hen authors and writers expressed their concerns in a recent Facebook group, about whether they were doing enough marketing to reach the right readers, I immediately thought of interviewing Heather Lloyd Martin for this WOW! book marketing issue.
Globally recognized as “the pioneer of SEO copywriting,” Heather Lloyd Martin knows a thing or two about the brainchild behind Google and how to use search engine optimization (SEO), so that writers and authors can optimize their sites and be found by the right readers. As the President and CEO of The SEO Content Institute, Heather talks about SEO essentials writers need to connect with their readers from background reading to keyword research.
WOW: Welcome, Heather. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us for the book marketing issue. How can authors market themselves effectively using SEO?
Heather: Marketing your books with SEO as a nonfiction author is slightly easier than fiction. The yummy thing for authors to remember is that they already have content that is Google-friendly. They already have topics after writing their book and book outlining. They know what their target audience wants to know more about. They have chapters with individual learning points. Google wants people to be able to find authoritative answers to their questions. One of my friends, Eva Rosenberg, is a very well-known tax person and writes a lot of books, and one of the things she thinks about is: what are people thinking about right now?
One of the things she wrote about was the new Trump tax plan and what it means for people in different kinds of industries. For example, what do these new changes mean for writers and for people who work in-house, whose expenses are not being covered by their employers? When you are writing your books, think of all the people who can benefit from what you know. Although their needs might be very similar, there’s that ten percent for whom you can write specifically. For example, if you are a go-to tax person, you can write a blog post on what the busy freelance writer needs to know about the latest tax changes and rules. That will really focus your writing for Google, aside from the keyword and key-phrase research, because people will be typing in specifically “tax tips for writers” or “tax tips for people working in-house.” That will help that article bubble up to the [top of the] searches because it is answering a specific query for someone who wants very specific information. So that’s the content backbone behind the SEO stuff.
“When you are writing your books, think of all the people who can benefit from what you know.”
WOW: Yes, this makes sense. I’m assuming, then, a writer still must do some key-phrase research before writing these informative articles for these different targeted audiences, correct?
Heather: Ideally yes, you’d want to do some key-phrase research. Even better if you can narrow down the focus to a specific niche. Key-phrase research does come into play when writers need to transition from a print to a digital based format and include the specific search terms people are using to find answers to their questions. Key-phrase research might also help you come up with article ideas when you are stuck.
WOW: So, in light of key-phrase research, let’s talk about the fiction side of things. Does this operate in the same way?
Heather: Fiction is a little bit trickier to nail regarding SEO in that you can optimize for various genres, but using social media is a great way to get the word out about what you are doing and get people excited about what you write.
A great example is Geraldine DeRuiter who blogs for “The Everywhereist”. She traveled with her husband all over the world; and after a while, publishers started taking notice, and she was able to write a book based on her blog. Her writing is fun, snarky, and poignant; and she brings up cool points. She integrated some of the search terms that people were looking for, and over time, she built a really cool following of people who were hanging on her every word waiting for her next blog installment.
“Including search terms not only helps get the word out about what they are doing, but can also help them get more leads in the door and build their personal brand.”
WOW: It sounds, then, like not including search terms is a huge opportunity that writers and authors can easily miss out on. Is that right?
Heather: Yes! A lot of writers who are also writing fiction or nonfiction may also be freelancing on the side as a consultant or a coach. Including search terms not only helps get the word out about what they are doing, but can also help them get more leads in the door and build their personal brand.
SEO has always gotten a bad rap because people are thinking it’s technical and way beyond what one can learn as a writer; but for the most part, you are connecting with people and new people who might not have found you any other way other than randomly putting in keywords into Google.
WOW: So true. Let’s talk a bit about how to use SEO for social media. How does that tie in?
Heather: It’s a little different in that what you do for social [media] doesn’t really help your SEO and your rankings at all. Having said that, they are very connected in how they play off each other. For example, you might have written an article that initially did not do so well on Google or at all, just because there are many other articles on that same topic, or there are things you could have done to improve it—but you didn’t do it right then. However, you can promote that same article on social media and build a tribe that way, and social [media] is a lot more one-on-one conversational type of marketing, where you have a deeper chance to resonate with people who can share your content. So again, you are reaching new people you wouldn’t have reached any other way other than coming to your site. And the cool thing for Google is that if someone has mentioned your site on their site, that gives you a link back to your site; and it helps Google recognize that a lot of people are liking your content, which can help with getting better rankings. Using social media to ask what people want to learn more about is a great way to improve the SEO side of things in terms of what keywords and key phrases people are using to get answers to their questions.
