Many authors think that writing a book is the hardest part. Don’t get us wrong – writing is hard – but you’re a writer, so at the end of the day there’s something on paper. Once you have written something, you will have to be found. Or rather, in the chaos of the internet, you have to actively make sure that people find you. We’ve already covered this in several articles, but that doesn’t change the fact that this part of the publishing process is outside the comfort zone of many writers. SEO strategies like getting niche relevant backlink for authors is something we’ve only mentioned briefly, and in this article, we’ll take a closer look at this particular topic.
Since we talk about how you can improve your SEO activities to be discovered as an author, we assume that you have a website. What we mean by that is a well-functioning site dedicated to you as an author, the books you have, or the books you plan to publish. If you’re serious about creating an online platform for yourself, you can use WordPress, Drupal, or SquareSpace, for example.
Now that that’s settled, let’s move on!
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s about making your website (or individual pages on the website) easier to find for people through search engines like Google. In general, there are two different types of SEO – technical and substantive. In this article, we are going to focus more on substantive SEO because it is the most accessible for you as a writer. While it certainly doesn’t hurt to get a little more technical knowledge, much of the technical foundation you need for SEO can be handled by third-party apps and plugins that are easy to install on your website.
However, before we dive into the technique, it’s good to have a basic idea of how search engines like Google work. If this sounds complicated, don’t worry! We’re going to keep it simple.
The inside of a search engine
In fact, Google has small helpers called “spiders,” or “web crawlers,” which Google sends to explore the internet. These ‘spiders’ collect all the information they can find and bring it back to Google. It then takes this information and places it in its ever-growing ‘web’, which is actually a huge library, filled with all the web pages of the internet.
Then curious people like you and me come along and decide to type a sentence or a word into Google in hopes of finding what we’re looking for. Google then reads our so-called search sentence and looks through its ‘web’ to find what it thinks are the best possible answers. It’s even nice enough to give us these results in order of relevance and quality! What Google considers to be less relevant or of lower quality is being pushed further and further down in the list of search results.
Where to start
Keyword research – what is it?
To be found by your potential readers, you need to know what they’re looking for. That’s why all good SEO starts with keyword research. The purpose of keyword research is to find keywords and phrases that will help you create content. For example, if you’ve written a thriller, you’ll want to create content based on the keywords that relate to thriller books. In general, every piece of content you create, whether it’s a page or a blog, needs to be “built” around a single keyword or a single sentence. This makes it easier for Google to rank the content in its index, and thus increases the likelihood that it will be placed high on the results page (SERP).
What you can use as the basis for keyword research is simply typing sentences into the Google search bar (and the search fields of other major websites such as Youtube or Reddit). As you probably know, Google gives search results that are most related to your keywords. As a result, the keywords you have entered are the best options.
You’ll explore the options further by using a tool like Google Trends, where you can compare the popularity of different search terms within a given geographic location. Pretty handy. This tool can help you make more optimized decisions for your keywords. Answer the Public is another tool that can help you discover even more specific keywords, categorized by prepositions.
It all seems very simple now when it is written like this, but what exactly should you do?
Keyword research – how do you work?
Let’s say you’ve written a fantasy book. You could use “fantasy book” as a starting point for your keyword research, and enter that word into Google search, or whatever other search engine you’ve chosen to use.
Well, that’s a lot of results that you get. You could start writing about your particular book, focusing on the term “fantasy book”, but this won’t get you very far.
There are undoubtedly thousands of pages that fall under this umbrella term, which means that you have to compete with all those other pages. So what you want to do is eliminate as much of the competition as possible, by being as specific as possible.
This is where subgenres come in handy. It doesn’t matter what genre you’re writing in, it’s probably also part of a particular subgenre, and the fans of that particular subgenre are undoubtedly very picky readers looking for more of that particular type of story. So let’s say that your fantasy book is actually a childhood fantasy book, in which people and society are examined. Your Google search suggestions will immediately look very different:
These search terms are already more specific and therefore less competitive than the previous ones. Now, using this example, let’s say that your childhood fantasy book also contains a male protagonist. You’re in luck; it is one of the most popular search terms related to fantasy books. How do we know this? If Google isn’t specific enough, you can put your keyword in ‘Answer the Public’ for a more detailed overview of popular searches.
ALSO READ: There Are Many Good Reasons to Read Books
Most of the key phrases in the images above are decent choices to create content for. You could write a blog post detailing how you came up with a youth fantasy book with a male protagonist and what the implications are for the genre. You could also create a page with details about the world in which your childhood fantasy book takes place, focusing on history, geography, and culture, for example.
When writing these pages and articles, make sure you include the key phrase (the sentence you want to be found on) in the text itself, especially in the headlines. However, don’t overdo it! A good rule of thumb is, if it sounds strange to you as a human being (because of the number of times a certain keyword is repeated) then you try too hard. You should always strive to make texts as readable and engaging as possible. That way, people spend more time on your site, which is a huge recommendation for Google. If you’re using WordPress to build the website, the Yoast SEO plugin is an excellent tool to make sure you’re on the right track.
Try to create as much content as possible for as many relevant keywords as possible. Remember that the shorter and more general the keyword, the more competition you will have. Also, make sure that the content you create accurately reflects the keyword. Google penalizes sites that are misleading, so your SEO efforts can have the opposite effect if you’re not transparent enough! Google can move your site further down if the keyword appears remarkably often in the text.
