Creative Writing vs. Effective Writing

What’s the difference between creative writing and effective writing? Until my junior year of college I had no idea. I thought I was a good writer because I got A’s on all my papers in English Lit. and Creative Writing. … Continue reading

SEO Series Part 3: Time, Persistence, and Dedication

Search engine optimization is a never-ending game that takes time, persistence, and dedication. Even worse, Google tweaks its search algorithm every few months with new releases of Google Panda. This means that just when you think you might know all the best SEO strategies and practices, Google will change them. EVEN worse, Google never tells you the exact changes it makes, they only hint at the changes and leave it to SEO experts to interpret these hints.

What does this all mean? It means that if you really want your site to consistently come up on the first page of a search engine, you have to work on your SEO constantly. There are no breaks, time outs, or half times in this game. If you’re not doing it, you can bet your competitors are. It will take more time in the beginning because you have to learn SEO strategies; such as those I shared with you in Part 1 and 2 of my SEO series blogs. After that, though, you can’t slow up too much. You still have to constantly create content, work on optimizing your pages both meta-wise and design-wise, and stay up to date with Google’s updates.

Besides knowing all the latest “tricks” that will help you outrank your competitors, probably the best thing you can do is just focus on your site in a genuine way. By that I mean maybe not worrying so much about SEO, and instead focusing on your customers and making your site the best it can be. I think that if you truly care about your business, optimization will come naturally. You’ll have people talking about your products or services, sharing your content, referring their friends to your site, and so on. These are all great for search engine rankings, and come from just being an extraordinary business.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s very important to have a basic understanding of link building, and you can spend months learning every trick in the SEO book, but if you don’t have a great company/brand, it’s not going to do much. Just like no matter how many inbound links you have, if you have a crappy website it’s not going to do much good.


Some things to keep in mind. Always have SEO in the back of your head for everything you do to your website.  Constantly be making your website better, whether it’s improving your keywords and meta, or the design, look, feel, and functionality of your site. Constantly produce great content. For example, maybe master blogging for a few months, then move onto making content for YouTube. Try and become an expert in these different Web 2.0 fields. When you start have enough revenue, become an expert in Google Adwords or Facebook advertising. Make sure your site is optimized for smartphones. Trust me, there’s always something you can be doing to improve your SEO.

Some sites that can help you keep up with the SEO landscape: Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, Matt Cutt’s Blog, and Search Engine Round Table. There are many more on the internet, spend some time to get to know the ones that you feel are most relevant to your website. Other then that, make sure to dedicate time each week to SEO, and good luck!

Feel free to post any questions or comments below!

SEO Series Part 2: Link Building

Improving your website’s SEO can be thought of as a popularity contest. The more popular you are, the more search engines, especially Google, will like you. Just like in real life, popularity is measured by the amount of people talking about you and referring other people to you. This means that the more websites that link to your website, talk about your website, and direct people to your website, the more popular your website will be on Google.

The heart of SEO lies in link building. Link building is the process of linking other websites to your website. Links on the internet that lead to your website are called inbound links. The more inbound links you have, the more popular you will be.

One of the easiest ways to get links to your site is to publish yourself on live web directories. Live web directories are large, topical, searchable directories that differ from traditional relevancy search engines in that their content is maintained by actual humans rather than by ‘robot spiders’ that scan the worldwide web. Live directories personally review your site and decide whether to include your website in their index. There are lots of live directories, some of them are free and some of them are paid. Some directories are much better than others, but the overall strategy here should be to register your website with as many live directories as possible. Search Google for a list of free and paid live web directories online.

Blogging is another effective way to build inbound links. Set up a blogging account on the major platforms (WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr) and become an active blogger in your target market. This means that you leave relevant comments on as many posts as possible that are in your industry/target market. If you have a profile on the blogging sites, you should be able to have your website underneath or in the signature of every post you comment on. You can also imbed your website into the text of your actual post. Just make sure that your site is relevant to your comment, or it will be seen as spam and your comment will not be approved. When you begin to have an active voice in your blogging community, you will not only build inbound links, but you will also create relationships and trust within your industry.

There are all kinds of Web 2.0 sites that will help you create and share content online. Social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon, Digg, Delicious, etc. are good places to bookmark/share your content with the rest of the world. Sites like YouTube, Flixtime, Animoto, Squidoo, WikiHow, etc. will allow you to create online content (videos and articles) that contain links and lead to building trust and awareness around your site. Basically, the goal is to create as much quality content as you can on the internet that points back to your site. For Google, it’s about quantity, variety, and quality. The more content, links, and media you have that link back to your site, the better. Google is also getting smarter, though, meaning that you must now have quality stuff on the internet to be considered a contender on the first page of the search engine.

SEO Series Part 1: Copy, Meta, Page Titles and Consistency

In this first of three parts, I’ll talk about SEO practices that you can implement on your own website. These include specific things you can do on your site that will help you get an edge over your competitors in search engine ranking.

