Is SEO A Reliable Online Promotion Strategy for Books?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a technical science, not guess-work or smoke and mirrors. Whether you are an author who wants to promote their book online, or a business owner just looking to capture more leads, SEO is a critically important marketing opportunity you need to be aware of and understand that might be easier than you think to take advantage of. It's true that SEO is big mystery to many people, and it is also possible to waste a lot of money on the service if you use a bad strategy or unprofessional provider. But SEO is an extremely critical aspect of marketing today and when done right can be a reliable foundation to any marketing and promotion plan. If you know the search terms that are being searched most often for the product or website you want to promote, such as a self-published book, and you focus energy on adding valuable information on your website for those keywords, then you may be able to gain a steady stream of new visitors to your website from those specific keyword phrase searches.
The Best DIY SEO Strategy for Authors & Writers
Aside from hiring a trusted and skilled SEO marketing agency which is always my first recommendation, I believe the next best SEO strategy is to build an on-going content creation strategy that is manageable but focused and measurable. To begin, think of what kind of content you're able to create the most by yourself that is both high-quality and high-volume. Then develop a marketing strategy that incorporates SEO keyword targeting to promote that content on and through your website, social media, and third party websites.
Promote Your Targeted Website Content on Social Media
This strategy should emphasize promoting and distributing the valuable free content that you publish yourself on a regular basis to as wide an audience as possible. You can do this using blog posts on your website, facebook posts, twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, or videos you create and host on YouTube, or Vimeo. To improve your website's ranking try to host the content directly on your website and use social media to promote and link back to that content on your website. Focusing on 1 or 2 social media platforms that specifically match the type of content you create will help keep your focused and yield the greatest value.
SEO in a Nutshell, Link-Building & Content Creation
Optimizing keywords & meta tags on your website is the first and best step towards making your website appear in searches for specific relevant keywords. But the on-going bulk of the work after your existing website pages are optimized, is creating new content on your website which expands its page volume coupled with link-building, creating links back to your website, on as many respected 3rd party websites on the internet as possible. That's SEO in a nutshell, building links that point to your website and adding & sharing valuable content on your website that is optimized for your keywords.
Black-Hat Link-building for SEO
One way to build links from 3rd party sites is to manually go add them yourself, some SEOs create their own networks of hundreds of micro-websites as forums, info sites, blogs, etc, and then slowly over time build them with content from their customers, others do it with browser 'bot' automation programs. Although, I don't recommend either of these strategies because they are unnatural, and don't typically occur organically. Some of these strategies and others that are questionable are often called Black-Hat SEO and can be penalized by Search Engines like Google.
White-Hat Link-building for SEO
Another way to build links is to create really interesting content and disseminate it in the form of press releases, social media posts, or articles on other websites. This content should be genuinely interesting and valuable to readers. If content about your product or brand are posted on news & industry websites then you're doing both promotion of your brand, building relationships, and link building happens naturally. These are just a few of the techniques that are safe to use because they are very normal and natural activity online, and are called White-Hat SEO.
Why Authors Are Great for SEO
All of these activities require work, but because the most important work in SEO is content creation, if you're an author you're well positioned to create a lot of very valuable SEO content. I tell everyone writing is the hardest part of SEO, so if you write well and often you're perfectly suited to generate a high-volume of regular content for your website's blog, social media, or third party websites that link back to your own site. Although I highly recommend hiring a professional SEO company or consultant to help you identify which keywords are best to target, how to maximize your social media value and make it efficient, optimize your website's meta tags, and show you how to include keywords appropriately in your blog posts and content.
If you don't have that much money to invest in SEO, the good new is you can do the content creation and PR link building yourself with a little training and guidance. If you don't have time to do it yourself then you've got to find the right kind of content creator who can create content in the channel that's best suited for your brand and products.
