After a decade spent blogging about baseball’s unwritten rules, I was at a bit of a crossroads. My book, The Baseball Codes, was long since a bestseller and continues to move copies at a reasonable pace. Still, I was only at 1,500 Twitter followers and driving less traffic on my website than I felt my efforts deserved. I’m confident in the quality of the writing, and the topics are timely. That much I know. What I don’t know is what else I can be doing.
Enter Dan Blewett.
Actually, I knew him first as Coach Dan, former minor league pitcher and purveyor of some of the finest baseball instruction I’ve found on the Internet. That’s how I found him. I’m a youth baseball coach, my 12-year-old son is a pitcher, and I have turned to dozens of Dan’s YouTube clips for all sorts of insight about the form and function of baseball.
A comment on one of his tweets led to an email exchange, which led me to guest on his podcast, which led to an offline discussion about how Dan is undergoing a career transition into the web-optimization realm. He still makes coaching videos—you better believe he’ll hear it from me if he ever stops—but now he’s also in the business of helping people get the most out of their online presence.
When I suggested to Dan that I would be a willing subject and will gladly document every step of our process, he took right to it. Now we’re partners. Over the coming months, Dan is going to help me position myself online in ways that I could scarcely have imagined, and we’ll catalog the results. More web traffic will be terrific, as will more Twitter followers.
The metric that means the most to me, of course, is book sales, and we’re hoping that increases in the former will, with some strategic thinking, lead to the latter.
There are many steps along the way. Dan has already assessed my blog and my Twitter feed and is making assorted upgrade recommendations. (I’ll detail those as they develop.) He also insisted that the primo forum for developing a baseball-based community is Facebook. Unfortunately for this sensibility, I iced my Facebook account a couple of years ago, unable to stomach what I felt were toxic corporate stances, which have only grown worse over time. I include that detail less to bash Facebook (deserving as it may be) than to offer a full accounting of what we’ve been discussing, in case anybody is looking for tips.
Over the coming weeks I will write about processes and collaboration and organization and numerous other items that crop up, but let’s start with Google. Because if your website appears at the top of a given Google search—or anyplace close—that’s as good as gold.
One of Dan’s first tasks was to figure out which topics from baseballcodes.com ranked well, and then help me improve them. The one on which he settled was “pitch tipping.”
That subject, he told me, could be leveraged with a minimum of effort. I have written about it numerous times over the years, each post tied to a news peg. If I could combine them, Dan said, their cumulative links have a chance to rank near the top of a Google search for the term.
His instruction: Write a compendium of my previous posts, with an introduction and a conclusion. Call it Guide to Pitch Tipping.
Because the phrase “tipping pitches” has four times the search volume of “pitch tipping,” he said, utilizing each term roughly half of the time throughout the piece will maximize reach.
Here are the basics he gave me. Really, it’s Web Optimization 101. I offer it up here in case anyone out there is in a boat similar to my own.
Dan says that every article in this format should include:
- Three to four common questions answered: Ask the question as a heading and answer it succinctly but thoroughly. Google is searching for the most common answers for every subject, and it looks through your article for the question and the answer. So make Google’s job easy.
- Break up the article with headings wherever you can—this helps readability, and longer read times improve ranking. It’s also important to put keywords in headings. In this case, make one heading with “Pitch Tipping” in it, and another with “Tipping Pitches.”
- Chop up long paragraphs for the same reason above. People start skimming when they see big blocks of text. Blog posts are fundamentally different than books or longform journalism. Break into a new paragraph every three to six lines, if you can.
- Add two photos and be sure to add keywords in the alt-text attribute. “Pitcher tipping pitches” would be a great alt text, as would “tipping pitches in baseball” or “MLB pitcher tipping his pitches.” Every photo should have a slightly different alt text that still includes some keyphrase related to the article.
- Include external media whenever it’s relevant. YouTube embeds work well. Twitter, too. Embedded media in general is helpful to a ranking.
- If updating an old post, be sure to change the date to today’s date when you republish the update.
- Link to anything you can. Links tell Google that the article has lots of helpful information, and linking over keywords (like “tipping pitches” hyperlinked to an external piece of content) tells Google that those are important. Internal links to your own content is also very helpful.
- Always link to your books. If you mention The Baseball Codes. Link to it.
Those are my marching orders. Next up: Pitch Tipping. I’ll check back in with results, once results are there to be had.