From the Archives: “Self-Publishing Ripple Effect Marketing”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: May 27th, 2010 ]

Think of self-publishing book marketing as a marathon, not a sprint. Plan the journey, prepare to work, pace yourself, and not become discouraged when you the bear jumps on your back. Your second wind is right around the corner.

Unlike blockbuster books like Harry Potter, which sell 90% of their copies in the first 90 days of release, an independently published book is often the opposite – not surprising since titles like Harry Potter make up a percent of a percent of all books published. It takes time to build awareness. Sales may start slowly, but can climb over time if you persistently market your book.

If you’ve yet to nail down a specific marketing plan, I suggest starting in your own hometown. Build a Tribe. Attract the interest and readers of people in your inner circle before you focus on your neighborhood. Then, focus on your neighborhood before concentrating on your city. Next your state and region, etc. This is known as the ripple effect.

It applies to both online and traditional marketing tactics.

“The history of the ripple effect, or butterfly effect,” writes Brian Bass of the Houston Chronicle, “precedes the modern forms of technology that today commonly utilize this phenomenon. The theory essentially represents the idea that what happens in one place at one time can have effects on another place at a later time.”  According to Bass, when applied to the world of marketing, the ripple effect is taken to mean “subtly plac[ing] a brand or product front and center in the minds of consumers. A company can achieve this ripple effect through hype, dialog or opinions that the company creates about its products. The ripple effect of marketing states that this attention will generate more attention, benefiting the company.”  The emphasis may be mine, but the words really do speak for themselves. Ripple effect marketing is marketing that builds on itself.

ripple effect

But what about in the context of self-publishing?  Our original post back in 2010 wasn’t far off when it proposed Harry Potter as an exercise in the exact opposite–particularly if we’re talking about the later books in the franchise, once the series had picked up steam.  Nobody needed to generate interest in those books–the interest was already there, built-in, and marketing was simply a way to activate it.  The ripple effect was completely unnecessary.

The average self-publishing author–and the average midlist traditionally-published author, for that matter, if we’re being honest–needs the ripple effect because the average self-publishing author is starting from the ground up.  With a limited budget, and a limited supply of time and energy to see them through.  So why ripple effect marketing?  Because its core principle is efficiency.  You simply can’t find any other marketing theory that so effectively and efficiently makes use of what has gone before, and incorporates all of your individual strengths while pruning away marketing strategies that don’t work for you.

Think of this diagram:

ripple effect

As this BrightEdge diagram demonstrates, your marketing performance (that is, how many books you sell) is the direct product of the convergence between what you yourself create in terms of digital presence (“owned” media) and what you pay for others to create (“paid” media).  The core content–your book–has a lot to do with your success, but so does your Search Engine Optimization (SEO), your finesse with social media, and your means of distribution (the diagram is referring to software, so its visual equivalent here is the Applied Program Interface, or “API”).  The marketing process is simultaneously both linear and circular, with self-referencing feedback.  And the key to making it work?  Optimizing, optimizing, optimizing.  Which essentially means backing up and posing the question “Is this helping?  Why or why not?  And how can I make it better?” at each and every step.

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


Kelly

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, kellyschuknecht.com

From the Archives: “Promoting your Self-Published Book on Google”

Welcome back to our new Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: August 7th, 2008 ]

When you are a self published author, sometimes book promotion is about who you know. Other times it is simply about having the time to devote.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a fast way to find the people or places that were right for your book? Knowing how to conduct an advanced Internet search that yields applicable results is very important. Luckily, it’s also very easy, and in case you don’t know how, I’m going to show you. Go to the Google website at google.com but instead of simply entering a term, use the “Advanced Search” by clicking on the link that says “Advanced Search” in small type next to the “Search” button. You will find a page that enables you to fine-tune your search. By conducting smarter searches, you will find places to promote your book faster. 

You can promote your books on Google for free. You’d sell a lot more books if a lot more people knew about them. Google can help make that happen.

  • Help users discover your books: By matching the content in your books with user searches, Google Book Search connects your books with the users who are most interested in buying them.
  • Keep your content protected: Users are able to preview a limited number of pages to determine whether they’ve found what they’re looking for. 
  • Drive book sales: Links to bookstores, online retailers, and your website make it easy for users to go from browsing to buying — with new ways to buy and access your books coming soon.

