SEO Sleuthing

Once upon a time, I worked for a small company that made and sold girls clothing. They had a website that brought in a little bit of traffic and they asked me to get more traffic to it so I began researching SEO. I improved things for them and they were happy enough.

Well, let me tell you that SEO from 10+ years ago is NOT the same as SEO today. It changes constantly. So if I’m to stay on top of it, I would need to research it constantly. Which I won’t. But I did research it lately and found a few helpful tips for me. Perhaps they’re helpful for you, too.

  1. Keyword research is important. I won’t go into detail on this because you can stop over on the website I linked to and read up on it. Helpful stuff. Think of it like finding the trending hashtags on Twitter.
  2. Do something with those keywords. When I’ve done my research, I plan to post blogs in the next few months around these subjects. It’s helpful to have content suggestions when writing.
  3. Write about what you’re an expert in. People like hearing from somebody who knows what they’re talking about.
  4. Interview an expert.
  5. Shoot for 300 words, at least. The magic number seems to be 1,500. Search engines like in-depth, which surprises me, because personally, I prefer to read short, specifically lists. So I want to mix it up: lists for my reading enjoyment, lengthier posts to make search engines happy.
  6. Optimize the content. Apparently since I’m on a wordpress platform, there are some good ones out there I should look into and start using such as Yoast and Shareaholic. This one needs further research on my part.
  7. Be your own editor. Content reads better with more white space so avoid long paragraphs. Don’t make typos. Use grammar well (not good). Sometimes, I walk away from a blog post before publishing, then come back and read it once I’ve let it sit. I’ll catch mistakes better this way.
  8. Do your own PR. For my personal blog, I do this some by sharing my posts to Facebook. Other places to share: instagram, reddit, twitter, digg, and stumbleupon.

So that’s the start of my research. What did I miss? What else is important for SEO?

reddit for dummies

reddit_for_dummiesWhen you first stop in to, it doesn’t look pretty. It doesn’t look like anybody has cleaned house since the 1990s. “Why,” you ask yourself, “Why is this place called the front page of the internet?”

Spend quality time there and brace yourself: it may be life changing.

I’ve only been on Reddit for about two years. I’m still a newbie.

And yet, I think I know enough to tell you how to become a seasoned Redditor.

First off, let’s define Reddit.

It’s a message board where users submit links or texts (comments, questions, stories). Other users can vote on these submissions, up or down, if they like or don’t like them. They can also post comments and expand the message threads. The top commented and voted threads make it to the top page of the site, which is what you see when you first visit: top posts.

But, these posts are also filtered into categories or subjects. They’re called subreddits. And you subscribe to your favorites.

By default, when you visit without an account, it shows the same subreddits to everyone. These are things like news and gifs. But when you grab an account, you can dump any of those and sign up for the ones that YOU want to see.

I use it for work and personal so I am subscribed to categories such as:

My list is FAR longer than this, but you get the idea. The subjects vary wildly from silly to technical to hobbies.

Each of these subreddits is a community with its own rules for posting comments. Some of them are for posting images only. Some want you to title posts depending on the content you are sharing. Some try to regulate bullying in the comment section, some don’t.

It’s this customization that makes Reddit a life changer.

This last Christmas, I decided I wanted to surprise my husband with the start of a home gym. We recently bought our first house and have a storage room off of our bedroom that was fairly empty. So why not make it a place he could lift? Except, how?

I asked Reddit.

I joined the subreddit, homegym, and posted my question. The responses from random users (who are anonymous because all you can see are their usernames and posts), came almost instantly and they were superbly helpful. Before long, I had a shopping list and a game plan, thanks to their guidance.

Today, we have a small home gym complete with rubber horse stall mats, a rack, bar, kettlebells, and a bench. Oh, and yes, he uses it. And we canceled his gym membership. We so frugal.

The value of Reddit is in the community.

If you’re not a part of the community, then you won’t see the site as anything but a messy webpage.

digital citizenship as a writer

Businesses have social media strategies because they know that in today’s industry, this is required to thrive. A writer is her own business and plays every role within, such as marketing, sales, content management, technology, and even wellness coordinator. Social media matters to writers, too. At least, it should.

I created my first webpage in high school. It was 1995. I joined yahoo and geocities. I created a website for my cat because I had to post so many pictures for a class assignment and that was an easy subject to take a bunch of photogs of. After learning the HTML well enough to post content, define columns, embed links, and even throw animated gifs all over—it was the 90’s, after all—I then pulled out my giant sketch pad to draw up a plan for my personal website. The introvert in me saw the web as an easy place to post all about me.

Today, I own my name as my website. I have active profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. I’m an active member of Reddit. I follow myriads of blogs. I write my own blog (besides this one).

I am being my own sales person, as taught to me by Daniel Pink (who has EXCELLENT books).

