Authors ask all the time why their websites, blogs, and Facebook Fan Pages don’t appear on the first, second, third, fifteenth page of Google after doing a search for related words. There is no magic button to make your website appear on the first page of the search, but there are some things you can do to boost your rank on Google (and other search engines).
What is SEO?
When people talk about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), they’re usually referring to your ranking in search engines. When you have “good SEO,” then you have a good rank (perhaps on the first page when you do a search!). Here are things to do to increase your SEO…
The most important thing you can do to make Google like you is to provide good content and to update it frequently.
You’ll want to link to relevant sites and get relevant sites to link to you. You may do this in a kind letter letting the webmasters know how much you enjoy their site and how you’ve linked to theirs on your own, which may be of interest to them or by founding a relationship on social media. Don’t forget that the words you hyperlink should describe or be the name of the site, not the words “click here.”
Buying Google Key Terms
This is something you have to pay for. You can pay Google to link your website with certain words, which will nudge your site toward the top.
No Graphic Text or Flash
Don’t use pictures or Flash media instead of text (but feel free to use images in addition to text). Google can only read words if they are actually (highlightable) text. If you do use an image, at least include alternative text or a caption so Google has something to pick up on.
You want to get all the important words on your site, preferably in the title and web address. By important words, I mean words that people who should find your site will most likely look for. A keyword can also be a keyword phrase (more than one word in quotes). For example, “books about John Lennon” is a keyword phrase someone might type in if they are looking for a list of Lennon-related books. The more specific the keywords, like longer keyword phrases, the better chance that you’ll be at the top of the search page. You may rank #1,000,000th in “books” and #100,000th in “John Lennon”, but if you do everything right, you may rank toward the top of “books about John Lennon.”
Note: Beware of keyword stuffing. Google is getting smarter by the day. It knows when you’ve flooded your page with keywords just to get better SEO. Remember, content is king. Be honest about the topic of your website.
Ultimately, you will get a better ranking if your site is popular. It will be popular if there’s A) Good content, as I said, and B) usability. Don’t let there be a single dead link. Make it look nice, easy to navigate. Don’t use forest green text on charcoal backgrounds. You know what I mean.
10 Key SEO Strategies Every Facebook Page Owner Should Know (Inside Facebook)
55 Quick SEO Tips Even Your Mother Would Love (Search Engine Journal)
9 Expert SEO Tips (Small Business Trends)
10 SEO Tools Every Blogger Must Use (Daily SEO Tip)
10 Simple SEO Tips (Social Media Today)
A website is a good way to get all your information to your readers. It’s a place to send them when they ask you about your book. It’s especially useful for authors with multiple books. You can have a website dedicated to the book, the series, or the author as a brand. This can be more expensive and time-consuming than some other online endeavors, but gives you more freedom. There are also free and easy alternatives to getting a domain name.
Why do I need a website?
The reason a website is still relevant in a time of social media booms is that social media platforms come and go (anybody remember Friendster? MySpace?), and although you can’t control the rise and fall of platforms like Facebook and Twitter, you can control keeping your website up and having a place for readers to find you despite the changing trends in social media.
Here are things to include on your author website:
- A jpeg of the cover of the book you’re promoting
- Publication date if it isn’t out yet
- A short description of the book
- A link to buy the book (feel free to give them the option: Hal Leonard Books’ website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and indiebound.org)
- Recent news (unless you want to dedicate a separate page to News and Site Updates)
- Share buttons (ShareThis)
- A place for people to sign up for your mailing list
- Your contact information: leave them your email address. Putting your email on a website can make you vulnerable to spam, so many people use contact forms on their sites, but users don’t like using them. If you’re worried about spam, create a second email account used just for your website, but don’t forget to check it every now and again! You could also disguise it like info [at] halleonardbooks [dot] com (spam bots can’t find it that way).
One of the best ways to get people to link to you is if you link to them. You can have a Reference page and list useful websites that are related to the topic of your book. You can also link to useful tools in the book world or in the genre of your work. It’s also common to keep a Blog Roll in the side bar of your blog (This is a list of blogs that you read that your readers might enjoy, too).
Tip: Don’t just list the URL. Make sure it’s a hyperlink. Also, don’t hyperlink words like “click here.” Hyperlink the title of the website or a short description like Publisher’s website.
About the Author
Why should your readers trust you? Tell them your qualifications for writing this book. You only need a paragraph or two like the author bio you find on your book. You can also include links to interviews, etc. Here’s a good article about what you might want to include to boost your reputation. Here’s an article full of examples of fun and unique bio pages. Don’t be afraid to be creative.
