By Matthew Farmer.
In part 1 of this article, I talked about WHY authors need to understand SEO to gain organic traffic to their websites. Now it is time to talk about the HOW. Understanding the ‘why’ without executing it is not helpful.
SEO can be overwhelming when you see the big picture, so start small. Take one step at a time and use your strengths (writing) to power up your SEO.
What keywords will help readers find my book?
Keywords are at the heart of all SEO. As writers, we understand that choosing the right words for our stories is important. And the same is true for SEO – you need specific keywords to grow your website traffic organically – and, in turn, your sales.
Who is your target audience?
Using keywords to speak to your target audience is powerful. If you can write in your target audience’s language, you will create content that will be voraciously consumed.
If you’re publishing a romance novel, generally they are positive and uplifting, so you’d want to write in a hopeful kind of way. But who reads romance novels?
According to an article published by Bustle, while women dominate the market for readers, men make up 16% of the total readership. Romance fiction makes up around one-third of the total fiction book market, and 10 years ago was pulling in more than $1 billion in revenue. The two biggest age groups who read romance are the 18-29 and the 30-44 age groups, for both men and women.
Do you have any friends in this age group? What are they like? Are they just out of high school or uni and looking for love? Have they reached a flat point in their relationships – working, family, cooking, and cleaning, and need some escape? Are they in their late thirties, divorced, and trying to renew a spark?
You can give these people hope with the language you use with your marketing. You can write romantic stories catering to these people as well, and find your romantic niche.
In regard to keywords, people are searching for:
- Strong heroine romance books – 1300 searches per month.
- Dystopian romance – 1000 searches per month.
- Lonely girl romances – 1000 searches per month.
What if your target audience was in the crime genre? Remember, you’re having a book launch with your new mystery thriller set in an Australian coastal town.
Crime and thriller readers tend to be more grounded, logical thinkers, people who enjoy a puzzle. They really enjoy solving the mystery before the final page, seeing if they can outwit the author or the detective. They like logic, for things to make sense. There is no real gender bias in the readership either.
Back in 2018 Crime Fiction became the biggest selling genre. Its popularity is thought to stem from justice, the bad guy getting his comeuppance. The good guy always wins.
When using language to speak to your target audience, no need to use fluffy words. You use strong words to describe the fiction, perhaps words that show your character’s flaws.
If your lead investigator is male, use male language. Female language for female characters. Describe strengths, and overcoming obstacles. It doesn't matter the gender of your target audience, we want to connect to the character. In some ways, especially with crime fiction, your main character is your target audience.
Using Semrush, and investigating “crime fiction”, we can see the search traffic as follows:
- Crime fiction – 480 searches per month.
- Best crime fiction books – 260 searches per month.
- Crime fiction books – 170 searches per month.
- Australian crime fiction – 110 searches per month.
Above is a screenshot from Semrush when investigating web traffic for “crime fiction”. It includes the search intent, volume of traffic, the trend of that keyword search, and the keyword difficulty.
Grab these keyword phrases and pull some SEO organic traffic to your website.
What are other authors using when they talk about themselves or their books? What words are they using to get traffic to their website? Are those words working? If so, why not take what they have learned and use it for yourself, and direct some traffic from your competition to your site?
This idea of competition analysis, in the world of writing, can be a tricky one. We all want our fellow authors to succeed and show off their wins. We also want to know how they’ve done it, and emulate them. Sure, someone who is in your genre wrote a fantastic book, and you probably think it's better than yours which is why they are successful. (Hint, they’re not a better writer than you. That’s not it.)
Romance is a genre that is making a comeback, and you’ve just finished writing one. If you were to try and market your book, who should you emulate?
This is an article from Romance.com about 9 Aussie Romance authors to check out in 2020. Sure, it is dated, but it is a good place to start. Choosing a name from that list, I’m going to look at Leisl Leighton, a paranormal romance author.
Again, using Semrush, I can find out which websites are linking to hers, I can find out what keywords she is ranking for, and tell if I want to use the same words to compete for her traffic.
Looking at the backlinks first, Leisl has 445 backlinks to her author site, from 93 domains, which is pretty good.