First of all, you need to know the proper keywords that relate to every page of your website. Keywords directly relate to your search engine rankings are CRUCIAL for SEO success. One handy tool you can use to try and figure out the top 5 keywords for your site is Google’s Keyword Tool. Using the Keyword Tool allows you to see the number of global and local monthly searches for specific keyword(s) and keyword phrases. It also shows you the level of competition on Google for those keywords and other keyword ideas that are similar. If you aren’t familiar with this, get familiar.

The goal here is to find 5 keywords that relate to each page on your site that have high global monthly searches (>1000). If you’re lucky, some of your keywords or keyword phrases might have low or medium competition ratings too, which is great but somewhat rare. After you have found the five keywords or, keyword phrases more likely, that you will use for your page, write them down because you’re going to use them in more than one place. 

Copy, or text on your site is very important. It is recommended that each page on your site have 300-500 words of text. For some sites this is easy, for others, especially ecommerce site, this may be much more challenging. So why is it important to have that much text on each page? Well, the short answer is that’s how Google likes it, which is really all that matter because in this SEO driven world that we live in, Google is God. On a more realistic level, though, what really matters is the keyword density of the text on your page. This means the ratio of keywords to total words on the page. You want your keyword phrases to equal about 2-3% of your text. is a great site that will show you your keyword density. Use your keyword phrases more than once to get a good 2-3% density, but use them in a way that makes sense for the context and doesn’t sound weird.

Next is meta. Most websites allow you to customize the meta for each page of your website. Again, use the same 5 keyword phrases in your meta field. Next is custom URL’s. You should customize the last part of each page’s URL to match the best keyword for that specific page. Lastly, page titles are also very important. This means the title of the page that shows up on the top tab of your browser window. One thing you can do to optimize the page title is to separate it into three sections, separated by two pipes. For example, say I was optimizing a page title for a page selling popular men’s running shoes. The page title might be something like, “Men’s Running Shoes | Athletic Footwear | Running Footwear” In this way you have three of your most popular keyword phrases (whatever they may be) right in the title of your page, which Google likes. Just make sure they make sense!

So to wrap up, consistency is king! Make sure that each page of your site is properly optimized with a select few keywords or keyword phrases that are used in your text, meta, URL, and page title. This is just one of the first steps to optimizing your website, but it’s probably the easiest thing you can do starting out.

Reminder: Why I still love Alaska

When I was 18 and just getting ready to leave Alaska for college, I could NOT wait to get out of the secluded state and its famously cold weather. I was born and raised in Alaska and it was pretty much all I knew. Our family went on vacations relatively frequently, but I had still endured 18 brutal Alaskan winters that last about nine months each. I was so ready to leave and I could not ever imagine missing the place I had called home for so many years.

View of downtown Anchorage on a clear winter day, Cook Inlet in foreground and Chugach Mountains in background

Now that I’ve been in college for almost four years and have had a taste of the “lower 48” for more than just a vacation, I have a different perception of Alaska that has developed only recently since my visit for Christmas ended last week. I have lived in Reno for the past four years and I have been LOVING the hot summers here. I also like the relatively mild winters because we still get snow but it’s not too cold. This year has been different, however. It’s now January 3rd, and there hasn’t been a flake of snow in Reno, and there isn’t any snow on the forecast. This sucks; the winter weather in Reno has been really lame. There’s no snow, everything is dead and ugly outside, the skiing in Tahoe is terrible, there hasn’t been any snow days at school, no shoveling, no turning on the rear defroster, no snowball fights, nothing! All of this combined actually made me miss Alaska weather for the first time, and I actually couldn’t wait to go back for Christmas this year. I hadn’t seen snow since last spring, and I wanted a WHITE CHRISTMAS!

View from the top of Alyeska Ski Resort, a few miles out of Anchorage

On my arrival in Anchorage the week before Christmas, I was ecstatic to be landing on a snowy tarmac in a white wonderland! There was snow everywhere, just what I needed. I didn’t mind the cold temperatures, because the flurry of snow coming from the sky and the soft white layer that covered absolutely everything outside was more stunning than I remembered it ever being. And sure enough, I woke up Christmas morning to more falling snow, fulfilling my wish for an amazingly surreal white Christmas.

The snowy streets of Anchorage, normal winter day. Average annaul snowfall for Anchorage is 70.6 inches (National Climate Data Center)

Although I admittedly wouldn’t want to bear the winter Alaska weather for a full nine months, being in it for a week was awesome. I loved every minute of being outside, whether it was jaywalking the icy streets downtown to get to the next bar, brushing a pile of snow off the car from the night before, or just staring up at the night sky as the snow fell. So overall, I have a new found appreciation for Alaska. Next year, I will not only be excited to see friends and family for the holidays, but I’ll also be excited to enjoy a beautiful white Christmas, one thing that Alaska can always guarantee me.

Visit my little brother’s website for more amazing photos of Alaska here

Feel free to leave any comments or questions below!