You don’t need a separate page for this, but make sure you link to all your other online platforms. Do you have a Twitter account? A Facebook Fan page? Link it on your homepage, your sidebar, your links page, or your author bio.
If you are doing an author event either live in person or having a digital book tour (blog tour), list the dates and places. Give a sentence or two of what people can expect. Is it a reading and signing? Is there a presentation? Q&A? Workshop?
One page where the press can get all they need to do their article or interview. This means hi-res photos of your cover and author photo. Include a couple sentences about your book, a couple sentences about you, a couple blurbs or reviews, maybe a Q&A, and your topics of expertise. Here is an excellent article about online press kits with examples.
If you have more to say about your book than a short description for the front page, you can create a separate page for more info about the book. You can include things like reviews, links to interviews, etc. This is also a good idea if you have more than one book.
Some authors will choose one or the other: a blog or a website. If you have time to keep it up, you can include a blog on your website. There are pros and cons to hosting the blog on your websites. Another option is hosting it on a blog site like Blogger, LiveJournal, or WordPress and linking to it directly on your website.
You may want to include extras on your site to hook people in. You can have a separate tab for excerpt from your book. Or maybe your first book is out already and you want to post the first chapter of the sequel that has yet to come out.
As you may know, your website is your hub. All your social media pages should be accessible from your website. This might mean that you provide links to your social media pages on your website or this might mean that you embed the social media content onto your website. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but remember that having dynamic content on your website (such as the ever-changing content of your blog, Facebook page, Twitter stream, YouTube channel, or podcast) gives you better SEO.
Link: You can put a logo on your website with the Facebook logo and have it link to your fan page’s URL (i.e. http://fb.com/halleonardbooks/). You can also create a badge. After customizing your badge, you will be given some HTML code, which you can simply paste onto your website in the area that you want the badge to appear.
Embed: Facebook allows you to create an “Activity Feed,” which is a little box that you can put on your website and it will automatically update with the most recent things that you posted on your Facebook page. Just like with a badge, you can customize the feed and then paste the HTML code that it gives you on your website wherever you would like the feed to appear.
Link: You can put a logo on your website with the Twitter logo and have it link to your twitter URL (i.e.http://twitter.com/halleonardbooks/). Do note that Twitter has a policy against using any kind of Twitter logo except for the official one, which is the one you can see displayed to the left.
Embed: Just like with Facebook, you can customize a widget that will allow you to post a box on your website where it will display your most recent tweets. Again, copy-paste the HTML code onto your website.
Link: You can put a logo on your website with the YouTube logo and have it link to your YouTube channel (i.e. http://youtube.com/user/plainketchup/). It is better you have the “/user” in there because it will give you better SEO. However, the link will still work without it (i.e. http://youtube.com/plainketchup/).
Embed: Just like with FB and Twitter, you can embed a little box on your website that shows your most recent video posts to your channel. Again, copy-paste the HTML code onto your website. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, who have widget-makers right on their sites, you will have to go to another source, such as WidgetBox, to create your widget for YouTube. It’s the same premise: customize your widget and copy-paste the HTML code onto your webpage.
Link: You can put a logo on your website that links to your podcast. The thing about podcasts is there are many ways to listen to them and you should let your audience choose their preferences. I like to link to all the ways my podcast is available: iTunes, libsyn, Facebook, MP3 download, and Stitcher.
Embed: Both Libsyn and Podomatic have widgets to embed into your website. Podomatic has a small audio-only one for individual episodes and also a large audio-with-photo one that allows you to scroll through different episodes and listen to them one after the other. Libsyn also has one for playing all episodes and one for individual episodes. You can choose between audio-only or audio-with-photo. The Libsyn widget for playing all episodes can be found on your Libsyn dashboard by clicking on the widget icon. The individual episode widgets can be found by going to the list of your episodes and clicking “embed” underneath the episode you want. Just like the other widgets, it’s just a matter of copy-and-pasting the HTML code onto your website. Do note that I don’t think there is a way to embed this widget in free WordPress blogs.
Link: You can put the logo of your blogging host (such as Blogger or WordPress) on your website and link to your blog.
Embed: This could be tricky unless your blogging host has a built-in widget maker. If it doesn’t, you can go to WidgetBox or Feedburner. Feedburner is a Google-powered site that allows you to turn your blog or podcast into a feed. So, type in your blog’s URL into this first box and then follow all the other prompts until you are done. Eventually, you will get to a dashboard where it will give you tons of options on how to customize your feed by adding all sorts of buttons and features. I like to use the BuzzBoost feed under the Publicize tab. Just customize the feed and copy-paste that HTML code onto your website. You can also use the XML code that you see under the Optimize tab.