Easy SEO tips for indie authors part 1: Why do you need SEO?

By Matthew Farmer.

According to the publishing trends of 2022, direct sales for authors, from their own websites, are growing as their best revenue stream. If you can sell your books from your own website, you cut out the agents, publishers, and bookstores, all taking a cut of your profits. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? Such a simple idea – write your novel, self-publish, and then sell it from your website. How hard can it be?

For anyone who has tried this, you know the answer: it’s a lot harder than it sounds. In some ways, writing the novel is the easy part. Marketing and selling is the hard part and takes a whole different skill set and way of thinking.

If readers are going to find your work online, you need to help them by having solid search engine optimisation (SEO) set up so that they can find you.

So, here are the key components of SEO you need to know if you’re an emerging or established author to make sales online.

What is SEO and how can it help me?

In simple terms, SEO is the process of improving your online profile and making it easier for people to find you when they are inputting search terms.

Once you put some organic SEO strategies in place, the power of the SEO grows over time. It helps you with more visitors to your website. It can help grow your brand and grow your authoritative voice.

SEO helps you create content with a purpose and speak to your target audience. You can offer to write for more people online, with a purpose. Ultimately, good SEO brings visitors to your website, which leads to sales, and money in your pocket.

The rise of indie authors

Self-publishers, independent authors (indie authors), those that bypass a publishing house and publish themselves, are a growing force in the world of writing in every genre. It is becoming easier to do, especially with the growth in popularity and convenience of ebooks.

A lot is written about the shift to independent publishing. In little more than 15 years, indie ebook publishing has captured an impressive 34% market hold in the English language book markets. And it’s growing.

Writing and getting published as an indie author is considerably easy. It’s the marketing that can be the hard part, and this is where knowing some basic SEO comes into play.

Why do you need to know SEO?

To become a truly independent author, knowing how to use SEO will assist you in your marketing. It will help you connect to your target audience, and some Google tools can show you where your audience is coming from, which we’ll discuss later.

Knowing your audience and what they’re reading, through SEO research, you can also understand what kind of book to write, especially if you want to be commercially successful.

Understanding SEO

Understanding SEO will help you be confident in what you do and why you do it. And it will help you make good decisions about your marketing.

On your blog (yes, you need one of them for SEO reasons), you don’t just write an opinion piece about what you’re thinking about. You do some research about a topic trending in the industry, get some keywords, find questions the public is asking, and answer them to the best of your ability.

The more you understand what people are searching for, the better you understand search intent, and hence how you can serve this intent.

For example:
You’ve written a book that involves rescue dogs, as in the ones you find from a kennel. To get some organic search results and traffic to your website, you can write some content about rescue dogs.

Doing some research, the most search traffic in this area includes:

  1. Adopt a dog – 18.1k searches per month.
  2. Rescue Dogs Melbourne – 6.6k searches per month.
  3. Animal welfare – 2.4k searches per month.

Since the biggest search volume is around adopting a dog, you could write some content around that.

Digging a little deeper, the top 3 headlines which serve this search intent are:

  1. Create Happiness. Save lives.
  2. Adopt a Pet – Pet Rescue RSPCA.
  3. RSPCA Adopt a Pet.

These three titles were current at the time of researching this article. However search results and the top 3 can change.

Two of the top 3 headlines point to the RSPCA. Could you write an article promoting the RSPCA? The potential for a backlink to your website could be good.

You can also research the top questions people are asking when it comes to adopting a pet.

  • Is adopting a dog from a shelter literally saving a life?
  • Why is it so hard to adopt a dog from a shelter?
  • What do I need to adopt a dog from a shelter?
  • Do shelter dogs make good pets?

All this research took me 5 minutes using Semrush and their Content Marketing dashboard.

It is a good start, and you could already be getting some ideas for a good 1000-word article to back up your book that has a rescue dog in it.

You can see how someone might arrive at your website, read an article about adopting a dog, then see you've written a book about a rescue dog. They may end up buying your book while they're on your site.

