One of my favorite stories to describe SEO goes back to an ASJA conference I had attended where the speaker opened with: “Where would you hide a dead body?”
Answer: “The second page of Google because no one looks there.”
I’ve been working on SEO (search engine optimization) since 2007. When I started working at TIME magazine, one of my first projects was optimizing our site for discoverability in search engines. I’ve since trained hundreds of journalists and writers on how to implement best practices for SEO for their articles and books.
So why should authors care about SEO?
Google. It’s a black box, and no one really knows what goes on in there. But it’s also the largest search engine in the world. When people search for you on the Web, you want to make sure there are several relevant results if they “Google” your name or your book.
There are a number of things authors can do to optimize their online presence in order to rank higher in search engines. Ranking higher will bring more visitors to your website or blog, allowing you to grow your email list and vastly increase your book marketing.
Since there is a lot to cover, I’m splitting up AUTHOR SEO into 3 parts.
1) Crafting SEO Content
2) Blog Structure and Technical Details
3) Amazon SEO and Voice Search
PART 1: How to Craft Content for SEO
1. Have a Blog and Use It Meaningfully
An author blog is important because it’s the key way that people find out about you and your books. When you type in an author’s name, you want to make sure that the author’s website shows up on the first page of search results. You can control the message you send to people and have all the information about you and your books available to anyone who is looking.
However, make sure you blog frequently—at least once a week—and that you are adding value with your blog posts… not just posting content for the sake of blogging. Two great examples of authors whose blog content I LOVE are David Gaughran and Joanna Penn.
2. Link Building
Linking (including links from other websites in your content) is another critical element of SEO.
You want to make sure that people link back to your content, and that you link to theirs. As a general rule of thumb, I tell authors to link to 3 to 5 other websites in every blog post. Make sure you let those folks know that you’re linking to them. When someone links back to you, it’s a vote for your content on Google and they’re sharing your website with their regular followers.
3. Place Share Links on Your Blog Posts
Have a fun blog post? One of the best ways to make it go viral is to put social media tools on your content. If you have a picture-heavy site you might want to include Pinterest. But do keep Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram as options for readers to share.
4. Guest Blog
Guest blogging is a great way to establish yourself as an expert. You can always link back to your book or site in your bio that accompanies your article (like my bio at the end of this article).
I worked with an author, Hym Herself, who wrote a blog post on 10 Misconceptions about Mental Institutions for Cracked.com. She linked her book in her bio on the article and sold 1,000 copies in just a few days! Not only did she get paid for writing the article on Cracked.com, she also sold books, too. (Remember, you don’t always have to give away your content for free or for “exposure.”)
5. Optimize Your Blog for Google
You want to make sure that your blog is optimized for Google and gets “crawled” or visited by all the major search engines. You can download plugins like Yoast that will help you set up tags, title, keywords, and metadata. Another way to optimize your blog is to make sure your site has a good sitemap. A lot of blogging platforms already generate the sitemaps and have built in tools for SEO.
Mastering SEO and using these tips will definitely help you rank higher in search results on search engines like Google and make your books easier to find. We also made this helpful infographic to keep all the information straight —> Making Your Author SEO Work.