Search Engine Optimization may sound like a mouthful, but it’s important to understand and an ideal way for writers to reach more readers. When readers go to google and search for their next read, will your website come up? Ensuring it does is key to sales or new readers, and something not often talked about in the book world. LinkedIn Learning has a fantastic video by David Booth called SEO Foundations (Booth, 2020), which I highly recommend, but I will summarize key points below, focusing on how writers can utilize SEO to reach readers.
An Overview of SEO
First, what is Search Engine Optimization? It’s about improving the search engine results for your companies website. The focus is on ensuring that search engines (like google) show your website when views request something relevant to what you sell or write. SEO has a few goals:
- To find & understand the content.
- And to deliver relevant and authoritative results to customers (your future readers).
Search engines do this in a number of ways. They evaluate what other websites linked to you are saying, (ex. reviews on amazon, blogs, Goodreads), as well as the quality or relevance of your website based on what the user is searching for. This is determined by your content (the information you have on your website such as the list of books you’ve written, a blog, articles you’ve written or shared relevant to you, and events or communities you may be apart of or host).
When a user types in a search, lets say “Young adult books” this is what they may see:
- Paid listing (ads)
- 10 organic results based on their relevance to young adult books
- Each result displaying a headline, description & URL
- A possibly a blended search results (meaning it may include not just links but images, your products to buy, social links…etc)
When considering SEO and how it will benefit your books sales, it’s idea to set expectations prior to beginning a marketing strategy. This method is different than other marketing strategies. David Booth says “patients is a virtue”. So take the time you need to ensure the following items have been considered before diving into the world of SEO (Booth, 2020):
- Develop your strategy
- Research keywords
- Create valuable and relevant content
- Attract relevant links
- Resolve technical issues
Remember that SEO features and algorithms are constantly changing. Don’t just focus on what the SEO wants, make sure you are also considering what people want from your website. If you’ve written a young adult book but you think the keyword “steamy romance” will get you more hits, don’t choose it simply for SEO purposes. By understanding SEO, it will allow you to reach a larger audience and improve traffic which may mean sales and revenue or increased business. You also have the ability to measure your results with your website’s analytics, which means you can continue to improve your results and learn what actions your customers are taking from the first click.
Keywords: The Foundation of SEO
Keywords are the terms people enter into the search engine (Booth, 2020). When doing keyword research you want to consider:
- Frequency – they will search your keyword
- Relevance – to your business
- Competition – how competitive it will be to rank among others
For example: as a writer, you may think “Book” is a great keyword, but think of the amount of people looking for books, and the amount of competition you will have using this keyword to get noticed. Now, lets say you write Young Adult Dystopian books, this keyword is a bit more specific and your competition may be lessened.
So how do you do a keyword research? First, put your shoes in your ideal customer’s shoes. Ask the question “What products or services do you offer?” and answer from the client’s point of view (Booth, 2020). There are also tools you can use! Go to trends.google.co or answerthepublic.com to find out what keywords people in your industry are searching for.
Long-tail keywords: these are descriptive keywords and are used in less-common variations (Booth, 2020). Though there is less volume, they are very specific to your business. For example: looking at the book scenario, you might find Young Adult Dystopian keyword to still have a large volume of results, but maybe you can get more specific to say “Young Adult Dystopian books with Robots”. This may not show up as often, but when it does your website will be more likely to show up on the first page.
There are three things to consider when looking at keywords attributions:
- When determining if a keyword is relevant, ask yourself if the keyword is applicable to your business’ content (Booth, 2020).
- Volume is the potential monthly search volume of a particular keyword.
- Competition is the competitive space of a given keyword. Tools like moz.com/explorer will give you a list of “difficulty” for a specific keyword, which will help you see how saturated the competition is on a particular keyword.
Content Optimization: How Search Engines and People View Web Pages
In order for search engines to choose your website to viewers, they need to understand the structure of your site. Just like entering a bookstore, there needs to be an order to finding a particular book by a specific author. This organizational structure helps you find out where specific books are. Ensuring your site is clean and structured properly will help search engines understand the layout and provides them the information they need to recommend your site. Make sure it’s logical and easy to navigate.
There are a few ways to optimizing textual page elements on your site to better attract search engines to your site.
- Concise & clear URL – this means including the keyword you are targeting in the URL.
- Meta title page – if you are not a programmer this may look difficult, but essentially you want to ensure your title page is specific to the theme of your page, not just “About us” or similar.
- Keywords – In the content ensure you’ve included the keywords
- Images are another key tag to look at. This includes the image link and title of the image…all of this can be changed to use the keywords being targeted.
Search engines also look at the text beneath an image, so ensure they are relevant. Search engines will also adjust results based on mobile or computer searches. This will influence what shows up. Your history of searches will impact your future searches.
Long-Term Content Planning
Having a content strategy is very important. This is the planning, creation, and management of user content (Booth, 2020). For writers this isn’t just your books, but any content on your website such as blogs or articles you’ve written.
- Plan: Who is your audience and what are their needs.
