The Art and Science of Search Engine Optimization

Good SEO gets people to go to your website, but good content will keep them there

An important aspect of author websites is attracting visitors, people who will actually read your information and consider buying your books. However, having a great site, with cool graphics, and the latest technological innovations means nothing if no one besides your friends and family actually go there.

The Art and Science of Search Engine OptimizationEnter search engine optimization (SEO): the art and science of getting people to your author website. Just remember that once they arrive, it takes good content to keep them there.

I invest a lot of time and energy into SEO for my websites. Generally, the results are good, with monthly increases in traffic, but occasionally I work hard to make recommended changes only to see no bump in visitors.

SEO applies to both static website pages and blog posts. However, sometimes the best course of action is to not tweak some blog posts for specific search terms or phrases. Instead just focus on good content and let it attract the people who are most interested. After all, they are the ones most likely to stick around to read more and then tell others about your site. That makes for some great word-of-mouth recommendations.

Even so, you do want to work carefully to optimize the other pages of your website for SEO, especially your home page, about page, and contact page. You should give special attention to your book pages, too. They need SEO.

If you have an author website, don’t just post good content, optimize it for search engines.

What steps do you take for SEO on your website? Do you ever write posts to capitalize on trending keywords and search phrases? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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What’s the Difference Between a Category and a Tag on Your WordPress Blog?

Part 5 in the continuing series on using WordPress for blogging: a platform-building, book-selling tool.

Categories and tags are confusing. They seem to do the same thing and offer similar results.

Category: A category is like a file cabinet drawer for your posts where you place related content. Categories are general groupings of broad topics. Our site (or blog) should have at least three categories (else, why bother) but no more than perhaps eight (else, it’s too hard to find things).

Each post needs one – and only one – category. Just as you wouldn’t try to put one piece of paper in two folders, don’t assign one post to two categories. (I understand using multiple categories for one post can mess up search engine optimization, and no one wants that.)

Last, never default to “uncategorized.” That’s just lazy and doesn’t help anyone.

Tag: Think of a tag as a cross reference tool. Tags can be a subset of a category (like a folder in a file cabinet), transcend categories (like an index), or both. Regardless, their purpose is to link related content. Every post needs at least one tag and can have more, but don’t go crazy. One or two is great, three is okay, but definitely stop at six.

In determining tags, consider reoccurring themes or words in your posts. Unlike categories, you don’t need to limit the number of tags you use, but do seek tags you will reuse. A tag used only once accomplishes nothing.

Also, a tag is not the same as a keyword. Keywords are used (or more correctly, were used) to indicate main topics within a post, whereas tags link related posts.

(In case you’re wondering, I wrote many posts on this blog before I understood the difference between tags and keywords, so I have many tags used only once; I will remove or consolidate them – when I have time.)

This blog has seven categories and 231 tags (though once I redo the tags, it will be closer to 50). This post is in the category of “Tips” and has three tags: “blogging,” SEO” and “WordPress.”

Three More Tips for Your Book-Promoting Platform

In using your website as the foundation of your book-selling, platform-building initiative, there are several key points to follow. The first three are to make it mobile responsive, remove clutter, and delete slow plugins. That is, to pursue a minimalist design; less is more.

Here are three more website tips:

  • Fix Broken Links: Broken links – be it internal links to other pages on your site or external links to other websites – are disrespectful to visitors. At the very least, broken links will frustrate them and at the worst, cause them to leave. Search engines also don’t like broken links. If they find broken links on your site, they will lower your ranking and thereby suggest your site to fewer people. Fortunately there are programs that can search for and notify you of broken links so you can fix them.
  • Implement SEO Best Practices: Books have been written detailing search engine optimization (SEO), so a brief blog post won’t cover everything. But the basics are to use alt tags on your graphics, appropriately include your targeted keywords in your content, consider both people and search engines when writing your titles, and include a good description and relevant keywords. Whatever you do, don’t try to game the system, because you will eventually be caught and penalized.
  • Keep Your Site Up-To-Date and Regularly Add New Content: Regular visitors (your biggest supporters) and search engines both like to see new content on your site. Keep them happy with regular posts. Also, be sure to remove outdated information so you don’t frustrate visitors.

That’s it for now. Next week, we’ll talk about the importance of capturing email addresses.

The First Step in Building Your Platform

After you write and publish your book, the next step is to promote it. This requires a platform.

However, don’t build your platform around a social media site. You can’t control that. Overnight they could change the rules, limit your reach, make you pay to be seen, or even summarily turn off your account. Then, you’ve lost the platform you worked hard to build.

Instead, make your website the home base for your platform, a website you control and own. Then use social media as a tool to point people to your site.

So, the first step in building your platform is to have a website – or fix your existing one. Do this before you spend another moment on social media or even think about growing your platform or reach.

On your website:

  • Make your site responsive to mobile devices.
  • Remove the clutter.
  • Delete slow plugins.
  • Fix all broken links.
  • Implement SEO best practices.
  • Keep your site up-to-date and regularly add new content.
  • Capture visitor email addresses.
  • Link to your social media sites and other online content – and link them back.
  • Integrate your blog with your site, and make it your primary means to interact with followers.

Once you complete these steps, then, and only then, should you work to build out your platform.