Everything you think you know about your author website is wrong

12433075_mI was listening to a session of the Non-Fiction Writers Conference today and the question came up: “How do people find your website?”

The answer involved using Google keywords to find out what people are searching for, and then rewrite your content to use more of those search terms.

For example, if my book is about is about book marketing, I can go on google keywords and type in “Book Marketing.” Google will show me similar or related terms. I can test “book promotion,” “Author Platform” or any other phrase to get a list of alternatives and take note of how many times people are using which phrases.

If “book marketing” gets searched for 10,000 times, but “book promotion” gets searched for 25,000 times, I need to rewrite my articles to use book promotion more often (although not entirely, as the other phrase gets some action as well).

Keywords should be in your title, your body text, and in link text.

That’s basic SEO 101, and yes it matters, and you need to do it.

But that’s just the beginning

If you’re trying to rank for a popular keyword like book marketing, you’re competing against thousands of other blogs, many with much bigger platforms than yours. If your blog is smaller, new, or doesn’t get much traffic, Google isn’t going to show it to anyone. You may show up on the 30th page (if you’re lucky!) of the search results, and nobody is going to find you.

It’s easier to focus on more specific keywords – for example your name or the name of your book. As long as your name isn’t Bob Smith (something very common) you should be able to hit the first page of Google for those – but that doesn’t help you much, because people will only find you if they are already searching for you.

What you need to do is make it so people find you accidentally, through the content you post, so that you can grab their attention once they land on your site with a free offer (or amazing content).

So how do you improve your search rankings?

Google and other search engines measure your site’s value through a variety of indicators, but the big ones are:

1. Age

2. Traffic

3. Amount of Content

4. Other established and well-respected sites that are linking to you (including social media)

I’ve heard from some pundits in indie publishing recently that “page rank” doesn’t matter so much anymore. That’s bull.

Page rank is the number, from 1 to 10, that Google gives to sites. You need a special browser plugin to display site pageranks. My sites are PR3 and PR4. Huge bloggers with a big following probably have PR5. Older, well established blogs have PR6 – 7 and 8 are rare. Facebook is a 9, Twitter is a 10.

It is true that a lot of SEO hackers falsely inflate PR through tons of “black-hat” link building strategies, and that Google has de-emphasized page rank to focus more on value. Basically they are trying to beat the sleazy hackers who are trying to trick them.

But assuming your site isn’t a dummy site with garbage content and no value, the page rank probably syncs up with a bunch of other stats Google uses to track value, so it’s still a good indicator.

If you have links from higher-value PR sites, your site will become more trustworthy, and you will move up in the search results.

So, you need to get more links from quality sites in your genre or field.

How to do it?

Guest posting and Blog Comments

Guest posting is dynamite for book promotion. Posting on your own website or social media when you have no followers is wasted effort. Set up your blog and main pages, write 5 or so posts, but then start pitching guest posts to bigger blogs in your genre. Blogs and websites need content.

Write them a simple, nice email and ask if you could write for them. Send them a couple samples they could use. Articles you publish on bigger blogs will feature your bio at the bottom, with a link to your site or book – that’s a positive link for you, and will also put you in front of a much bigger audience.

Another way to do it is to visit blogs or websites in your genre and leave comments – (sometimes the links are set to “no follow” which kills some of the link-juice, but even then you’re putting yourself in front of other people, as well as the blogger). Stand out with smart, witty, funny, insightful comments. People will get used to you and start becoming interested in who you are.

The Private Blog Network

If you want to get really freaking serious (I do) SEO professionals – the people who get paid a lot of money to help businesses rank higher in search results – use a technique called PBNs (virtual blog networks).

The way it works is, rather than building up your own page rank by yourself, you buy expired sites that already have a high page rank and turn them into unique sites that just happen to link back to your site. That way, you “fool” Google into thinking your blog is more valuable because you have high quality links pointing back to you.

I’ve been experimenting with this – except, for the high PR domains I’m buying, I’m going to turn them into large community sites that will benefit lots of authors by encouraging guest posts. So instead of my personal blog or service sites, which are just about me, and only have a PR3 or PR4, soon I’ll have a handful or PR5 and PR6 sites that are set up to be social, to encourage interaction, comments and guest posting, so that all indie authors can participate and enjoy the benefits. (These will be curated, high quality sites however – not just content dumps for SEO building).

They should be up in about a month (summer 2014) and I’ll email my list the details first, so if you want to get in on the action, follow me or join my newsletter. This strategy should also raise my own sites up a notch, doubling or tripling my traffic.

PS) Your site design sucks

Indie authors are getting better at packaging their books with a nice cover and nice formatting, but on the whole, indie author blogs, service sites and communities are ugly. That makes the content questionable. Mainstream publishers have a huge advantage in their clean, stylish, elegant and well-designed sites; indie authors have too much control and screw things up by trying to personalize things. Even if your site is pretty good, it’s probably still much uglier than say Facebook or Yahoo.

Find a nice template and use it.

Guest posting, commenting and linking back to your own site will only be effective if your site looks professional and trustworthy. Use a simple, clean template and pay to get a professional header or logo made. I’m always amazed at the amount of time and effort authors are sinking into promoting their books, when all they really need is a design makeover. A better cover can easily double book sales. A clean and professional website can triple your email sign-ups. Start with the design, then do the marketing.

About Derek Murphy

I help authors and artists turn their passions into full-time businesses, make a bigger impact, and blaze a luminous trail of creative independence. Right now I'm in Taiwan finishing a PHD in Literature, writing several books, and managing a handful of online businesses. Find me

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