SEO for authors... It's a catchphrase that makes all my writing pals shudder. As one of our gals at WITS said, "I know how to spell it, but that's about all." SEO doesn't have to be hard. In fact, some of the best techniques are the easiest for writers, because they involve writing.
What is SEO?
Wikipedia says, "Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's unpaid results - often referred to as "natural," "organic," or "earned" results."
What it really means to authors is:
- How do I help people find me?
- How do I stand out?
- How do I get to Google's first page?
Because those are all the things that will help build your platform and sell books.
Good SEO can go really deep, down into the programming and structure of your website, but we're writers. We don't want to do all that. We just want to write. (Can I get loud cheer here?)
Here are 5 easy SEO methods you can use NOW
1. Research the keywords that apply to you.
Search engine optimization is rooted in keywords. But what about your words? You want to find the words that readers will use to search for you. Help your readers find you by tagging your posts and videos with 3-10 keywords that really describe you and your work.
Remember, you will almost always be at the top of the search results for keywords you create. That's a pretty big deal.
You can be on page 3 on search engine results for "great YA reads," or teach your readers how to search for you with your words. Words like your book title or your name. You're likely to be on page one with those. And yes, you have to already have a platform to do this.
Most people just piggyback off other people's keywords. You could spend hours looking these words up, but you can minimize the time spent by doing some brainstorming and mind mapping.
- Here's a link to Orly's bang-up post on mind mapping if you need some pointers.
- Mary Jaksch also did a great post on the topic at Write to Done.
Or you might want to go the other direction and find out which key words will take you to readers.
Two ways to do this is by searching in Google (for “keyword” + “forum" or “keyword” + “board”) or going to a site like BoardReader that will search the boards for you.
Or try an advanced search if you'd like to get more specific.
Backlinko, a site full of great SEO info, provides a comprehensive article on keyword searching and ways to identify the key words that define your markets (called Niche Cloud Maps) if you want to study this in more depth.
2. Make your titles work for you.
Do you see that title up there? It starts with the entire point of this post: "Easy SEO Techniques." It ends with the other key point: "Search Rankings."
The easiest tip for great titles is to keep them direct and to the point and focused around your keywords. Amber Kemmis at SmartBug Media wrote a great article with SEO tips for titles that emphasizes "the big stuff":
- The best link structure is short, descriptive and helps categorize your site. Did you know you can customize your URLs, especially in WordPress? It's a great way to help the search engines find you.
- Put keywords or topics towards the front of the title. Whatever's first wins, at least for search engines.
- Optimize Page Titles. SmartBug recommends you use title tags, which tell search engines and searchers about your page. "Since Google will only display between 50-60 characters in the title tag, you should keep title tags under 55 characters and try to drive people to click with compelling copy."
3. Use a mobile-ready theme for your website or blog.
Okay, this point has the potential to be a bit technical, but I promise you -- it's worth it!
In 2014, almost 40 percent of organic search traffic was done on mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. If your site's design isn't mobile-friendly, many searchers won't be back. If you aren't in charge of this, ask your web designer. If you are a DIY-er, be sure you pick a mobile-ready theme for all your marketing, whether it's your site or your email newsletter.
Neil Patel put up a great graphic to illustrate the importance of mobile-friendly sites in his article, Advanced SEO Techniques that Will Double Your Traffic.
4. Write descriptive mini-blog posts for your YouTube videos.
This was an excellent piece of advice from 21 Actionable SEO Techniques You Can Use Right Now that I LOVED. We're writers - we can rock this one!
Note: YouTube is owned by Google, another reason they run high in search rankings.
The article states:
Using 200+ words in your video's description will push you up the rankings for both YouTube and Google.
"Don't mindlessly toss a few words into the description box. Instead, [let Google] rely on your video’s text-based title and description to determine what your video is about. Not only does this extra text-based information help you rank better for your target keyword…it also ranks your video to any closely related long tail keywords."
Here's that author's guide to great SEO strategy for YouTube videos.
5. Create posts and pages with at least 1,000 words.
This requires more work on your part, but it is the reason why "slow bloggers" like Anne R. Allen and social media Jedi Kristen Lamb often crush the competition in terms of social sharing and backlinks to their blogs.
Yes, they are both great writers, but they also write long posts filled with useful information. Brian Dean at Backlinko says this about why long posts work.
"First off, long posts show Google that you’re providing in-depth information for searchers.
But that’s not all:
In-depth content flips an important emotional switch that pushes people to share online content: awe.
University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Jonah Berger found that content that elicited awe made people 30% more likely to share it."
I like that number, don't you? Long posts take more work, but they're worth it.
SEO is a huge subject for such a tiny little acronym, and things change constantly. In the past few months, the importance of Google AdWords has faded and new search engines are chomping at Google's heels.
"Search engines like Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo may slowly take a bigger piece of Google’s pie in 2015. Yahoo is now the default search engine for Firefox. Safari had a deal with Google, which is supposed to end in 2015, and Yahoo and Bing are both trying to become the default search engine for the browser."
But we don't need to worry about all that right this moment. Right now, we just want to worry about these five tips that we can implement now.
(Plus, if you ask for it, I'm happy to write another post that shares several more easy SEO techniques for writers. I dig the world of SEO cuz I'm geeky like that.)
Do you have SEO questions you've been wondering about? Will you share any great (EASY) techniques that have worked for you? See you down in the comments!
* * * * * *
About Jenny Hansen
By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes news articles, humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 18+ years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.