Why every independent author needs to know SEO
As an independent writer, you probably know that one of the things you need to do is market your books yourself. I bet you, like me, have seen all kinds of videos and classes that claim to have the magic tool that will net you hundreds of readers that will buy hundreds of copies of your new book and send you down the path to selling millions of copies and earning you a six-figure income. I bet you, like me, have seen that email newsletters are the way to go. Oh! Just give away something and people will be lining up around the block to sign up and then you just sent them newsletters every month and blah, blah, blah - rich.
I have been doing this a while. I am here to tell you that its all hogwash. As Colonel Potter from M*A*S*H used to say: horse hockey. There ain't no magic bullet. It takes a lot of plate-spinning and a lot of work and there are a couple of things that nearly every single fellow indie writer I have talked to forgets or does not understand - organic traffic to their website. In other words, they have not bothered to learn about SEO.
I have told you all before, both here and on social media, that I do not write my books and novels full time. I'd love to, but so far, that hasn't happened. What I am in my day job, however, is an SEO specialist. I write high-trafficked website content and blogs for an international company. If you want, send me a note and I'll send you stats showing how I have written some hugely popular and clicked blog articles.
The fact is - if you want to be a writer that has all of this independence in writing and want to self-publish, you have to become an SEO expert. You just do. If you want your blog and website to show up in Google searches organically and without having to spend a fortune on pay-per-click ads, you have to know SEO.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Google and the other browsers (hi Firefox and Yahoo people) use programming known as algorithms that determine where a person is searching, what they have searched before, what they might be interested in when the search now, and then try to order the stuff that shows up in a search in a certain way based on their search terms
You, as the website creator, need to have some idea what the KEYWORDS are that they might be searching for so that you can add them to your website. When you add them, they need to be in the page titles, meta description fields, in the body text of each page and within each blog article.
What is keyword stuffing?
Back when I first started doing freelance writing, there was a common practice called keyword stuffing that was common practice. This was around 2006-ish and Goolge's algorithms allowed it. One of my first freelance gigs was writing website content for a site that sold luggage and I would keyword stuff the crap out of a page like:
Keyword: wheeled luggage
Paragraph: When people travel they prefer to use wheeled luggage. Wheeled luggage makes travel easier. If you need wheeled luggage, you should shop at a reputable wheeled luggage retail outlet to buy your wheeled luggage.
On and on it would go. Horrible to read, right? Most people didn't, but it would be put on a page or within the meta description or "back end" areas of the website to allow the site to score.
That has changed. Google has now changed that algorithms so that they lend greater search weight to a couple things:
Informational posts - is your post easy to read? Does it sound natural and does it provide relevant information? If you answered "yes" good for you.
Readability - if a person can't really read your stuff, Google won't promote it.
What is a keyword?
A keyword is the basic word or phrase that people will search to hopefully find your site or product.
How do I determine a keyword?
This is the hard work. Sit down and think about your book, about you, about the kind of writing you do. Start jotting down every word or phrase you think someone might do to find your stuff. It can be your location, the type of fiction you write, anything.
Now, to be effective, you need to use a tool to determine the search volumes.
What SEO tools should I use?
That depends on you and your budget. There are free keyword tools out there. They work fine. If you have some coin to spend, the Google Adwords tool is great and a tool named SEMRush is fantastic.
How does an SEO tool work?
OK, so, I have been writing about and marketing my psychological thriller book Storyland for a while here. Now - why did I just write the words "psychological thriller book?" Why not novel or psychological suspense?
Because I used a keyword tool.
Here - I used a free tool: https://www.wordstream.com/keywords
I type in the words "psychological thriller" and I see:
Thriller gets 450,000 searches globally
Thriller books 8,100
Psychological thriller books gets 6,600 searches
Let's try "psychological suspense" and see:
It doesn't even show up as a search term using Wordstream. Not a good choice.
Even typing in "psychological horror" tells me the words "psychological thriller" gets much higher numbers.
That means, when I should use the words and word phrases:
Psychological thriller book
Whenever I write a blog about the novel. When I add keywords to my Amazon page and whenever I post about it - anywhere. Use it once or twice, add it to headers and sub-headers and use it in the Meta Description sections of my blog posts and website.
Does SEO work?
Yes, it works. It's still the best way to get traffic to your website and blog post. Still the most affordable way to get attention online and doing it consistently will pay off in time. It may take up to a year for your site to rank high for certain keywords, but it will happen. Build your site and pages accordingly and blog using the terms (but keep it readable and DON'T stuff!) and voila. Free results without filling people's inboxes with stupid newsletters that no one will read.
Got it? Well, trust me, it works. If you have questions - hit me up. Maybe I can help (for a small fee?).