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! :P
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)
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