This Instructable provides tips and hints on how to optimise your Instructables to boost them up search results pages. Doing so is very worthwhile considering that more than 60% of Instructable's traffic comes from search engines.
If you already know what SEO is and why you're interested, skip to Step 5 for the how.
Step 1: What is SEO?
It is the process of changing the code and content of a page to make it more search engine friendly. By making changes to a web page that take SEO into consideration, that web page can be made to be displayed higher up a list of search results in a search engine like Google, Yahoo or Bing. Wikipedia has a much more complete explanation. The second and third paragraphs are particularly pertinent.
Many things affect how high up search pages a web page comes, this Instructable looks only at the factors that YOU the author can change or influence. A lot of behind the scenes magic is already done by Instructables to cater to the search engine crawlers and the fact that Instructables links to and is linked to by so many other sites also helps make it a good place to publish work to get it seen instead of a small personal website or blog.
Step 2: Why is SEO important?
It depends on your motivation for writing an Instructable. If you just want to share what you've made, SEO isn't worth a damn! If however your secondary motivations are getting more views, receiving comments/feedback or winning votes in competitions, the more search engine friendly your Instructable the more traffic they will send you and the more success you will have.
Step 3: Affecting your ranking
On-page optimisation techniques are the factors that the website admins and producers of content can affect. Things like internal links, code structure, article titles, navigation, keywords and the quality and relevance of the content.
Off-page optimisation techniques are the factors that are mostly out of the control of content authors. Google realises that content/website authors have complete control over their content, and so they can fiddle and tweak their website to influence the Google crawlers. Therefore they are heavily influenced by what other websites say of the content. Many links to an Instructable with good URL attributes and relevant text will confirm for Google what the content of the Instructable is, making it appear higher up the search rankings.
If you search for off-page vs on-page SEO, articles you find will weight the importance of these differently, but since a lot of on-page optimisation is done by Instructables already, thankfully this limits the amount we have to do ourselves. As an example, this site talks about Google's 80/20 rule as a method of showing the importance of off-page optimisation.
Step 4: Google's Keyword Selector
There is no point trying to optimise an Instructable if no one is searching for the topic it's on. You'd be wasting your time if you tried these techniques on an Instructable on "how open your eyes". Everyone knows how to do that so it gets very few Google searches. To be worth optimising your Instructable must be something that people are looking for and it helps if there isn't a lot of competition for your chosen keywords.
Some Instructables that get a lot of organic search traffic:
How to Kiss
Sweet Potato Fries
How to put on a Condom
How to make bread
Gran's Green Tomato Chutney
Google provides a great tool for picking related searches that people ARE using.
Google's keyword selector allows you input either a URL to your Instructable, or type a phrase from the title. The results it spits back at you are suggestions on similar searches. These include the number of monthly/yearly searches for similar phrases and how much competition there is in the way of existing pages.
The more searches and the less competing searches the better since it'll be easier for your Instructable to bring in referrals from search engines. This is reflected by the "Competition" bar which gives an indication of how many pages are catering to those search terms.
Why Google? I talk about Google so much in this Instructable because over 90% of the incoming search traffic for Instructables comes from Google. By performing the steps in this Instructable you'll also be catering for the other search engines, but since Google's the main source of organic search traffic I'll be using its tools and talking about it almost exclusively.
Step 5: On-site: Title, Keywords & Links
Having learned about Google's keywords selector in the last step, you can use this to choose a relevant title for your Instructable. Google weights the first and second word of your title as heavily important in deciding whether it's relevant to a user's search and so your title should match one of the high volume searches if possible, so long as it doesn't dilute its relevance.
Also beneficial is repeating your chosen keywords from your title several times throughout your Instructable. Be careful not to overdo this though, doing so is known as keyword stuffing which may have a negative effect on your search ranking and the writing style of your Instructable.
When referencing other's works or another source of information, always write good anchor text. Google tries to reward pages that are easy for users to use/understand and one of the ways they do this is is with outgoing links. You'd get more brownie points for the first sentance than the second:
1) For a good basic introduction to SEO basics see Google's search engine optimization basics guide (PDF).
2) For a good basic introduction to SEO basics, click here.
