This guest post by Digital Marketing Specialist Jake Hughes is a complete SEO for beginners walk-through and guide. So if you’re new to SEO strategy or search engine optimization, and want a crash course, this SEO tutorial is for you.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is often overlooked by lots of writers and authors because the topic is seen as complex, time-consuming and the value isn’t always immediately obvious.
However, if you’re serious about developing an online presence for your author brand, book, or website, then you’re going to have to think about SEO.
I promise that it’s not as scary (or boring) as it seems and you can impact your SEO without getting bogged down in the technical stuff. This is a no-coding required SEO strategy for writers that will help you to get more eyeballs on your work.
I know a few of you are still dubious. So before we discuss what it is and some of the strategies you can use, let’s go over the benefits of SEO.
The Benefits of SEO
There are a bunch of benefits that happen when you optimize your website for search engines. The algorithms that Google and other search engines use to populate their results pages are looking for high-quality content, that’s easy to read and is relevant to the searched topic.
So, naturally by optimizing for what the algorithms are looking for, the quality of your content gets an upgrade. Here are five key benefits of SEO:
- Increased relevant search traffic – most people want SEO to bring them more website traffic and when done correctly that’s exactly what you’ll get.
- User-friendly websites – search engines reward sites that are fast, smooth, and easy to navigate. So, optimizing for search engines will improve the user experience of people visiting your site which will make them think more fondly of you and your work.
- Better brand awareness – when you start appearing on the first page of search results for popular search terms, people will start to recognize your name and will be more likely to remember you when they see you on other places like Amazon, their local bookstore, or other websites.
- Outperform your competition – authors and writers that have optimized their websites for search engines will be much more visible than those who haven’t. This will result in more book sales, page views, and press mentions.
- Improved conversion rates – scooping up the relevant search traffic that is looking for content on your topic, combined with quality, organized content on your website, will improve your conversion rates. This is because it will be easier to find you and easier to consume your content versus a site that hasn’t been optimized.
Keyword research is the start of any SEO campaign. It’s the process of discovering what search engine users are actually typing when they search and the number of times popular phrases are searched for. The volume data is usually recorded as the average monthly search volume.
The other metric you want to look out for when conducting keyword research is the competition index. This tells you how many other people are attempting to optimize for that particular keyword. The less competitive the keyword is, the easier it will be to rank well.
So, if you’re just starting out, targeting less competitive keywords is a good strategy to start building search traffic.
Short-tail & long-tail keywords
Keywords can be broken down into two main groups: short-tail keywords and long-tail keywords.
Short-tail keywords are search phrases that only have one or two words and are more general than specific in their intent. Short-tail keywords tend to have a high search volume and are very competitive.
Long-tail keywords contain three or more words and have a more specific search intent. They also tend to have a lower average search volume and will therefore be less competitive.
Here’s an example:
Short-tail keyword – Famous authors
Longtail keyword – Famous female sci-fi authors
For the best results, you should include keywords in your main title, subheadings, and naturally throughout the main body of your text. Don’t be tempted to stuff as many keywords into your content as possible because your content will get penalized and not rank well.
If you’ve included them in your headings, having them show up naturally as you write about your topic will be enough.
I know I said we’re not going to get into the technical stuff but here’s a quick explanation of what people mean when they talk about technical SEO. Quite simply, it refers to any technical action performed with the intent to improve your search ranking results.
It targets the crawl and index portions of ranking by making it easier for search bots to find and index your web pages on their system. It involves getting into the code that sits behind a website which is why it’s a specialist skill.
Some technical SEO key terms that you might see while researching SEO are sitemaps, robot.txt, page speed, structured data, canonical tags, SSL certificates, migrations, facets, mobile-friendliness, and DOM – to name a few.
The good news is that if you’re using a DIY website builder like Wix or Squarespace they take care of all of the technical stuff for you. So, there will be no need to understand what the heck robot.txt is!
The downside is that website builders don’t have perfect technical SEO which means as your website grows and you start to compete with websites that have a team of SEO experts working for them, it will be more difficult to rank highly. However, if you don’t have any technical SEO skills, website builders will be a better option than running a WordPress site in terms of SEO.
On-page SEO refers to practices and techniques used to optimize individual web pages. Generally speaking, it helps you to organize and structure your content in a way the search bots like. It’s also where you will apply your keyword research so that search engines know what search term(s) you want to rank for.
5 ways to optimize your on-page SEO
There are more than five ways to optimize your web pages but here are five simple optimization tactics to get you started.
Header tags (H1-H6)
Header tags are HTML tags that are used to differentiate the main heading (H1) and the subheadings (H2-H6) from the main body of your text. The numbers show the overall hierarchy and structure of your content with H1 being the most important and H6 being the least important.
The correct use of header tags will help you to create a well-structured and organized piece of content that has two main benefits. The first is that it helps search bots to understand what your content is about much quicker which allows it to categorize and index your page easily.
The second is that a well-structured piece of content creates a better user experience for your readers. The H1 or title will tell them what to expect from the rest of the content and the subheadings will help them skim through the text to sections they want to read about.
Internal and external links can also improve your rankings. Internal links are hyperlinks to other pages on your website from within a piece of content. They help develop a crawlable website by creating internal linking structures. It means that when a search bot finds your piece of content, it will also quickly find other pages on your website.
Internal links are a great way of getting your readers to spend more time on your site by encouraging them to navigate through your website one click at a time. Web visitors spending a long time on your website will also boost your SEO.
External links are hyperlinks going from your website to a resource on another website. The idea behind external links is to point your readers in the direction of helpful resources that help them to understand the topic you are writing about better. Make sure you only link to relevant information from a reputable source to get the most out of external links. Linking to spammy sites or irrelevant information will harm your SEO.
