Every libertarian organization should make search engine optimization (SEO) part of their online outreach efforts. Good SEO enables you to attract and engage with people who want to learn more about your message, so you can convert them into regular readers and contributors to your cause. At base, the term “search engine optimization” means finding methods to increase the frequency and quality of your site’s appearance in search results, meaning that you attract more interested searchers more often.
While advanced SEO can sometimes involve complex site modification and strategic planning with a specialist firm or consultant, there are three simple steps that most organizations can implement today with very little expenditure of time and effort.
Create Clear Headlines and Searchable Copy
Many libertarian sites use sarcastic or floridly academic titles for their content. While these titles may be satisfying to the person writing them, they often fail to inform the reader of the true subject of the content, and they are not ranked well by search algorithms, which do not understand humor or elliptical writing.
If a reasonably well-informed layman wouldn’t search for information on your topic using the words in your headline, rewrite the headline so that human and computer alike will know what you mean. You can use the AdWords Keyword Tool to generate a list of relevant keywords (that is, any words or phrases that people search for) and their frequency of usage.
Ensure that your main keyword appears within the first five words of your title, and try to keep the title length under 70 characters long (including spaces). Any longer than that, and your title will get cut off on Google’s search results. Much shorter, and you won’t have enough space to fit in multiple relevant keywords. The keywords found in the title of this article, for example, are “SEO best practices,” “SEO for libertarian websites” and “libertarian websites.” This list is in order from most important to least, and that’s how they appear in the title.
This is not to say that headlines must be dry: on the contrary, it’s best to include an emotional hook or phrase that will pique the reader’s curiosity. If you must choose, however, err on the side of being literal and dry rather than obtuse and interesting.
Google also takes keywords within your content into account. Try to include as many relevant keywords within the body of your content as will fit in with the flow of your narrative. This increases the likelihood of searchers finding your website.
Encourage Content Sharing across a Wide Variety of Social Media Channels
While many (perhaps most) libertarian websites make nods to Facebook and Twitter, there are many other social media sites where libertarians congregate. Reddit, for example, has a thriving libertarian community with interests ranging from Austrian economics to drug policy to foreign affairs.
The easier it is to share your content on social-media sites that are popular with your target audience, the more likely your readers are to promote your content there, and thus distribute it to large numbers of people who might be unfamiliar with your work.
Encouraging social-media sharing comes with an added bonus: the more quality external links you can generate to your site, the more authoritative it becomes to search engines like Google. This can mean that search engines will feature your content in a higher position on the search results page, leading to more traffic for your site.
Reach Out to and Partner with other Organizations
Just as social-media sharing is an important and under-utilized SEO tool on libertarian websites, so too is cross-linking with other relevant sites. Make it a habit to link frequently to other libertarian sites that explore similar areas and might therefore provide useful information to your readers. Outbound links to relevant sites build trust with search engines.
Similarly, you might approach the editors of sites you frequently link to and ask if they will return the favor. Engaging in an online dialogue with them by means of a written debate, joint paper, or guest posting on their site will bring new audience members to each site.
This doesn’t only apply to libertarian sites. If, for example, a popular columnist at a national newspaper has gotten something wrong about your topic of expertise, write a rebuttal with a link to his or her original column. Then reach out to that columnist with your rebuttal and ask to open a written dialogue or schedule a debate if feasible.
Increasing the number of links into and out of your site from reputable organizations and media outlets will not only help your search rankings, but it will provide you with ongoing sources of fresh content and a way to reach a wider audience of people who might never have searched for your content at all.
When in Doubt, Seek Help
Search engine optimization is an ongoing process that works best when incorporated into an overall marketing and outreach strategy. You should therefore engage a specialist who can assist you in creating a strategy tailored to your website.
The more consistently you implement good SEO practices, the better dividends they will pay. Good luck, and let us know how it goes!