By Karin Bilich
[Originally published in the August 2013 edition of IBPA’s Independent.]
“If you build it, they will come” may be a great slogan when it comes to baseball fields, but it’s definitely not true when it comes to Websites. In fact, I’ve worked with a multitude of clients who came to me after they had launched Websites, expecting to see thousands of visitors, and just sat back and waited. And waited. Not surprisingly, those visitors didn’t come because nobody had figured out how to get them there.
Here are five ways you can do just that.
Do your keyword research (or hire someone to do it for you).
Pick the keywords in your genre that get the most searches and have the least competition. The more specific, the better. Say, for example, you have a site for a book about parenting a child with allergies. You might think that your keywords should be “parenting” and “allergies.” Well, that would be a mistake. There are millions of sites about parenting (and millions about allergies too). No matter how good your efforts, you’d never be able to crack the top 10 pages of search results. But with “parenting kids with allergies” and/or “children with allergies” you’d have a much better chance of climbing to the top.
Remember that SEO involves both what’s visible and what’s not.
When Google looks at your Website to determine what content the site contains, it looks not only at the visible words on your pages; it looks at your metadata too. Each page on your site contains a title and keywords that aren’t visible to site visitors and that are written specifically for the search engines. Whoever is developing your site should get the important keywords into both the visible text and the metadata.
Don’t forget author name and book title.
Including them may seem a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed how many people don’t do it. There’s very little competition for those keywords, so make sure to take advantage of them.
The search engines love information. After all, someone who is searching for something is generally looking for…well…information. So build a site that’s full of helpful links, tips, blog entries, and so on. The more text you have, the higher you’ll climb on the SEO rankings.
Beware of images.
Search engines can’t read the text on an image (they can read alt tags, but that’s a subject for another day). While a Website needs to be nicely designed, don’t go so heavy on images that search engines won’t be able to figure out what your site is or what it’s about.
Don’t try to trick Google.
As soon as SEO was introduced, people began trying to game the system. They would put text in the same color as the background, so that no one could read it except the search engines. They would keyword-stuff their metadata, using popular keywords that had nothing to do with the topics covered on the site. While this may sound harmless, it’s not. Such SEO tricks can get you completely banned by search engines.
Write blog entries on your specific keyword topics.
Blogging about the topic that a book covers can increase site traffic exponentially. Why? Well, because a blog is chock full of information—not just marketing copy. Think about it: if someone searches for “How to write a perfect resume,” what are they more likely to click on—a page that touts your book about how to write a perfect resume, or a brief blog post you wrote that gives resume-writing tips? So blog as often as you can, providing tips, news, advice, and more on your selected topic or topics, and optimize each blog entry for your specific search terms to get your site climbing quickly on the results pages.
I’ve given you a lot of ideas here on how to optimize your site for search results. But that doesn’t mean that SEO is easy. It’s going to take weeks for any changes you make to start affecting your placement, and even from then on it will be a slow climb.
2. GO SOCIAL
Social networking is the single most effective form of marketing in today’s online world. Think of it as an interactive form of advertising. You build a Website to really sell your product. Then you use social networking (Facebook, Twitter, and more) to get people to it. Sure you can’t write much in a Facebook status update or a tweet. But the point isn’t to share your story there. The point is to get people to click on that link to your site.
3. UPDATE YOUR EMAIL SIGNATURE
Quick…what does your email signature say? Probably not much. But think of all the people you email regularly. How many of them know about your Website? Make sure that your email signature contains your name, your book title(s), and the URL of your Website. You’d be surprised just how much traffic this can bring you.
4. REACH OUT
There are probably dozens of other Websites that cover topics similar to yours. Why not reach out to them about some sort of cross-promotion? Maybe you can link to one another on your sites. Maybe you can write guest blog posts for each other. The opportunities are endless, depending on the subject matter you cover. If someone else has the ready-made audience that you want to reach, see how you can get into their world.
5. SET UP AND MONITOR YOUR GOOGLE ACCOUNT
This will tell you how many people visited your site, which pages they visited, and how long they stayed. Without this information, you’re working blindly when you try to figure out what’s working and what’s not. And you surely don’t want to spend a lot of time doing all the things above if you’ll have no idea how effective they are.
About the Author: Karin Bilich has worked in Web development, strategy, and copywriting since 1998. Formerly the Webmaster for PublishersWeekly.com, LibraryJournal.com, and SchoolLibraryJournal.com, she created SmartAuthorSites.com in 2006 and has since worked with more than 200 authors on developing author/book Websites and marketing books online.