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SEO for Authors: Promoting Books and Building an Author Platform


SEO (search engine optimization) is the process of improving a website’s visibility and ranking in the search engines in order to get an increase in website traffic. It is true that most website traffic is driven by the major commercial search engines: Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. While social media and other types of traffic can generate visits to your website, search engines are the primary method of navigation for most internet users. Whether your site provides content, services, products, or information, search engines are a primary method of navigation for almost all internet users. This is true whether your site provides content, services, products, information, etc. Search queries (the words that users type into the search box) which have the solutions and answers often rank sites as the best place to find their content. Aka top results and high-ranking sites get lots of visits for their targeted traffic.

It is fairly certain that the term SEO has become a buzzword over the past few years. The problem is that SEO is a new concept for many people and most authors are unaware that it can be a crucial aspect in promoting their book, whether they’re self-published or traditionally published. It’s important to note that the information found in this guide might seem overwhelming for newcomers. But fear not, in spite of the mass of information that can be found on the subject, SEO can be broken down into a few simple rules and steps that can appeal to all levels of technological savviness.

What is SEO?

The second function is to create traffic to your website through the search engines. The higher your website appears on the search engine, the more potential visitors will come to your site through these search engines. The reason this traffic is valuable is because it is highly targeted.

Search engine optimization (SEO) has two important functions. The first is to rank your website, blog, or web pages as high as possible in the search engine listings. The positioning of your website is crucial to attracting more traffic. For example, if you have a business or a site selling a product, you can use the methods outlined in this article with “SEO for Authors: Promoting Books and Building an Author Platform” to ensure that potential customers can find your website or webpage simply by searching for relevant keywords.

Importance of SEO for Authors

Exposure of a website leads to exposure of the product, and a higher rate of conversion for the product/service the website is promoting. Increases in prominence can often benefit a company or entrepreneur beyond the actual product/service being offered. For example, individuals taking part in public speaking or seeking more clients for consulting can use their increased web prominence as a marketing tool to enhance their offline endeavors. Published authors are a great example of this principle, as an increase in web prominence can act as a valuable tool to enhance book sales and readership. Building an author platform is certainly not unique to published authors, but the phrase has become synonymous with the web. An author platform is what it sounds like: a stage upon which authors can present themselves and their work. The ultimate goal is to gather and maintain a readership, and nothing beats gathering readers like having a website that attracts target audience traffic. High search engine visibility is the equivalent to having a prime location in a high traffic area, and all the signposts pointing the way to that location.

Potential readers will need 8 to 12 exposures to an item before deciding to purchase; the more books a potential reader is exposed to, the more those exposures count towards a sale. Now, when you think of the millions of books in print and the millions more being published each year, you can see how vital it is to make yourself and your book easy to find. People seldom go past the first few pages of search engine results. It is important, then, for authors to get their work on those first few pages of search results. This is where SEO service comes in. Bringing your website to search engine prominence is an arduous and time-consuming task, which is why so many companies exist to help boost business prominence through SEO, promising to save time, alleviate frustration, and increase revenue through their expertise in search engine techniques and keen understanding of consumer behavior.

Benefits of SEO Service for Authors

After getting to know what SEO is, we will jump into the benefits for authors. As authors, you probably have invested a big amount of money to publish your book. Thus, hiring an SEO service will help you to gain what you have spent on your book. The obvious way to earn from your book is to increase sales. If your book is searchable and placed on a higher rank, most probably someone will click on your book and buy it. SEO can also help you promote your book that is published only in a certain country. Let’s say you have published a fiction novel in Malaysia. With the right keyword (in this case probably in Malay language), your book might be the number 1 searchable result. This can be a benefit to you because a lot of people can’t be bothered to go to a bookstore to find the book, but would rather buy it online. This can be applied to an international level with the right strategy. The next benefit might be the stepping stone for a newly established or already popular author to build a reputation in the book industry. By consistently having a good result for books published, the author’s name will be well known. This is very important because in the future, to promote any future books or events, the author is already a step ahead because of the good reputation. Lastly, one thing many people overlook is that some authors love to attend book exhibitions around the world. By having a good result for their book, there is a high possibility that book exhibition committees will offer them to join future events because of the good reputation (with the condition that they must bring a lot of stock for the book).

