SEO 101 for Authors

Welcome to the first installment of SEO for Authors, part of my Authors Helping Authors blog feature.

When I first sat down to write about SEO, I was planning on taking some of the helpful tidbits from my brain and plopping them into the blog to hopefully help some other folks out there. But as I started writing everything out and talking to other authors about their SEO questions, I realized there was no way I was going to get all of this done in one blog post. Therefore this is the first of multiple posts over the course of the next month (or so) addressing SEO, what it is, what it should mean to you, how you can easily execute it, and how to make a difference with your online presence.

So what makes me qualified to talk about it? For starters, my 9-5 is digital marketing, and as part of that I am solely responsible for the SEO success of my company. I won’t pretend to know everything about it, but I know more than the average bear and much of it has been self taught. And if *I* can do it, anyone can (and that’s the absolute truth). I have done a lot of things right, and unfortunately some things wrong. But if you can learn a thing or two from my mistakes, it’ll be worth the read. So with that, let’s dip our pinky toe into the vast sea that is SEO …

SEO for Authors

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Simply stated, this is how you rank in the natural search results of Google. The higher you rank, the more clicks you’ll receive and have increased traffic to your website. It’s all about what users are searching for when they visit a search engine and how a search engine perceives the content you provide to meet their search terms. But really, it is so much more than that.

To keep it simple, think of SEO as fitting into two buckets: On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO.

  • On-Page SEO: This is exactly as it sounds. This is all of the content visibly read ON THE PAGE that makes a huge difference in your ranking. It deals with front-facing keywords, active links, the things you’re actually writing and the way you talk about content on your website.
  • Off-Page SEO: Again, exactly as it sounds. This is all of the stuff that happens behind the scenes that your website visitors don’t see, mostly in the metadata and alt-text. Don’t get overwhelmed, it’s not a ton of confusing code that you have to teach yourself as most website portals have all these tools already built in for you! But you need to know how to use them effectively. And that’s where I hope to help you out.

Notice I said “natural search results.” Those placements in the right hand column of Google or the very first listings are paid placements from Google AdWords, also know as SEM or Search Engine Marketing. For now, we’re just talking about the organic search aspects where no money is spent, because let’s be honest … we’re all dropping enough cash in other areas of our business and SEM probably doesn’t make too much sense for our industry at this exact moment in time (though it may at a later date, so don’t write it off forever).

So why should I care about SEO? It’s just a webpage. I don’t even think people know it’s out there.

And that, right there, is why you should care about SEO. Your website has SO MUCH POTENTIAL and from the research I’ve done, authors are falling short on the website front as a whole.

If people aren’t going to your webpage, it’s because you’re not giving them a reason to visit. And in a world where content is king, you need to find a way to help provide value to your page (and consequently your readers/the industry) and continually do so. Maybe it’s offering limited-time exclusive excerpts from your work in progress. Sharing deleted scenes that never made it into the final manuscript. Writing thoughtful blog posts that give people intimate insights in your world. Anything to make people *want* to come to your page. Create the content and have all channels point toward that freshly created content.

Getting everything in order can be a little time consuming depending on the current state of your website, but once it’s all in place it turns into an easy-to-execute turnkey marketing tactic for you.

As authors, we are spread thin on the internet. Between maintaining a social presence, we nurture blogger relationships, keep reader groups engaged, and everything else in between across multiple channels. And we do it all while balancing family and work, all while writing our next novel.

Your website should be your hub online. Odds are, it’s not. And that’s okay, but you should consider taking steps to get your content centralized there.

Does it really matter how I rank though?

Be honest with yourself … when was the last time you went to the second page of a Google search? So yes, it absolutely matters how you rank … the best place to hide on the internet is page 2 of an online search.

When you rank higher, more people see your books. When more people see your books, the more likely you are to capture a sale. The more likely you are to capture a sale, the more exposure (and possible revenue) you reap. And readers need to be exposed to your title multiple times before they ever pull the trigger.

Your SEO efforts will expand beyond your webpage and spill over onto Amazon, GoodReads, Facebook and more (which is critical beyond comprehension).

On-page SEO must haves:

  • Title font and header sizes (both h1 for search ability and h2 for featured snippets)
  • How you name your individual URLs (i.e. –> https://authorblberry.com/2018/01/06/seo-101-for-authors)
  • Links (backlinks, internal links, outbound links)
  • Quality content variety (posts, images, videos, gifs, etc.)
  • Responsive Design & Image Optimization
  • Keywords (LSI or Latent Semantic Indexing and content integration)
  • Social sharing
  • Content (length, relevancy, uniqueness and freshness)

These are all super easy things you can impact quickly. Once you learn the basics, each time you make changes to your website or add new blog content or pages, you just incorporate what you’ve learned.

Off-page SEO must haves:

  • Relevant metadata (descriptions, keywords and tags)
  • Image alt-text
  • Title tags
  • Google Search Console
  • XML site maps (more advanced)

There’s a lot more than this, but I will not go beyond the above as to avoid confusing everyone beyond comprehension, unless some super savvy folks out there specifically ask.

I’ll be going talking about each of the above over the next month or two of blog posts (although now that I see the full list, it may be longer than that), breaking it down so it’s digestible and applying it to give it context to our industry. If you don’t want to miss any of this, be sure to follow my blog and check back frequently.

You can check out all of my industry articles by searching for the Authors Helping Authors tag. I’ve got everything from Email Best Practices to how to maximize Book+Main Bites with tons more content planned for 2018. And feel free to share this with other folks who need to learn the basics of SEO as well with the social sharing buttons below.

If you ever want to chat about SEO and digital marketing, track me down on Facebook!

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