URLs are another space on your web pages that help readers and search bots figure out what your content is all about. Here are three things to concentrate on when editing your URLs:
- Include your focus keyword to highlight the topic of your content
- Keep it short so it’s easier and quicker to read
- Use hyphens between words to signal to search bots that you want them to be viewed independently rather than a jumbled-up bunch of letters.
Here’s an example of a bad URL:
Here’s an example of a friendly URL:
As you can see, even though the first URL mentions SEO, it’s hidden among a jumble of characters and doesn’t say anything specific about the content. Whereas the second example highlights exactly what the content is about without any fluff.
Articles and blog posts with images get 94% more views than those that don’t. So, if you want more people to view your website content then including images is a good idea. However, you’ll also want to optimize them to get the maximum SEO benefits. Here are five ways to optimize your images:
1. Edit filenames – clearly state what your image is about and include a keyword if possible.
2. Choose the right file type – JPEGS should be your go-to file type because of the small file size and are best for large images. PNGs should be used when you need transparent backgrounds only. SVGs are lightweight vector files that should be used for logos and icons.
3. Reduce file size – use image optimization tools to reduce the file size of images to improve the loading times of your web pages. Page speed is a key ranking factor so it’s an important job.
4. Captions – are only needed when additional context is necessary to improve the reader’s experience. Try including a keyword if possible.
5. Alt-text – helps visually impaired readers and search bots understand what the image is about. Creating accessible content is another key ranking factor so it’s best practice to write alt-text for all images uploaded to your site.
Meta-descriptions, along with your title are displayed on search engine results pages. The title is the clickable link and the meta-description is the text underneath it.
It’s another space to give readers and search bots context about your web pages. When done correctly, it can improve your click-through rate from search engine results pages (SERP) which is another ranking factor that will benefit your SEO.
For the best results:
- Create unique meta-descriptions for every page of your website
- Include a keyword to highlight the topic
- Write a catchy call-to-action to entice the reader to click
- Stick to the character limit of 155-160 characters
Off-page SEO refers to anything that happens off your website that contributes to improving your search rankings. Off-page SEO has two main branches which are social-signal (likes, shares, & engagement on social media) and backlinks (inbound links from other websites linking to your website).
Social signals do play a role in boosting your rankings, however, backlinks and optimized content are the most important ranking factors according to Google. So, for an off-page SEO strategy that will provide the most impact, your energy should be concentrated on acquiring inbound links to your site.
3 off-page SEO strategies for writers
Just like with on-page SEO tactics there are many more ways to gain backlinks for your website than the three I’m about to share with you. However, if you’re a writer or an author, the below tactics are a great way to start securing links and improving the authority of your website.
If you’re trying to improve the SEO of your writer’s website start saying yes to every interview you get offered and actively seek them out where possible. They are a great way to land links back to your website from relevant and high authority sites within your industry. Here’s how to make sure you get backlinks from interviews:
- Author Bios – There will usually be a space for an author bio where you can include a link to your website. Link to your home page, your best piece of work, or your shop page.
- Text Links – If the interview is written up in text, the writer might organically link to your specific resources on your website or the shop page where people can buy your book. If they don’t, don’t be scared to ask! Most writers won’t mind linking to one or two of your web pages if it’s relevant to their readers.
- Show Notes – Finally, if the interview happens on a podcast then ask for a link to your website to be included in the show notes.
If you’re a writer or an author, it means you’re probably an expert on one or more topics. Therefore, blogs and websites that focus on the topic you’re knowledgeable about would more than likely love for you to write content for them. Make sure that you include a link back to your website from your author bio and from the main body of the text where relevant.
To find relevant guest posting opportunities try adding a relevant keyword to some of the below search terms:
- [Keyword] “guest post by”
- [Keyword] “guest post written by”
- [Keyword] “guest author today”
- [Keyword] “my guest posts”
- [Keyword] “places I’ve guest posted”
- [Keyword] “this is a guest post by”
- [Keyword] “guest article”
- [Keyword] “the following guest post”
- [Keyword] “Author: Guest Blogger”
This should pull up a bunch of websites that accept guest posts. Then, you’ll need to reach out to them and pitch an idea for a piece of content that would work well for their audience. Make sure you let them know why you’re qualified to write about the topic you’re pitching for the best results.
Digital PR is becoming a popular tactic to secure backlinks. It’s a great way to secure editorial links from relevant, high-authority websites. Journalists will pick up your press release if they are looking to write something on the topic it focuses on and will naturally link back to the resources included in the press release when relevant.
If you’re working with a publisher they should take care of creating a press release for your new book or any newsworthy activities you might be doing. If you publish your own work, it’s down to you to take advantage of this fantastic SEO opportunity. Getting coverage across online publications will also get you and your work in front of more people which will expand your audience. So, it’s a win-win!
Final Thoughts on the Ultimate SEO Strategy for Writers
It can take a little while for the impact and benefits of SEO campaigns to take effect. For example, it can take around 10 weeks for a new backlink to impact your rankings. So, SEO requires some patience. However, the rewards of more website traffic, increased brand awareness, and better conversion rates are worth it.
You now know some effective on-page and off-page SEO tactics that you can apply to your website to move you one step closer to achieving literary success. The techniques outlined in this article will help you to expand your platform, provide a better user experience for your audience, and sell more books.
Jake is a digital marketing specialist, head of content marketing at Website Builder Ninja, and a contributing writer for a variety of marketing-focused online publications. Website Builder Ninja reviews the world’s leading DIY website builders to help you to find the right platform to grow your online business.