Search Engine Optimization MUSTS for Author Websites

Every author I speak to is different … in so many ways: Knowledge of SEO is one of them. I talk to some authors who have never heard of search engine optimization and don’t understand why it’s important. Others tell me that they’ve already written their metadata.

Regardless of your level of SEO expertise, the purpose of this post is to discuss the “musts” “shoulds” and “don’t bothers” regarding optimizing your author website.

First, let’s start by defining SEO. Search engine optimization is a segment of website development, with the purpose of “optimizing” the website for the “search engines.” Now the name makes more sense, right? Basically, it refers to efforts to ensure that the website shows up on search results when people go to Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc… and search for terms directly related to the book and/or author.

SEO involves many different factors, from the actual text on the website to “metadata” (text that no one sees except the search engines) to “alt text” (text that is used to describe each image and link on the website). Whether or not you know or understand these terms is pretty unimportant. What IS important is recognizing why SEO needs to be done, and how to go about it.

Because search engine optimization requires focusing on specific keywords (i.e. the terms that people might go to a search engine and search for), the most important piece in SEO is figuring out exactly which keywords you should be optimizing your website for. That’s where we get into the “musts”

The Musts

  • Your name and book title: Most of the time, people will hear about you or your book and will go to a search engine and search specifically for your name or your book title. So it’s important that those are the first things you optimize your site for.
  • Alternatives for your name and book title: Is your name commonly misspelled? Do you sometimes write with a middle initial and sometimes not? Make sure that you optimize your site for all spellings/phrasings of your name and book title.

The Shoulds

  • Book description: Let’s say you wrote a self-help book about how to save for retirement. You should consider optimizing for terms around “saving for retirement.” After all, if people are going to the search engines and looking for information on the subject, you want to make sure they find your book.
  • Book genre: If your book is “paranormal fiction,” then you want to make sure that you get the term “paranormal fiction” in your keywords. Ditto for “steampunk” or “historical fiction.”

The “Don’t Bother”

  • General terms: There are thousands of novels out there. So don’t waste your time optimizing your website for general words like “novel,” “nonfiction book,” etc… It’s only worth it for more specific terms.

If you’re still a little confused, here are some general guidelines for search engine optimization on author websites:

  • Work with a professional. Unless you know SEO inside and out, have someone who knows what they’re doing research keywords related to your book and find the 5-10 with the most searches and least competition.
  • Get your keywords into your website text. Your SEO professional can help write metadata and such to get your site ranked for the keywords you’ve decided on. But it’s also helpful to go back and review the actual text on your website. Is there anywhere you can change the wording to get keywords in without it sounding awkward?
  • Optimize each page separately. Every page on your website can be optimized individually. So, for example, have your book page optimized with keywords specific to the book and your author page optimized for keywords specific to you. This allows you to include more keywords throughout the site. Plus, the search engines prefer sites that write unique metadata for each page.
  • Fiction vs. nonfiction. My own personal experience is that nonfiction books get a better bang for their buck from SEO. Why? Because people who read nonfiction books are generally looking to learn about something, making them more likely to start by going to Google and searching for it. Most fiction readers don’t find their next reads this way. Think about it. When was the last time you found a novel through Google?

I’ve given you a lot of information here on how to optimize your site for search engines, how to find keywords, etc… But regardless of how much of this advice you take, there’s one thing that it’s important for every author to understand: building your website isn’t enough to make people visit it. Nor is simply giving out the URL on business cards and emails (although that helps, too). Optimizing your site is an absolute MUST today. If you skip this important step in the web development process, you’re wasting a lot of time and money.

As always, feel free to contact us for a free consultation regarding your author website, SEO … or whatever your needs may be.