SEO has an air of difficulty around it. It's fiddly and detailed and confusing. But it doesn't have to be. Rachel McCollin, ALLi author member, discusses SEO for authors bringing you all the tips and tricks you need to master SEO.
SEO for Authors
So, you’ve got yourself a shiny author website and you’ve added a great page showcasing your books, a newsletter signup and maybe a few blog posts.
Where are the hordes of people flocking to your site, eager to find out more about your books? Where are the masses of newsletter signups?
Well, it’s not as easy as that. Building a website doesn’t mean people will visit it. It’s a bit like books: your site needs discoverability.
For a website, the best way to boost your discoverability is by using search engine optimisation, or SEO. In this post, I’ll give you some simple tips to boost the SEO of your author website and help you get more visitors.
SEO is a bit of a dirty word to some people. It makes you think of dodgy firms promising they can get you to the top of Google if you give them your firstborn – every month.
Yes, there are dodgy SEO practitioners out there. But their numbers are falling, because the Google algorithm is catching up with their practices and now rewards quality content rather than keyword stuffing and spam.
So don’t feel icky when doing SEO on your site. It’s a respectable activity these days, and will help you get noticed.
So let’s have a look at some of the techniques you can use to boost your SEO.
Google’s algorithms (and let’s face it, Google is the big player here) have evolved over the years. They’re constantly tweaked to ensure that when someone searches for something, they’ll get the best possible results. This is what has made Google dominant – their algorithm is better at finding the best content.
As a writer, you have a head start. By filling your site with engaging, high quality content, you will not only keep your fans happy, you’ll also get better search engine rankings.
Update your blog regularly (once a week works well) and make sure your posts are relevant, informative and entertaining.
Google likes sites that are well-coded. The underlying HTML needs to be properly structured, accessible, and clean.
A quality website platform like WordPress will help with this. Some website builders aren’t so good for the structure of their code, as they use a drag and drop interface which doesn’t always output code that’s in the same order as the content on the page.
So when choosing your website system, try to find out if it’s well-coded. Look at some sites created with that system and see what their search engine rankings are.
Google hates sites that aren’t mobile-friendly. Your site should be responsive, which means the layout resizes itself on different sized screens.
Before you use any website system or theme, check that it’s responsive. If it isn’t, don’t use it. Google has publicly stated that sites that aren’t mobile-friendly will get lower rankings. And you’ll not only be harming your SEO, you’ll also be alienating the over 50% of people who access the internet on mobile phones.
Titles and Descriptions
When you search for a topic in Google and see a list of results, you aren’t necessarily seeing the actual title of the page that’s found. Instead, you’re seeing a title and a description that have been created for SEO purposes. In the example below, from Jane Friedman’s site, there’s a title and a one-sentence description that entices you to read the post.
These aren’t shown on the page itself, but they are shown to people who find your site in a search, and they’re important for helping Google find your site. If you don’t set these up, Google will use the title of your post or page by default, plus the opening lines from it for the description, which won’t be as effective at giving an overview of your content or in helping you to get found.
If your site is on WordPress, you can install an SEO plugin which will let you set these up for each page or post – it will boost your search rankings and the number of people clicking through to your site.
Having plenty of high-quality links back to your site from other sites will tell Google that your site is trusted enough for other people to want to link to it.
A few years back, getting backlinks (as they’re called) was an easy way of boosting your site’s search rankings, and it didn’t matter much how good those links were. But things have changed.
Backlinks now are about quality, not quantity. So when you’re building links to your site from other sites, focus on popular sites with high quality content that rank highly in search results themselves. And never pay for backlinks: they will always be from poor quality sites and will probably make your search ranking worse, not better.
So as an author, how can you build backlinks to your site? A few examples include blog tours, interviews, cross-promotions with other authors, guest posting (why not consider writing a guest post right here on the ALLi blog?), reblogging (something made easy on WordPress.com and other blogging platforms) and reviews. Links from social media sites won’t make much difference to your search engine rankings at all, as they’re too transient: you’ll need to reach out to other sites and find ways to get them linking to you.
Good SEO Can Help Your Visibility
Spending some time on your author website’s SEO will help you reach a wider audience and become more visible. If you’re a nonfiction author, it can be a primary method of reaching new readers, and is worth investing time on. If you’re a fiction author, it won’t make a huge difference to your sales, but it’s still worth getting the basics right. And the great news is that because Google values high-quality content, you’re already at an advantage as a writer.
OVER TO YOU
How good is your SEO? Are you implementing these tricks? Have you got other SEO tips you'd add?
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