In a recent interview on Smashwords Books Reviewed, I said this:
I actually spent $70 on an SEO link-building service recently – submitting my site to directories with different keyword phrases. It actually worked, because now my novel comes up in the top results for “UFO fiction,” “World War III fiction” and others. That SEO has way more value than paying for an ad on some website.
It’s true, and I thought I’d fill in the details about how this was done, and how SEO is important for book marketing.
If you take a look at the keyphrases, I’m in the top ten on Google for these phrases:
and others in my niche…
You’ll notice in the listings that it will list a specific keyphrase (like UFO) as it pertains to a post I wrote about UFOs. For Armageddon fiction, it lists the tag “Armageddon.” Both suggest you need to be careful with your tagging and the subject of your posts. In an earlier post here, I wrote about how writing about something that pertains to the subject of your book. This is especially important in terms of SEO – if you’re writing mainly about the self-publishing experience, this won’t bring in the type of searches that may lead to interest in your book. So if you have a book about vampires, write a post, “Ways to kill a vampire,” not, “How to publish with CreateSpace.” I mean, you can, of course, but we’re talking about SEO-driven traffic about a specific topic.
So how did I do this. There are a great many link-building services. For this novel, I used
The trick is finding the right keyphrases for your book (I had to select 20), as well as writing different descriptions, as this will also increase the number of ways you can show up in searches.
For Self-Publishing Review, I used a cheaper service I found at Digital Point Forums. If you’re worried about the dubiousness of this kind of manual directory submission service, it has not affected my page rank negatively. As you see above, my ranking for important keyphrases is very good, and this is purely because of directory submissions.
Anchor text is also important – both for links coming in and links going out. That’s the basic premise behind using specific keyphrases in directories. But in a blog post, it can have even more value. So if someone writes – This is a great example of vampire fiction – with vampire fiction being a link, this will help you rank for that phrase in Google. Given that you have the ability to write posts on Self-Publishing Review, this is like free space for you to link back to your site with good anchor text.
But links coming in isn’t the only help. If you link out in a blog post using the phrase “vampire fiction,” Google will prize this more than if the phrase was unlinked. This is because of two things – if you link out to another vampire fiction resource, this tells Google that your site is an authority on vampire fiction and worth visiting. So what you link to is as important as what you write about. Having a sidebar with tags of useful anchor text can help how a site is indexed. I’ve taken some care creating the tags on my site (bad anchor text!). Not only do the tags tell new visitors what my site and book are about, but it tells Google the same. Note: making something bold is not any better for Google ranking than plain text.
All this is why it’s pretty imperative for every writer to have a blog – especially ebook and POD publishers whose book-selling livelihood is almost entirely online.
If you’ve got the patience to submit to directories yourself, you can use a tool like Easy Submits. After an hour of that, you’ll probably see how shelling out $50-$100 is worth it. You shouldn’t use one of those automatic directory submitters because those will result in a lot of trash links and duplicates – if not sites that Google has red-flagged as problematic.
In terms of syndicating content, a tool like Social Marker can be enormously helpful. First, you need to create accounts at places like Digg, Reddit, Mixx, etc. Next you just plug in a URL and social marker will skip from one network to another as you spread the news. This gives you the opportunity to create different titles and descriptions so the post will show up in different searches. If your site is just starting, it’s possible that the Digg link to a story shows up before the listing for your own site. If you do this on dozens of different sites, you’ll be all the more likely to show up.
A tip: on Social Marker, you have the option to submit only to Do Follow bookmarking sites. Do follow means that the Google bot will follow that link from the directory to your site. Otherwise, the link will look like this and won’t send any page rank “juice” your way:
<a href="http://www.yoursite.com/" rel="nofollow">Your Site</a>
The majority of comment links on blogs are nofollow – they’ll be good for traffic, but not for page rank. So seek out those dofollow bookmarking sites and directories.
All told, this is why you should be creating content online – to increase links coming in, links going out, and the frequency that your site shows up in Google. If this content is combined with other link building tactics, like social bookmarking and directories, these posts will be more likely to show up high in the ranks. Initially there’s a cost for using a manual directory submission service, but after that point it’s like free advertising.
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About Henry Baum
Author of The American Book of the Dead, which won Best Fiction at the DIY Book Festival and the Gold IPPY Award for Visionary Fiction. Largehearted Boy says it's "reminiscent of Philip K. Dick and Haruki Murakami, a book that boldly explores the future and defies genre." Also the author of North of Sunset, winner of the Hollywood Book Festival Grand Prize, and The Golden Calf - first published by Soft Skull Press, with editions in the U.K. (Rebel Inc.) and France (Hachette Littératures). Henry was a finalist along with Alan Moore and Dr Brooke Magnanti for his novel " God's Wife" at for Best Writer at The Erotic Awards London UK in 2013. He lives with his wife Cate Baum in Los Angeles. He is the founder of SPR. Visit henrybaum.com for more information.