Hubspot says the ideal blog length for SEO purposes should be 2,100 words to 2,400 words. However, 1000 words of fresh content per month is a good start to get Google to notice you and your SEO efforts.

Marketing

When marketing yourself and your books, knowing what SEO is and how it operates will make your marketing work for you.

When releasing a new book, will you be doing a book launch at a local bookstore? If yes, then your marketing needs to include:

  • Some local SEO (landing page).
  • Keywords for you and your genre, plus any keywords related to the bookstore itself (Keyword research). These keywords you’d include in your socials, any announcements on your website, and so on.
  • Any mention of you needs to link back to your website (backlinks).
  • Links to any social media profiles you have and other contact details.

For example:
Your Murder-Mystery-Crime-Thriller is going to have a book launch in a bookstore in Avalon, north of Sydney. It seemed appropriate since your story is set in an urban seaside town.

The first step is creating a landing page for people to find you and your event. Location pages, which are landing pages that promote local SEO, use keywords related to you, the area you are targeting, and anything specific about that area.

To populate your landing page, let’s do some keyword research, again, using Semrush.

I looked up “books”, “mystery novels”, “crime novels”, “thriller novels”, “Avalon New South Wales”, and “writing”.

“Books” have the largest search volume with 33.1k searches, followed by “writing” at 6.6k, and “Avalon New South Wales” at 880, per month.

Using phrases with “books” and “writing” would be okay, but with such a large search volume, the competition to get any traction with these words would be quite difficult.

The results for “mystery novels” were okay, with a few hundred on each. As this is a local book launch, using words related to the genre to draw in your target audience is perfectly fine.

Let’s look at the number of searches for “Crime Novels”, in Australia:

  • Crime Novels – 210
  • Best crime novels – 170
  • Top 100 crime novels of all time – 170
  • Best crime novels 2020 – 140

Other keyword searches you can use includes the word “fiction”:

  • Crime Fiction – 480
  • Best crime fiction books – 260
  • Australian crime stories – 1000 (although this can include TV)

You could use a mix of “crime novels” and “best crime novels” in your landing page copy.

The Keyword Magic Tool on Semrush only allows searches by country, not globally.

Next, looking at the number of searches for “Avalon New South Wales”:

  • Avalon New South Wales – 880
  • Avalon Beach New South Wales – 390

Now you talk about the beach setting, where the bookstore is located. This means people searching for something, while geographically nearby, have a chance to see your landing page about your event.

The next step talks about using keywords that your chosen bookstore ranks for. You can easily put the bookstore’s URL into Semrush and find all the keywords they rank for, such as:

  • Beachside Bookshop
  • Avalon Bookshop
  • Beach side shops

Include any of these three phrases on your landing page, and you hook into the search results for the bookshop where your launch is going to take place.

You can do a little backlinking as well. You’d ask for the bookstore to do some online promotion for you, linking back to your landing page. This backlink brings page authority from the bookstore to your website.

Also, include backlinks in any social media marketing that you do. Update your Instagram profile link to point directly at your landing page, include it in any post to Facebook or Youtube, and make it easily clickable.

Landing pages are a one-page site with specific information. You really talk about one thing, and the one purpose is to get sign-ups or notices of interest.

Tracking users

A big factor in SEO is tracking website usage and then adjusting what you do. Connecting a Google Analytics Account with a Google Search Console to your site will show you traffic to your website.

Where did the traffic come from? What pages did they go to? How long were they there for? These (and so many more) questions can be answered to give you insight into who is interested in you, your story, and your books.

This gives you important information:

  • What content did someone read before coming to your website? (Backlinks or organic search results)
  • Where did they land, and how long did they stay? (On-page, content SEO)
  • Did the user click around your site and read other things? (Internal linking)

Once you understand how SEO can influence your marketing and what you do around your website, your brand, and more, you will see the power of SEO. You discover how it drives so much online activity, including people to your website, and ultimately to buy your stories.

Stay tuned for part two of our easy SEO strategies for indie authors.


Author bio

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.

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