By some strange coincidence, I had three different clients (ones whose websites were built and launched in 2010) contact me this week asking if I had any recommendations for how we could improve their search engine placement (i.e. get them to show up near the top of Google search results for the subject matter of their book).
With that in mind, I thought I would write this blog post to discuss what we do (and all web development companies should do) as we build your site, and what you can do to help improve your site’s performance.
What Your Developer Should Do/What We Do
The easiest thing for a developer to do with an author website is to optimize it for the author’s name and book title(s). There’s not a lot of competition for those keywords, so it should be relatively easy to gain first-page placement on Google, Yahoo, etc… when people search for those terms.
When an author is looking for a more advanced SEO effort, we can do research on other keywords related to the book, target five to ten keywords that seem to get a good number of searches, and then optimize each page of the site separately — targeting the appropriate keywords on the appropriate pages. We put in meta data, descriptions, body text, headers, and alt text for images to reflect these efforts.
Then, when the website, launches, we submit the site to all the major search engines. After that, your greatest gift is time! Your site will not start showing up immediately. Instead, it will take a week or two for it to appear at all, and then it should start rising in the coming months.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do (without setting up pay-per-click advertising) that will get you at the top right away. The longer your site has been around, the higher it will rank. So, as hard as it may be, you need to be patient.
What You Can Do
This is really what you want to know, right? What can you, as an author, do to improve your search engine placement? Here’s my advice to clients…
1. Blog, blog, blog. The more information your website has on the topic, the higher it will rank with Google. The search engines aren’t stupid — they can tell whether your site is offering information or just trying to sell a product. The more you offer to visitors, the higher you will rank. And the best way to do that is by blogging — it keeps your site current and updated, it provides lots of information on the subject matter of your book, and it allows you to get your keywords into your website content regularly. You may decide you don’t want to blog. That’s fine. But be aware that such a decision can hinder your climb up the search engines.
2. Buy your domain name for an extended time. You may be surprised to hear this, but the search engines are aware of when your domain name is expiring. And even if you have no plans to let it run out, Google doesn’t know that. If your domain is expiring in the next six months, Google can interpret that as a sign that your website is not going to be around for the long-term. Just like a site is punished for being newly-launched, it can also be punished for appearing that it’s going to go away soon. So it’s simple: renew your domain name now.
3. Reach out to other websites about cross-linking. Getting links to your website set up from other sites not only drives traffic through those links, it also improves your site’s ranking with the search engines. Again, it’s common sense: the more sites that are linking to you, the more reputable your site appears in the eyes of the search engines. So reach out to sites that talk to the same readers or touch on the same subject matters and propose that you link to one another as a reference or resource.
Take these three steps, and your site should start climbing up the ranks shortly!