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Importance of SEO and Metatagging, Part 1 by Lori Culwell

Part I:  Keyword Research

If you’re a writer, you write all the time, right?   You’ve got your book (or books) out, you’re updating a blog on a regular basis, and you’ve got some kind of social media presence, and your website is up to date.
These are the things I’m assuming you have, because they are the basics you need to be a writer in 2013.  Writers are creative types, but they also need to be organized.  I wrote a whole book that walks writers through doing this, step by step.   However you get there, you need to have some kind of network going where people can get to know your writing, buy your work (if you have some to sell), and get in touch with you to offer you multi-million dollar book deals.
The bulk of the work is going to be done by you.  Today, I’m just going to tell you about a couple of things you could (should) be doing to make it more possible for people to find your work.
As a writer and a computer nerd, part of what I do is Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  I like to explain this field by simply saying that search = demand, and content (writing) = supply.   It is my job to connect you with places where you might find examples of what people ARE ACTUALLY SEARCHING FOR, so that you may respond accordingly.  Maybe this means you will write articles or blog posts that contain those keywords.  Maybe you will just use this information to be a little better informed about what people want, and this will help you think of topics (for books) that will catch on.   Maybe you will just look at the lists of keywords and find them interesting, then go back to your writing.   However you use them is fine, really!
The first tool I will tell you about is Wordtracker.  They have a free keyword section where you can type in a  topic and get actual phrases people are using to search for that thing.  You can find that here:  https://freekeywords.wordtracker.com
Here’s why this matters to you if you write non-fiction:  say you write about gardening, you are an authority on gardening, and you have a gardening blog.  You will certainly want to pop over to Wordtracker and type in “gardening,” just so you can generate a list of ideas/ topics for book chapters, blog topics, and even sub-topics that could grow into new books.   Keyword research is super useful to writers, no matter where they are in the book process, because it indicates real things that people actually want to know.
I know, right now you’re thinking “I write fiction, this doesn’t even apply to me,” and that’s where you are wrong, my friends.  Say you’re writing a novel about vampires (as a few of you probably are).   If you went to the link above and typed in “vampire,” you’d find a long list of keywords and topics you could use, not only in the book itself, but in your blog posts about the book (when it’s finished), your Twitter hashtags, and anywhere else you might see fit. 
If you don’t like Wordtracker for whatever reason, you can still use the Google AdWords tool for free.  You’ll find that at http://adwords.google.com, though they will make you open up a Google AdWords account to actually use the tool.   However you get it, get some keyword research right now! 
If you’re still not satisfied with either of those tools, I would suggest that you sign up for the free version of Market Samurai, which is a most excellent keyword research software.   http://www.marketsamurai.com.   They have many videos and tutorials, and who knows?  You might love keyword research so much, you’ll switch careers and become an SEO person.  Stranger things have happened—writers do make the best SEO experts, in my opinion.
Your homework for today is to go and sign up for one (or both) of these services and conduct what might be your first-ever keyword search.  No pressure, just run some different keywords and see if any of them are relevant to you.  Next time:  we discuss where to put these keywords/ how to use them to increase your discoverability. 
Thanks—feel free to leave questions for me!


Lori Culwell is the author of five books, including her debut novel, Hollywood Car Wash, which was originally self-published and went to be bought and re-released by Simon & Schuster.

She writes and works with companies, agents, and authors on marketing, lives in New york and California, and has a super-awesome husband.

You can find her at www.loriculwell.com 

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This Post Has 27 Comments
  1. Lori, this information is so phenomenal. Thank you for sharing it. I have been completely clueless about SEO. I just signed into free keywords and am already starting to feel enlightened. THANK YOU!!!!! Congratulations on the success of your books!

    1. Hi there,

      Thanks for your question! While the term ‘SEO’ is in the title, I don’t want to go down too far into the SEO rabbit hole, because I think it kind of confuses authors, and honestly, my intent is just to get authors to be more aware of supply and demand.

      But, since you asked– do you mean “reverse SEO,” where you intentionally try to de-rank your competitors? NEVER do this. It is very black hat (and bad karma), and it will catch up with you. Or, do you mean “reverse image search”? This is not a bad idea, but again, it is WAY beyond what most authors need to do.