Learn more at: books.google.com/partner/

google books

I should warn you right off the bat that a lot has changed since I first blogged about Google’s partnership program for authors, and one of the things that has changed is the link you’ll need to follow for more information.  (The one I provided back in 2008, preserved above, no longer works.)  Your new one-stop shop for know-how as an author interested in Google’s partnership program is:

www.google.com/googlebooks/partners/

The link address may seem only subtly different, but I promise you won’t regret taking the time to access the updated materials Google has compiled there, including recommendations for self-promotion, resources for authors and publishers, and a collection of success stories.  (And let’s face it, we love tapping into the glow of success, if only to learn how others are finding ways to make it work.)  And let’s not forget Google Play’s “Book Partners Center,” a separate (but linked) resource which provides step-by-step instructions on how to publish your book as an e-book in the Google Play store, and put your story on Android devices the world over.

What I wrote in 2008 about optimizing your online presence to help:

a) users discover and access your book,

b) you protect your rights and maintain creative control, and

c) drive book sales …

… remains 100% accurate.  Google can help you do these things, but the ways and means have evolved in the last seven years––dramatically.  I recommend glancing at Self Publishing Advisor’s primer on Search Engine Optimization (SEO); you can find the summary post and links to the individual posts here.  Why?  Because Google is a multi-platform tool now when it comes to self-publishing.  Not only can you use Google Play to host and sell your book as a self-publishing platform, but you can use Google Analytics to analyze engagement on your personal webpage (or webpages), and you can optimize all of your web content across all of your different social media accounts and blogs and so on to better feed into your promotional campaign.

Google is so much more than a search engine, now! ♠

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.

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

And so it begins––my fifth and final post in this series detailing some of the main tips and tricks of the trade when it comes to Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.  In a moment I’m going to dive into a final grab-bag of tidbits that will help boost your SEO ranking, but first, I wanted to take a moment to think back to the five steps I’ve already described:

Step 1: Optimize your keywords.

Step 2: Optimize your content.

Step 3: Optimize your title.

Step 4: Optimize your tags.

Step 5: Optimize your use of Google Analytics.

As you can see, many if not most of these points are geared towards altering what you do on what I like to call the “micro” level.  The idea is that, if you can fine-tune your material down to the sentence or the briefest keystroke, you’ll suck in the readers who might have eluded you up to this point.  And this is true!  … to an extent.  There’s no such thing as a perfect fix when it comes to SEO, particularly for the struggling blogger or audacious self-published author.  It’s tough to compete with corporations and rival blogs and authors in the same field or genre, when they can afford to pay a company to “link-build” or otherwise generate rank-boosting digital content for the paying customer, especially if you’re one of the many writers struggling to make ends meet, whether financially or in terms of the time and energy you have available to dedicate to your own SEO process.

The good news is, all of the steps I have described are easy to replicate, or involve tweaking your already-existing habits to include an extra step.  Crafting and using keywords, for example, should only add thirty seconds or so to your usual blogging time.  Google Analytics, on the other hand, might soak up an hour of your time––but only once a month, or once every six months, depending on how often you find it useful to employ.  The key is, as always, to pick the steps that you can incorporate into your routine, and that actually help you achieve your vision for your own materials.

With that thought in mind, I thought I’d round out this five-blog series with five final––and brief!––thoughts on how best to maximize your SEO process.

Step 6: Optimize connections between your own materials.  Many search engine algorithms are smart enough to exclude internal links, so providing a list of links to my own blog posts as I did above won’t automatically boost my SEO.  But what it does do is make it a whole lot easier for my readers to navigate my material, and browse from blog to blog––and reader behavior does boost my ranking.  Make sure your digital content is easy on the eyes and easy to navigate, and also make sure that your readers can find your other platforms––whether Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, or Tumblr, or some other––with as few clicks or keystrokes as possible.

Step 7: Optimize external opportunities for links.  Your SEO is most powerfully influenced by links from external and respectable sources, like .edu and .org websites.  The higher the search engine ranking of the website that refers to your digital content, the greater the effect on your own ranking.  Don’t forget to be ambitious when it comes to asking websites to list a link to your content––as my mother tells me, the worst thing someone can say is “no.”  And if you host an event such as a reading or a book signing, make sure every email and piece of promotional material that goes out lists your email and website (or websites) in full.  That way, if you’re quoted in a newspaper or a blog, the link is right there.

Step 8: Optimize your page speed.  This one just makes sense, right?  If your website loads slowly, readers may grow impatient and simply move on, particularly if they’re trying to read on their mobile devices.  Search engine algorithms are smart enough to take this loading speed into account when they generate your ranking, so don’t underestimate the value of a streamlined, elegant, and speedy interface.  (You can check your current page speed using Google’s handy page speed tool.)

