagging, search engine optimization.
Thankfully, I’m aware of the Monty Python quotes. Favorite episode: The Upper-Middle Class Twit Competition! Shoot the rabbit that has been tied to the ground! Jump over the matchbox!
#15 by Manon Eileen on December 22, 2010 - 6:24 pm
Thanks so much for mentioning me ❤ I feel very flattered! 😀
#16 by Piper Bayard on December 22, 2010 - 10:58 pm
Hi Kristen. Thanks so much for the shout. Another great blog on blogging. You rock.
#17 by Marilag Lubag on December 22, 2010 - 11:08 pm
Rabbits could be cute and cuddly but they bite… And if you’re not careful, they could have rabies. And they multiply quickly.
Anyway, SEO seems to be a helpful tool once people learn how to use it. I guess it’s a good idea to do a tag line and to try to keep on talking about a particular subject so that I could use SEO well.
#18 by Callene on December 23, 2010 - 12:23 am
Having been Freddy Krugered by more than one angry rabbit it doesn’t take much for them to appear totally badass to me.
Again, another great and helpful post, and a few more “oh, so that’s what that thingy does” moments for me.
Let’s hear it for the year of the rabbit!
#19 by Rebecca on December 23, 2010 - 7:46 am
How brilliantly explained. Thank you!
#20 by stavkirke on December 23, 2010 - 12:29 pm
Hi, I’ve just started dipping my toe in this blogging thing and your blog has been so useful, thanks! Loads of great advice.
I do have one query about the name branding thing. My name is not that unusual, if I google it loads of other people come up. I have considered a pen name, but I’m an academic and already have an article published under my own name.
That wouldn’t be an issue, except that my novel writing and my research is inextricably linked at the moment. What I study is very obscure and fascinating – medieval runic graffiti in Norwegian stavechurches. I intend to make a popular book from it when the thesis is done, with lots of nice pictures and juicy info. Loads of people find it fascinating (honest…!) so I am hoping it will sell.
My current novel (and a half finished nano) uses my research as a wonderful backdrop for the story, medieval Norway, based around a stavechurch. It is a USP and quite memorable, more so than my name. I have several useful tags and have been using the nick Stavechurch on nano and other places (I foolishly missed out on it in WordPress by failing to realise that if you start a blog with that name in a different user then you are not allowed to have that name as another user on the grounds it is already someone’s blog title… oops!).
So, since I have several unique words to market with that people can remember and search more easily than my name, do you think that would be the best way to go? Or use my name even though it is common? Or think more about a pen name, even though it won’t link so well to my academic work?
I suppose one issue is if I want to write any novels that are not about stavechurches, runic inscriptions or medieval Norway…
I am building a stavechurch blog about my work, based on the content, which at the moment is the non-fiction angle, but when I have written more of the novel will be a good platform for that, as I will hopefully already have built up a base of interested followers. I’m sure that will be easiest to find using the word stavechurch as its title. But should I post to it from this account or from AFJones (my other username, couldn’t even get my full name, someone already has it!)
Thanks for all your help 🙂
Oh, and what is the average air speed velocity of the unladen swallow? 😉
#21 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 23, 2010 - 3:24 pm
Your name is not what is unique. Your content is. Stephen King. Dan Brown. Sandra Brown. Bob Mayer. These names are not all that unique. In fact they are very common. What is unique is what they write. If you use my book and do as I teach you, you will boot all the others with your name off the first page. You have any idea how common “Kristen Lamb” is? But google it and the first page is almost always all me. Most people with your name are not intentionally trying to dominate a search. You need to have your NAME. The Stave Church might be an interesting topic, but that isn’t how people are going to look for your book. They will search by name. Tie the Stave Church to your name. and building a blog around this one topic will cost you a lot of time. Unless this is the only topic you ever want to write about…ever. You will have to start all over for your next book. And your next.
My advice is to open a new blog if you don’t already have a lot of followers. People are going to read your fiction because they like you…not a topic. I have spent the past four weeks reading Michael Crichton because I like Crichton. And I have read about nanotechnology in Arizona, monkeys in Africa, DNA research in California, history research in France, and time travel in New Mexico.
Transfer the content you have on the Stave Church blog to the new blog that uses your NAME. If you can’t get your name, use a variation. Like I could have Author Kristen Lamb. KLamb. KristenLambTX. WriterKristenLamb. People generally don’t look too much at the URL…but change the blog title. As you can see, this blog has warriorwriters in the URL, but Kristen Lamb as the title. I started this blog for Bob Mayer, but people liked my contributions, so I stayed and took over the blog. I had a very large following at the time and didn’t want to risk a transfer. If you don’t want to move the whole blog, that is also an option.
But you need to rectify this. An agent will google your name and if she can’t find you, she won’t rep you. Agents more and more want to see fiction authors who can demonstrate a solid platform for their name that drives sales of THEIR book. The way you have things set up, you are going to get people passionate about a topic, but since they don’t know your name, they can’t buy it and could even, in frustration, end up buying a book by another author. The way you are blogging will gain you no brownie points with an agent or an editor.
I hope this helps. At least change the blog’s title and make sure to always put your NAME in the blog’s tags. That will mitigate the damage of starting out the wrong way, If you google my name, you will see the warriorwriters blog (this blog) comes up in the search.
Merry christmas and…African or European? 😉
#22 by A.J. Zaethe on December 26, 2010 - 7:11 pm
Am I the only one who was lost. Kept talking about tags…but how do I make tags? Is that something I put into my blog? I am totally lost.
#23 by A.J. Zaethe on December 26, 2010 - 7:19 pm
Never mind, I found some resources. Thanks for the tips!
#24 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 26, 2010 - 7:37 pm
When you write the blog, there will be an option to tag. If you have trouble, shoot me an e-mail, ;).
#25 by Saffina Desforges on January 5, 2011 - 3:30 pm
Weird! I was JUST finishing this part of your book (which is a MUST for any aspiring bloggers/writers wanting to build a successful platform btw) when your new post came through via email. Honest, I was in another tab, removing irrelevant tags from my blogs! Great advice as always! I had almost 230 tags and the list is now down to about 30 RELEVANT ones. Thanks again for making the mistakes and then sharing them with us so we don’t have to! *bows gratefully*
#26 by Brooke on January 26, 2011 - 6:19 pm
So, before now, I had no idea what tags were used for. Thanks Kristen! *going to label all of my blog posts now*
#27 by John bertrand on November 1, 2011 - 5:04 am
Understanding the mindset of users, increasing it and we get great or better results.