You’re probably already aware of what SEO is by other names: marketing or self-promoting to name a few. Search Engine Optimization is basically a set of tactics that companies use to push their website towards the top of a Google search.
To stay on top, companies of any size usually hire someone to study keywords, trends, and consumers to know how to best promote their company website. Yeah, it takes enough work that companies often pay someone to do it full-time.
So as an author—going indie or traditional—you can still understand and use these tactics for yourself. Here’s a quick rundown of how Google decides which sites should move up, and how you can promote yourself.
The Basic 411 on SEO
- Google finds a website.
- They send “spiders” to “crawl” all over your website or page—on visible content and coding involved.
- Google decides whether a site is useful to readers. If it’s useful, it gets bumped up. If it’s not, it remains stagnant.
- Google constantly changes their “rules” to weed out good websites from the spammy ones.
So to move up, you have to follow Google’s rules in order to prove that you’re genuine and creating content or services that would benefit the user searching for the keyword. Below are a few tips to show you mean business.
Offer Legitimate Comments
You can boost your website through good comments. While it may seem counterintuitive to give good comments on other pages, it reflects well on you.
It’s easier to describe what not to write as a comment. To Google, a spammy comment is often linked to a sketchy website or doesn’t use proper English—think something that looks like a Google Translate disaster. The comments are also vague and could apply to any topic like, “I had a good friend who knows this stuff. I will share this good information with them.”
A quality comment usually fodders more conversation by adding a new take to the topic. Try to leave comments that could be followed up with intelligent comments from other viewers or the author.
But why leave comments in the first place? Often, when you leave a comment, you get the option of leaving your URL as a link for others to view your work. Bingo! More viewers. Google pays attention when websites refer to you as a good reference and people want to visit your content.
A website is often considered legitimate and quality when there’s a lot of diverse content that is published on a regular basis—as in, no two-year lapses. Spammy SEO tactics involve posting the same content multiple times—plagiarizing themselves in effect. Google’s no dummy and will see right through that.
Consistent quality also means that you’re consistent and prominent on social media platforms, too. Starting to see why companies hire people to do this stuff? Who has time to promote themselves on the daily via Pinterest, Instagram, Google +, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook and do the job they are initially promoting?
A keyword is a word or phrase that helps Google know what kind of content you have. That way, when viewers are looking for information, Google knows what to pull up.
Right now, a keyword could be something like “ways to improve writing” as opposed to just “writing tips” since web readers tend to search for a full phrase rather than just a noun.
Some people choose a keyword and then write a post around it, and other times, writers create a post and pick a keyword that best represents it. Both ways are great as long as the info matches up to the keyword.
You want readers to stay on your page for as long as you can hold them, so if they’re looking for information about character tips and you’re just talking about your favorite TV characters, readers will move on to something more relevant to their needs.
Google can even tell how long people are on your page and consider your page useful if a lot of people are taking the time to read through the piece or click on links within your main webpage.
Some writers will hyperlink to other pages on their website. This is awesome, but don’t overdo it. “Keyword stuffing” is basically linking to the same website a lot or excessively repeating the keyword to make the page look super relevant. Google is no dummy! This is what spammy SEO looks like and Google wants to promote quality sites, not desperate sites.
Check out AdWords via Google to do your own research on what your target audience is searching for when it comes to writing (https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner).
Plug in Some Plugins
For those who own your own website, you can use plugins to help you with your SEO work. Plugins are sort of like widgets that enhance your website. You use plugins for aesthetic appeal, coding, and analysis. There are a few big SEO plugins that you can use to analyze how you’re doing, as well as help you optimize your page. Yoast SEO is one that I use. You can also use Google Analytics to get feedback on how you’re doing and where you can improve.
Okay, so that seems like a lot to juggle. And it is. For those of you who are working on a novel, have a job, and try to promote your work, it’s hard to find the time to do all three. But it’s manageable, and well worth the effort.
SEO takes planning and patience. Even if you did everything mentioned here, you won’t see immediate success. It takes weeks or months to get those good numbers, as any blogger knows.
I would suggest to crank up your SEO once you approach major milestones. It’s great to get people to your webpage before you finish a book, but it really counts once you have something complete to offer.
Whitney McGruder puts the “Wit” in Wit & Travesty–a website she runs with her author-husband, Travis. She works for an SEO company by day, and edits her novel, cross stitches samplers, and reads comic books at night.
*Banner photo credit http://witandtravesty.com