Our guest blogger today is James Byrd, a fiction and nonfiction author, book publisher, and database software developer. These skills come together in his roles as website developer and co-organizer of the Self-Publishers Online Conference. James and his wife Susan Daffon will be speaking at the virtual conference on May 8, 2012. Visit the SPOC site for more information (and use my exclusive coupon code, BookBuzz12, to get 10 percent off the registration fee!).
15 easy and evergreen SEO tips for authors
By James Byrd
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the practice of making your author website more attractive to search engines. Some Internet marketing companies would have you believe that SEO is a black art best practiced by the experts, for a hefty fee, of course. Don’t believe it. With a few minor changes to the way you create content today, you can have a positive and long-lasting impact on your site’s position in the search engine results.
At my company, we call the tips I’m about to give you “evergreen” SEO techniques because they stand the test of time. These techniques are not designed to “trick” search engine spiders into favoring you. They are dedicated to giving the search engines what they want. What they want is the same things your readers want: high quality information that is easy to find. The tips you find below won’t ever go out of style.
Offer good content
The best website and blog content is targeted and useful. Targeted means it is written for a specific audience. Useful content either solves a problem or entertains. General tips for writing good content include:
1. Provide step-by-step or “how-to” instructions.
2. Clarify a widely misunderstood or complex subject.
3. Relate an interesting or amusing story.
Include organic keywords
In this context, the term “organic” essentially means “as they naturally occur in your writing.” SEO specialists get great joy from researching keywords related to the topic at hand, then “keyword stuffing” those terms into the content. Most writers I know have no interest in doing keyword research, particularly if they’ve ever given it a try, and certainly not for every blog post. Instead, I recommend integrating the following techniques into your normal writing:
4. After writing, review your content for terms you’ve used repeatedly and replace them with something else.
5. During your review, include terms you’ve heard from your audience, even if they don’t seem completely accurate.
6. Don’t be afraid to include well-known industry terms even if they seem technical. It will help the members of your audience who are “in the know” find your content.
Provide accurate metadata
Metadata is a scary word, but all it means is “data about data.” Your blog post or article is the data, and the metadata includes information like the title, description, category, and tags associated with your content. These elements deserve special attention when you publish your blog post or article. Remember that getting good placement in the search engine results is only part of the battle; you must get people to click through to your site for that placement to have any real value.
7. Craft your title to get the attention of people who are looking for the kind of information you provide. Cute titles might work for an entertainment piece, but they don’t attract potential visitors who are focused on solving a problem.
8. Make sure that the description under your link in the search results is specific and that it accurately summarizes the benefit of clicking through to the page. How you do this depends upon the tool you are using to publish your content.
9. If your web publishing tool (for example, WordPress or Blogger) offers ways to tag or categorize your content, do so. Tags and categories often create separate index pages of related content on your site, and the search engines will find and index those pages too.
It has become more important than ever to keep your site from looking like you’ve abandoned it. Not long ago, Google released the “Panda” upgrade to its search engine algorithm, and many sites saw their traffic fall off by 50 percent or more as a result. Others saw little or no change. Google keeps its algorithm pretty close to the chest, but one of the biases of Panda quickly became clear: New content is better than old content.
Add new content to your site as frequently as is practical for you. Every two weeks should be the minimum if you want to attract and keep followers (more on that below.) Daily is great, but it’s a grind unless you know a lot of people who will guest post for you. The main thing is to get on a schedule you can follow consistently. As for figuring out what to write, try these tips:
10. Create a “swipe file” – a file or folder of snippets you can use for reference and inspiration. If you have an idea for a post, add it to your swipe file before you forget it.
11. Save comments you make on other people’s blog posts. Each one is a potential gem of inspiration for a post of your own.
12. When you answer a question for someone via e-mail, save the exchange.
Make your content popular
Even if you do everything I’ve covered above to make your content the best that it can be for the search engines, whether or not you get traffic still comes down to a popularity contest. All other things being equal, a popular site comes up higher in the search results than an unpopular site. One of the main criteria for determining popularity is how many other sites link to yours. Here are some tips for increasing the odds that visitors will learn about your site and link back to it:
13. Include social media “like” and “share” buttons on your pages. The Google “plus-one” button is particularly important because it is a direct vote of confidence from your visitors to Google.
14. Allow visitors to “follow” your blog via email and RSS.
15. Use your social media accounts to announce every time you publish new content.
Most of us have enough to do without dedicating time to something as onerous-sounding as “search engine optimization.” If you use the above tips, you can work SEO into your normal routine and feel confident that your efforts will continue to work for you long into the future.