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?
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.
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 describe you and your work.
Remember, you are very likely 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.
- A bang-up post on mind mapping from Orly Konig Lopez.
- Mary Jaksch also recommends five mind-mapping tools at Write to Done.
- This SEO article has TONS of info - SEO Keyword Tools to Improve Your Author Platform & Sell More Books
- An article specific to articles: SEO for Authors, a How-To Guide.
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.
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 top? It starts with the entire point of this post: "SEO For Authors." It ends with the other key point: "Search Ranking."
The easiest tip for great titles is to keep them direct and to the point and focused around your topic and keywords.
SmartBug Media wrote a fantastic post on capitalizing on both the titles and the tags inherent in platforms like WordPress. Another great article from SmartBug Media has 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.
Here's what you need to know: in March of 2018, Google rolled out mobile-first indexing. That means that it indexes the mobile version of any website first. This is the reason why having a mobile-ready theme is important.
Search Engine Land put out a great article on mobile-first indexing and whether it will affect SEO rankings.
Some things to focus on to improve your mobile SEO:
- Verify the mobile-friendliness of your site and/or your theme.
- Make sure your site is responsive and don't use a lot of redirects.
- Don't use pop-ups.
- Tell Google about your site.
In 2014, almost 40 percent of organic search traffic was done on mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. In 2018, 70% of web traffic happened on a mobile device. [Great stats here.]
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.
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.
"First off, long posts show Google that you’re providing in-depth information for searchers.
"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. But we've got enough changes to worry about in these crazy writing lives of ours. We don't need to spend energy worrying about change.
Right now, we just want to worry about these five tips that we can implement now.
Do you have SEO questions you've been wondering about? Will you share any great (EASY) techniques that have worked for you? Let's talk about how to get our work noticed.
See y'all down in the comments!
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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.