Mandy Harbin

SEO doesn’t have to be an SOB

I don’t like tech talk. In my previous life before writing full time, I worked in information technology, so now when it comes to anything requiring those brain cells I’m like this:


But it’s a necessary evil like many lessons writers learn once getting into this industry. You know it’s not just about sitting down and writing a book. If you haven’t learned that yet, you will… and soon. Have alcohol ready.

One of the many things we have to do is have an online presence. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. are all necessary, but there’s something even more important. Your own website! Why? Because Facebook could face-palm in five years. And the others could change so much that they trend differently (and something new and shiny could be all the rage). Your website (and your email list) should be your main focus because it will always be there.

Now that that tiny lesson is over, let’s get to the meat of this post. SEO. What is that and why should we care? “Search Engine Optimization” is how companies like Google determine what to display when someone conducts an online search. There’s a lot of information online about this, but I’m going to address three important things you should understand.

  1. How old your site is plays a part in the algorithms that display search records. This is why setting up your own site is one of the first things you should do! If you’re not ready, get the domain name and park it. Or even better, blog about books. Before my first book was published, I reviewed some books I’d loved (not often, once a month, I think). I tweeted about it (tagging the author) and all but one not only retweeted my review (showing their followers/readers) but most also came to my blog and commented. It got me traffic to my site AND some twitter followers. But, most of us already have a website, which leads us to the next point…
  2. You should also have “keywords” on your site that people would actually use to search. Often (but not spammy). For us, this is actually pretty easy. Our name is our band and it’ll be on every book cover we have. Other words like “author” will naturally be there as will the names of our books. If you blog regularly, even better! Just know these serve a purpose in getting your site higher ranked. You need to think like a random person looking for a book in general. Obviously, if someone searches “Mandy Harbin” they’re looking for one of my books, but what about “Romantic Suspense Books” or “Books with hot mechanics”. It’s the keywords in those search strings I want to make sure I use through my site/blog so that maybe my site will be one of those returned on the first page.
  3. This is probably the most overlooked of all because not many authors understand what they are and how to get them. It’s basically when other sites link to you. The more you have the more important Google thinks you are. Re-read that last sentence! Commit it to memory. You need these, but you don’t have to start begging for them. Book bloggers linking to you is great, but isn’t guaranteed. This is something you can do yourself! Linking to your website on social media is just as effective as someone else linking to you (if not more since these are “big” websites already in the search engines). Most of us post links on Facebook and Twitter, so we are already feeding the SEO. But what about Pinterest? Yes, Facebook is the largest, but Pinterest is the fastest growing social media site in history. Are you uploading your book cover there? Good, but are you doing it by uploading the image from your computer, OR are you pinning the cover by LINKING it to your website? See the difference? Pintest lets you upload via a website just as easily as it lets you upload from your computer, but you accomplish so much more by the method you choose. And what about Tumblr? I’m not as active on it as I should be, but with its anonymity, people don’t have to fret over what other people think about their activity. It’s because of this that Tumblr is more effective at getting “reblogs” (likes/shares) per user than other social media! So not only have you uploaded an image to Tumbler by linking it to your site (and creating a backlink), you could get reblogs, creating more backlinks.

This is only scratching the surface, but if you take only one thing away from this post it’s this: Your website (and newsletter) should come first.