Rising Through the Ranks | A Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization (Part I)

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve explored some of the benefits of tapping into social networks (read those blog posts here, here, and here) for self-published authors.  Even for beginners or newcomers, there are ways to take advantage of the complex tools now at our disposal.  And social media is just the beginning! 

This week, I’m going to launch a series of blogs to provide a primer to––or a launching point for future discussions about––another means of augmenting your digital presence: Search Engine Optimization (or SEO).  What does this somewhat obscure term mean?  Simply put, SEO is a constellation of processes that boost your visibility on the internet by making your digital content––whether book page listings, or blog posts, or book trailer videos––easier for the average internet user to find.

But first, a touch of necessary background:

These days, it’s much easier to find information online than it used to be.  The internet has gone through a number of changes, but if you hopped onto a computer in the early 1990s, you will remember just how different the experience was.  If you didn’t have a specific website address to type into your browser’s navigation bar––well, good luck finding anything other than an error message!  Lucky for us, we now have access to search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.  All you have to do is enter a couple of keywords into the search box, and a complicated algorithm takes those keywords, chews them over, and spits out thousands of websites that contain relevant information.  This search process has become so easy, and so subsumed into our everyday activities, that it seems both natural and obvious to hop online to answer even the easiest questions, including ‘what’s the weather like today?’ or ‘what time does the grocery store close?’

We tend to think of search engines as democratic tools, as likely to spit out one piece of relevant information is it is another, equally relevant piece.  All blogs dedicated to self-publishing should get their chance at the top of a list of search results, right?  Wrong.  The first thing you need to know about search engines is that the results they provide are strategically ranked.  Paid advertisers on Google, for example, spend a considerable amount of money to guarantee that their websites are at the very top of every list.  The second thing you need to know about search engines is that there are some extremely simple––and entirely free––steps you can follow to take advantage of, or optimize your digital content for, these algorithms.  That’s where this blog series comes in––we’re here to help!

Step 1: Optimize Your Keywords

Functionally speaking, a keyword is a word or expression that you and your readers both use to collect together related material.  The best keywords are not just those that show up often, statistically-speaking, in your book or in conversations surrounding your book.  Articles, pronouns, and ‘be’ verbs remain the most common words in the English language, so a truly effective keyword will be just common enough to occur in a substantial number of related texts, and just specific enough to exclude truly irrelevant material.  As an author working to amplify your presence online, it’s important to remember that you’re not just looking for more users to stumble across your website; you’re looking for the right sort of users––those users who will stick around long enough to fall in love with your written voice and, hopefully, your book!  Incorporate keywords in your website (or blog, or YouTube video) titles, meta tags, bodies or descriptions, and in your link profiles.  As Google converts to Latent Semantic Indexing (more on that in future posts!), make sure to identify and incorporate LSI keywords throughout your written materials.

[ For more free resources specifically related to keywords, check out Google’s AdWords indices, Wordtracker, and the Bing Ads Intelligence homepage. ]

Keywords are only the tip of the iceberg!  Next week, check back here for the next installation of this blog series.  I’ll be addressing matters of content––and how can you use the actual raw stuff of your digital presence to bolster your SEO.

Check back every wednesday to read more about the art of self promotion!  If you have a question about any of these tools for self promotion, would like to hear from me about something specific, or have other big news to share, please comment below!

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

Self-Publishing Week in Review: 10/21/14

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As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry. This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Tuesday to find out the hottest news.

With “Let’s Get Digital” You Can Finally Say Yes to Successful Self-Publishing

This article discusses important things to consider when considering self-publishing and provides information about a new book by David Gaughran, a successful self-published author, that offers advice and resources for writers who are ready to publish, but are unfamiliar with the indie self-publishing process.

 Appeal of Writing Memoirs Grows, as Do Publishing Options

This NY Times article discusses “the age of memoirs” and how self-publishing is making it easier and more accessible. This is an interesting read for anyone considering writing a memoir.

Canada’s Self-Publishing Awards shortlists announced

Finalists for the first self-publishing awards in Canada, the Blurb Inc. Creation of Stories: Canada’s Self-Publishing Awards, have been revealed. I always encourage writers to study successful self-published authors. Lists such as this are a great resource to learn what makes a great self-published book.