- Creation: Content is important. Write usable, relevant content.
- Manage: Being able to write, edit, post, and update content effectively.
Define your goals and objectives (Booth, 2020). Understand what your users want and need. You don’t want to just sell your book, you want to sell yourself. Give readers a reason to come back, or tell their friends, or recommend you to their social media contacts. Do the research! And enlist help. Make sure to include everyone on your team (if you have one) so you’re not the only one doing the work.
There are many different types of content, not just text. Images, PowerPoints, videos, infographics, YouTube…etc. Adding all these different kinds of content will put you above the rest.
But considering what to write can be difficult. I shared how to write Ad Copy in a previous blog, which includes much of this information on how to create content and editorial calendars, but here are a few ideas of what to write about:
Consider what your competitors are writing about, or what your keywords bring up. Customers can also provide content in terms of reviews or testimonials. Social media can be a great way to share this content, but it is ever-evolving. To leverage social media you will want to (Booth, 2020):
- Make sure you have a social media presence (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn…etc)
- Use social share buttons on your pages
- Use #hashtags (just like keywords)
Booth implores you to ask yourself these questions when creating content (Booth, 2020):
- Which network will it go out on?
- What will the message say?
- Which hashtags will it use?
- Who will do it?
- Who will monitor and respond to activity?
Lastly, you want to measure your content’s performance. This will help you understand what your users want so you can provide more of that content. Things like page views, visitor engagement, average time on site, bounce rate, and leads (sales/services purchased).
Increasing your link’s popularity will help search engines choose to show your site when a user searches for something relevant to your services or products. As indicated before, the URL and anchor text should be applicable to the context of the content. Avoid using “link” or “click here” and make those anchors are specific. Social Media is just like a link and more likes or shares increase that post’s popularity.
Internal linking (on your website) is important. These are navigation links (directing the user around your site) or contextual links (cross-linking relevant information and links within context) both of which search engines look at (Booth, 2020).
External linking is another way to gain popularity within search engines to continue building your relevance and reliability on a particular topic/keyword. By having quality content, other websites will want to share your link (or books). This can be organic or through outreach on your part.
Measuring SEO Effectiveness
You will need to configure your analytics to track your own goals and business outcomes. This can help you define what your objectives are (Booth, 2020). Organic traffic, changes over time, keyword search queries, and rankings are all things that you should be looking at in terms of effectiveness. Other specific items like revenue, orders, newsletter subscribers, social media followers, are all important measures to look at.
As mentioned earlier, Keywords are very important for SEO, which means analyzing their effectiveness is equally important. Google Analytics can help with this data by linking your specific keywords and determining clicks and impressions. High impressions but low clicks could indicate a problem or that something needs to be adjusted. Determining what happens when your site is placed before a user is the key to improving your SEO.
Analyzing links is also important. Analytics.moz.com will allow you to analyze your own links as well as your competitor’s links. This could indicate what they are doing right that you could maybe utilize within your own site. So don’t be afraid to see what other writers are posting.
Ecommerce: Local and Mobile SEO Considerations
If you utilize ecommerce on your site, you still want to follow all of the recommended steps listed above. Keywords, links, URLs, concise, clean, and relevant information is all-important. Unique to ecommerce is conversations outside of your site, such as reviews and forums. This is a chance to reach out to them to solve a problem/concern or thank positive feedback.
For those with physical stores or a presence in brick and mortar bookstores, local searches are very important. Google searches utilize things like maps, and you want to ensure your site is listed on these searches (or the location where someone could purchase your book in person). Go to google.com/business or bingplaces.com to set up your verified listing. Make sure your name, address, and phone number are on your own website.
Mobile SEO is a bit different because the user behavior is more unique. Typically users may want information fast, accessible, and concise. While others are searching while relaxing, or during commercials on a tv show. Understand how your customers might use mobile devices to reach your website or products information.
To continue learning more about SEO, Booth suggests trying:
- The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimization (Enge, 2016)
- MOZ blog or forum’s moz.com/blog
Search Engine Optimization is something I have very little experience with, but a few key things stood out and were repeated over and over again in the LinkedIn video. Ensuring your site is clean and concise, not just for users but search engines as well, and making sure your content is relevant to what the user wants and needs. These are two terms drilled into writers minds “What does your character want and need, and why can’t they have it?” Well, if we ask that same question but say “What do my readers want and need, and how can I ensure they get it” we’ll reach more and more readers and drive valuable traffic to our websites. Keywords have been touched on a few times in past blogs, but their importance shines through with talking about SEO. This is something I plan to explore even more to help drive traffic to my site, content, and products, but for now I encourage you to take a look at what your website is saying, and how you can improve it’s message.
Booth, D. (2020, November 16). SEO Foundations. Retrieved from LinkedIn Learning: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/seo-foundations/what-is-search-engine-optimization-seo
Enge, E. (2016). Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimization. SHROFF Publishers & Distribution .
MOZ. (n.d.). Retrieved from MOZ: https://moz.com/