Episode 45: Should Creatives Care About Search Engine Optimization?

Over the past few episodes I’ve been talking about the fundamental importance of writing in order to effectively market your creative practice. Writing really is essential to your marketing. Cultivating this skill needs to become a priority. We’ve explored a number of benefits that come from writing for your business—including how written content helps potential clients discover your work through search. In order to increase these valuable discoveries you have to give some thought to how search engines work—so that you can optimize your content and be found by prospective new clients.

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As we’ve acknowledged over the past few episodes, writing is hard work. We face an uphill battle as we attempt to cultivate this discipline, so I hate to make it even harder by introducing the topic of search engine optimization—but if you’re going to go through all the effort to write regularly to promote your business, you really should spend a little extra effort to optimize your content for search. If you fail to close that loop, you’ll end up cutting yourself off from potential valuable opportunities.

Fortunately, search engine optimization doesn’t take much time to implement, just a little thought and tweaks to a few key pieces of information on your web page. The key is understanding a little bit about how search engines work, and how we as searchers look for the content we need.

At a technical level there are just three parts to a web page that need to be adjusted in order to optimize your content. The main page title that gets visibly displayed on a page, the “meta” page title, which is encoded in the HTML but mostly invisible to visitors, and your search engine description text, sometimes called a “snippet” which gets displayed under a page’s link in search engine results. The encoded meta title I mentioned is mostly invisible, but it does show up in two places. As the text that links to your page in search engine results, and also in the tiny text used to label a page’s tab when it’s open in a browser. Most website platforms provide tools to adjust these three main search engine components. The key is knowing what to put in those fields.

Let’s take them one at a time. The main page title is the simplest. This is your headline, and frankly you should follow best practices for writing, and not worry so much about search engines. That said, if there are clear keywords associated with your content, and it doesn’t distort your writing style, by all means use those terms in your main page’s title. Also, if you’re not using a platform like WordPress or SquareSpace, you’ll want to confirm that your main title uses the html “H1” tags.

But when it comes to your meta title, you need to start thinking like a search engine, and a search engine user. And since we’re all search engine users, this shouldn’t be too hard! Just ask yourself, if you didn’t know your article existed, but were looking for similar content, how would you go about finding it? In fact, go ahead and use Google to find something similar and pay attention to how you develop your search terms in order to find this kind of content. Really that’s all there is to optimizing your meta title—write it using the same terms a searcher would use.

Search engines aren’t trying to bury your content. They simply want to provide the most relevant results to searchers as quickly and accurately as possible. And so the more you help the search engine, and the searcher, by clearly summarizing the topic, using the terms most closely associated with your subject—the more easily you’ll be found in search. And just a tip, the links that get clicked the most tend to have phrases like: “benefits of,” “tips for,” “top five,” or “best of.” Now don’t strain too much to include those terms, but when it makes sense they do invite more clicks than mere descriptions of content.

As for the description snippet, you’ll want to reiterate some of your key terms that you use in your meta title, but I suggest writing that with more of a marketing eye than a technical eye. It has to be short, and to the point—and hopefully intriguing enough to invite a click.

If you spend just a few extra minutes to adjust these three simple parts to your page, you’ll be putting search engines to work for you. Lead generation while you sleep—what could be better than that?

Until next week: don’t let the business of creativity overwhelm your creative business.

Are you ready to take the struggle out of finding new clients?