If you're an author with an author website, you've heard the buzz around Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You’re likely wondering, "What exactly is SEO, and how can it benefit me in connecting with a wider audience of readers?" Well, before we go any further, I'd like to highlight two things:
SEO can be a game-changer in expanding your readership and potentially boosting book sales.
It's not as intimidating as it may seem!
And now - the SEO for authors 101 - so you'll have the knowledge and tools to illuminate your book in the digital realm. Let's get started!
What is SEO for authors?
SEO for authors is the process of increasing the number of visitors to your website by making sure it appears high on the list of results when a person uses a search engine, such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo! It's about tweaking your online presence so that when people search for topics related to your work, they find your book first. You achieve this by using the right words, creating engaging content, and making your website search engine-friendly. It's your secret weapon to getting your book noticed and reaching more readers in the vast online book universe.
Why is SEO important for authors?
To explain why SEO is important for authors like you, here’s an analogy:
A shopper - let’s call her Imogen - waltzes into a bookstore chock-full of potential reads. Imogen LOVES historical nonfiction books about WWII, so she meanders to the historical nonfiction section. Immediately, she eyes five books on display in the section. Drawn to one of the covers, Imogen picks up the book and reads its description. Deciding it’s not for her, she grabs another book from the display. “This is the one!” Imogen thinks, and she heads to the cashier, book in hand. While Imogen might have chosen a great book, she didn’t take the time to peruse the other options on the shelf.
Next time, Imogen might decide to buy her book online. She’s likely to begin her quest by typing historical fiction books about WWII into the Google search bar. Think of the search engine results pages (SERPs) as the historical fiction section of the bookstore. The books listed on the first page of these results are much like the ones the store decided to display. SEO-optimized web pages are more visible to consumers. And since so many people shop like our girl, Imogen, having your book or website more visible can lead to more books sold.
Learn more: How to Get Your Book into Bookstores
12 SEO strategies for authors
As an author, there are various strategies you can use to enhance your online presence to help your book reach a broader audience. The strategies you decide to use may differ depending on your goals and level of expertise with web development. Here are some ways authors can make use of SEO:
1. Keyword Research: Identify relevant keywords and phrases that potential readers might use to search for books in your genre or on your topic. Tools like Google Keyword Planner or Publisher Rocket can help you find popular and low-competition keywords.
2. Optimize Website Content: Optimize your content with relevant keywords if you have an author website or blog. Create high-quality, informative, and engaging blog posts, articles, or pages that incorporate these keywords naturally.
3. Title Tags and Meta Descriptions: Ensure your web pages have descriptive and keyword-rich title tags and meta descriptions. These elements appear in search engine results and can influence whether users click on your links.
4. Quality Content Creation: Consistently produce valuable, unique content that resonates with your target audience. This content could include blog posts, articles, book excerpts, author interviews, etc.
5. Internal Linking: Strategically link to other relevant pages on your website from within your content. This step helps improve user navigation and can increase the time visitors spend on your site, which can positively impact SEO.
6. Guest Blogging: Write guest posts for reputable websites and blogs in your niche or genre. Include links to your author's website or book pages within these guest posts to build backlinks and drive traffic.
7. Social Media Optimization: Optimize your author's social media profiles and share your content there. Engaging with readers and building a social media presence can indirectly boost your SEO.
8. Online Reviews and Authorship: Encourage readers to leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Positive reviews can improve your book's visibility in search results.
9. Mobile Optimization: Ensure your website is mobile-friendly since Google prioritizes mobile-friendly sites in its rankings.
10. Monitor Analytics: Use tools like Google Analytics to track your website's performance, such as traffic sources, user behavior, and popular content. This data can help you refine your SEO strategy over time.
11. Engage with Readers: Respond to comments on your website and engage with your audience on social media. Building a community around your work can generate more interest and improve SEO indirectly.
12. Local SEO: If you have physical book events or signings, optimize for local SEO to ensure that people in your area can easily find information about your events. For example, include the city name in the URL for the event page.
Learn more: 8 Actions to Take if Your Book Isn’t Selling
What are keywords?
Keywords are the specific words or phrases users type into search engines when looking for a book or author. To determine your keywords, consider your target readers and what they will likely type into a search engine when perusing books. These phrases are your keywords. For example, John Smith is a best-selling crime fiction author. His novels take place in London, England, and follow a witty detective as he solves murder crimes. John Smith may use these keywords:
London detective novels
Novels set in London
Murder crime novels
Books about crimes in London
Books about murder cases
Murder crime authors
Authors who write about London
Optimizing a website using keywords
Once you have your keywords, consider how to incorporate the keywords into your website data. Note that keyword usage should always be natural and relevant to your content. Prioritize providing valuable information to your audience over keyword placement, as user experience is a significant factor in SEO. Five places you can incorporate keywords include:
1. Title Tags: Place your primary keyword or key phrase in the title tag of your webpage. This step is the most critical on-page SEO element, and it should provide a concise and accurate description of your page's content.
2. Header Tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.): Use header tags to structure your content. Include your keywords in at least one of your header tags, preferably in the H1 tag (the main heading). This step helps search engines understand the hierarchy and relevance of your content.
3. Meta Descriptions: Write a compelling meta description for each webpage, including your target keyword. While meta descriptions don't directly impact rankings, they appear in search results and can influence click-through rates.
4. Content: Naturally integrate keywords throughout your content. Use them in the body of your text, but avoid keyword stuffing (overusing keywords unnaturally), as this can harm your SEO.
5. URLs: Create clean and descriptive URLs that include your keywords. A well-structured URL can help users and search engines understand your page's topic. For example, if your keyword is "books about expats," your URL might be "example.com/books-about-expats."
FAQs about SEO for authors
Here are some answers to other questions you might have about SEO:
What if I’m not tech-savvy?
If you’re using a site builder like Squarespace or Wix to create your website, there should be an SEO tool to help you edit the SEO metadata. While this may sound overwhelming, I’ve done it myself, and I promise you can, too! All you really need is your primary keyword. As you can see in the example below, I am using "book marketing" as my keyword, and I've included it in the title tag as well as the meta description.
Can I hire someone to perform SEO?
Yes. If you have the funds available, I recommend hiring a website developer to create your author site with SEO in mind. If you go this route, ensure the developer understands SEO best practices before hiring them. Then, discuss the keywords to include on the site so you’re confident it aligns with your book’s topic or your expertise. This way, you’re also aware of the keywords, so you can include them when adjusting your site or adding new content.
Related: 12 Questions to Ask Your Publisher
Is there anything I might do differently as a nonfiction author?
If you’re an author writing nonfiction books, include crucial information about yourself in your meta-data. For example, if you’re a start-up founder and keynote speaker, have this information in your website description. Then, when someone searches start-up keynote speaker, they’re more likely to see your page in the search results and potentially discover your book(s).
Read more: 7 Marketing Tips for Nonfiction Authors
What should I expect?
In the world of SEO, keeping your expectations in check is super important. SEO isn't a quick fix. Instead, consider it a long-term strategy. It might take a few months to see better search rankings and more people visiting your website. Remember, SEO success isn't just about the keywords you use. It also depends on factors like how tough the competition is and how excellent your content is. So, when you set goals for SEO, make sure they're realistic and give it some time. You’ve got this!
Whether you’re in the midst of the writing process or have already finished your book, now is the perfect time to consider a marketing strategy. To help you get started, I’m offering a FREE download of my guide, 10 Things You Need For A Successful Book Launch. This valuable resource is packed with expert tips and strategies to empower you to craft an effective book launch and connect with a larger audience of eager readers.