When you write a book, you’re writing for a particular human audience that you probably know well and know how to talk to. When you write blog posts or website copy, you’re trying to engage that same audience, but in order to reach them, you also have to engage search engines. You may already know how to write intelligent, well-organized and engaging material for your human audience, but unless you’ve been around the blogosphere for a while, you probably don’t know how to write search engine optimized (SEO) text. Here are a few quick pointers on how to get Google’s attention so that you can then attract readers:
Identify Your Keywords
Including keywords in your blog posts or website copy is one of the most basic ways of letting search engines know what you’re writing about. But first, you have to figure out the best keywords to describe your book. Joel Friedlander recommends using Google AdWords as a way to identify often searched-for phrases relevant to your subject. They shouldn’t be too general, because then you’ll likely be beaten out in the search results by larger players, but they should be common enough to generate significant traffic for your website.
Choose Anchor Text Carefully
Writers new to creating online content often neglect to include relevant links in their writing, or if they do include links, they do so without much thought. But links can be an important way to associate yourself with other content creators, and how you link can be important. First of all, make sure that you’re including links to content that your readers will value and that the links have a natural place in the flow of your writing. Which part of a sentence constitutes the actual link also matters; link a brief description including a relevant keyword for maximum emphasis.
Many authors like to begin their novels with a hook, an irresistible sentence or paragraph that will convince a reader to buy the book if they happen to pick it up while browsing in a store. One of my favorites is from Tony Morrison’s Paradise: “They shot the white girl first.” How can anyone stop reading after that? Just like human readers, search engines often peek at the beginning of a document before deciding if they want to read the whole thing. Including keywords and links to closely related articles in the first paragraph of your post is sure to keep the search engines’ attention, attracting readers to your site.
Writing SEO text for your book’s website will probably feel a bit awkward at first, as any new writing challenge does. But as you become accustomed to the new conventions, it will begin to feel as natural as writing in complete sentences. And as your writing begins to attract a wider audience, you will gain confidence in your online voice. And as you begin to establish an authoritative presence on the web, people will be more inclined to read your book and recommend it on their own websites.
Melissa Woodson is a social media and outreach coordinator for 2U Inc., a higher education company that helps top-tier universities bring their masters degree programs online. The online LL.M. degree offered through Washington University in St. Louis and the Masters of Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are among their partnered offerings. In her free time, she enjoys running, cooking, and making half-baked attempts at training her dog. Follow her on twitter @hungryhealthymj.