Author Website Tech: Search Engine Optimization

This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

If You Build It, They Will NOT Come Unless. . .

WWW under construction building website

. . . unless they can find you in a search engine. The number of people who find your site because they know you will be few. Those who intuitively type in must have some knowledge of who I am. You need links from other sites and you need search engine traffic.

Search Engine Optimization or SEO. There’s no way in a simple blog that I can explain everything about how to get search engines to send people your way. There are books and professionals who can barely explain it. So let me do a quick explanation and then give you one big hint.

First, SEO is all about making it easy for search engines to index your site and figure out what you are talking about. If someone types into a search engine “best practices author website,” I want this series to come up. How does a search engine decide what to show for this question? The situation is hard, because search engines are constantly updating the algorithms or mathematical formulas used to decide this question; the answer is a moving target. (These updates from Google get colorful names such as the Panda update. For the most recent, as of the date of this writing, look for information on the Hummingbird update.) Still, there are a couple constants, keywords and titles.

Keywords just means what are you talking about, but it’s in terms of what people actually search for, not what you think it should be. For years, keyword research has been crucial because of the difference in searching for “childrens’s books” or “kid’s books.” With the increased sophistication of search engines, though, the two would now return the same blog posts. But it still makes a difference is you search for “best practices” or “great examples” of author websites. Now, search engines try to answer the underlying question and intent of the question. Do you want a list of tutorials on building a website, or do you want examples of great websites?

Once you decide on the topic of a post, make sure to use the words somewhere in the post. Two years ago, experts might have suggested you seed the post with the keywords, but now, most agree that a couple times is enough, as long as you are answering a key question. This means: before you write a post, think about what questions your reader might have on the topic and try to answer those questions.

Does Your Website Stand out in Today's Crowded Internet?
In today’s crowded Internet, how will you make your website stand out to search engines?

Titles. As writers, this is a snap. You must write good titles that explain what is in the post. Nothing cutesy, but direct, succinct and catchy.

Let’s say you want to know what to include on your ABOUT page.Which of these post titles would you click on?

The last, of course, is the title of the post I wrote on ABOUT pages. In writing titles, think about a long list of titles and what will make yours stand out.

Specific. Be specific. I reference two authors named Kate and that intrigues.
Numbers. Titles with numbers often get better results.
Adjectives. “creative, intriguing” will pull in more readers.
How To. Promising to explain something is important to readers, especially is you pull off the explanation well.

You know that comment you always get from editors on the rejection letters? “. . this manuscript just didn’t stand out in today’s crowded market. . .” Think of search engines as that crowded marketplace and your title as a log line or the briefest elevator pitch (you only get 100 characters or so). Make the title snappy.

And–after you’ve got everything set up and you want a couple more tasks to do, study SEO. The year I did that, I doubled my website’s traffic. It’s that important. But you’ve got time to get everything set up right before you have to stress out over this. Just know that SEO is in your future.

This graphic shows the relative importance of social media on search engine optimization–as of early 2014. This can change drastically overnight, though, so check for updates.


by johnmnelson.
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