The concerns are always the same – Google is updating their search algorithms and its becoming more and more difficult to ‘game’ the system. How are the honest producers of content expected to stay relevant and near the top of the rankings when there are others who are dedicated to experimenting and finding loopholes in the system for their site’s benefit? How do you create a Google-friendly website?
The answer is quite easy – and it has been under your nose the whole time. If you’re a webmaster like me and a producer of content in a specific genre or niche like the gang here at Webcomic Alliance, you’re going to be interested to find out that it’s not that difficult to rank high just for doing what you’re good at – producing quality content.
In fact, since Google’s overhaul of their search algorithms last Spring, we’ve seen a number of lesser known artists and creative types rank higher than ever before, while the opportunists using less than trustworthy methods have slowly slid down the search results, while others have been wiped off the map completely.
You’re all thinking, “That’s great, Drezz. But how do I get my comic to rank higher in search results when Google keeps screwing around with how the results are shown?”
I’ll start it off with one phrase. (No, I’m not going to yell TUFF! at you. Don’t worry.)
Stop worrying about what Google is doing, and start focusing on what you are doing. I know that sounds ambiguous, but allow me to show you HOW to do that.
Step One: Create QUALITY content.
Successful bloggers have been doing this for years. In order to appear like you know what you’re doing and follow the ‘fake it till you make it’ motto, you have to put some careful planning into how you deliver your content on a weekly basis.
If you produce a genre specific strip that updates 3 times a week, then you should consider the following:
• What is the content of this particular strip?
• Is it original, or a trope that is overdone?
• Is this worthy of being a part of your comic canon, or are you just crapping out an update just to meet a deadline?
• Is the topic within the strip of interest to people other than you and a handful of others?
• Can you supplement the strip with a brief post in the blog comments in order to boost the ‘value’ of the content on the page?
• Do you think this update was worthy enough to pass around to your colleagues and friends?
• Would this match up against something you’d see in the newspapers, bookshelves or alongside the work of notable webcartoonists?
Answer these questions honestly, then have someone else answer them in regards to your comic, and you’ll have a good understanding of which comics will be stronger in your archive. Guess what, Google notices that too – quality, engaging content will beat out any keyword stuffed pages, provided it’s consistent and persistent. Remember that!
Here’s the thing – don’t get down on yourself. You don’t have to overanalyze ALL of your pages. Just be more mindful of it. You’ll come across instances where you can’t just alter your story dynamic just for the sake of getting readers to be engaged in every update. Take note of the weaker areas, and create stronger areas alongside it, to help prop those less than stellar pages.
You can create content that you’re happy with, but if you’re looking to put food on the table with this as your primary job, you have to be a bit more capitalist and less idealist. Find the balance – make content people want, and content you enjoy creating. Don’t upset that balance or you’ll end up miserable.
Step Two: Avoid the infomercial look.
You’ve seen them out there – sales pages, websites with more advertising than content, popups, popunders, reminders and ankle hugging ads that don’t allow you to escape the clutches of the site.
Don’t be one of those people. It reeks of desperation. People hate it, and so does Google.
Having an excess amount of advertising on your website in proportion to the valid content on your site will send a clear message – you’re more interested in diverting people’s attention to making sales through advertising at the expense of interfering with the user’s interaction with your content.
If you want Google to give you a thumbs-up, make sure there is a balance of advertising and content. I’d say approximately 75% content / 25% advertising. If your above-fold content contains more ads and promotions than comic and blog, you’re doing it wrong. We all detest newspapers and magazines that have more ads and promotions that precede the actual content we want to read – so don’t do the same thing they do!
“But Drezz, you said we should be more capitalist?”
Yes. I did. But remember the balance. Google doesn’t care for excess and extremes. Make sure there is harmony in your layout and ads, just like the balance between relevant search worthy content and personal desire.
Step Three: Integration with Social Media
Twitter, Facebook and Google+ updates rank in results because the content is new, relevant and part of a network with a lot of traffic. Having that kind of weight is necessary to get noticed. Now that Google has their own social media platform, you should consider taking advantage of it.
Now, all of the social media platforms are sneaky buggers. There are tracking cookies that relay information back to the mothership, and provide you with the most relevant searches that are personalized to you. If you do a search for a specific topic, and someone you know in your circles on G+ has posted or shared a link about that same topic – they appear pretty high on the search results.
So what do you do to get noticed by other people? Add people of interest to your circles. Post your quality content to Google+, Twitter and Facebook. Over time, you may end up providing a user with specific content that interests them, and you’ve found a new fan of your work. The key is to be persistent and create worthy updates and posts that people find valuable. Similar to your personal website strategy, use social media updates as a vehicle for attracting people to find out more about your work.
Telling people about your sandwich for lunch or the stinky guy on the train beside you serves no purpose. They’re throwaway updates. You’re creating with purpose – your creating content that can be picked up by search engines. So remember – every update you post gets evaluated. Make sure you make the best of them. Again – apply the 70% / 30% principle. Make sure 70% of your posts are interesting, engaging and worthy of discussion and search. The other 30% can be personal – people also like to know about you as a person, just not all of the time.
Your takeaways as an artist / author.
Here’s a recap:
The content of your update should answer some important criteria
- have originality
- best quality of work
- have a topic/situation of interest
- worthy of sharing en masse
- comparable to the work of those at the top of the field
Do not clutter your page with widgets, ads and popups. These all take away from the most important part of your website – the comic.
Lastly, get involved in social media and engage with like minded individuals. Share your wealth just as they share theirs. Over time this will pay huge dividends.
I realize some of these tips will be hard to follow. Artists have a tendency to be insular and/or disorganized at times. This is where a helping hand comes in super handy (ugh puns!). Get a friend to become an evangelist for your comic. They can help you with the first step – bounce your ideas off them and see if they stick. Then you can use an extra set of eyes to establish whether your site is a clean, well-running machine or something that looks like it belongs on Hoarders. Finally, your buddy can handle your social media and you can focus on what’s important – your comic and it’s QUALITY.
Google is watching with clipboard in hand taking notes and grading your website. Don’t be the donkey that has to stay back a year.
Andrés ‘ Drezz ‘ Rodriguez is the new guy here at Webcomic Alliance and is the author of the modern noir Online Graphic Novel entitled El Cuervo. In his spare time he works as a stunt man on MTV’s Jackass and as a punching bag for UFC Fighter Georges St. Pierre. If you have any suggestions for upcoming tutorials, feel free to connect with him on Google+ or you can follow him on Twitter at @ElCuervoComic