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

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!

KellyABOUT 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, kellyschuknecht.com.

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