Optimizing Book Titles and Descriptions

Incorporating keywords into your book title is perhaps the most important thing you can do to influence the discoverability of your book. This is because search engines give considerable weight to the words that appear in the title when determining relevance. Think of it this way: when you search for something on the internet, oftentimes the search terms that you used will be highlighted in the search results. This is because the search engine is trying to show you the results that it thinks are most relevant to you, and one way it does this is by making sure that the words you used in your search query are also the words that appear in the search results. The placement of the search terms in the search results is determined by how closely the content matches the terms, and one of the best places for terms to appear is in the title.

When you search for a book in an online bookstore, what is the first thing you do when your search results come back? You probably scroll through the results, clicking on each one to learn more about it. If you’re searching on, you’ll notice that even though you’re searching for books, the search results include other products. When you find a book, the first thing you look at is the title, right? Of course it is. A book’s title is the single most important “piece of metadata” used to market the book. This is because when people are searching for a book to buy, they are looking for it by title. If they don’t know the exact title of the book they are looking for, they might search by author, but often people search by title because they have heard of the book somewhere and want to learn more about it.

Choosing Keywords for Book Titles

Authors have employed many techniques to keep readers turning pages, giving their works the attention they deserve. These days, in an internet-driven world, discoverability is a priority. When we consider online search behavior, incorporating keywords into book titles represents the most basic form of search optimization. The title of a book is its best advertisement. It needs to be attractive and represent the contents accurately. Load a title with keywords and it becomes awkward and uninteresting, but choose a popular keyword phrase over a less popular one and your book could be overlooked. Authors can now see how many people are searching specific keyword phrases with the Google Keyword Tool. When considering keyword popularity and competition, it may be best to target a more focused audience by choosing a less popular keyword over a more popular one. For example, you may have written a science fiction book with a specialized setting, a ring-shaped space habitat. A Google search for “ring world” will yield scads of results related to Larry Niven’s similarly titled Known Space books, but something more specific like “science fiction novel ring world” turns up fewer results and would be more likely to lead potential readers to your book. In many cases, particularly with genre fiction, adding a simple subtitle to the book can be effective, providing more opportunity to load up on keyword phrases that people will likely search for. Continuing with the above example, the title of the book could be “The Shaded Ring: A Science Fiction Novel Set on a Ring World”. This subtitle is now a beacon for search optimization. A potential reader looking for exactly what this book offers will have a very easy time finding it.

Writing Compelling Book Descriptions

You may choose to use blurbs or quotes from reviews in your description. This can give you an extra hook at the beginning and provide further social proof that the book is worth reading. Be careful not to overdo this – quotes are not a substitute for your own writing. And remember, you have less than 200 words!

Pick out what you think is the most compelling aspect of your book. It might be the setting, the mood, the characters, the story… whatever it is, that’s what you’ll want to focus on. Remember, you have less than 200 words. Often, starting with some version of “When/After/In” can help to get the ball rolling. But remember, you have 150-200 words! Keep it focused! Try to end the description with a tantalizing statement. Leave the reader with a desire to know what will happen.

An effective book description is clear, enticing, and brief – no longer than 150-200 words. It gives the reader a specific idea of what the book is about, why it is unique, and who would want to read it. A good description is an essential selling tool, as it’s often the first thing a potential reader will see. The job of the description is to sell the book – to make someone want to read it. This is not the time to be vague or mysterious. It needs to communicate a specific thought.