Here are a few things I’ve gleaned from each different internet world I am a citizen of:

twitter_sketchTwitter: I follow tech leaders, writers, local politicians, friends, and a few shopping/deal accounts. From the tech leaders, I’ve learned interesting facts such as the most social-media-influential K-12 leaders. I also use their content to find interesting news and facts to share for the companies I write for as a freelance writer for Social5. From the writers, I find tips, clever thoughts, and news about their world. With local politicians, I can actually follow what’s happening at the state capitol building better than trying to dig through the news. Friends don’t post a lot. The deal accounts helped me find a great deal on a wooden train set for my toddler. Thanks, SlickDeals!

facebook_sketchFacebook: I recently started sharing most of my personal blog posts to my Facebook account. It felt odd because I felt like I was bullying my friends into reading about me. But guess what? They can just scroll on past the post if they aren’t interested. I’ve had some surprising responses from friends that I wouldn’t have bothered with my personal blog otherwise. One was a very helpful suggestion for some tips to deal with sciatica during pregnancy, which is just the help I need lately.

instagram_sketchInstagram: I haven’t used this account for much more than keeping in touch with friends and family. But, friends and family are important. I love sharing exciting personal news via this platform and getting comments. Lately, I’ve found another benefit: following an account from a company, EducateEmpowerKids, whose goal is to teach parents how to educate their kids about sex. This is very important to me as a mom of a toddler boy and a girl on the way.

linkedin_sketchLinkedIn: This is my resumé online, in addition to my actual resumé (which looks much fancier than LinkedIn, btw). It’s one of the easiest ways to sell myself, once I take the time to write out my job history well and connect with coworkers, friends, acquaintances, and industry leaders. I haven’t untapped its full potential, such as sharing articles or using it for job searches, but others with that experience have and you can google them to find tips.

reddit_sketchReddit: This community is amazing once you learn how to use it best. I could write an entire post about how to get started in Reddit. Do you think I should? Perhaps I should. I mentioned it in another post about gleaning writing prompts from the site. Reddit keeps me up-to-date on local, national, and international news, the latest rumors or happenings in technology, bad jokes, or silly memes, and specific topics that are most interesting to me such as gardening, home gyms, and DIY projects. It’s all about the subreddits (communities) that you subscribe to. You’ll often feel overwhelmed with all of the content thrown at you once you join, but get the hang of it and it’s a beautiful thing. (I also like to turn on the NSFW filter because, you know, it’s the internet and things are often messy. I don’t need messy.)

blog_sketchFollowing Blogs: I posted about many of the blogs that I follow over on my personal blog. I follow a lot of blogs, for news, for my job, to keep up with friends, and for entertainment. Find excellent blogs that interest you and keep up with them. Find blogs that expand your knowledge, blogs that make you laugh, blogs that speak to your interests. I like to use the app, Feedly, to keep on top of the latest posts from the most interesting blogs for me. It’s the best option out there, ever since the sad, sad death of Google Reader.

writing_sketchWriting Blogs: Blogs are important for writers because:

  1. You’re writing
  2. You’re writing
  3. You’re writing

So get writing. Be your own sales person and put your business, which is you, out there on the internet. Do you know how it helped me? Getting me work as a writer. Imagine that.

writing your six-word memoir

6wordmemoirsI just returned from the Solstice Writing Conference. It was an extended weekend full of hand-cramping rush writes, editing of memoirs, good food, and excellent company filled with talented writers and faculty.

One of the rush writes we did was to write as many six-word memoirs as we could in the 5 minutes allotted. Louise Plummer read a few of hers first to set the stage. I was intimidated. I had heard about these six-word memoirs when they went viral several years ago. I remembered Hemingway’s, which told so much in so few words: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.” I was certain that I couldn’t possible manage a decent one of my own, but that’s the beauty of a rush write: you don’t prepare, you don’t agonize over it, you just write whatever comes to your head until the timer goes off.

In such an environment, every writer will be pleasantly surprised to find that creativity comes. You actually CAN force it.

Here are a few of my six-word memoirs I wrote during the exercise:

  • Lauren gets left again and again.
  • I played piano while Grandma waltzed.
  • Dislocation, dislocation, dislocation, dislocation, and dislocation.

What’s yours? Set the timer and write a few. Ready? Go!

writing changes your life – oodles of scientific proof

I used to be an excellent journal keeper. I’ve since turned to blogging and spend less time with an actual pen in my hand, sitting in bed, recording thoughts. I need to take it up again and I have a couple of scientific studies to remind myself that doing so makes life better.

The first one, Emotional and physical benefits of expressive writing (2005), proves that writing can help you deal with traumatic, stressful, and emotional events in your life. That, alone, isn’t a new finding. But the study went more in depth into using what they termed “expressive writing” as the coping method.

Expressive writing instructions: Write about your deepest thoughts and feelings in regards to either your most traumatic experience or an emotional issue that is extremely important to you. While writing, you may tie your experience or issue to your relationships with family, lovers, and/or friends. Think about how it has affected your past, present and your future. What type of person has it made you and what type of person do you want to become? Do this for four days, writing about one specific experience, or different ones each day. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or other errors. Once you start writing, you must continue until time is up. This is a free write exercise.