If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

How to Scare Away Readers

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Happy October, everyone! In honor of this month, I’ll be sharing Halloween-themed posts each week. Be sure to check out the previous posts about spooky self-publishing statistics and why authors are scared to self-publish. This week, I’ll talk about things that will scare away readers and how to avoid these mistakes.

1) Typos and poor grammar

While even books published by big name traditional publishers occasionally have mistakes, readers expect books to be near flawless. If your manuscript is full of typos and grammar mistakes, readers will not take you or your book seriously, no matter how great your story. It is difficult to review your own manuscript, so I always recommend hiring a professional copyeditor.

2) A poorly developed story

Sometimes authors get rushed to meet a deadline or lose track of the direction of their book. If elements such as plot, characters, setting, organization, and voice aren’t properly developed, your book will leave readers disappointed. Since you are attached to your story and know in your mind how it is supposed to read, it is always best to have someone else review your story. Consider hiring a developmental editor or ask trustworthy friends, family, and colleagues to provide feedback.

3) A generic cover

Despite the cliché “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” readers decide whether or not to purchase a book based on the cover. Rather than using stock photos or artwork, I highly recommend spending extra for a personalized book cover that is professional and that captures the essence of your book.

I’d love to know, what scared you away from a book?

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Friday Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 10/17/14

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CRITICAL THINKING-WRITING

Writing with critical thinking methods is often a challenge for me, especially when experiencing multiple emotional events.  However, clients call and projects must be completed.  Thankfully, I’ve developed a few steps that quickly get me back on track (usually).  My top three are:

DO whatever it takes to get to the office! Sitting myself down in front of the computer and resting my hands on the keyboard brings my focus to the table (as some folks say), and sets my thoughts in motion.  I like my office environment.  It has a big window overlooking a greenbelt with cottonwood and cloud vistas that always inspire me.  My desk surrounds me in a horseshoe shape—2/3rds working area, 1/3rd bookshelf/computer/printer stations.  A window-seat is covered with an eclectic collection of blankets to accommodate our two old-lady-cats.  It’s MY PLACE to write; my place to connect with the writing flow.  If you’re a multitasker, you probably have several projects going at once, so my next “get-organized” step will be an absolute for you.

Surround yourself with your immediate, must-get-done-now projects. I start at the corner of my desk to my left, laying out each file as they come into my hand, and continuing until they are all visible—OR—I’ve reached the telephone (which is the last available desktop space).  Now, catch your breath.  Didn’t know you had so many, did you?  Personally, I combine my client projects AND my personal projects in this grouping.  Each one is important to me and my clients, and the simple act of laying them out has already given me an inkling of the order in which they must be completed.  Yep—rearrange them in that order.  Some will be more immediate than others because of the DUE BY dates.  Others will filter to the top because of the client need or expectations.  And occasionally, a book project pulls itself up the timeline because of my personal interests—which leads me to the next step.

Allow your writer’s curiosity to move a project closer to the front of the line. Our world and the people in it offer infinite opportunities for discovery and infinite subjects to write about.  So whether you’re assisting someone in developing their book, or writing your own, open your heart and mind with the curiosity key that will open new doors.  Exploring “where others have not gone before” is exciting; an adventure that will not only enhance the writing of the current project, but will also cultivate seedlings for many new ones.

And, the last step (for today) is to KEEP your sense of perspective.  If one of your book projects looms TOO BIG before you, it probably needs to be cut down to size—literally.  It may actually be a two or three book series.  And, from a personal perspective, projects like that can cause us to become “unbalanced” in time-management.  If one client (one topic, one editor, one co-author, etc.) becomes TOO needy, the time needed to actually complete that project can evaporate.  SO…do the “scale from one to ten” measurement, with one being your opportunity to watch a sunrise and ten being the outbreak of thermonuclear war because you didn’t get the resolution response written.  WHERE do your projects fit along that scale?  I’m guessing that none will reach the ten-level.

Now, take another deep breath and relax. All your writings WILL be completed in due time!  The old saying that “to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven,” is true.  The season for your book to be written and published is right now and into tomorrow!

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.

Weekly Self-Published Book Review:Operation Seeding

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Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.