Incorporating Keywords in Book Metadata

Understanding and implementing the use of keywords in books relies on understanding the functions of metadata in online searches. Metadata is anything that defines a piece of information. That includes the item itself and every attribute that the item encompasses. We can narrow metadata into three types: descriptive, structural, and administrative. Descriptive is the most useful in the context of search engines. Metadata can help sort through endless pages of search results for a specific object. This is done through mapping a keyword to the location of an object on the internet. By doing this, the search engine knows where to look when trying to find a specific item. If an author names their book file with the intended book title, they are already increasing searchability by allowing the search engine to specifically look for the book title. Formula, algorithm, lookup, or search comparison enables a user to use one term and have it compared with several same or similar terms. The author may only know one word to describe something, while a potential reader may know many. Using the same terms is also a bridge metafunction. Step two in searchability occurs when the more specific use of descriptive metadata is used. A descriptive entry of metadata can lead directly to a book title or an author’s name. By having descriptive metadata of simple keywords like “book title” or “author’s name” that embed a link to the author’s work, the search engine can retrieve direct results to what the user wants. The results will also be relatively more systematic than using something like a search comparison. This is because there is a clearer idea of what the user wants through following direct links to the item.

Utilizing SEO Tools for Book Optimization

The process of improving search placement and the visibility of a book can be daunting, yet using each of the tools that have been outlined can give authors a clear-cut plan on what needs to be done to have a successful book marketing campaign. Each element complements the next and provides a solid structure for any author to work from. Following through with each step will increase the chances of the book’s visibility and ultimately result in an increase in sales.

Once an author has chosen the best possible title for their book, the next step is to implement any keywords that the author has researched. The most sure-fire way to implement metadata into a book’s title is to incorporate keywords into the title prior to publishing the book. A great way to measure the effectiveness of a book title and the keywords incorporated is to use a split testing tool. Amazon allows individuals to test up to 7 different elements to see which elements are most effective. Elements that can be tested include: book titles, subtitles, author’s name, cover images, as well as content descriptions. Although this may seem like a tedious process, chances are it’s more effective to go through the process of testing as opposed to leaving metadata to chance. Trying different keyword combinations while testing their popularity can also lead authors to new keyword ideas that may not have been thought of before.

Creating Author Websites and Blogs

As much as I am with you in hating those long Flash introductions to websites, the sad truth is that many people expect some pizzazz. If you don’t have “flashy stuff,” some visitors may question your professionalism as an author. This doesn’t mean you need to spend tons of money on a web designer. There are hosts like WordPress that offer pre-made professional looking templates for free. By using some of these resources and considering what makes other websites look professional, you can make a great looking website relatively easily. It’s not all about looks though; a good author website is updated frequently. When you’ve got nothing new, people lose interest. If news is put on the front page about an update, blog entry, or anything else relevant to your books, visitors can instantly see what has been added since their last visit. This will increase the chance of them returning to your site more than once. With a frequent update and easily accessible information about your books, you’re ready to draw those quality fans in. They’re not going to come out of the blue you say? You’re right, nowadays people don’t randomly stumble upon websites very often. This is why we move on to the next section, SEO: how to make potential fans find your website.

Feeling overwhelmed yet? Fear not. We’re going to start with website basics in this section. SEO may be complicated, but the first thing you need as an author (or aspiring author) is a website. Why? Because people who read your book and want to know more about you will look you up, and if they can’t find anything, you may lose them as a fan. If these people are so interested in you that they’ll actively search for you on Google, there’s a good chance that they’re the type of fans you want to keep. A website is your best chance of keeping them. Now keep in mind that a website is a marketing tool, not a personal playground. As cute as it may be, your website isn’t an electronic shrine dedicated to how awesome you are. Well okay, maybe it is, but the people visiting don’t want to know that. They want information about you and your books. They want to know when your next book will be coming out, or if you’re writing a sequel to the one they just finished. Make said information as easy to find as possible. Your main objective in designing a website is to make it easy for fans and potential fans to find the information they want. It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised at how many author websites fail this objective. Be sure that there’s a section or page for each one of your books. Put a brief spoiler-free synopsis of the book on the page, and make it easy for the visitor to find out more about that book.

Designing an Author Website

The whole process of building a website can fill a book (or books) in itself, but we will cover the basics here. First, purchase a domain name for yourself. Many site-building services, such as those which we’ll discuss in the next paragraph, offer free hosting and subdomain addresses (e.g. [Link], but it’s worth it to own the rights to your name’s domain (e.g. [Link] This carries a professional image and portability that a subdomain cannot match. Next, decide on a solid design or concept for your site. Consider the audience you are trying to reach and the image you want to present, and apply this idea in the site’s layout, color scheme, and other visual features. Finally, and most importantly, decide on what content you want to present on your site. Create an “about the author” page to highlight your writing credentials and recent work. If you are selling a book, create a page or section for that book with information, samples, and ways to purchase. If you have future projects in the works, mention them. Always provide a way to contact you. Your site should have a stable amount of content, and this is a good opportunity to be providing things for search engines to find.