There are two great domains pointing users to her, both of which are blog sites – twimon227 and Darkside Downunder. Leisl even has a backlink from Chuck Wendig.
From this research, I’d speak to the first two blog sites to see if they will promote you and give you a backlink.
Looking at keywords, to be honest, is good news for you. Liesl has some traffic with “fantasy wolves” and “Australian rural authors”, but not many other keywords are being used by her website.
What this tells me is that you have some great opportunities to grab keywords that no one else is using, when people are searching for romance or paranormal romance in Australia.
What makes a good keyword?
The answer to this question is, sadly, not romantic. A good keyword is one that is most commonly used when people search the internet looking for what you provide.
There are caveats to this, as there always are. Sometimes it can be beneficial to use keywords that have very little competition, especially in a very niche subject. But on the whole, when you do keyword research, you want to use the words everyone is searching for.
- Find keywords that are ranking as this means people are using those words.
- Look for the more niche words with not so much search volume.
- Keyword stuff – this is where you put a load of keywords into the text in such a way that your content does not read as a human wrote it.
- Put keywords in white font on a white background. This is blackhat SEO and Google will penalise you.
The 3 pillars of SEO
There are 3 crucial pillars to creating effective SEO:
- On-page SEO
- Off-page SEO
- Technical SEO
What does “on-page SEO” mean?
This kind of SEO is exactly what it says on the tin: it’s the SEO tricks and operations which appear on your website pages.
Content – what, how much and how often?
As a writer, this is my favourite kind of SEO, and I believe it is the most critical part of SEO. More technical SEO specialists may disagree.
- Landing pages
- Product pages
- Category pages
- About Us pages
If you have a page on your site that features your book, this is a Product page.
If you have three books written about horror, horror is a Category page.
Blogs are excellent in that they are fresh content you should be writing every month. 1000 words, once a month, is a good minimum. A couple of blog posts a month is ideal. Remember to think about and use appropriate keywords and other SEO strategies as mentioned below.
The About Us is a chance to tell your story as an author and is the second most popular page on a website.
Landing pages are fantastic for SEO as they are extremely focused, and they can be used to collect customer data – more tools for your marketing.
Internal linking is when you link one page on your website to another page on your website. It connects your website up contextually, which adds to the customer experience for your visitor.
Internal linking helps Google understand that you know what you’re talking about, by showing evidence, or by referring to something on your website, to back up a claim.
For instance, this article talks about SEO for an author. If you need to learn how to write SEO, the Australian Writers' Centre has an excellent SEO Copywriting Course to help you understand it. Not only does this link to a page on the Australian Writers' Centre’s website, the anchor text tells you exactly what is at the other end of the link. That page will rise up the search results page, thanks to the page authority of this article.
Anchor text? This is the text you click on, which is a link, to take you elsewhere. Do not use “here” or “click here” as your anchor text. Google doesn't like this. You want text which gives a hint, or some context, as to where the link takes a person. In the above example, I used “SEO Copywriting Courses”. When the Google crawlers see that link and see that there is a sign up page for SEO Copywriting Courses, this can improve your page ranking, and search results.
Think carefully about your page titles
What is the title of your page? If you’ve written a blog about the changing shape of gender in romance novels, that needs to be your page title. If someone searches for that topic, Google doesn’t want to interpret a random series of numbers, which can be the default page title if not manually changed. It wants to see the clear page title, which matches the searcher’s intent, and returns your page to that search result.
What is a meta description?
A meta description is a little blurb returned on a search results page. It is no more than 160 characters long, has a keyword or two in it, and describes, briefly, what that page is about.
What “off-page SEO’ means and how to create them
There is a lot of work that goes on away from your website to help you with SEO.
Backlinks are links that point away from another website to your website. It is a practice of finding a website in your genre, your niches, making a proposal to them, and winning a link back to your website. You can improve your page authority by having backlinks from reputable locations.
Rule of thumb: don’t link back to your homepage. Link directly to the page you want a visitor to read and absorb. Are you talking about your new release novel? Direct people to your novel’s sales landing page, not to your homepage.
You will notice in this article some links lead you back to specific pages on StudioHawk, the SEO Agency I work for. These are deliberate examples of backlinks.
