If you’ve ever taken a gander at my FAQs, or spoken to me, you will know that writing is not my primary trade. Thankfully. I make my living through marketing, specifically, digital marketing.
Since publishing my first book, I’ve spoken to a lot of writers. Some are self-published, some are professionally published, some hope to be published. Some have written a shelf full of books and some are working on their first. The thing that seems to connect many of them is that they freely admit that they have a lot of trouble with marketing their books.
Personally, I think the mindset you need to be a writer is at odds with the mindset that you need to be a marketeer. This usually means that writers either spend a lot of time researching and agonising over the best thing to do with their limited time…or they bury their head in the sand and do nothing.
I understand both. There is a huge amount of information on marketing floating around, specifically marketing a book, so it is very easy to get lost or bogged down. Listening to all that (often conflicting) advice, would make it very easy to spend more time attempting to market your book than you actually spent writing and editing it. And, often, the information is out of date or just plain wrong, so that time ends up being wasted.
And I hate wasted time. My own and others.
So, I thought I would publish a series of blogs to explain marketing, specifically marketing for writers. Because, the truth is, it isn’t that hard. The roots of marketing are common sense. However, as marketing is an consultancy industry with the potential to make people vast amounts of money…a lot of marketeers try to make it sound harder than it is.
I’m going to attempt to demystify the process a little. And, I’m going to start with the three most feared and misunderstood letters in the English language. SEO.
Most of you should have heard of SEO by now, it stands for Search Engine Optimisation. SEO makes it sound much more big and scary than it actually is. It’s a bit like calling your oven a Nourishment Heating Device.
SEO is a fancy way of saying that you are making sure that your website, or content, can be read and correctly indexed by search engines. Search engines, predominantly Google, Bing and Yahoo, crawl all of the pages on the Internet everyday. They then store that information on enormous servers in massive metal containers all over the world (this is not relevant to know but still rather interesting, right?).
So, when you go to your search engine of choice and type in a request, it searches through all of those pages in a split second and gives you pages of results. These results are almost always relevant to your search and ranked by the most relevant.
This is done because of SEO. It’s the search engine’s way of ensuring that users get what they are looking for as quickly as possible. So, if you want your book or your site to appear in those results, you have to ensure that search engines index you correctly.
For the purpose of this lesson, I’m going to talk about an author’s website. This is because you cannot write your book or your blurb or your book title or any associated marketing material in any way that will effect SEO. Why? Because SEO is about website pages and the content within is actually largely irrelevant. If you have a website page with your book blurb on, but you have done nothing to that page to tell the search engine how to index it…you are wasting your time.
Let me explain…
When you go to Google and type in a query, you are presented with a page of results. These results are created from the content on the websites. The information used is;
Title – The title of your website page, this can be seen on the tab of that window in your browser
URL – The website address, this becomes relevant when talking about blogs or certain pages
Description – The description of your page, see more about this below
A good example of this can be seen here:
The information I put on my website has been used to populate results by the search engine. I can change any of these, if I felt that the title needed to have my book title in instead of my name, I could change this and within a few hours the search results would change.
There are, as with all things online, character limits to both the title and the description. If you go over these then you will see an ellipse in the results, like this:
To ensure that the whole title and description are shown, make sure you keep your title under 55 characters and your description under 155 characters.
If you don’t put a description in, then the search engine will pick up the first piece of text on your website and use that. If you don’t have any welcome text, then it may use a blog. If you have no actual text on your homepage, just an image for example, it will be blank. And you will probably not come up in search results at all.
How do you change these elements? Well, this depends on your software. If you have a WordPress site then I would highly recommend downloading a free plugin called Yoast. This will add a small box to the bottom of your content editor for each page that will allow you to change your title and description.
If you are old school and do your own coding (well done you), then here is the code you require:
There are, of course, other factors to SEO aside from the title and the description. But these are considered to be among the most important factors. It’s the first step towards getting your site indexed on the search engines at all. Without this vital step, any other SEO work you may do is potentially wasted.
I often get asked about keywords. Where to put them, what’s a good keyword, what IS a keyword? So, I’ll quickly cover that off here. A keyword is a word or phrase that you wish to rank for. Or, to put it another way, you would like people who type in a certain search query to see your website.
If you have an uncommon name then I would not recommend bothering to use it as a keyword. Anyone searching for your name will no doubt find you anyway so why waste the keyword space? Again, if your book title is uncommon then this principle also applies.
You need to think about what you would like your readers, potential book purchasers, to type in in order to find your page. This is unique to everyone but be aware that some search terms are highly competitive.
Google uses a complex and secret mix of algorithms with which to predict site relevance. In other words, Google wishes to give the best possible results and, to stop people from gaming the system, they keep their methods secret.
We do know some of the things that effect site rankings and these include; Site speed, Frequency of updates, Number of linking domains, Content, Keyword density, Domain history, Duplicate content, Mobile optimisation…I could go on.
As you can see. SEO can be a highly complicated world. But it doesn’t need to be if you’re a writer.
Books are unlikely to be sold by someone typing in a search query. How many people sit down and type in “a book with a strong female lead” into their search engine? I imagine very, very few. How many people browse review sites and use social media to get recommendations. Many, many more.
So, my advice is to keep your SEO adventures short. You’re much better off spending that time doing other things.
Did you find this blog post interesting? If so, let me know in the comments below. Also, if you have a suggestion on what the next lesson should be, leave a comment!