Even though your website will be only one of many others promoting your book, it will be the official resource on you and your work, and it will add to your professional image in the eyes of all who view it. Plus, an author website is an invaluable tool for both self-promotion and long-term career development. Blogs are great platforms for writers, but blog readers can be a fleeting audience. Your blog is a chronicle of your writing that may eventually roll off the front page and get lost in the archives, and a blog format may not be ideal for every writer or subject matter. Whether or not you choose to maintain a separate blog, a website will provide stability and a home-base in the online world, which is crucial for authors who are promoting books (or themselves as writers).

Writing Engaging Blog Content

Regardless of whether your primary goal is to generate book sales or to brand yourself and your thoughts, having a blog on your site is a great way to do both. When it comes to SEO, fresh content is key. Search engines respond to gobs of new content by raising your site higher in the rankings. Whether you’re running paid ads or working towards high organic rankings, you’d benefit greatly by running a blog. Blogging helps you turn a static website into an interactive, participatory one. It allows you not only to interact with your visitors, but also gives the visitors a reason to interact with your site. Whether it’s reading a comic and leaving a comment, or posing a question to a blog post, interaction helps build trust and makes visitors much more likely to buy. Finally, speaking more broadly, linking your site to a blog can help you become an authority in your niche, and authority sites rank well in search engines. Think of your blog as a personal newspaper in your town. If your blog was the best source for local news, you’d be quite the authority figure. Your goal should be to make your blog the best source in your niche for what’s new and interesting. In other words, your blog can directly feed into achieving your SEO goal to sell more product, by raising the trust that people have in your brand and products.

Optimizing Author Websites for Search Engines

Choosing good keywords is one of the most important aspects of search engine optimization. Keywords are the words and phrases that people type into search engines. Think about the types of words that your target audience might use to find the information that your website provides. The most popular keywords are often the hardest to rank well for, as there is a lot of competition. For example, if you have written a science fiction novel, ranking well for the keyword ‘science fiction’ would be extremely difficult due to the high number of websites using it. Long tail keywords are keyword phrases that are more specific and often less competitive than more common keywords, e.g. ‘hard science fiction novels’ or ‘science fiction novels for teenagers’. Focusing on long tail keywords may mean less traffic from each individual phrase, but the combined traffic for multiple long tail keywords can be very significant. Long tail keywords can also be a good way for new websites to gain initial search traffic. Once the website is established and ranks well for less competitive long tail keywords, it can begin to target more competitive keywords. The Google Keyword Tool is a useful free tool for checking the popularity and competition of keywords. An ideal keyword is one that is popular and has a high search volume, but is not so competitive that the website has no chance of ranking well for it.

Various techniques can be used to improve the visibility of author websites in search engines. This is important as search traffic can be a major source of visitors for most websites. Users are more likely to click on links that appear higher up in search results, so achieving good rankings is important. The exact methods used to achieve good search engine rankings are constantly changing due to search engine updates, but there are some basic principles that can be followed to ensure your website has the best possible chance of ranking well.