Let Influencers Promote For You
In the book publishing industry, as well as many other industries, often the best way to sell a book or product is to identify the celebrities and key influencers who would really love your book or product. These are people who have a large following on social media already, people with tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of followers. If you can get one or two of these influencers to talk about your product, you will suddenly be marketed to thousands of new people for free.
Beyond SEO, Utilize Existing Distribution Channels
Another route is to simply access the large distribution channels out there that already exist. For instance, how do you get your book or product on the "featured new & best sellers" shelves in brick & mortar stores as well as online retail stores? How do you get established groups or associations of people to add your book to their "staff pick" lists? If you can find out this may be the easiest way to get seen and heard. I for one have never ordered a book I'd never heard of by accidentally stumbling across it online. I find books by looking at "what other customers bought" lists, staff picks at bookstores, recommendations from friends on social media, and hearing the book is on a popular book club list such as Timothy Ferris' book club, or Oprah's book club. This could be the best and most effective kind of PR for book-selling. Try going to the networks that millions of readers are already using and simply ask to be included or send free copies to the leaders of those groups or to popular influential bloggers who already have a massive following, so they can simply add you to their lists!
SEO is only part of Marketing
I always recommend doing SEO, but isn't there a better way to promote a book than building up SEO value from scratch? How many people really look for and find books on search engines vs inside Amazon, Good Reads, other book websites? You might not want to put all of your marketing energy into SEO, but regularly writing content on your website and promoting links to that content on social media is something you should be doing regardless, and it just so happens to be a core part of a successful SEO strategy.
Ask Your Friends How They Find New Books
Start asking everyone you know in each conversation you have with them the next time you talk, and ask them where they discover new cool books to read, how do they search when looking for good books or recommendations on what to read next. They might say I search online, but WHERE do they search online, in Amazon or by asking their friends on facebook?
What Keywords Are Other Authors Using?
For keywords, ask yourself what authors have surely spent money on marketing & SEO, have high quality websites, and are internet savvy. Next go to their websites, and placing your mouse cursor on their website on Mac "CNTRL+click" or on PC "right-click" and you should get an option to "View Page Source". Then use "CTRL+F" on PC or "command+F" on Mac and search for "meta". Look for text that says "meta description", "
", and "meta keywords".
This should show you exactly what search terms that author has chosen to focus on and you may learn a few things from seeing what several other popular authors use on their websites.
The code looks like this...
Can SEO help authors promote their books online?
Exact Keyword Phrase Matching Helps
Some websites show up simply because they've been around a long time, or just happen to exactly match the keyword search phrase with their domain name or blog post title. If you're writing a book about 'How to promote books online', and do a search for "SEO for self-publishing books", you'll likely find many websites that appear simply because their keywords in your search match their domain name exactly, or because they are just a very old website.
Build Your List of Keywords
Before you do more research, you should also do a brain dump of all the keywords you think match what your book is about. If your book is about 'How to Promote a Book online' you might also want to do Google searches for "SEO for authors", "How to market self-published books", etc, and then look for all the bloggers' websites who show up there.
I recommend starting to build a spreadsheet list of websites that are already ranking well in the kinds of searches you expect your customers to use. Google Sheets is a great place to build your list in a spreadsheet; use website name, domain name, author name, keyword you searched, and position it ranked 1-10 as your columns; then add each website as each new row.
Ask Bloggers to Write About Your Book
If you have a list of bloggers who are writing about the topic of your book, then email your info to 10 new bloggers a day just by doing basic relevant Google Searches and adding them to a list, there's a good chance some of them will mention your book and link to your website before or after reading your book.
Don't Forget E-Books And Audiobooks
I also personally use Audible a lot these days to read most of my books. This is another good marketplace that shouldn't be overlooked when thinking about distribution platforms that might be interested in carrying your book too. Many authors offer their books as a downloadable e-book, there are several different popular formats and having your book available in each might be a great way to sell it as a download on your website. You could also create an audio version of your book. These newer formats are also most accessible online so you may find additional promotion and distribution opportunities if you explore these networks and the communities that talk about them.