Doing so makes it easier for users to navigate and easier for Google to understand what you're linking to.
These are much less heavily weighted by Google than other metrics, keywords are more beneficial for Instructables' internal search so don't worry about these too much for external search. The keywords field in your Instructable should have the important words from your title as well as common alternatives or relevant similar words that would otherwise dilute your title. Some examples of these may be if you were making Canida's Fruit Tart then you may consider the following keywords as relevant and why, her Instructable is a good example of keyword use:
- peach, nectarine, berries, jam: because these are the main ingredients. More to the point, they're ingredients people would be searching for. You wouldn't want flour, eggs, vanilla extract in there, they're not appropriate as no one would search for a flour tart.
- pie, flan: other words for a tart that people might be searching for.
- recipe, easy, quick, vegetarian: If when looking at Google keywords selector there are several high volume searches, you may choose to cater to one but put the extra terms in your keywords. "Fruit Tart", "Fruit Tart Recipe", "Easy Fruit Tart", "Quick Fruit Tart" may all have high volumes of searches and so adding the extra words into your keywords list or using them once or twice in the description or throughout your Instructable will help get traffic from those searches too.
Step 6: Off-page SEO Optimisation
It's important for incoming links to have well written anchor text so that Google can confirm what your Instructable is about.
For the above reasons it's important that your Instructable is well written, the photos are good and the title photo is exceptional. You want other websites to pick up and repost a summary of your project to their users, or give a link to it as an example. If lots of blogs or websites link to your Instructable, its effects are two-fold. 1) People will visit directly from those sites, resulting in views. 2) Google will recognise that your Instructable contains quality content and boost it up the search rankings. How to Write an Instructable has lots of great tips on making your Instructible tip-top, increasing your chance that a blogger or author on another site will be impressed enough to write about it.
Step 7: Incoming Links
There are some sites that you can submit your Instructable to yourself and will help. These include:
- Your own website or blog.
By consistently publishing well written and interesting Instructables you will gain a group of followers using Instructable's subscribe features. Every time you publish an Instructable, an email will go out to them and if you're lucky some of these subscribers will have blogs or Facebook/twitter accounts of their own they might repost a link to. The more you have the greater the chances of someone being impressed enough to pass it on.
Possibly the best way to get good quality incoming links to your Instructable is to submit a tip to relevant websites or blogs. If your Instructable is well written with a catchy picture, there's a good chance that their readers will be interested too. Many websites specialise in collating interesting projects from their readers.
Remember, if you make it easier for the authors of blogs/websites to repost your content, they're more likely to. Include a brief description that's not just copied and pasted from your Instructable as well as a link and maybe even a picture and it gives them a good idea of what its about and makes it easier for them to get excited about it.
Step 8: Determining Seasonality
Some examples of Instructables that have very seasonal traffic patterns are:
- Precision Pumpkin Carving, due to Halloween
- Paper Snowflakes, due to Christmas/Winter
- Green Tomato Chutney, due to harvest period. This has a slightly wider seasonal period due to the variation in growing seasons for tomatoes around the globe.
Some examples of Instructables that have fairly steady traffic all year are:
- Perfect Oven Sweet Potato Fries
- How to Kiss
You can use the Google keyword selector again to see the search term patterns. Once logged in with a Google account the local search trends column displays which months have the most of the searches.
Step 9: Timing of Publishing
To get maximum weight behind your Instructable, it should be published when the searches for it are coming to a peak. Google trends can be used to see search patterns over time. While often this helps, sometimes it doesn't, but it's still worth spending a second deciding when might be the best time to publish.
Step 10: References
Here are some of the websites I visited and people I spoke to whilst looking around for advice and info
Google Keywords Selector - a useful tool for looking at search trends, keywords and search volume. Logging in with a Google account will make it even more useful.
Eric J. Wilhelm - for advice on the effectiveness of different techniques and providing me with some data.
"Google search engine optimisation and their 80/20 rule" - an article on on-site VS off-site optimisation.
Google Ranking Factors - SEO Checklist - a list of factors that are known/thought to affect a page's Google ranking.
Mikeasaurus - for the awesome title image