Building Backlinks to Author Websites

Backlinks—essentially, they’re hyperlinks that point to your website from other locations on the World Wide Web—are an important component of SEO. Ranking depends partially on the number of quality backlinks you have, as well as anchor text. Think of your website as a city on a plot of land. The more roads leading to it, the more traffic you receive. Let’s consider a scenario of two authors who specialize in writing paranormal fantasy. Author A, who is Internet savvy and has been building his site for the past year, has much more traffic. Author B just finished his site and is clueless about backlinking. When Author B approaches Author A for advice on increasing traffic, Author A will most likely tell him that the best way to increase traffic is to climb the search engine rankings. With a chuckle, he informs Author B that search engine rankings are partially luck, mostly effort, and a bit of trickery. An amused Author B asks for elaboration, so Author A gives him the following advice: The fastest and easiest way to climb the search engine rankings is to have a few friends over and have them link to your site with a specific keyword. This method is effective, but you can only go so far with it and is not very respectable in the Internet community. Step two is to find any free quality directories and submit your site. There are hundreds of free directories, but finding a good one with high PageRank can be tedious. This is a good time to consider purchasing one of our SEO books because using our long list of directories alongside the directory’s PageRank will save you much time. Step three is the most difficult and will require more effort than the previous two steps combined. You need to get in touch with other webmasters and request link exchanges. This is basically a ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ deal as you will be required to place a link to their site up on yours. The difficulty lies in convincing others that your site is worth it. An alternative to link exchanges is using link bait. Link bait is a piece of content or a tool that is created with the intention of generating incoming links. Typically, these links will come from other blogs interested in the content or forum posts. A pattern I’ve noticed is that there are many authors who on top of writing are RPG enthusiasts. A paranormal fantasy author could create a free to use RPG storytelling forum as both a fun tool for his visitors and a link bait method.

Utilizing Social Media for Website Promotion

With the second part of your strategy, think about the kind of content that you are going to provide. You should be a contributing member of the community using the website, not just somebody that signs up to plug their own site. Interaction is key. You might want to write this down in a sort of plan or guideline. This will lend a sense of consistency to your efforts and will also be something that you can take into your future social media ventures.

The first step to using social media for website promotion is to create a strategy. Decide which social media websites you are going to use, and how you are going to use them. Twitter and Facebook are usually no brainers, but depending on your website, you might also want to use relevant sites like LinkedIn or even meme sites like 4chan. What kind of people is your website aimed at bringing in? What websites are they likely to be using? What kind of social media websites are they likely to be using? These are the kind of questions that you need to consider when deciding where to focus your efforts.

Social media can be a very effective way to get your website noticed and bring in visitors. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about using social media for website promotion. A lot of people make the mistake of joining every single social media website that they can find and then spamming people with links to their website. This is not only ineffective, but in many cases it will actually drive people away from your website.

Engaging with Readers and Building an Author Platform

Twitter’s search feature can help you find people who are talking about your book’s topics. Follow these users and begin casual conversations with them about your shared interests. Avoid directly promoting your book to these individuals at first. If they express interest in your writing topics, then it will be relevant to mention your work to them. An effective tactic for authors building a Twitter following is to search for literary agents using the #MSWL tag to find out what types of books they are currently seeking.

Social media is an excellent marketing tool due to its vast reach and the potential for interaction with readers. Authors of fiction will benefit most from social media interaction, but non-fiction authors can also find opportunities for promoting their work. Regular posts about your writing process, interesting facts, and questions relating to your book or potential topics can stimulate reader interest and make for worthwhile promotional exercises. Consider targeted Facebook ads as a chance to reach potential readers based on their interests through keywords. At this point in your marketing, you should have a good idea of your book’s primary audience and be able to set your ad preferences to reach them.

Interacting with Readers on Social Media

When interacting with readers, showing behind the scenes of your work is a great non-intrusive way to promote. Posting about your writing process, your research, anything that went into your book will help show readers that you are passionate about your project, and it could spark their interest in your book. This can often be more interesting content than the book itself. Readers enjoy knowing how a story came to be, and it may give them a sense of investment resulting in a purchase. For my own project, I have been posting short pieces on the lore behind my book, and I’ve found it has sparked interest from people who wouldn’t usually be interested in the genre.

Social media has forever changed how creators and consumers interact online. With powerful platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, authors have a wealth of opportunities to engage with potential readers. Being personally engaging has much impact on social media. People want to know who you are, rather than just seeing you as a marketer. Showing your human side makes you more approachable. This can sometimes be a hard thing to do when your book is your ‘baby’ and you want to see it succeed. If you are passionate about your work, you may edge on being over-promotional. Reader interaction is one of the best ways to both sell your book, and it’s also more rewarding than constantly spamming links.

