Search Engine Optimization

Of course, you want your website should be the first result that pops up when someone types in your name to find you or your company when they use Google, Bing or any search engine. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become a business service on its own and is often packaged with web design services.

It’s not that I don’t see it as very important, but I certainly don’t see it as important as some clients, especially ones new to having a website. I very rarely recommend using an SEO service. Search engines like Google send out bots and spiders to crawl the web all the time and they will find your pages. It might take a month or more but hey will find it.

Now, getting to he top of the search results is a different thing. If you think your photography site will be the first thing searchers see when they type in “photographer,” you will be disappointed for a long time. 

Optimization can be both technical and content-based. On the websites back-end improvements designers can include particular header tags, metadata keywords, alt-tags on photos, and smart use of hyperlinking. Though I use those things, I focus on front-end, content-based factors which I feel are more effective in boosting SEO.

Search results depend on a number of factors and algorithms. Here are some of those front-end and use approaches that I try to describe to clients.

Make your content unique. If someone searches your name + photographer, the results are more likely to be your site. Add other keywords such as a city, state or type of photography (weddings, portraits etc.) and the results improve. One of my clients was very pleased that after a few months a search on Google for “ellen denuto photographer” showed her site at the top. She/we did no special SEO but we did follow these suggestions. 

Keep adding new content. Blogging is a great way to keep content fresh and draw traffic to your website. Blog features on websites using what were originally blogging services (such as WordPress) can be redesigned to be an event, news or updates feature rather than the traditional blog. Setting a regular schedule to post new content – once a week or at least once a month – is a way you can boost your rankings.

Get other sites to link to you.  Google uses PageRank to order search results. Other people linking to your site helps you move up in searches. But it also is guided by the rank of those linking to you. If I link to yur site it will help, but if The New York Times links to your site it will help a lot more. Still, asking friends and colleagudes with websites to mention your URL helps. Put that link in your email signature, use it for online bios or any time someone writes an article about you.

Use social media.  I have a lot of clients who were not interested in being on social media, and honestly, if you don’t plan to keep up t it regularly it won’t help your SEO. It might even hurt. If I see a link on a site to Twitter and follow it and they haven’t posted in the last six months I feel like they are “out of business.” Social media is so important to search results that I know several publishers that include a clause in contracts compelling authors to engage with followers on one or more platforms. Again, active engagement and new content feeds search engines with lots of fuel for their algorithms. If similar sites and competitors are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, etc. then you should be there too competing for eyes and clicks.

Maintaining a social media presence, like updating your website, requires time and scheduling. I have several web clients who also use me for social media maintenance. But you can do both yourself if you’re willing to learn how and commit time to it. If you are starting out, choose one or two. Twitter and Instagram are very easy to use, especially on a mobile device. Depth of engagement on one site is better than infrequent use on three sites.

Consider using video.   Video on your site and on social media is much easier than it was a decade or two ago. Remember that YouTube is owned by Google, so video there will give your search engine results a boost.

Book Cover Design

All “best” lists are opinions and open to argument. I saw this Best Book Covers of 2020 list and it reminded me of a design assignment I used to use with my students.

My eye went to the one book on the list I actually own and have read which is Jane Hirshfield’s poetry collection, Ledger.

My first journal when I was 12 years old was done in a ledger that my father has lightly used and I found on a shelf. It had odd lines and was clearly meant to put some order to the contents – though not meant to order a seventh-grader’s thoughts on life.

I like the book-on-book design. I like that the ledger’s lines look like a chart and almost like a topographic map (which I also love and have collected). Does the cover tell us anything about the poems inside? It makes sense after you read them but not really before you open the book.

Looking at that site, you see a wide variety of styles. In my assignment, I asked students to consider all the elements of design we had studied (line, color, composition, typeface etc.) but I did ask that the cover tells us something visually about the book’s plot, characters, or theme. Of course, outside the classroom, a key element is to catch your eye and the content of the pages within often seem irrelevant. Did the designer even read the book? Not a requirement.

The list comes from a survey of 29 professional book cover designers. The three best that this group chose for 2020 are Yu Miri’s Tokyo Ueno Station; cover design by Lauren Peters-Collaer, Joyce Carol Oates’ Night, Sleep, Death, the Stars; cover design by Jamie Keenan and Lidia Yuknavitch’s, Verge; with a cover design by Rachel Willey.

Those three didn’t particularly grab me and they probably weren’t following all of my assignment parameters. I did like the True Love cover below because it is simple and also uncomfortable. I like all the “white” space which allows for clean areas for the text.

I looked up this book to see what it is about and according to the Amazon blurb it “captures the confused state of modern romance and the egos that inflate it in a dark comedy about a woman’s search for acceptance, identity, and financial security in the rise of Trump.”  The cover seems to appropriately warn that this love ain’t so true.

 

I like this cover for A Children’s Bible for some of its rule-breaking – the way the deer blocks some text,; that the birds – though blocked by text – seem to also be sitting on the words; the uneven right edge; the menace of the fire and burnt edge that the animals are looking at or heading into.

It’s a busy cover and not improved when the publisher puts on an award sticker which usually seems to be placed rather randomly. Yes, I know that it’s all about the marketing but it’s another reason why I like white space in a design.

I also like the

cover

Mary South, You Will Never Be Forgotten; cover design by Jamie Keenan (Picador, August)

 

coverThe cover image benefits from being viewed at a distance, as this smaller image shows the face clearer.

I also looked this book up on Amazon and was surprised to find a completely different cover. That often happens with books published outside the U.S. But the author, Mary South, is American and the image used on her own website is this one with three emoticons.

The book is a collection of stories so it may not have one tone or theme. Do the three emoticons fit that content better than the overly enlarged pixels of the woman’s face cover?

alt cover