Guest blogs are a chance to share your content to a broader audience to perhaps gather some of that audience for yourself. You will have backlinks from that blog to your website, of course.
This article is an example. I am a passionate writer and a mentor and want to help authors and writers as much as possible. So, I decided to combine my passion for writing and my expertise on SEO to write an article for you about SEO tips for authors.
The Australian Writers' Centre loves to host guest blogs and to direct links back to the writer’s website. So, while I am giving you good information that will help, I am also ticking off two boxes and sending off-site SEO to my workplace’s website, Studiohawk.
If you, as an author, can think of a great topic to share with writers in Australia, check this page out on the AWC website, and send in an enquiry.
Getting involved in community
This is a more vague off-site SEO tool. Getting involved in conversations on social media or commenting on blog posts and sharing your expertise is a way for people to understand your authority on a subject and in the industry. You’re someone who knows what they are talking about.
Show your authority, and through this, bring traffic back to your website for people who want to learn more.
What is “technical SEO”?
This is the least pretty of the three pillars of SEO. The good news is, you only have to set it up once.
Technical SEO is the structure of your website, what content goes where, how to optimise the structure to help search engines crawl your website quicker. The structure of your website includes content pillars, which is a logical way to host your content.
Optimisation of your website
This makes it easier for Google to send its crawl bots to your site, to check your content, and see if what you have answers the search intent of users. Only once Google knows what your website is about can it send users to it, so it’s important to do. How do you optimise your website for search engines?:
- Have a homepage as the first place people land – top level.
- Have a clear menu up the top of the screen with About Us, Blog, Store etc. – second level.
- Only ever have blogs under the blog menu, and only ever have your products under the Store menu.
In reality, optimising your website is a little bit more involved than this, but keeping it simple is a “good enough” solution.
If you want a comprehensive look at Content SEO for your website, StudioHawk has an article stuffed with good information.
Free programs to help you create effective SEO
The advice in this article is all well and good, but wouldn't it be better if you could implement some of these strategies quickly and easily using free software? There are some great tools out there to help with keyword research, competitor research, even tools to help you find topics to write blogs about.
Semrush is an online tool that can help your keyword research, site health, internet traffic, content marketing, and so much more. It can be intimidating when you first start to use it, but there are plenty of tutorials and YouTube videos to help you. There is a free level of use, which would be more than enough for an author.
This handy tool, Ahrefs, is a tool with free options for link building, keyword research, checking out your competitors, tracking the ranking of your site and pages, and a lot more.
Much like Semrush, there is a lot of information online to figure out how to use it, and there is a free option that will do a lot of good for you as an author.
The Google Suite of tools is vast. The tools include:
- Google Analytics – detailed information about who is visiting your website, where they’re coming from, how long they’re hanging around, and more.
- Google Search Console – similar to Google Analytics, but easier to read and interpret. This tool is helpful for looking at and interpreting backlink data.
- Google Trends – you can compare search results and search terms for strength and competition.
Keywords Everywhere is an extension for Chrome users and is great for reviewing keyword search volumes, which it displays next to your Google search results. So if you’re looking for something to write about, search in Google, and Keywords Everywhere will tell you if there is a high volume use of keywords and searches, what other keywords are used around it, and more.
SEO is essential for authors
SEO is essential for anyone who wants, or has, an online presence. This means you, your website, and your blogs. By understanding the power SEO can have, even for just writing your web content, you can make your content work for you, and get more online traction, which can lead to more sales.
There is a golden opportunity for you to do some keyword research, produce some strong SEO content, and bring organic traffic to your website.
Good luck, write some awesome stories, and build your audience and your sales.
Matthew Farmer is a writer. He is an SEO Copywriter and the Content Team Manager at StudioHawk, 2021’s Best SEO Agency in the Global Search Awards. He has also participated 19 times in Nanowrimo, completing the 50k word challenge every year. Through this, he is self-published twice, with a third book in the pipeline.
Matthew taught Copywriting and other marketing courses at RMIT, Melbourne. He loves to help people write, create, and be creative however he can. The idea of combining his current profession in an SEO studio with helping authors is just one of the ways he does this.