Building an Email List for Author Updates

There are a few ways to go about building a mailing list. There are a number of sites and services that offer to add a form to your website where visitors can sign up, with the information gathered being sent to an email list that can be managed from the site. Such sites/services can be easily found with a quick search and often offer free or very cheap options. An author can also go about adding a subscription option to their blog if they have one, but the most common way of gathering email information is through promotional events and giveaways. Come up with a piece of material exclusive to the mailing list, a short story or a piece of concept art for instance, and make it available to anyone that signs up during a specific time period. Offering free copies of your book can also be an effective lure, though this may attract people looking for free material and not genuinely interested fans.

While social media platforms can be extremely useful for connecting with readers and promoting new material, many authors reach the majority of their fans through their actual mailing list. Building an email list geared towards fan updates is an excellent way to keep readers informed about new releases, promotional events, and general news relating to your work. Fans that have gone through the trouble of subscribing to an author’s mailing list are more likely to be genuinely interested in updates and new material, as opposed to social media where that information may be lost to time and site mechanics.

Collaborating with Other Authors and Influencers

Authors can leverage their connections with other writers and authors to help promote their work and increase traffic to their author platform. One of the most effective ways to do this is to cross-promote content with other authors. Guest blogging is a great way to start; consider swapping a post with an author who writes in a similar genre. For example, LYPP author Jessica Spotswood started a blog to promote her new book, The Cahill Witch Chronicles. She invited other authors of YA historical/fantasy novels to write guest posts about their research process. Not only did this provide relevant content for Jessica’s blog, it allowed her to form a bond with these authors and tap into their readerships. She cross-promoted the posts via Twitter and Facebook, tagging her fellow authors to encourage their followers to check out the content. This increased Jessica’s blog traffic dramatically and drew new readers to her site. During this process, Jessica mentioned that author cross-promotion can be an excellent networking opportunity; it’s laid the groundwork for future promotional opportunities, such as book giveaways and author interview swaps.

Participating in Book Events and Online Communities

To build a reputation as an author and promote your books, a writer should consider participating in book events and becoming active in online communities. Book events offer you the opportunity to meet readers and other authors face to face. This personal contact can be very effective in building a loyal reader base. Your books will also benefit from greater visibility by being included in online and offline advertising for the event. Offline events are no doubt the best opportunity to interact with readers, but online events can also be effective. If you have an existing relationship with a site that reviews your genre of books, you can inquire about hosting a special event such as a forum discussion or chat event. Online interviews and guest posts are another way to increase your visibility in online communities. All of these activities tend to have a lasting impact, as any hosted content will likely remain available for later viewing. After the event is over, assess how it impacted traffic to your site. Any increase in activity is likely due to increased awareness of your name and books.

Tracking and Analyzing SEO Performance

It is important to set realistic expectations. Do not expect to see your site displayed on the first page of search results immediately, and do not expect to see a huge increase in traffic from search engines right away. It’s a good idea to benchmark your current traffic and search engine ranking and record this data so that you have a reference point later on. You can do this by monitoring your search referral traffic or your server log. 6-8 weeks after you have begun to optimize your site and target specific keywords, you should begin to see some movement. You can check your page rank for a specific keyword with Google’s toolbar. It is useful to keep a record of this data as well. After another 6-8 weeks have passed, go through the same process and compare the results with your earlier ranking. You may want to consider

Implementing SEO strategies is only half the battle. Once you have planted keywords and encouraged backlinks, it will be important to track performance and analyze how successful your tactics have been in comparison to those of competitors. To do this, you must first determine which search engines are most widely used by your target audience. While in North America, this will most likely mean Google, there are some countries and regions that have search engines which are used more frequently. This is the case in much of Eastern Europe and Russia, as well as parts of Asia. Because Google is not the most widely used search engine worldwide, you may wish to target a specific regional audience, in which case it may be useful to submit your website to a search engine other than Google. Keep in mind that different search engines may have different algorithms, which can affect the order in which your site is displayed in results. While Google may use PageRank, other search engines may not. Be sure that you have researched this and that you are optimizing specifically for the search engines that your audience uses.

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