Step 9: Optimize your goals.  It is possible to sabotage your attempts at SEO, as with many other things, by attempting to do too much at once.  You don’t want to reach a point of burnout, when you’re so sick of trying to keep a hundred balls in the air by sheer willpower, and you’re not enjoying the process of creating your own digital content any longer.  Baby steps, baby steps.  Your readers know when you’re not having fun, and when you’re no longer writing for them but rather for a set of 1s and 0s.    The truest secret to creating masterful, authentic, and valuable content is to really love what you do.

Step 10: Optimize your optimism.  SEO can take time, and energy, and money, and perhaps a chunk of your peace of mind (if you’re not able to follow step 9, that is).  But SEO is not the enemy, and low web traffic doesn’t have to be a problem. It’s a start. You’re only going to learn more, and grow your reader base, from here.

Keep in mind that SEO isn’t magic, and it isn’t deliberately trying to be difficult.  It is, instead, the natural byproduct of human attempts to best utilize a system––a mathematical algorithm––and to stand out in a crowded marketplace.  You may just need a little boost.  SEO is a rocket engine powering through the clouds of material obscuring your voice from your readers.  With a little time, and a little care, you can master the basics of SEO!

Check back every Wednesday as I begin a new series.  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.

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

Welcome back to my five-week series on Search Engine Optimization (or SEO)!  I’m back this week to speak to the specifics of Google Analytics and what it can do to boost your digital platform.  Three weeks ago, you’ll remember, I launched this series with a brief history of search engines and an inquiry into the necessity of SEO.  I investigated a few ways in which we can better employ keywords.  Two weeks ago, I dedicated an entire blog post to talking about matters of content.  Last week, I opened up the possible Pandora’s Box of metadata by showing some of the benefits of maximizing your SEO through the use of carefully curated titles and tags.  

Analytics, on the other hand––Google Analytics is its own unique creature, and unlike the other SEO tips I’ve already described, Analytics exists outside of your material.  It is a third party, so to speak, and consulting a Google Analytics report is a little like consulting a book review written by an independent literary critic: sometimes, it’s hard to know just what to do with the material.  In this blog post, I hope to unravel some of its many mysteries for you.

Step 5: Optimize your use of Google Analytics

What is Google Analytics, in the first place?  As you will already have guessed, it’s an offshoot of––or a service provided by––Google for producers of digital content.  If you own or otherwise run a blog, that’s you.  Google Analytics tracks the traffic to your web pages, particularly the number of times individual (or “unique”) internet users access (or “hit”) your pages, how long they stay on a given page, and their general demographic data.  Best of all, it’s free!

In order to set up Analytics, you first need to have a Google account (if you have a Gmail address, or use Google Documents, you already have one).  Then, you log in to the Google Analytics home page by clicking the “Access Google Analytics” link in the top right corner.  If it’s your first time using Analytics, Google immediately provides a handy and relatively intuitive tutorial on how to set up your websites to be tracked.  In simple summary, for any website platform other than WordPress, you will copy a short digital code that Analytics generates for you and insert that code into the HTML of your blog’s template.  (WordPress provides a handy plugin that does this for you, with a little tweaking.)  If you’re not familiar with HTML, that’s okay!  You can type “How do I use Google Analytics in Tumblr” (or any other platform you can think of) into a search engine, and find several step-by-step tutorials.  The trick is not to be daunted by the fearsome language of code!

Once you have successfully set up Analytics for your blog, you need to give the service a good span of time to collect information before checking back.  Google Analytics only tracks content going forward from the date it is installed, so it can’t retroactively give you information on the traffic to your website.  I recommend giving yourself about a month before logging back in––a month will give you a good chunk of useable data.

And then?  It’s as simple as clicking a link to view the compiled reports.

So, how are Google Analytics reports useful to the self-published author?

What Google Analytics really does––what it really boils down to––is it sheds light on how users behave once they access your digital content.  You will quickly see what material is popular––more people will “hit” that material, and stay on those webpages longer––and you can easily measure what impact your decisions have on your readers.  Did you adopt a few of the SEO tips I’ve talked about in previous weeks?  Google Analytics will show you if they’re working.  Did you alter what content you provide?  That’s easy to track, too.  Did you host a reading at a local bookstore, or promote your book using a seasonal discount on social media?  The “audience” reports on Google Analytics will show you just how effective that outreach has been in boosting traffic to your blog.  You can use the “Content Experiments” feature to test the efficacy of specific changes––whether you shake up your website design, or start using meta tags, or adopt some other change to your method.  There’s even a specific report you can run to view details about traffic directed to your website by search engines (check out the “Acquisition” tab, then the “Search Engine Optimization” sub-tab).

