Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Writing Amid Crosscurrents

by Divina Infusino

Recently, I confronted the dilemma that many authors and writers eventually face. I wrote text for a website.

Writing for your website is a quandary, if, that is, you want to put the site to its full use.  It is not required, of course. You can just conceive of the website as a digital brochure, describing what you do, your work, who you are, as well as providing contact information and links to outlets where people can buy your books.

However, taking full advantage of your website means getting your site to show up in Google searches outside of your name and book title. So when someone types in “historical fiction, California” and you’ve written a novel set during the gold rush of 1849, people unfamiliar with you or your work can discover you.

There’s only one problem: To appear in the Google search results related to specific keywords will probably require you to write a search-optimized website. The prose for these types of sites are not governed by the same dictates demanded by books, articles, essays, or any other written form that require traditional writing expertise. Search engine optimized writing is ad copy.

Just the way television and radio advertising reaches for earworm-like words or turns of phrases, website copy is manipulated. It should reference the keywords that most suit you and your work. In fact, it should reference those keywords a lot. That’s the rub, if you are an author.

Most writers fight redundancy in their word choices. (Unless, of course, they are using repetition for effect).Website writing is just the opposite. 

A tool like Wordtracker or Google Trends will tell you the most popular keywords and phrases related to your topic. It is now your job, as website writer, to pepper those keywords throughout the website and do so as often as possible. The more you repeat, the more Google algorithms will associate your site with those keywords and therefore rank it higher in the search results.

So how do you promote yourself as a writer and author when you are forced to violate one of the basics tenets of good writing? Very carefully.

Think of your website text not as writing but as a game of strategy. You can "play" the same keywords again and again without drawing attention to the repetition by parceling them out.

For instance, place your identified keywords in your global navigation or in a tagline under your name. Or refer to them when flagging your next speaking engagement or workshop, and in your bio. Collect your most important keywords in the site description that accompanies your site submission to Google.

There are many tricks in the search engine optimization trade. Try to use the ones that your website designer/developer can finagle into the code. If you have the budget, you can hire someone who specializes in search optimization for advice. Or you can take a short workshop.

You can have an optimized site without jeopardizing your reputation as a writer. It just takes a different mindset.


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