Make your pages work
Once you’ve created a number of pages for your website, you’ll want to double-check that they all work. Depending on the size of your website, this task comes in varying degrees of difficulty. Essentially, you need to make sure that there are no broken links or pages that the readers may encounter when they click through your site. This is of course important for the readers themselves (few things are more annoying than clicking on an interesting link and getting to an error 404 page), but also for Google.
This is because Google has a so-called “crawl budget” for each site. That means the “spiders” only spend a limited amount of time going through your site, meaning there’s only a certain amount of information they bring back to Google. This means that any broken or dead-end link will use your crawl budget without you getting anything in return. That’s why it’s really important to maintain your website to make sure all pages work.
Be generous with internal links
In addition, adding some internal links will allow the ‘spiders’ to take shortcuts when searching your website, which makes the process much more efficient. Therefore, link as much as possible the related pages and blog posts that are on your website as much as possible in the content of the article in which you want to place those links. For example, if you’re talking about an “About the Author” page, you’ll probably mention why you’re writing fantasy books for youth. In that case, you will probably want to place a link to the article you have written based on the key phrase “youth fantasy book”. Internal links help both readers and Google’s “spiders” navigate your site more easily, which is good for SEO.
Once you’ve finished your content and sequenced it, you want to make sure that people who see your site on Google will be tempted to click on it. The most important factor here is the meta-description. The meta description is the piece of sample text you see when Google lists your search results:
This meta-description of fantasyboeken.com is actually pretty bad. It’s too long, causing Google to cut off the middle of the sentence. Moreover, the text is meaningless. Without the fact that fantasyboeken.com, it is doubtful that someone would be tempted to click on it. In addition, we are under the assumption that there are other options.
The following meta-description of fantasyonline.nl is much better. It’s short and to the point and tells the reader exactly what to expect when he or she clicks on the link.
Both meta-descriptions have included the keyword, fantasy book which is in bold, in both the titles and the descriptions themselves – that is a very important factor! People are much more likely to click on a search result if it contains the term they are looking for. That is also something that Google takes into account when ranking the search results.
But how do you edit the meta description? That depends on which CMS you use to create your website. For example, in WordPress and Drupal you will find the option at the bottom of the screen when creating a new page or post.
Try to secure backlinks
Once your website is ready to be visited by potential readers, it’s time to be proactive. An important factor that Google takes into account when ranking websites is how often they are linked by third parties. This shows Google that the content of a website is good enough to recommend it to others. If you can get this done, this is a great SEO strategy to get other people to come to your website. In addition, this is probably the most difficult and labor-intensive approach. Most website owners and bloggers are well aware of the value of a link, so you have to be willing to be able to offer something of value to their audience as well.
Choose potential partners carefully. Make sure you have content that’s relevant to them. Think of book bloggers and sites that specialize in youth fantasy books (building on our previous example of the fantasy book you wrote). Maybe they’re interested in reviewing your book, or maybe the premise of your book is unique enough to write an article about it. If they are open to it, as a guest blogger you could write a post for them on a topic you are familiar with (as in this case, how to write a childhood fantasy book with a male protagonist and self-publish it).
Once this is successful, make sure that somewhere in the content of the article there is a link to your own website – after all, that is the whole point.
Support your platform with social media
Social media doesn’t offer any direct benefits when it comes to SEO, but it does play an important supporting role in the bigger picture. Because while a big part of SEO is making your content as Google-friendly as possible, it’s even more important to create content that people really like. If you only create content with Google in mind, you run the risk of losing sight of the end goal: connecting people to your site (and getting them to buy your book). While you may get them on your site with good SEO, you should also make sure they stay and preferably share your content. That is why creating good and interesting content in SEO is just as important as finding the right keywords for that content.
This is also where social media plays a role. Social media offers you a shortcut to your target group because you can find your specific target group on it and approach it more easily. Unfortunately, this has no direct effect on your Google ranking. Examples of such shortcuts in the example of your childhood fantasy book are Facebook groups, subreddits, and hashtags aimed at fantasy fans. By joining these groups as an author and being actively involved in them, you can stimulate traffic to your author’s website.
Since the people you come into contact with are already part of your target group, you are much more likely to read your book. Assuming they like your book well enough, they can also become volunteer promoters of the book. This is the ideal result because it means that an independent third party will share links to your site, talk about your book, and drive even more traffic on your behalf.
As an aside, if you’ve published your book at Mybestseller, we can provide you with free customizable widgets for your social media page. These bring interested visitors directly to the store page of your book. However, to make clicking the “buy” button tempting, you’ll also need to maintain the social media profile you use with interesting content. Fortunately, you can usually reuse the things you put on your website. We have an article on how to promote your book on social media if you want to know more.
Whatever social media channels you use, don’t forget to be transparent in your communication! These are your future readers that we’re talking about, so building a friendly, trusting relationship with them is paramount!
While the bottom line is that good content is at the heart of good SEO, there’s more to it than that. Finding the right people and figuring out exactly what they’re looking for and how they’re looking for it is also critical. Once you’ve figured out which keywords to use, writing good content based on those keywords is your next step. Once your content is written, it’s time to be proactive and start bringing that content to the right people. And that while your site slowly rises in the ranking. Use social media to reach your readers directly with the goal of spreading the word through their own network.