When it comes to search engine optimization, the strategy for authors differs greatly from the general advice you can read on the internet. What works for bloggers or local small businesses won’t apply to you.
What is SEO?
Let’s start at the beginning. SEO stands for search engine optimization. That is the ability for your website to show up in search engines like Google or Bing.
The more your website is optimized, the more chances you’ll have of showing in the first results for specific keywords.
Why is the strategy different for authors?
First, you have to think about the purpose of your website in the first place. Why does an author have a website and when is it most useful? From my time as an author and from working with authors for many years, I’ve come to the conclusion that an author website isn’t useful to get known. It’s actually useful to turn someone who knows you already into a lifetime fan.
Readers will hear about you for the first time on other platforms, like Amazon, Google Books, or Barnes & Noble. They’ll read your book, and be interested in learning more about you. That’s when they visit your website.
Because you’re not trying to be discovered on search engines, your optimization job is very different than many others on the internet.
So what do you need to optimize for?
As an author, I believe there are two types of keywords you need to optimize your website for, and you’ll realize pretty quickly that it’s not very hard to do.
- Your author pen name
- Your book titles
If you can rank well for those two things, you’re good. You don’t need to spend your energy on anything else other than making sure that those keywords are highlighted on your website.
Basically, as long as a reader can find you when they search for your pen name or your book titles on Google, you’ll get most of the relevant traffic.
You can try to rank for “romance author” or “thriller writer”, but good luck. There are going to be a million results for those keywords and your chances of ranking aren’t that good. So focus on bringing people who already know about you into your ecosystem instead of trying to find new readers with SEO.
How do you optimize your website for SEO?
While this can be about 50 tutorials in itself, I’ll lay down the basics for you so you know where to start.
When it comes to optimizing for search engines, it’s important to remember what the goal of platforms like Google and Bing are.
Their goal is and always will be to send their users to a useful, accurate, and relevant website.
If they send a user to your website and they don’t find what they’re looking for, either because the information isn’t there or because your site isn’t usable, Google will realize.
That’s why the first step of optimizing your website for SEO is to actually make sure it’s useful to your visitors.
1) Consider your homepage content
What does a user see when they land on your website? What are they expecting to see?
Review your homepage to make sure you have links to relevant pages (like book pages). When a user lands on your site, what are they looking for? Most likely, they want to find your other books. So highlight those!
2) Consider your website speed
While your website doesn’t have to be lightning-fast, it does have to be within the standards expected today. A slow-loading website will be penalized by Google, as your users most likely won’t wait.
The best way to optimize your website speed is to check your images. Are they bigger than the space they are loading within? If you have a logo that displays on your website at 400px wide, but the image is actually 2000px wide, that’s a lot of data that needs to load for no reason. Consider reducing the size of your images to match the size they display at.
3) Consider if your website is mobile-friendly
As more and more people use their mobile devices to browse the internet, you need to make sure that your website displays properly on those if you want Google to boost your site in search results.
Take the time to review your site on smaller screens and make sure it’s still usable and that all the important information is displayed correctly.
4) Consider adding an H1 tag to all your pages
Especially when it comes to your homepage and individual book pages. Your chances of ranking in Google are higher if those pages are all separate.
So you’ll want a homepage that has an H1 tag (you only want one per page) that is your author name/site title. That tells Google what your site is about.
Then have a page for each book that has an H1 tag with the book title. Again, just one H1 tag per page, as otherwise, you get as many benefits from it.
Most website builders will let you control what title tags to use. Usually, you’ll be able to select an H1 tag if you make your title “Heading 1” or something like that.
If you’re not sure how to do it, I highly recommend reaching out to your support team and asking them how you add an H1 tag.
If you’re using WordPress, the page title that you add in WordPress usually is an H1. The only reason you might need to add a custom H1 is if you decide not to display the page/post title.
SEO is definitely still important for authors, but the strategy is different. Those are my biggest takeaways and the things that will make the most difference. You could spend more time tweaking small things, but you’ll get fewer results for your time.
I’ll be adding more posts about SEO because it’s a really interesting topic to cover, but if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments!
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