We’re going to skip ahead a little bit in this series to a marketing piece, primarily because I have received a lot of questions about it lately. So here is the deal: as a writer, you need to have your own website and blog, you need to post there regularly, and you need to deliberately link to it from other reputable sites.
Why? Because when people search for certain keywords or phrases on Google, you want to be on the first page. At the very least, you want to rank for your name, but better yet would be to rank for something specifically related to the books you write.
For instance, I rank high for Troy Lambert, in part because the name is not very common but also because I have deliberately built links to my site with the keywords of my name. At the same time, I rank in an okay spot and rising for freelance writing in Idaho. Again, this is intentional. It did not happen by accident.
So what can you do? Here are some tips, and a pretty straightforward guide to boosting your search rankings. These same principles apply to other businesses as well, because after all the point of this series is that writing is a business, and you need to treat it that way.
Most things you can do fall into three categories. The first is that your site needs to be technically accurate. The second is that it needs to be full of relevant and meaningful content, and last it needs to be well respected, both as a website and as a business.
Did you catch that last piece? As a business. You, as a writer, are your business, whether you write only books or articles and blog posts as well. I will let you in on a secret: it is easier to build authority as an expert if you also write articles and blog posts, or if you write non-fiction books along with fiction.
How do you make sure these things are true about your website? It is simpler, and yet much harder work than you might think.
Analyze Your Website Technically
There is this nebulous concept called Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short. However, there are concrete steps you can take to make sure your website has the right SEO for the areas you want to rank in.
As with many of the other topics we have discussed in this series, if you don’t know how to do this or don’t want to take the time to learn, you probably want to hire a professional. A simple analysis and good web design is not that expensive in the long run because your website is your home base online.
It’s really like your physical store if you had one. Your domain name matters. So does the appearance of your website. It should look good, and the color scheme and style should be relevant to what you actually do.
The user experience, or how a user interacts with your website is like employees at a physical location. If it is easy to move around your website, for users to find what they need, and even easy for them to buy, they will return to buy again. A website with a poor user experience is like a rude employee: it will drive customers away, and they won’t ever be back.
The main difference is that in a physical store you might have one bad employee, and some customers might have a good experience. In the case of your website, you only have one employee on duty all the time, and the customer service it provides must be excellent every time.
In the case of a writer, the website experience you deliver reflects directly on you. You are your business, your store, and your only employee. Users who have a bad experience on your website might expect the same from your books.
Analyze Your Content and Create More
This step addresses two areas: technical accuracy and filling your site with relevant and meaningful content.
The first area you should already have covered: you should be an expert when it comes to your writing no matter what kind of writing you do. Whether that is fiction or non-fiction, technical or instructional, or SEO blog posts, what you share on your website should be as accurate as possible. Posts should be well researched, and state only what is known to be fact. Any guesses should be clearly stated as such.
The second part is often the trickiest for writers, especially if you create fiction. What will be most meaningful to your readers?
This can fall into several categories. You can explore some or all of them, or figure out your own.
Research: Often in researching fiction, we as writers become experts in some obscure subjects. Sharing that knowledge doesn’t have to give away anything to your reader, but they may be fascinated by serial killers if that is what you are writing about, and after reading about your research, they may want to read more.
Setting: Where are your books set? Is it an unusual place, r somewhere many readers may not be familiar with? Is it a place you made up? Your readers will be happy to ready about it, and how you relate to that place. This is especially true if it is real, and you have fictionalized parts of it. Readers may have visited the area or may even live there, and will find your perspective interesting.
You: Believe it or not, readers want to know that you as a writer are human. You can share your stories to an extent, and the exciting things you do in your life. You can even share your struggles, as your readers may empathize with them, and therefore feel like they know you.
You are your greatest asset, your greatest salesman, and you are also the foremost expert on your characters and your writing. No one else knows it like you do, and sharing that can add a great deal of value to your site and your readers’ lives.
Because you are the foremost expert on you and your writing, you can offer guest posts to other websites, including those of other authors, blog tours, and other sites with an excellent reputation.
In those posts, be sure to link back to your website at least in your bio, and even better in the text of the article or blog you contribute. Be sure you also link to your product pages and profile on Amazon.
The result of this is that your website will have a greater authority in the eyes of Google and other search engines. The more that sites, especially the ones in your niche, link to your site the better. There is also a science behind keywords, and how those sites link to yours. This is a large subject, but for now it is enough to say that it is important that your deliberately build links on other sites to yours.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to trade blog posts with other authors, although this is not as effective as posting on higher authority writing sites. The reason it works at all is that quantity as well as quality of links matters. Having a variety of sites that link to yours is best.
This is a very rudimentary post about SEO, content marketing, and link building. Books have been written about each category, and you should be at least a little familiar with all of them.
As with many other items we discuss in this series and in the section about technical website building, if you don’t know how to do these things or you feel like you don’t have time to do them, you should hire an expert.
The more Google and other search engines advance, the more important it is to pay attention to these things and have a good Google ranking. This is how many new readers will find you. When it comes to marketing, this is a vital piece we will discuss in more detail in later posts.
For now, write on. And let me know what you think about Google rankings and their importance in the comments below.