Benefits from expressive writing (as reported directly in the study):

  • Fewer stress-related visits tot he doctor
  • Improved immune system functioning
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Improved lung function
  • Improved liver function
  • Fewer days in hospital
  • Improved mood/affect
  • Feeling of greater psychological well-being
  • Reduced depressive symptoms before examinations
  • Fewer post-traumatic intrusion and avoidance symptoms
  • Reduced absenteeism from work
  • Quicker re-employment after job loss
  • Improved working memory
  • Improved sporting performance
  • Higher students’ grade point average
  • Altered social and linguistic behavior

So what are you waiting for? With all of these benefits, get writing about those emotional life experiences.

In another study, based on the research of social scientists over several years, Writing exercises scientifically proven to redirect your life (2015). The coping method to use here is called story editing. We each have our own narrative; we’ve told ourselves what our own story is based on who we see ourselves as and what the world around us is like. Our own story influences our choices and our experiences. But it’s our story. We wrote it.

You wrote your own story.

You can edit it.

Using specific writing exercises, you can shift your personal narrative, redirecting your thinking. As you write, you create and that creation is your tool.

You can write things out of your life that are too hard, such as personal loss, health problems, financial crises, but you can change your relationship to these things.

Story editing instructions: What is an event or concern that has been weighing you down lately? Clear your schedule for 15 to 20 minutes at the end of that day to focus on that specific problem and write about it. For four days in a round (sound familiar?), do this for 15 minutes each night. As you write, don’t stop, even if you make mistakes or get stuck on an idea. Write without stopping.

Another exercise for story editing instructs you to close your eyes and focus on an upsetting event. Try to imagine that you take a few steps back from yourself and watch as your story unfolds, then write about that distant version of yourself, about thoughts and feelings, written in the third person.

Now get out there and write. Reap the benefits.

finding your people

When I was in classes for my English degree, I had built in peer reviews for my writing. One class in particular, the final of the class was 50-pages of your own writing, in whatever genre you chose at the beginning of the semester. I chose historical drama and I hated my final submission, but I stuck with it for the duration of the class and churned out 50+ pages come finals time. In that class, we worked in a small writing group within the class (four people per group) and you stayed with that group for the entire semester. I looked forward to the critiques from my group and also to reading their next installations in their writings.

In the world of 9-5, you might be in a community based on your project team, or your department, or who sits in the cubicle next to you. Those communities are forced on you, similar to the writing group of my college English class.

When I’ve found people based on mutual interests instead of mutual locations, the community has so much more meaning. The community becomes family.

I have a soccer family. We’ve played together for almost a decade and in that time have celebrated weddings, supported teammates through divorces, lost community members, added new ones, showered new babies, and mourned over lost babies. When I first started dating my husband, I knew that the approval of my teammates was important to me. They loved him.

I have a writing family. This was harder to come by because their aren’t leagues of writing teams where you can call the main office and ask for the captains’ names to join one. Writers keep close to home. They keep their writing close to the heart. It’s not easy to pull a full group of them together and mandate sharing writing assignments each month. But it’s a powerful experience.

We all met in a memoir writing class. We cared enough about honing our craft that we signed up for this experience, not for college credit, not for a business certificate at home, but simply for our own improvement. Each class, we shared writing. We brought assignments or we shared whatever came out of a free write done in class. Sharing your writing will bond you. Sharing your memoir writing even more. We learned each others’ life stories. When the class neared an end, I think I sensed some fear in people’s eyes. They didn’t want to lose this writing bond. Thankfully, somebody suggested that we try and keep it up. Everybody agreed.


We meet once a month. We take turns hosting. We each bring 2-pages of writing to share. We print enough copies for everyone to have one. Somebody else reads your writing. We laugh. We cry. We hug. It’s a beautiful thing.

Have you found your people?

writing prompts and reddit

reddit_larrieHOW TO START.

That’s an article that I could use every day.

How to start getting out of bed in the morning.

How to start saving more money.

How to start keeping your house cleaner.

How to start writing the next article, blog, or short story.

Starting is one of the hardest parts of the writing process, especially when you hit a bump in the road. I sometimes find myself waiting for inspiration to hit and then I’ll know: “this is it; this is what I’ll write about.”

Do you know how to find inspiration, though? By writing.

In a memoir writing class that I took, we started each class with a free write. The two writers who organized and taught the class would give us a prompt and time us for five minutes. The rules were simple: write for five minutes without stopping, without correcting for spelling, even if what you write is rambling and strings of “uhhs”. Write.

I found that I could always do it; I could always write about that prompt for five minutes. And then my hand hurt.

Since that class, I’ve been without provided prompts and I haven’t done free writing exercises.

But I’ve found some prompts.

I’ve found lots of prompts.

Over on the beautiful website (that isn’t beautiful to look at): Reddit. It’s a subreddit called Writing Prompts. Users post new prompts every day, every minute, even. Here are some of the latest prompts at the top of the site today:

When you are born in 2105, everything in the known universe stops dying of old age: humans, animals, aliens, etc. Scientists come to the conclusion that you are the cause. [r/WritingPrompts]

You can communicate with your past self, but only with one tweet a day that can only go back 24 hours. [r/WritingPrompts]

Earth loses gravity at night. [r/WritingPrompts]