ONLINE KNOWHOW Search Engine Optimisation

How can you be sure your readers can find you online? Julie Sullivan explains how you can increase your online visibility.

SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, might sound boring to you. But SEO is just about getting willing readers to your work. How will they find you, even if they're looking for a book just like yours? If your website or book page is on page 15 of Google, the chances they will come across it are slim. Don't you want your site to be on page 1 of Google for your category? And not below bad reviews of your book, either.

Here is where SEO comes in. A little attention to a few small things can make a huge difference in how you appear to a search engine — and therefore in the number of people who find your work. 

Myth: if you build it they will come
Your friends and family know about your website. Everyone else will find it with a search engine.
If you are a writer, published or unpublished, in 2018, chances are you either have a website or feel guilty that you don't. More and more publishers expect or want you to have a 'platform' of readers even before they publish your book. And more and more authors, unhappy with the current model in which writers are paid a pittance and books are deeply discounted from publication day, are publishing their own work. 

Both of these models work better for writers who know a bit about how to maximise their visibility on search engines like Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Opera,, Firefox, Safari,, or DuckDuckGo. Because Google is by far the biggest, and because you can't really do without it, this article talks about Google.

No one will see your website if it's on page 10 of Google

Here are few basic tips to improve the visibility of your website, so that the people who want to read your books can find you. 

* Make sure your site is 'crawled' or indexed by Google: Add your site. (Google usually finds your site anyway. This is just to be sure.)

* Use an analytics tool to see how your site is doing. If you are on WordPress, you can use Yoast, for example, to find out who visits your site, what search terms they entered, how long they stayed, what pages they visited, and so on. Google Analytics is a 'freemium' (free basics, but pay to upgrade) analytics tool.

Keywords are the key
What are keywords? They are the most important search terms that someone would use looking for a book like yours. Try to think like your potential reader. What would they tap into the search box? If you put these keywords where Google looks for them, and if you choose them carefully, you can pinpoint exactly the readers who are searching for your kind of book. Be sure to include keywords that are specific to your kind of book.

If you have no idea what to choose for your keywords, Google has helpful suggestions here.  After you pick the keywords, which can be a phrase, you can do a test here to see if they work well.
Where should keywords go? 

* In the title of your post, if possible 

* In the header (H1) or subhead (H2) (if you are familiar with HTML; don't worry about it if not) 

* Within the text, a few times (but above all do not force this. Keep things natural)

* Within the description of the post or page. It's just a single short paragraph but it's crucial to use that and add the most important keywords in your description. This helps Google and other search engines to understand where to 'file' your page.

* Within an image, if appropriate. To do this, before you upload your image, change the name of the image to make it easy for Google to understand what it is. For example, don't upload an image that says 'image-1'. Instead, change the name to, say, 'forest-path.' (Again, don't leave spaces in the name. It's better to use hyphens than run the words together, as Google will read them as separate words.) Don't forget to add Alt Text and Title Text for every image (if you don't see it, click around—the option is always there). Not only is this being a good citizen, so that people with slow connections or vision problems can still tell what was in the picture; it also helps Google index your site and improves its ranking. 

* In the URL of your post. Don't just use the default permalink, or permanent URL (the line that appears at the top of the page. For example, on this post the URL says If your website is called Jane Doe Author, don't let the URL say  That doesn't help anyone discover what you are writing about. Instead, use the permalink to say what the blog post is about, if possible with a keyword; use keywords on the pages of the website, if you don't have a blog. (You have to separate words in the permalink with hyphens for them to be read correctly.) E.g.

Be mobile friendly

Make sure your site is mobile-friendly. Most people now access the web on their mobiles, often exclusively so. Google will downgrade your ranking if you have a site that is hard to read on a mobile. Most platforms have 'responsive' sites now. If yours isn't, change it over as soon as possible. You can test your site's responsiveness for mobile here.

Quality is more important than anything else
What you write is important too!
* The first and most important rule is to write posts that intrigue, inform or entertain your readers. Quality is crucial. If you don't think you can keep up a blog, don't! Just make an excellent author website and keep it up-to-date: no broken links (that don't work when you click on them), 'coming events' from last year, incorrect author information, etc.

* If you do have a blog, post regularly. It's far better to post once a week than to post once a day for a while and then stop for six weeks. Google likes regularity.

* Videos will make your post or website go up in the Google rankings and will give you additional exposure on YouTube. Be sure to use the description box to include your website URL, your name, and keywords.

* When you emphasise text by putting it in blockquotes, italics, bold, capital letters, or numbered lists, Google will pay more attention to it. Make sure they are emphasising the correct points to attract your potential readers.

Link it up

* Links to other websites are important in making your own site rise up the page. Several links in a page help your Google rank, but even more important are links back to your page from outside your own website. One of the best ways to get them, especially when you are starting out, is to do a guest blog post on someone else's blog. In the bio section, you can include a link back to your own blog or website. Ideally, a really popular website will link to yours, instantly bringing you lots of traffic, because Google will see your site as more important. But it can take time to get to that point.

* Link back to your own previous posts if they are relevant.

* Put a link to your book on every page of your website. To avoid spamming your readers, this can just be in a sidebar. Don't overdo things! No one wants to be sold to constantly. Help other writers, share good content, invite guest posts on your own blog. Limit your posts about your book to no more than one in three or four. 

Curious to learn more? There are reams written about SEO. A good place to start is the Beginners' Guide to SEO at Moz. 

Julie Sullivan is a SCBWI volunteer and writer and needs to get going on that website thing. Twitter: @webwight

Helen Liston is Words & Pictures' KnowHow editor. If you have any suggestions for future KnowHow posts, you can contact Helen at


  1. Really useful, thank you. I work with SEO quite a bit but I've just learnt some new things.

  2. Hi! Thanks for such a useful tips! Your site is one more useful reference to my list of educational help!

  3. Great article! As a children's and YA writer, I found your Local SEO tips extremely helpful. It's crucial to understand how to optimize our online presence and reach our target audience effectively. Your explanations were clear and concise, making it easier for writers like me to implement these strategies. Thank you for sharing your expertise!


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