As a self-published or independent author, a website or blog is a must-have for any good marketing platform. A well-designed website can build a trusted client base and create authenticity for your brand.
But how do you get people to your website?
Search engine optimization is a tactic used by marketers around the globe to try and cement their place on the first page of a search engine’s query result. This can be a daunting task given how many competitors you’re competing against. The fact that Google and other search engines are constantly updating their algorithms to promote or penalize certain website characteristics doesn’t help, either.
That’s why I wrote this article. The tips below were gathered from a number of professional marketing blogs and I’ve tried to tailor each tip for writers to understand their importance.
Focus on Intent
In the past, doing keyword research was a vital part of any marketing plan. That is, finding what keywords best match with your book, blog, or articles, and sprinkling them generously throughout your website to try and boost your search engine rankings.
However, with Google’s new BERT algorithm, many marketing experts are moving away from this method of thinking and toward intent-based content. What does this mean? According to Keith Goode, senior SEO strategist for IBM, it means focusing on how our users talk about their issues, problems, and needs at each aspect of their buying journey.
For authors, this could mean addressing concerns about purchasing books from an unknown author or publisher, looking for help finding the right publishing route for their story, or looking for support when all they’ve received are rejection letters from agents. Creating content that focuses on the reader’s needs, and using language that’s comfortable to them, will help readers find your site and boost your brand awareness.
How do you do this? Well, it can be as simple as writing a blog, a tweet, or a Facebook post asking your target audience a question about their search habits when it comes to finding content (or books). Then, adapt your content to better resonate with their behaviors.
Here’s an example of a tweet I sent, asking members of Twitter’s Writing Community how they decide to purchase books.
— Tim Koster (@authortimkoster) June 4, 2020
The answers included: the design of the cover, the back cover blurb, and recommendations from friends and trusted influencers. So how can you create content that fulfills these potential client’s needs? Some examples might include:
- A blog post to reveal your book’s cover
- A look inside your book, maybe a free chapter or two
- Writing book reviews
Content has, and always will be, king of search engine optimization. The more content you create, the more pages search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo have to crawl, index, and serve to readers.
But simply creating content isn’t enough. What you deliver needs to have substance that is relevant and valuable to your potential customers.
To do this, you need to think like your customers and create content they want to read. Search engines want to promote high-quality content over sites that “spray and pray” large quantities of low-quality content aimed at spamming the algorithm with keywords.
What does this mean for you? Worry less about the number of posts you’re creating and focus on the quality of what you’re posting. Like with most things, quality trumps quantity every time.
To create quality content starts with understanding your audience and what they’re searching for, then give them the answer with clear, authoritative answers. In essence, you want to optimize your content for the reader and not the search engine.
We live in a world plagued by fake news, bots, and misinformation. People are hesitant to believe anything that comes from an untrusted source. So, building your trustworthiness is going to be an important aspect to SEO in 2020.
As an author, especially a self-published or indie author, you’re creating a brand around your name and, if the content you create on your website has your name tacked onto it, you need to make sure you’re an authoritative voice in what you’re trying to sell.
Google, and other search engines, use the E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) metric when gauging content. So, when creating your content, make sure you’re sticking within the scope of your expertise.
For the most part, if you’re an author, it might be best if you stick to creating content about writing and publishing or your experience trying to market and sell copies of your books. However, that doesn’t mean you need to only write about things where you’re the subject matter expert.
If you want to write an article or blog post about something outside your realm of experience, you can build trustworthiness by consulting and quoting those who are experts.
Improving User Experience
Think about the last time you went to a website where you had to click next a dozen times to read the full article, the site was overwhelmed with ads, or the content took forever to load. You probably didn’t want to remain on the site for very long.
One thing search engines are going to emphasize in their algorithms for 2020 is how well your site is set up for good user experience.
What do you need to do?
- Make sure your pages and posts are easily accessible and don’t require a whole bunch of clicks to find
- Optimize imagery so it loads quickly
- Minimize the number of ads and popups on the site
In short, don’t make your readers work too hard to find the content they want.
Be Mobile Friendly
It’s hard to imagine a website that isn’t optimized for mobile devices. Most pre-built website templates on hosting platforms such as WordPress, Wix, and others have mobile-friendly templates built into every design.
However, if you have someone build a custom website for you, make sure they build your site for mobile devices first, then for desktop. Why? According to Perficient, a brand consulting firm, since 2018, 42% of all online time was spent on a mobile device and 58% of all site visits were from smartphones and tablets.
In addition, a few years back, Google changed its algorithm to actually penalize websites that were not mobile-friendly.
Link and Brand Building
Brand building is, in my opinion, the most important aspect of a good marketing plan. The reason is simple: people buy from brands they can trust.
As an author, you are the brand you’re trying to build. So, how do you create a brand around your name that people can trust? Here are a few ways to start:
- Make sure your book is as high-quality as possible.
- Everything starts with your product. If what you’re trying to sell isn’t the best it can be, it will negatively impact your brand.
- Create trustworthy content your readers want to read.
- I’ve already talked about it earlier in this post, but good, high-quality content on your blog or website can build trust in your brand.
- Be a positive voice on social media.
- Social media is a powerful tool for brand development. Posting engaging content and avoiding polarizing content will help foster a good relationship between you and potential clients.
As for link building, it’s important for you to not only build links within your own work to other blogs, pages, or articles you’ve written but also to get other websites to backlink to your site. This can be done in a few ways:
- Write a guest blog for another writer or business (notice how I have links going to my website and social media pages in the byline at the bottom of this article?)
- Get featured on your local newspaper’s website.
- Participate in podcasts and other digital media.
Search engines count backlinks as a currency of authenticity, meaning the more times other websites link to your site, the more legitimate it will view your pages and reward it in its search algorithm.
I hope this article helps you drive more traffic to your website and blog. Remember, a good book marketing plan is about more than just getting clicks to Amazon, it’s about building a brand and good relationships with potential clients.
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If you have other SEO tips for writers, leave them in the comments below, I’d love to hear what tactics have worked for you.