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What authors need to know about SEO

If you are an author with a website or blog, you really should know a thing or two about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Search engines like Google are the primary way that users find information and products online. The better your ranking on Google, the more likely users are to find your site and your book!

What is SEO?

SEO refers to how well your site is structured to make it visible for search engines. Better SEO means it will receive a higher ranking in search results. This, in turn, is crucial for getting lots of visitors. After all, when you do a Google search, how often will you navigate past the second—or even first—page?

How does Google determine your ranking?

Around 70% of Internet searches are conducted on Google, so it’s important to understand how Google in particular ranks search results, and customize your site accordingly.

The precise way that Google ranks search results is a little murky. What we can tell you is that they use complicated algorithms to scan webpages and detect patterns in text. Doing so allows Google to determine what the website offers and how it should be categorized. So a critical way of improving your SEO is tailoring the format of your site to Google’s specifications. Google offers its own SEO starter guide, which you might find useful to check out.

So what can you do to improve your site’s SEO?

Keywords. Keywords are words or phrases that your target audience is likely to use during web searches. For instance, “business,” “leadership,” “book,” and “productivity” are all keywords likely to be used by a user searching for information about business leadership and productivity in the workplace. If you are the author of a book on this topic, you will want to ensure that these keywords are featured prominently in the title of your webpage and early on in the text as well. However, don’t overdo it. Repeating keywords dozens of times on your site will lead Google to view this as “stuffing,” which will hurt your ranking or have your site removed from results. Good keyword density is about 4% of the page, leaving the rest for regular content.  

Page structure and content. Every page on your site or blog should have a clearly written title and post description. If you are using WordPress to create your site, handy plugins like Yoast are available to help you customize the layout of your page (see below): 

When it comes to content, longer posts and articles are more likely to show up in a Google search than shorter ones. The average blog post is around 300-600 words, so aim for this word count as a minimum. But don’t be afraid to write to up to1,000-1,500 words, as recent studies show that posts around this length are shared more frequently. Always be sure not to sacrifice quality simply for the sake of quantity.

Backlinks. One of the ways that Google determines if your site is relevant and authoritative (thereby giving it a higher ranking) is based on the number of links coming from other sites, also known as backlinks. Backlinks act like online referrals. You can increase the number of external links to your site in a number of ways, such as guest blogging on other popular sites, creating social media profiles that link to your website, and sharing your posts through online curators like Digg, Stumbleupon, or Reddit. Be sure to update the content on your site regularly, since a more active site will look more relevant in Google’s eyes.

The final word

Search engines like Google are constantly making changes to the algorithms they use to rank search results, in an effort to prevent people from gaming the system and exploiting easy techniques for getting a higher ranking. So be sure to check back for the latest tips on improving your SEO!