Guest Post: Play in Google’s Schoolyard: Basic SEO Principles for Bloggers and Authors by Whitney McGruder

 

seoYou’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

  1. Google finds a website.
  2. They send “spiders” to “crawl” all over your website or page—on visible content and coding involved.
  3. Google decides whether a site is useful to readers. If it’s useful, it gets bumped up. If it’s not, it remains stagnant.
  4. 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.

Consistent Quality

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?

Utilize Keywords

keywordA 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

Building Your Author Platform: Setting Up Your Home Base

The first steps in building your author platform are understanding what, when, and why and choosing the pen name you want to use. Once those steps are completed, you can take action. My suggestion is to begin by setting up your “home base” on the web: your author website.

Your author website will be the center of your activity online. It will be the place to which you direct your readers (“funnel” them) from other sites. In the game of internet tag, it is the place you want your readers to end up: home base. It is a place entirely devoted to you and your work.

Most authors go one of two routes with their author website.

Route One: Free Blog/Website

There are several host websites that allow you to create your own website entirely for free. These include WordPress, Blogger, and Wix, among others. With these websites, you use the provider’s hosting, design options (often called “templates”), and a domain name that ends in their domain name (ie: katemcolby.wordpress.com). NOTE: You can pay to have a custom domain name.

Pros

  • Entirely free
  • Low maintenance
  • Easy to create and design
  • Easy to connect to others (via features like the WordPress Reader and searchable tags)
  • Simple statistics provided (not as thorough or accurate as Google Analytics)

Cons

  • Highly limited customization
  • Website is technically “owned” by another company
  • Host company may have regulations about content (profanity, selling products/services)
  • May look less professional than a custom website with custom domain name

Authors who should consider Route One: beginning authors, authors on a tight budget, authors who intend to blog regularly, authors who may not want to be full-time writers

My humble opinion: I chose to go the free route for the beginning of my indie author career. I did not want to invest money in my author website until I was closer to publishing. Likewise, I am not a technical wizard, and I like having an easy website with a strong social component to help me connect with other bloggers.

Resources:

Route Two: Your Own Website

For a website to be entirely your own, you must pay for the hosting, buy a custom domain name, and either install a design template (free or purchased – WordPress.org themes are the most popular) or pay a designer to create a custom design for you. Depending on the services you select, having your own website may be inexpensive, or it could cost quite a bit. However, it will never be free.

Pros

  • Full customization
  • Ownership of your home base
  • No restrictions on content and/or selling your products/services
  • Shows professionalism
  • Can install Google Analytics (or another tracking service) to see exactly how many views you receive, from where your traffic comes, and other statistics

Cons

  • Costs money
  • Can be high-maintenance
  • Requires more technical knowledge
  • An “island” – not connected to others via a social network, must rely on search engine optimization (SEO) and organic traffic to generate views

Authors who should consider Route Two: authors with some technical knowledge, authors without strict financial limitations, authors who intend to be full-time writers, authors who are in writing/publishing for “the long haul”

My humble opinion: When I publish my first novel, I will be switching to a self-hosted site with a custom domain name and a free WordPress.org theme. I’m doing this, because I want to own my content, write any content I wish, and sell my products directly from my site. To me, it is an investment and a tool that I intend to keep my entire career.

Resources:


To view the rest of my author platform series, click here.

What kind of author website do you have? If you use a free website, do you intend to keep it or change to self-hosted later? What else would you like to know about author websites?

Guest Post: Exactly How Important is SEO and Keywords for Authors? by Anthony Wade

Today, I am happy to share my first ever guest post, written by Anthony Wade. I encountered Anthony on his WordPress blog a few weeks ago, and I found it packed full of great writing and business advice for authors. Needless to say, when he offered to do a guest post on SEO and keywords, a topic that I had been meaning to research but never had, I was incredibly excited!

Without any further ado, over to Anthony!


Exactly How Important is SEO and Keywords for Authors?

Very.

I won’t leave it at that though.

Five months ago, I knew nothing about SEO. Around that time, my lease was ending and I was moving back in with the G-parents. #gradlife.

If you don’t know, it’s difficult to get a writing/editorial job. What I thought I’d do was work on my own writing and do a little bit of freelance to build up experience.

It was a great idea, because with Business2Community, I was introduced to SEO and those tricky keywords that don’t deserve the name ‘keywords.’ Now I know how important SEO and perfect keywords are for authors.

If you’re a novelist or web content writer, you already know that perfect SEO will drive traffic straight to your site via search engines.

But there’s more. And honestly, it’s a bit simple.

The basics of SEO is to perfect a keyword.

I hate saying keyword. You want it to match what a real person would type in a search engine. That means only letters and never complete sentences. More importantly, that means more than one word.

The best keywords are keyPHRASES. Now that’s what I prefer to call them. You have to imagine what some random person at three in the morning would type when searching for your topic.

Say you have a book about kids forced to kills each other in an arena. Sound familiar? Yeah, The Hunger Games. You’re trying to drive traffic to your blog or site. So what’s a phrase somebody would type in Google (Bing?) that might lead them to your page?

‘The Hunger Games,’ and ‘dystopian books’ are gonna bring up thousands of results, which means you have a lot of competition. But ‘Books like the hunger games’ . . . now that narrows a googler’s search a lot more. That phrase should be your keyword.

If you’re paying for a site, then you’re lucky and have special SEO features where you can define keywords for each of your pages. In this case, you would use ‘books like the hunger games’ among others. If you’re on a blog, it’s not as simple.

You can’t create a post, place the phrase somewhere in the middle and expect to get tons of views. You need to have ‘books like the hunger games’ in the first sentence, the middle of the post, and at the very end. If it doesn’t sound forced and salemanish, definitely place it in your title. That, along with secondary keywords like ‘dystopian novels’ or ‘Young adult dystopian novels’ will do wonders to place your post at the top of search results.

It’s a matter of asking yourself these questions:

What would I type in Google?

What else might pop up in the results?

What can I add to get around those?

I just launched my official site, www.anthonywadej.com, and using this simple skill has helped tremendously.

If you’re interested in more posts about publishing and freelancing or interested in reading a Pre-Dystopian novel, visit my site or blog, www.1hecticride.wordpress.com.


Feel free to leave your questions for Anthony in the comments or seek him out on his own blog. Thanks for reading, and Anthony, thank you for your informative post! I can’t wait to put your tips into action!