Author SEO & Author Keywords: What Do You Need to Know?
One of the questions I ask my author website design clients when we first get started on their project is what they think their website’s keywords should be. This helps me understand not only how they think about themselves, but also their understanding of SEO, how they think about their book(s), and how we might structure their website content for content marketing.
Understandably, few authors have a great understanding of online searchability (aka SEO), and why would they? It has a reputation for being confusing, complicated, and ever-changing. And most authors, even those focused on author marketing, have the time to deep dive into SEO. It’s absolutely true that getting found online is mostly about doing things that Google thinks are valuable, but remember that Google’s goal (and entire business model) is about matching what users search for with the results that (they think) suit them best. So understanding how search impacts your author website is definitely important if you want to be found. You can certainly hire an SEO marketing firm/person to help you with this, but you can also take lots of simple steps yourself. This article is about those steps.
Rather than get caught up in the weeds, I prefer to bring things back to basics. That means thinking about what’s true related to how an author could be found online regardless of Google’s algorithm. Here’s what I consider on behalf of my clients for my author website projects:
What are the searches related to what this author is doing? What are the words that people might search for where their work would be a good fit? The more specific you can be, the better. I’m sure you can imagine it’s difficult to compete for “romance novel” but much less difficult to compete for “southern suspenseful romance novel”. Likewise, “self help book” would be almost impossible to rank for, but “self help book about overcoming generational trauma” would set you apart. You’re better off exploiting your niche rather than attempting to rank for a highly competitive term. Trying to capture an audience by being generic will backfire on you every time. At the very least when brainstorming your keyword list for your author website, be sure you include your author name, your book title(s), your genre, and your location (if relevant) as foundational keywords.
The content quality for the target audience is what determines how successful any author website is in search. Google is very smart, and getting smarter all the time. While it was possible back in 2005 to game the system and stuff your website with keywords — regardless of how it read to an actual person — it’s no longer possible. And not only that, your website will lose ranking if you try it. If you are writing high-quality, helpful, compelling content that means that your target audience is sticking around to enjoy it, then Google will notice and serve your website up at the front of search results. Your ability to demonstrate authority on a topic via high quality content is the path to improved search rankings. If the search intent matches your website’s content, Google will serve your website up, if it doesn’t, they won’t.
Each page of an author website has a purpose. The Home page is like a portal where you concisely introduce everything and point people to the various other pages to learn more. The About page is about the author, so its content should talk about the kind of writing they do, their genre, their locations (if relevant), their expertise and experience. It’s as likely that someone might search for “menopause expert” as they might search for “book about menopause” if they are looking for resources. If you are an expert on menopause who wrote a book about it, you want to capture both searches. The Book page acts as a hub for everything about a book and should include the title, genre, descriptive text, links to reviews, interviews, and press coverage. Not only can an author use it to link people right to it for details, but they can also capitalize on all of their keywords (and synonyms) in all of that content. The Press page is where authors can capture how other people think of their expertise and content. Each link to press coverage is describing to people and search engines what the author’s content is affiliated with topically. Of course there may be more pages on an author website, including different pages for different books, so it’s important to think about the purpose of each page, and what words might be included — words that people might search for — where that content would be a good search result.
An online presence is more than just a website. Social media, for better or worse, is where we tell the world about what we’re up to. If you think of your website as the place where your content lives — where everything about you as an author comes together — then social media is where you tell people about it. So, if author SEO is important to you, rather than use a 3rd party newsletter tool (like Substack) you might use the blog feature of your author website to create a mailing list of subscribers for your newsletter content. That way you’re not only building a helpful repository of keyword rich content over time on your own author website, but you have the opportunity to link people to it from your social media profile over time.
Other things to consider for Author Website SEO:
It takes time. Because of the vastness of the internet, and how much content Google’s search bots are indexing constantly, and how much competition there is for everything, it takes time not only for an author website to be found, but to show up where you might hope it will. This is true even if you’ve done everything possible to stack the deck in your favor. But at the very least, if you continually invest in quality website content, including building links back to your author website across your website presence, you can expect it will improve over time.
The more links back to your website, the better. You might be tempted to link your byline in an interview or article about you or your work to your book page on Amazon, but that’s a missed opportunity for an incoming link. Those incoming links have potential not only to boost you in search rankings, but also allow folks to take advantage of not only buying your book, but other things your website offers (like signing up for your mailing list). And don’t just share something once, you can share it many times across time in many different ways. Sometimes a holiday or time-of-year or just different wording will land with someone new in a way it didn’t before.
YouTube is owned by Google. This means that if you have video content hosted on YouTube it’s highly searchable. Be sure to include a keyword-rich title and description for the video on YouTube, and include the link back to your author website.
Your website’s images are also searchable. Never miss an opportunity to use a filename like [my-book-name.jpg] rather than something nondescript. This goes for your author photos too. You might name your headshot’s filename [firstname-lastname-author.jpg] or [firstname-lastname-genre-author.jpg]. In addition to the filename itself, look to add an html Title and Alt tag for each image you upload to your author website.
How quickly your website loads, how well it works on mobile devices, how secure it is, and the user experience all contribute to your search engine rankings too. This is where hiring someone who does this work professionally can help because they can optimize all of these factors for you if you don’t know how. At the very least, working with a great website hosting service will get you part of the way there if you want to do things yourself. I use and recommend SiteGround, and they do a great job getting you started on the right foot: https://www.siteground.com/go/shzqg1hx8i
Just like finding a successful life partner, you are not looking to appeal to everyone, you are looking to appeal to the people who are right for you. As an author of course you want as many people as possible to read your book(s), but diving right into who you are as an author, and creating quality website content for the folks who are likely to be or become die hard fans, will absolutely be the best way to get there.
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