“Using social media to ask what people want to learn more about is a great way to improve the SEO side of things in terms of what keywords and key phrases people are using to get answers to their questions.”
WOW: So, considering keyword research, what are some important SEO basics authors and writers need to know for book marketing and optimizing their website?
Heather: Expect that there will be some learning curve because there is no real easy way to go about incorporating SEO. It is a different way of thinking about writing, especially if you are not used to it. The biggest part is the keyword and key-phrase research. Google does have some free SEO tools, kind of like “SEO on training wheels.” When you are adding in those keywords and key phrases, it’s a very natural thing. Google used to make it tough in terms of keyword consistency, such as using only one keyword per page. Now you can put in synonyms for those keywords and key phrases and related words because that is what Google and readers are looking for. And if it feels like the writing is starting to sound kind of clunky, that’s when you know you can dial that back and make your copy more reader-friendly.
From an SEO standpoint, the other big thing is to pay attention to your headlines. Esoteric headlines that do not really describe the article tend to not do well in Google because people might not click on these kinds of articles. The sample principle applies to the meta title in terms of search ranking, so Google can figure out what the article means or the intent of the article. If you are writing nonfiction blog posts about skiing for example, and you have “Beyond the Slopes” as your headline, Google is not going to know what that means because that can be interpreted in different ways. If you don’t care about Google and just want to write for social media, then feel free to test, play, and see. But with Google, we need to be a little bit more specific.
“I would highly recommend a newsletter to your site.”
WOW: That makes sense, yes. So, what are some ways to increase traffic to an author’s site?
Heather: To get positioned on Google, you’ll need a content strategy to make that happen. So, you’ll not only be optimizing your blog posts for whatever themes would make sense, whether you are a travel or financial writer, but also any other pages on your site, like a landing page for your book, the About Us page, and the home page. To the reader, it needs to be that obvious.
If you want to increase traffic to your site because of an upcoming book launch, the best way would be to start leveraging your presence on social media and activating your network to be able to start talking you up. When freelancers, like Carol Tice, come up with a new product, she lets other members of her community know and asks them to put the word out to their folks and have them link to the book or product’s page. I would highly recommend a newsletter to your site. It’s not necessarily an SEO play, but it’s the one thing that you can control in terms of the lead time up to the book launch, so you can build that excitement amongst your tribe. So between having people market for you, what you do on social [media], anything you can do from the SEO standpoint, plus your own internal lists, like newsletters—that can help build up momentum. So when the launch does happen, you have people interested in what you offer, and you have some immediate sales coming through.
WOW: What are some key things to pay attention to with Google analytics?
Heather: It’s very easy to get analytics on a site. The things you can start paying attention to are your top landing pages, how are people finding you in Google, and how people are finding you in general. It will break down the traffic you are getting from social media as well as other search engine queries. The cool thing about analytics is that you can look at how people are finding you and what they are doing on your site. For example, if you are getting a lot of traffic from Instagram but not a lot from Facebook, you can decide to let something go. You can pay attention to how you are spending your time. Look at the bounce rate and how long they spent on the page before leaving the page. It might be the site isn’t loading, or the content is not grabbing people. How can you tweak your content to make it better? Everyone online, including Amazon, is tweaking their headlines and structuring the text and visuals constantly. Be very open to learning what you can learn. You are not going to get control of everything all the time. You will get a good idea how to play with your site. And if you are outsourcing work, it’s very helpful to give marching orders.
WOW: Good points. Let’s talk about time. How much time is reasonable in terms of learning and implementing basic SEO best practices?
Heather: A half hour a day plus learning would involve doing keyword research as part of your normal business routine, and over time, you’ll get out of the learning stage and into the implementing stage. If you start letting things go, you start losing momentum of marketing without seeing the fruits of your marketing kick off.
WOW: These are great suggestions for authors and writers, and I love how you make everything sound so easy-peasy as far as building up the content. SEO doesn’t have to be this technical and time-consuming thing. I’d love to hear from anyone out there who decides to use SEO for book marketing.
To learn more about Heather Lloyd Martin, check out The SEO Content Institute where she offers free tips for writers.
Dorit Sasson is an award-winning author of the memoir Accidental Soldier and the upcoming Sand and Steel: A Memoir of Longing and Finding Home. As a book marketing and writing coach specializing in nonfiction, she helps authors use SEO more effectively to get the word out about their books and build their platforms effectively. She hails from Pittsburgh. Email her at sassondorit[at]gmail[dot]com.