by Jennifer Thompson, Money C Media
Did you recently write a book that you’re super excited about, but find that your sales numbers are a bit lackluster and disappointing? Or maybe you have a blog and it’s just not getting the traffic you want? Well, there’s something you can do about it. Among the most significant of those things is incorporating search engine optimization (SEO) into your author marketing strategy. I’ll tell you how you can do that below.
A Quick SEO Primer for Beginners
When you incorporate well-researched and strategically placed metadata and keywords into your website content, that content is then optimized and more likely to appear in search results when someone (your readers) looks for a book or service like yours. It makes you discoverable, even if they’ve never heard of you or your book before.
How SEO Works
When someone uses a search engine like Google, Bing and Yandex to search the web, that search engine tries to deliver the most relevant website results. Simple right? For the sake of simplicity, I’ll reference Google moving forward, it is the most popular search engine after all.
So how does Google know which sites to reveal in a SERP (search engine results page)? Content! Yep, content is still king, friends. Even more so today than ever before, because Google now scans your website for tangentially related content. This means Google basically scans your content and indexes it for overall relevance.
If your content is good (we’ll just assume that it is) and you’ve done your keyword research [possible link] <https://jenifferthompson.com/finding-your-tribe-using-keywords-building-your-audience/>, then your search ranking will improve. When your search ranking improves, your audience is more likely to find you when they’re searching your topic.
What Can SEO Do for You as an Author?
So, what does all this mean for you? So many good things! When it’s easier to find you, it makes it easier to grow your audience, build your brand and following, and sell your book.
It Can Make Your Book More Discoverable
In the same way that your audience may discover your website, keywords will make your book more discoverable. And not just in Google searches, but on Amazon and Goodreads too. Plus, there are sites like BookBub and even Reddit that can help. The more visibility and links you have leading people to your website, the more relevant you become!
An example: Let’s say you write Historical Fiction. You want your audience to find your book on Amazon or your website. It’s important that the keyphrase “Historical Fiction” appears in more than just the description of your book, and, even more critical is that you get uber specific with your keyphrase, tags, categories, and descriptions. Say, “1960’s New York Historical Fiction” for instance, or “Vietnam Era Counterculture in New York, Historical Fiction.” The more you can distill your keyphrase down to something that specifically speaks to your book’s content, the more likely you will rank well in that space.
It Can Help Build Your Following
By increasing your search ranking, you become more visible. Which, of course, means that it’s even easier for your audience to find you. The thing is, with search engine algorithms, the more views a page gets, the more likely it is to come up in a search, and therefore more likely to be seen. Popularity matters when it comes to SEO. Seems a bit like a catch 22, doesn’t it? But if you produce consistent, fresh, quality content, the audience that views it will stick around, and come back for more—and you’ll begin to move the needle on your search ranking. Some of your audience may even become fans, or superfans! [link] <https://jenifferthompson.com/blog/>
Where Authors Should Be Using SEO Strategy
As an author, you’ll basically want to use keywords on all platforms, as I mentioned above. You want to increase your search ranking wherever you can so you’re more likely to come up in search results on multiple platforms.
On Your Website and Blog
I already mentioned that content is king. And that content needs to be fresh. So, even if you only concentrate on writing relevant content that provides value to your audience, and don’t even worry about the metadata part, you’ll still be way ahead of your competition. This is one of the reasons that blogs are still useful—the more often you add fresh content to your website, the more likely Google is to rank and weigh that content as relevant. If your website content gets stale, the search engines lose interest (just like your audience). No one wants that!
On Your Profiles
Any online profile you have is an opportunity to provide relevant content and powerful keyphrases. Take a look at those profile descriptions to see if your content includes your genre and the specific value of your book and message (why should people read your book?). Try not to be coy when you are writing online content—be obvious, speak clearly about the value you offer so your audience gets it (the search engines will get it too).
You’ll want to have profiles on multiple platforms and use keywords and phrases to optimize all your profiles. For example:
- Social Media
Your SEO Strategy Beyond Keywords
Keyword usage is incredibly important. It’s also the easiest and most obvious part of SEO. But there are some other important SEO tactics you’ll want to use as well. Because, besides the body of your page content, you’ll be using SEO strategy in things like your bio, book description, and even your images, such as your headshot. Your SEO strategy shouldn’t leave out important tools like alt tags, metadata, backlinks and plugins.
Alt tags are used to increase visibility and optimize images on your profiles, blogs and website. They used to be one of my best kept secrets, but these days it’s pretty commonly used. An alt tag is “alternative text” assigned to images on your website. Alt tags were originally created to help improve the experience of visually impaired searchers. The alt tag describes the image so that a screen reader will then read the description to the visually impaired person “viewing” your website. Imagine how frustrating it must have been for our blind friends looking at image heavy websites that didn’t bother describing those images—just a bunch of dead ends.
Bonus: Google still indexes those alt tag descriptions so that your site is further ranked for content that appears in those alt tags.
A word to the wise: Always write to your audience. Never write for the search engines. It will backfire. Always write alt tags with your blind friends in mind. Please don’t stuff keywords in there unless they are actually relevant. Otherwise you might get flagged for spamming, not to mention how rude it would be to any blind person trying to enjoy your website and get valuable information.
The term metadata sounds scary. It’s not. Simply put, metadata is a set of data that describes and gives information about other data. So, the alt tag I described earlier is a type of metadata, as is a caption, or an image description tag. Any time you have an opportunity to design something or describe it from the backend of your website—do it. The Yoast plugin, which I mention below will help to automate this process.
A back link is just how it sounds. It’s a link that brings the reader back to your website. And, in all things you do—always link back to your website. Always. Also, any time someone interviews you, or reviews your book, ask them to link back to your website too. The more incoming links (or backlinks) you get to your site, the more popular it will appear to Google. And as I said before, popularity counts in the world of SEO.
If you have a WordPress website and want to take your SEO efforts a step farther, I recommend installing the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast <https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/>. Start with the free version. It’s a great way to get your site ranking with metadata and automated description tags.
Hopefully, in reading this, you’ve realized how SEO can be a powerful and integral part of your author marketing strategy. It can seem a bit overwhelming, I know. But now you understand how SEO works. So, start implementing those keywords and other SEO tools in your online content! When you start seeing the results, you’ll be happy you put the time in.
Jeniffer Thompsonis a personal branding expert, digital marketing strategist and the host of The Premise podcast. She is an author and speaker who delivers strategy-rich content and actionable tools that educate and empower authors. Her company, Monkey C Media, founded in 2004, is an author services design firm offering award-winning book cover and author website designs that integrate digital marketing strategies and author branding. She is a co-founder of the San Diego Writers Festival, serves on the board of the San Diego Memoir Writers Association, and is currently writing her own coming of age memoir. Visit www.monkeyCmedia.comand listen to her podcast at ThePremisePod.com.