I’ve been working on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) since 2007. When I started working at TIME Magazine, optimizing our site for discoverability in search engines was one of my first projects. I’ve also trained hundreds of journalists and writers on how to implement best practices for SEO.
Google. It’s the black box that no one really knows what goes on in there. But it’s also the largest search engine in the world. When people search on the Web you want to make sure they find you if they “google” your name or your book.
There are a number of things authors can do to optimize their presence 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.
If you’re interested in downloading my SEO Checklist for bloggers you can get it below.
Some top tips below.
1. Have a Blog and Blog Meaningfully (at least once a week)
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.
Blog to add value and not just to blog for the sake of blogging. Two great examples of authors whose content I LOVE are David Gaughran and Joanna Penn.
2. Link Building
Linking (links from one site to another) is another critical element of SEO.
You want to make sure that people link back to your content, and that you link to theirs. A general rule of thumb I tell authors is to link to 3-5 sites in every blog post. Make sure you let the folks you know that you’re linking to them. When someone links back to you, it’s a vote for your content.
3. 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 the 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 sold books, too! You don’t always have to give away your content for free.
4. 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 with sitemaps.
5. Enable your sitemap
A sitemap is a structured listing of all the pages on your blog or website that tells Google and other search engines about the structure of your site. A sitemap also lets Google know when a new post is published so it can index it and add it to search results.
Here are a lot of ways you can get your content submitted to Google, including complete instructions: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/6259634?hl=en
6. Write Good Headlines, Keywords and Metadata
Having a good title tag that tells what the blog is about will help make your content easy to search. I used to work at TIME and was in charge of all the SEO and one of my responsibilities included training journalists in SEO.
- Writers LOVED using titles that don’t say anything about what the content is about.
- Good title: Watch the supermoon eclispse in 7 seconds
- Bad title: Watch this once in a lifetime event
- Keywords: Have 3-7 keywords that describe your content. Examples would be: supermoon, eclipse, bloodmoon
- Meta description: A short paragraph of what your content is about. This content shows up in Google search results. Example: “Several models pulled by online retailer Amazon over fire hazard fears. Leading hoverboard maker Swagway confirmed the online retailer is requesting companies manufacturing the popular devices to prove they are safe to use.”
7. Make Sure your Site is Mobile-Friendly
Because a lot of users now read on smartphones and other mobile devices, Google changed their algorithm in April 2015 to penalize any sites that are not optimized for mobile devices. You might even say that we are a mobile-first economy, so make sure your content can be read on a small screen.
A good way to test if your site is mobile-friendly is by leveraging another of Google’s tools: You can just go to the link here and make sure to follow all their instructions.
8. Optimize your Amazon Pages
It’s no question that Amazon is one of the most well-indexed sites online. If you search for your book or your name it is likely that your Amazon page will show up much higher than your blog. To optimize your Amazon page there are a few things you can do:
- Make sure you have an Author Central account with your bio and picture filled out. Having an Author Central account will help you rank higher on Amazon.
- Connect your social media accounts to your Amazon Author Central page.
- Make sure your book has the relevant keywords you would use to find a book like yours.
- Protip from Derek Murphy. When you pick keywords, you need to pick specific keywords that aren’t competitive. For example, paranormal romance is too competitive. It will be hard to rank for it, but a long tail keyword like werewolf paranormal romance might work, since so few authors are doing anything with SEO.Then, get the direct link to your book on Amazon (ends with the ASIN), and use keyword anchors to link to it. For example type werewolf paranormal romance then link it to your Amazon page. This way you can get your Amazon page to rank above everyone’s elses.
9. Prepare yourself for the Voice Search Revolution
Your meta description: Having a meta description for your home page is especially important for voice search and voice assistants. The meta description is what voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google use to describe your website. Go ahead! Do a test. If you have an iPhone ask Siri about your favorite author and favorite book and see what comes up.
Audiobook version: If you have a published book, you want to also make sure that an audiobook version is available. You want to make sure that it’s available on Amazon and Google so the smart speakers (Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, Siri) can purchase and read the book to potential customers.
There are no guarantees about mastering SEO as authors, but using these tips will definitely help you rank higher and make your books easier to find. Also check out this helpful infographic to keep all the information straight. Making Your Author SEO Work.