Essentially, the benefits of Google Analytics to SEO are manifold.  I could go on and on about how much I love using the Analytics interface, and how I used to watch in real-time as my blog posts were accessed in various cities and regions across the globe.  Google routinely updates the features offered by its Analytics service, and every year (sometimes, every month!) I stumble across some new and great application it provides.  Google Analytics is the ultimate resource to help those of us who are striking out on our own to tailor our digital content to our readers!

Once again, I find that I’ve run out of room—check back here next Wednesday as I wrap up this five-week series on SEO.  I have a few final tips and tricks to help you maximize your digital platform, and you don’t want to miss a single one!

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.

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

As promised, I’m back this week to unpack some of the specifics when it comes to using titles and tags to boost your dividends during the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) process.  Two weeks ago, you’ll remember, I launched this series with a brief history of search engines and an inquiry into the necessity of SEO.  First, I investigated a few ways in which we can better employ keywords.  A week ago, I dedicated an entire blog post to talking about matters of content.  This is because keywords are often an important doorway, or entry point for many new readers––that is, the way in which they first stumble across or access your work––and content is the house you build behind that doorway, the material that absorbs new readers and gives them a place to settle into conversation with you. 

It might be tempting to view titles and tags as merely decorative––a nice piece of wall art to hang above your mantel, or a set of attractive but generic photographs to tuck into the guest bathroom––but this is far from the truth, and far from doing justice to the potential benefit that a knowledgable and strategic use of these tools can provide.  Titles and tags are highly functional components of your digital content.  Think of them as the windows, screen doors, and patio of this metaphor; they increase the visibility of your material.  Today, I’m going to lead you through two additional steps that may be of use to you as you get started with your own SEO.

Step 3: Optimize Your Title

Coming up with a title for your digital material can be every bit as difficult as creating the content that follows.  As other websites can tell you, search engines like Google and Bing have character limits on title tags.  This means that above and beyond considerations of readability on your website or YouTube channel or blog page, you have to consider an additional layer of presentation: will enough of your title show up on a search engine listing to pull new readers in?  To show you what I mean, I plugged “Rising in the Ranks” and “Self Publishing Advisor” into Google (top) and Bing (bottom), just to see how much of my own title tags are showing up after my blog posts are indexed and cached:

Google search listing
Google search listing
Bing search listing
Bing search listing

As you can see, Google displays the titles of my individual blog posts twice––first, in a larger typeface and a more eye-catching color, and then again in a smaller font.  The larger typeface only leaves room for 55 or so characters, and the rest is covered by an ellipsis (the “…” at the end of the line).  The smaller font below allows for my full titles to be displayed, along with the dates of posting, my screen name, and however many of my tags (more on that later) as can fit.  The shorter your titles, the more room there is for tags.

Bing, on the other hand, doesn’t repeat the titles and omits the tags altogether.  Instead, it provides an excerpt from my biographical information.  The moral of this particular story is: while most search engine listings will include the title of your individual posts, the rest of what they may show is up for grabs (that is, determined by different algorithms).  The only common denominator between search engine results is your title.

So, what makes for the best of all possible titles, when it comes to SEO?  A balance of simplicity with accuracy and description.  This may prove to be a bit of a tug-of-war, especially if you’re posting complicated and thematically rich material––but three quick rules of thumb are:

  1.  … keep your title concise, catchy, and grammatically correct,
  2.  … include one or more of your most relevant keywords, and
  3.  … try to stay below the 50-60 character limits imposed on the listings.

Step 4: Optimize Your Tags

I’ve already mentioned that tags boost the visibility of your digital content.  Google and other search engines will sometimes display your tags, or meta descriptions, on search results as a kind of preview to help readers to determine what your blog post or YouTube video or other digital content is actually about.  As with keywords, you want to prioritize what you include in your tags.  Tumblr, for example, only indexes the first 20 tags you attach to a post.  This sort of cutoff is fairly typical for both normal and micro-blogging platforms.

