Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is what you do to improve your website’s organic ranking with the search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc.). Since around 70% of internet searches are conducted with Google, it’s a good idea to focus on how Google ranks your site. Google uses complex algorithms to determine a website’s relevance and its ranking when a search is conducted.
Why Text Matters
Google uses technology called spiders to “crawl” across Web pages looking for patterns in the text. This is one of the ways it determines what a website offers and how it should be categorized. This is the most basic and perhaps the most important element in gaining better placement in the search engines.
Every web page has a place to indicate the keywords, page title and description. This information gets encoded in the page and is the first data that Google sees. When this data is absent or unfocused, it can hurt your site’s relevance with Google.
Every website has technology that allows you to embed keywords into each web page, and these keywords are known as “meta tags.” Meta tags should include individual words and phrases that your target audience would most likely use to locate you or your book. For example, if you’re an author of a book on business leadership and you’re also a speaker, your key phrases might look like this:
Author business leadership
Author <your name>
Professional speaker <your name>
Book <book title>
Professional speaker San Francisco
Professional speaker California
Professional speaker leadership
Business consulting leadership
Business consultant leadership
Leadership consultant San Francisco
Leadership consulting San Francisco
Keywords work best when they match the content on your web page. So when writing your web copy, it’s best to repeat the most important keyword phrase throughout the page two or three times if possible. If you want your page to come up when someone searches for “Dallas leadership consultant,” then there should be several mentions of that throughout the text on the page. Also, when possible, use the keyword phrase in the first paragraph of text. Google may not crawl all the way down each page so the first two paragraphs are prime real estate.
Of course there is a caveat to all of this. The search engines will penalize you if you try to beat the system. So don’t bother repeating keywords dozens of times—they will view this as keyword stuffing and it could actually hurt your ranking or get your site removed from the search engine all together. Google does care about keyword density. Good keyword density should add up to 4% to 7% of the content on the page, with 93% of the page for other content.
Ultimately what you want to do is develop a keyword map for your entire site. Each page should have its own unique set of keywords, which allows you to maximize the potential search traffic. This strategy also means that a standard 5-page website isn’t usually going to be enough. If you want to increase the chances of being found in the search engines for numerous sets of keywords, the best way to do that is with numerous pages—one describing each book, product, service, etc.
Each and every page on your website should have its own title. The title for each page is displayed at the top of the browser, in the data returned from an Internet search, and as the description when someone bookmarks the page in their Internet “favorites” folder. I see a lot of sites that simply read “Home” at the top of the page. Don’t make this mistake! Be sure to incorporate your keywords for each page into the title.
Include a brief description for each web page. This is the information that is listed after the page title when your page shows up in search engine results. Make sure your description includes as many of your keywords as possible without being too long. Most engines will cut off your description after as few as 25 words.
The actual name of each web page can also help with placement on Google. For example, the link to the typical “About Us” page might look something like this:
A keyword-rich link name can be more effective:
If you are just in the process of setting up your site, you have the opportunity to create keyword-rich links for your pages. If your site is already live, this could be a hassle, but a good web designer can help you make the transition without breaking any existing links on your site.
Photos and Videos
Each photo or video that you add to your site not only adds appeal for the site visitor, but it can assist in your SEO strategy. Images have “alt tags;” a place where you can include a description of the image for the visually impaired or for visitors who are unable to view images online (some corporations and government entities try to control their employees’ internet access by blocking images from appearing online). Since the search engines don’t yet have the capability of interpreting photo images and video the way that they understand text, they look for the alt image tags and descriptions. Take advantage of the added SEO benefit and make sure that every image and video on your site includes an alt image tag with a keyword-rich description.
Also, including a caption below the photo is yet another opportunity to add a description. Studies also show that site visitors are drawn to reading captions placed below to photos. For some reason our eyes are drawn there, and this is an opportunity to draw attention to a key message that you want to convey for that page.
Lastly, the actual file name for each image provides yet another opportunity to improve keyword concentration. For example, instead of inserting an image simply named photo.jpg, rename the image to something like corporate-leadership-book-joe-author.jpg.
Watch for next week’s post: Author Websites: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Basics Part 2
If you like this blog post, you’ll love our Author Toolkit covering websites, blogging and social media for authors. Check it out!