      The only reason I even bring up keyword research and SEO is to make authors more aware of what people want so they can write about it. I am definitely not implying that anyone needs to become an SEO expert, or that doing that is even necessary to sell more books. It is not.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Thank you! I checked out Wordtracker and have already discovered something important! (My book has the word “faerie” in the title, but there are FAR more searches for “fairy” than there are for “faerie”! Hmmm… )

    1. Hi Rachel! Yes, this is why it’s so important for writers to be aware of the keyword tools and to regularly be running these searches. Is there any way to change your book’s title, or has that ship sailed with your publisher? If it’s an easy fix (meaning you put the book out yourself and you’re still in touch with the cover designer who can make the change), it might be worth doing.

      Even if you can’t make this change, you can start using the more popular spelling of “fairy” on your website when you talk about fairies or the book in general. Baby steps!

    1. Thanks Shelli! Thanks for having me, this is great.

      When you say “make your books come up” do you mean in Amazon? Since they have recently eliminated likes and tags, the best thing you can do is conduct the keyword research I have described, then use the keywords in the actual description of your book within Amazon. If you put it in yourself through KDP, you can also use their “Internal Keyword Tagging” tool. Another thing you can do is KDP select for a day or two.

      Let me know if that’s what you meant, or if there is another topic you wanted me to address.

  3. I’m still getting to grips with having my own website/blog. I never seem to know what to put on there and it doesn’t really have much character at the moment. Any tips? Thanks.

    1. Hi Lisa! That’s great that you’ve taken the first step. I would have to see the website to give specific advice, but I’d say if you start with keyword research and good writing based on that, you’re moving in the right direction.

  4. I’ve used keywords and phrases I’ve generated at Google Ad Words and then plugged them into the search engine at Amazon to try to find relevant searches there. Amazon search terms are much harder to figure out, but if you begin typing a phrase and a list comes up then it’s likely that’s been a search term.

    1. Hi Rebecca!

      Yes, Amazon is a little harder to figure out, but I think that “auto-suggest” feature is super interesting. For the purposes of tagging a book (internally, since Amazon has just cut external tags and likes), I definitely would play with that auto-suggest in the search as a method of building a keyword list.

    1. Thanks Shana! You’re not alone in being stumped, but it’s great that you’re here, reading and just taking the first step. Next: get in there and do some searches! You will like what you see.

  5. Lori, this was awesome! I often struggle with what keywords or tags I should use in my posts, etc. I didn’t know about keyword search engines. So, I’m off the be a noob at keyword searching. I’m looking forward to your next post! <3

    1. Hi Belle!

      It’s great that you’re even aware of how to put keywords/ tags into posts. I’d say that the main mistake I see authors make is putting either overly general or overly simple terms into the tags, such as “home life” or “Smith family.” These types of keywords have opposite problems– for the former, you are not going to rank for “home life” because it is what we call “overblown”– there are so many websites using that topic, you will just be one in a sea of a million voices. With the other, it is unlikely anyone is actually searching for the keyphrase “Smith family,” so that’s not doing you any good either. Hope that makes sense.

      Your best bet is to write your post, then do a super-quick search in one of the tools I’ve provided, choose a few keywords that have actual searches (but that are not overly competitive), and stick those in there. That way, someone who is searching for one of those terms can get to you and become a fan of your work!

      Hope that makes sense!

    2. I write my blog posts as they come to me … and I’ve always balked at inserting random keywords just to get a higher ranking. It felt like cheating – silly I know, but who says writers are logical about such things?

      A lightbulb went off in my head when I read that last paragraph.

      My written post is the first draft. Adding links, photos, and keywords is the second!

      *brain ‘sploded – must lay down now*

      Thanks so much 😀


    3. Hi Widder!

      I also write blog posts as they come to me, and I would NEVER deign to tell a writer what to write. But, you are ABSOLUTELY, 100% RIGHT ON with your lightbulb moment. First draft = writing. Second draft = tagging so people can find your writing. Go you!!

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