So, what do tags look like?  Here are just a few examples, posted with permission:

SelfPublishingAdvisor.com (WordPress) tags
SelfPublishingAdvisor.com (WordPress) tags
One of Tumblr's many tag display options.
One of Tumblr’s may tag display options
Another of Tumblr's many tag display options.
Another of Tumblr’s many tag display options.
One of Blogger's tag display options
One of Blogger’s tag display options

As you can see, each platform has its own ways of displaying tags, and sometimes a single platform will allow you to customize the appearance of said tags.  Even if you set up your blog to not display tags, make sure you do generate metadata for every post or page, since tags play a vital role in how search engine algorithms determine the relevance of your material to searches your target audience will be running. 

I should note that there’s a difference between the tags that are displayed alongside blog posts like this one and meta tags, which are the actual chunks of mostly-invisible HTML code that make up the architecture of your digital content.  It used to be true that if you wanted to build a website, you had to develop a working knowledge of HTML in order to take advantage of SEO.  Today, most of the big blogging platforms (like WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, and so on) allow you to input information in the tag field and they convert some or all of that information into HTML meta tags for you.  It’s not a perfect translation––but if I’m getting too technical here, remember that the point of SEO is to take advantage of as many simple tricks as you find feasible and translate those tricks into increased website traffic.  Not every trick is going to be one that fits your needs.  As with all other self-marketing methods, you must weigh the benefits against the costs yourself––and the main cost here is time: the time it takes to learn HTML may offset the actual net benefit, especially if you can take advantage of built-in features like tag fields

Well, I’ve run out of room this week—check back here next Wednesday to learn more about search engine optimization.  I’ll be addressing the matter of analytics!

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.

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

Last week, I launched a series of blogs to provide a primer to––or a launching point for future discussions about––one vital way to augment your digital presence: Search Engine Optimization (or SEO).  I argued that by making our digital content easier for the average internet user to find, we can boost traffic to our websites––and by extending the reach of our voices, expand our audiences.

I have already examined the specific benefits to refining the way we use keywords, particularly in our website or blog titles, tags, and so on.  This week, I’m going to turn to matters of content.  How can we better utilize the meat and potatoes of our digital content––the bodies of our blog posts, for example––to push our websites up through the ranks of similar websites that show up in search engine results? 

Step 2: Optimize Your Content

Even though traditional strategies for SEO (like keyword optimization) are vital and critical practices for the average blogger, the search engines of today call for even more sophistication.  Consider: in 2013, Google alone had already indexed more than thirty trillion individual web pages.  That’s 30,000,000,000,000 pieces of content vying for the top slot on any individual search.  Thankfully, search engine algorithms are fairly good at slicing away unrelated material, but you get the idea.  There is a lot of digital content, so you have to take certain steps to make yours stand out––and the best way to stand out is to create unique content. 

The basic notion is this: readers have access to plenty of useful data, but they are looking for something more than just another blog on a given topic.  They’re looking for the best blog on a given topic.  And search engines like Google are getting better at finding it!  According to blogger Sujan Patel, Google in particular looks for “longer content, images, videos, correct spelling, proper grammar, proper text formatting and […] both outbound links to other high quality sites and inbound links (and social shares) from high quality sources.”  You’ll note that this list implies a certain level of polish in respect to presentation (grammar and et cetera), but leaves room for you to play with subject and theme. 

If certain elements of SEO sometimes seem like common sense, that’s because search engines are getting better at shaping common sense into measurable data sets, and using those data sets to refine the search process.  It may prove helpful to consider search engines as just another ‘average’ reader, albeit a powerfully influential one.  So, how do you create content that hooks in the average reader or search engine?  By posting regularly, on diverse but thematically resonant topics, using means that are equally diverse and up-to-date as well as easily shared across social media platforms, and by tying your content to other websites using links, keywords, and meta data.  (As a matter of fact, Google does hire actual and real people to rate websites for quality of content.  The process is a fascinating one, and well worth a look.) 

As I mentioned last week, it’s important to remember that we’re not just looking for more users to stumble across our websites; we’re looking for the right sort of users––those users who will stick around long enough to fall in love with our written voices and, hopefully, our books.  We all have probably had some experience in stumbling across bloggers who are so good at making their content findable that they forget to make it readable, personable, or worthwhile.  Ultimately, your readers want to find a little bit of you in every blog post (or YouTube video, or tweet, or Facebook post) you put together.  You are what keeps them coming back, week after week after week.  Taking the time to craft quality content that reflects your personality is a practice that will pay dividends for a long, long time.

Check back every Wednesday for the next installation of this blog series!  I’ll be taking a look at titles and tags in a week’s time––and how can you use lofty ‘meta-data’ to bolster your SEO.  See you then!

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.

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.