I went to the Chatham Public Library today to hear uber-agent Steve Axlerod speak about independent (self) publishing and the way it’s changing the industry. We arrived embarrassingly late to a wonderful presentation (for which I apologize again) At the end I asked a question and then, in doing so, had to give a brief explanation of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It occurred to me later that explanation was a fraud – it was completely inarticulate and mostly useless. I’d met some fantastic folks after the presentation who’d had questions on it, so I wanted to throw something together that is more coherent and (I hope) accurate, and give some useful links where it is really explained. SEO and Keywords and internet exposure is a sort of alchemy plied in the murkey underworld of Cyberspace City: its freaky, its simple yet complex, and it's like your phantom invitation to denizens to visit your blogosphere speakeasy and take a taste of what you've been cooking.
As a writer, you want people to find you. SEO and Key Words well placed with solid interesting blog content help that happen. Long story short, when people search for things on line, there are patterns for what they search for and how they word it, so you use this to draw folks to you by placing up in the search pages. These folks may like your book because it might have something in common with what they read, like, do, care about, etc. You determine what words and combinations of words has high search rates, then you use those as Hyperlinks in your blog post. That may get you up in a search where someone may say, Hey, let me check that out. And behold, you are FOUND. Bought is another topic. Let us stick to “FOUND” – that alone is a major feat akin to birthing an elephant while dancing the Lambada on a high wire, in stilettos.
The theory goes - Your blog posts should relate in some way to your author platform which may or may not relate to what you write. Some authors may say – my platform is mysteries set in England during World War One, told through the eyes of a British Nurse (A solid and streamlined body of work) – and so I’m going to write about trench warfare and battlefield medicine and my book releases. Others may say (like me) my platform is All about the Adventure (aka food, weird things that catch my attention, and monkeyshines) and I write paranormal romance but I may write things like mystery in the future (a diverse body of work – which means the author needs to have more of an identity) – so I shall write about my various adventures including but not limited to cocktails, kitchen experiments, mad science, conspiracies, and the occasional Troy Sewer Corn sighting. Well crafted blog posts and SEO deliver high value to your reader and help make new connections. [That last link? Yet another great article on 10 tips for great blog posts for authors PLUS sweet links to analytics n stuff]
In my ham fisted explanation today at the library, I used the phrase Prohibition Era Cocktails, which caught some crowd attention. Later a few folks came to chat with me and were talking about how they heard the phrase and said “hey, I like cocktails” and we were on from there to discuss my favorite prohibition era cocktail, the Aviation (which really predates it by 5 years but who's counting?) and then the local watering hole that makes them plus an abundant amount of fab martinis. On the drive home, I realized in a way that is SEO in action, someone heard that and thought, I want to know more about Ursula Bauer (beyond what the police blotter has to say). Except we were in a crowd, vs in the cloud. But I digress.
I write a lot about food and drinks and what I’m up to because that’s interesting to me, and luckily that coincides with my author persona platform. BUT, the magic of SEO says – (A) while you’re doing that Ursula, see if you can think about writing your topic in a way that might interest someone you don’t know who might potentially check you out and one day become a reader. Then, (B) highlight words in your post that might be things they search for on the net, citing legitimate low or no advertising sites that are not Wikipedia. I treated it like a game, a sort of a writer’s challenge, and learning about it became fun. Then (C) do the hyperlinks, and, (D) if possible try to make it wide enough topic or word/cluster that a bunch of folks would look be using, stated exactly that way and a few other ways with at least seven permutations/links, and (E)you will rise in the search which may (D) draw in a few more people who might like to find you. It seemed legit, so many people were talking about it,but we all know the internet lies like a cheap rug, so I needed to run my own experiment before I’d give my buy in.
I concluded after a few short trials: SEO is not clap trap, and when used well and right, provides value to the author and the audience. On one link alone I was on Page 3 of a google search for Chocolate Chip Cookies, and a specific type of bake-ware. Which did translate into sales. Some industry darlings have an axe to grind about SEO and Key Words, deriding them as useless to today’s author. The cold truth remains – the digital author needs visibility to build audience as well as books and when in Digital Rome will need to do what the Digital Romans do – and this is one thing they do in electronic that works. In fact, if Key Words didn’t matter, then I submit this – why do some publishers request a list of these from authors? (That last hyperlink is a trip to a juicy and useful article for fiction authors on key words and keeping current in searches written by literary agent Stephanie Barko for the informative site – SheWrites )
I decided to venture further into the method, did more research, and then sat down and put it to work by writing about something I had wanted to write about anyway: paranoid mad science conspiracy television programming – aka – Orphan Black. I'm going to write about this anyway, why not make it do double duty? (See the post, follow the links if you want an example)
I LOVE this show and wanted to do a fan girl gush, and I thought, hey, maybe someone who likes that might like my books too, so while I gush, let me also experiment with more vigor and throw in some SEO tactics. I linked back to the Actor’s pages in IMDB. I linked back to older blog posts ( a big must do, I’d learned.) I linked to all kinds of stuff. At one point I was 8th place on the front page of Google, for searches. I got “FOUND”. Later, I may get lost again, but that fifteen seconds of almost fame creates electronic connection, and in the digital age for an indie author, this is your equivalent to meeting someone at a brick and mortar store book signing – someone who wandered by, maybe, and liked your display of spif cover art, or the sound of your title, or your blouse, and you got to talking and all of a sudden you’re out for drinks and someone's saying '...and there I was, in the Congo, when...'.
See where I’m going with this? I wrote about what things I’m interested in and enjoy - paranoia, ass-kicking heroines, and the menace of mad science - things I was goign to write about anyway - and hey, a great byproduct was that other folks who liked that stuff too checked me out. (PS I violate ALL laws of good blogging so don't use me as an example of that. Ever.)
Now this is basic, and most of it may be wrong, or not quite right but not wrong, so you need to touch base with the experts however, this is close enough – sort of the way bathtub gin was close enough to get the job done when the real deal was an enemy of the state. I think this gives you the gist. Just don’t go on overload, but do be creative.
For a final act, I’m going to do what I’m told you’re really not supposed to do and that’s put out a laundry list of links blatantly labeled as “FOLLOW THESE LINKS”. I used them initially to help get my head around how to make what I like to write help people find me who might like what I write about. These are your start points. Follow links, do searches off of that. Check out other authors who do this. There is all this stuff, key words, and all kinds of titles for posts and stuff that I can’t begin to explain coherently or cover in a single post but this is the good lead in point.
The Book Designer for Author Blogging 101. A basic primer. http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2012/02/author-blogging-101-11-sources-of-organic-traffic/
How to write an SEO post – another basic primer.
Quality Gal (blog post on Link Bait and value, also check out the blog in general. This is a company that recruits authors to create SEO articles for websites to drive traffice ) http://www.qualitygal.com/qualitygal-updates/linkbait-the-social-side-of-content
The Writers Guide to E-publishing A clearinghouse blog that has all kinds of useful stuff turn up that includes SEO.
Think; what do I like that similar people would like who might like me and what I write? Use that to drive your posts. Then link to words, and common phrases, that might be used a lot in a search, and to web sites, expected and unexpected that folks of similar mind would visit. And Bob’s your Uncle.
PS – try the Aviation cocktail when you get a chance, especially if you’re a local. Daisy Baker's in Troy, NY - ask for Chris - he'll serve it up like it was meant to be served and you can taste a piece of history. While by no means the most popular cocktail of it's era it definately gives taste to the spirit of an age - tart, cool, sophisticated and just a little outlaw.