When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review by Midwest Book Review:

 operation seeding

Operation Seeding

Michael Andrisano

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN: 9781432781187

Weather is life. “Operation Seeding” is a thriller from Michael Andrisano as a corporation takes over the skies with cloud seeding, giving man the ability to control the very weather itself. With a four month downpour causing massive flooding and loss of life and property, Bob Thurston, CEO of the founding company, realizes the evil his technology is capable of and must set out to stop those who would do so in acts of terrorism. “Operation Seeding” is an intriguing take on science fiction and thriller, much recommended.

Navigating the Network | The Art of Self Promotion (part III)

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Three weeks ago, I sketched out a few of the challenges facing self published authors looking to build their brands in the digital marketplace, and I made specific note of how great social networks can be as tools of self promotion.  Last time I blogged, I looked at the second and third of my top five points to keep in mind regarding self promotion, and recommended cultivating your physical network as well as developing physical promotional materials.  This week, I’m going to wrap up my top five points with a few words that count both as caution and encouragement––simultaneously!

To get right to the point:

4. Self promotion of any kind takes time.  And energy.  And constant attention.

Perhaps this is my caveat.  As I mentioned earlier, you’re not just in the business of self-promotion––as someone who’s interested in self-promotion, you’re actually in the business of writing.  So when weighing the pros and cons of starting a Twitter account or creating a blog on Tumblr specifically with the goal of promoting your book, consider the learning curve.  Consider the fact that the time it takes to establish a presence and reach your audience through social networks is directly proportional to how much time you put in, and that there’s a considerable element of pure luck involved.  Most tweets languish in the ether unread, and most Tumblr posts are not reflagged, and most Facebook followers are dormant, or run by bots.  So while all of these networks have potential to launch you into instant and global success, they are often high-maintenance and low-reward.  And they are habit-forming

As with all other forms of promotion, you must be deliberate about your use of social networks, carving out time on a regular basis to devote to building your brand.  Thirty minutes a day, three days a week, or every day during your fifteen-minute break between work shifts––whatever it takes, but not much more.  Because let’s face it: As someone who’s interested in self-publishing, you have other things to do.  You need to not just leave time for the other facets of your life––writing, working a job, working three jobs, family, and so on––but be able to throw yourself into them with passion and energy.

5. Everything changes.

If the rise of self-publishing and the ebook has demonstrated anything about the publishing industry, it’s that nothing can stand still for long.  This may be a disquieting fact for traditional publishing and the markets that rely on it, but opening up one’s options to change can also be a diversifying, enriching, and rewarding experience.  The digital and self-publishing revolutions are beginning to reach maturity, but on the whole they’re keeping a weather eye out for new changes, and new opportunities.  Perhaps the most key feature for success in self-publishing (and self-promotion) is a willingness to take advantage of them.  Keep asking questions.  Figure out what options work for you, and what feels comfortable for you, and what is too frustrating or too complicated or taking too much time––and adjust your daily practices as necessary.  Keep interrogating your options.  If a new technology becomes available, or a new acquaintance walks into your life, or a new story drops into your mind, don’t hold back.  After all, this is a business built on dreams.

This was just a primer!  You can find the first and second posts of this series here and here.  Check back every Wednesday to read more about the art of self promotion.  Over the coming weeks, I’ll be diving deeper into the how-to details of managing both social and physical networks.  If you have a question about any of these tools for self promotion, would like to hear from me about something specific, or have other big news to share, please comment below!

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

Self-Publishing Week in Review: 10/14/14

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As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry. This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Tuesday to find out the hottest news.

 How a Bestselling Author Revived Her Career by Self-Publishing 

New York Times bestselling author Eileen Goudge has written 32 novels, sold over a million copies, and been translated into 22 languages. But you won’t find her next novel in a publisher’s catalog: she’s doing it herself. This is an interesting read for all authors.

The Next Wave of Tech Change | Self-Publishing & Libraries

This article discusses how the publishing industry has changed and what it means for libraries and self-publishing. It is a fascinating read for all authors.

Self-Publishing Maturing, Up 17% Last Year in the U.S.

The self-publishing market is entering a new stage of maturity after an initial boom several years ago, according to Bowker’s latest analysis of ISBN registrations in the U.S. from 2008 through 2013. Not all self-published authors obtain ISBNs for their work, but among those that have done so, the number of ISBNs registered in 2013 rose nearly 17% from the previous year. Be sure to check out the full article for more self-publishing statistics.

If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

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