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15 easy and evergreen SEO tips for authors

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.

Update frequently

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.

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  1. James Byrd

    I like your straight-forward, no-tricks approach. I’m relieved that good writing is the tool of choice.

    Your timing is excellent as this week my first rudimentary Website went live.

    Thank you,
    — Mark

    1. I agree, Mark — it’s a relief to know that clear writing directed at your target audience works for SEO.

  2. Nice to have such a succinct description of SEO … I think we journalists have been “doing SEO” as a matter of job performance for our entire careers, which is why I feel confident to be able to create a successful blog without formal SEO training.

    1. Thanks Chris. Journalists have a definite advantage over other writers when it comes to writing web site content. Many of the techniques used for writing effective newspaper and magazine copy (including headlines) translate well to the Web. I agree that you should feel confident about creating a successful blog without formal SEO training.

      SEO is all about the content, and the content is all about the reader.

  3. Great info here James. Glad you pointed out to be specific–audience and examples. As a book and blog coach, I emphasize to clients to use a tried and true blog/artice best formt with a specific title, a hook that pulls your reader to read the whole thing and specific how to posts that keep ’em reading to the end. where you make a gentle pitch such as offering your free subscription.
    I’d be honored if you’d like to do a guest blog for my business/author site!

    1. Hi Judy. Sorry for the late reply. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

      You make a great point about “the gentle pitch.” My article focused on SEO, but the point of SEO is to build traffic and followers. And the point of building traffic and followers is to convert them to some call to action.

      Every page of every site should have some kind of call to action, whether that is “sign up for my newsletter” or “buy my book.” Thanks for the gentle reminder. 😉

    1. Thanks for your comment, Tom. I’m glad you were able to envision ways you could immediately adapt my suggestions. Giving actionable tips was actually one of the goals of the article.

  4. Thanks for sharing so many wonderful tips. I have a few questions.

    My soon to be published memoir has multiple strands. Thus, my blog posts revolve around diverse categories. Is it necessary to limit the number of categories that I create? Do the names of the categories affect SEO? Are the tags and the categories equally important?

    Any feedback you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Sandy, I believe that the main purposes of categories is to help you organize content — and to help readers find content by category. Tags are also used for organizing.

      I’ll ask James to pop over and comment, too.


    2. Hi Sandy,

      I don’t think you need to limit the number of categories you create so much as you should make sure they are relevant. The purpose of a category is to help visitors find content that relates to a particular topic of interest. They help the search engines do that too.

      Using your blog as an example, your categories add great keywords to every page, and they generate a keyword-rich and search-engine-friendly URL. Here’s an example:

      Your categories are most valuable from an SEO standpoint when they are specific and include relevant search terms. You have to decide for yourself how specific to make them. If get too specific, you end up with so many categories that it becomes difficult for your visitors and yourself to use them effectively. So, I suppose there is a practical upper limit. Right now, you have 11 broad categories. I think you have room to be more specific if you wanted, but from personal experience, I can say managing more than 30 categories can be tedious.

      I’m not sure what you mean by tags (that term means different things in different contexts), but in general, they cross-reference or index your posts. Again, keep them relevant, but feel free to add tags that use different words for the same thing. You wouldn’t want that kind of redundancy in your categories, but tags are designed for indexing, and you should feel free to cover all the terms a searcher might use.

      I hope this information helps.

  5. Hi James and Sandra,
    Thanks for your response.

    I am considering modifying some of my categories to term(s) that get comparatively high traffic on searches and low competition on search results. This tedious process will involve adding new categories, recategorizing the past posts, deleted old categories, and installing a plugin to hopefully eliminate file errors. Is all of this work worth the effort of redoing 80+ posts. Will this have a significant effect on SEO?

    I realize that gaining an audience is a time consuming process that requires patience. Nevertheless, if there are things that I can do to enhance my chances of having my posts read, I am open to changes.

    It can get a bit lonely when your site has limited traffic.

    Your feedback is appreciated.

    1. Kudos for your initiative! You’ve obviously done some homework on SEO and keyword research. The “tedious process” you describe is exactly what we all should be doing from the beginning; however, few of us have the patience or the foresight.

      The work you are planning to do may not have instant payback, but it will shape your blog for the future and do a better job of leveraging your existing content. Be glad you are considering this change while you only have 80 posts and not 280! Also, making these changes *before* you have a lot of traffic is actually an advantage–you have nothing to lose but your time.

      As for deciding whether or not the work is “worth it,” just consider the pros and cons of going either way. You can be pretty sure that the changes will be an improvement, but you can’t tell how much, so how you *feel* about those changes should be taken into account. If you don’t make the changes, will that bug you because you think you are leaving traffic on the table? When you publish a post, will you be frustrated by the category choices you’ve made? You’ve already done the research, so doing the legwork of changing the posts and feeling like you are moving forward might be the best choice from a peace-of-mind standpoint.

      Sorry if I got philosophical there. That seems to happen when I can’t give a definite answer. 😉

  6. I am loving the 30 Day Book Marketing Challenge! I have been doing a blog for several years now … and I’d like to add a linkedin button like you have on this. Where can I get it? I am using google blog.

  7. Folks, I’m new to this web-site, & new to novel writing (sort of).
    This discussion is wonderfully informative. But, I see that it has been going on for more than 3 years. A comment/question now may be in the stale zone.
    Never the less, I shall plunge bravely forward.
    I can see that SEO would be very useful for non-fiction works. Although, maybe slightly less so for memoir/biography. But, how would it help a mystery novelist, say.
    I can see that it would funnel traffic to a personal web-site and that might be sufficient. But for a particular genre, one would do better at Amazon.com than at Google. Yes?

    1. Great question, Web. You definitely want to remember that Amazon is a search engine, so you need to “optimize” your Amazon sales page with the right keywords and book categories. But you also want to do that with your website so that, for example, people looking for information on mysteries and mystery novelists find you. Make sure your site content has the keyword phrases people will use in Google when they search for the types of books you write.


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