Mindy Weinstein is the founder and CEO of Market MindShift, a boutique digital marketing agency, as well as a national speaker, trainer, and digital marketing strategist. She is a part-time marketing professor at Grand Canyon University and University of Denver and has been in the search industry since 2007. Mindy’s SEO prowess informs the digital marketing strategies she designs for many of GFP’s indie authors.
If you’re like most authors, the idea of search engine optimization (SEO) is daunting. But you know how important it is to build your platform online. Making sure your author website appears in search is an important first step to removing readers’ barriers to discovering you. Fortunately, there are some tools and techniques that can help you streamline the process of SEO-optimizing your author website on your own, if you so choose.
Here are my top tips to follow to get a solid start on your SEO.
1. Define Your Personas
Search engines, especially Google, go to great lengths to understand the user, and so should you. That means you should define specific personas who would be interested in what you have to say. Identifying and defining your audience is one of the first tasks that should be done in any digital marketing campaign.
Personas are fictional individuals that share common characteristics with your audience. A defined persona includes demographics, psychographics, and pain points.
There are some great paid tools that can help you gather information about your audience, including Demographics Pro. You can also do the research yourself by interviewing your targeted readers, sending out surveys and questionnaires. You can ask such questions as, What social media platforms do you use? What websites do you visit to find out about new books? What other websites do you frequent in addition to social media? Once you have gathered this information, use MakeMyPersona by HubSpot to put it all together in a way that helps you visualize your reader clearly.
2. Research Your Keywords
Once you have a feel for your personas, you can start researching the types of words and phrases they might use to search for a book in your topic area. These are referred to as keywords; your first job is to make a list of them. Ultimately, they should be woven naturally throughout your website’s copy. For example, if you are focusing on personal finance books, you would research words people might query to find answers. Searches might include queries about “budgeting tips,” “getting out of debt,” etc. You’re optimizing your website by incorporating these keyword phrases.
There are countless free and paid tools to help you determine how people are searching. SEMrush is a great place to start when identifying your keywords—it will even provide data, such as monthly search volume and the top-ranked pages, to help you determine which relevant keywords from your brainstormed list are most used.
3. Identify Your Topics
Once you have keywords, you need to generate topic ideas that leverage those keywords—and there are tools to help you put keywords into action by creating useful content that incorporates them. The topics they generate can serve as articles, blog posts, videos, and social media posts. One of the best tools available is Answer the Public. This tool pulls from autosuggest technology used by both Google and Bing to provide you with a list of common searches. The data includes real-time query volume, meaning people are searching these questions and phrases. To use this tool, you simply type in your keyword and it generates a report for you, as shown below.
The following chart is generated from all the questions people are asking based on the word or phrase you searched.
The Answer the Public report also outlines a list of queries that includes the word or phrase you searched, as shown below.
4. Optimize Your Website Content
When it comes time to start adding keyword-rich content to your website, you’re performing what’s known as on-page optimization. As you’re writing and editing your website’s copy, make sure to incorporate your keywords into your pages, including in the page title, description, and body copy. Don’t overdo it, though. The content should always be geared toward the readers and include keywords in a natural way.
In the above example that reflects “get out of debt,” you would need to conduct further research to see how the top-ranked pages are structured—readability, the length of the title and description, word count of the body copy, and how the keywords were used—which will give you a useful blueprint as you create your site. The SEMrush Content Template tool can help you review how the top-ranked pages are structured, and it generates a blueprint for your page. The following example from the SEMrush Content Template tool uses our phrase “get out of debt.” Note the areas marked in red. Not only do you get an idea of the ideal word count, but you also learn the readability score to target and the other words that should be included on your page to put you in that “natural” behavior that Google is rewarding.
There are similar tools available that will help you determine how to optimize your pages, including the SEOToolSet Single Page Analyzer.
5. Regularly Refresh Your SEO
SEO is not something you do once and you’re done. Your website should be updated regularly with relevant content for your personas that also attracts search engines. When you initiate SEO activities for your website, it will take some time. However, the more familiar you get with the tools and techniques, the faster you’ll become at researching and optimizing.