Ed: Keywords are one of the Building Blocks of SEO for your author blog.
Okay, so you decided to publish your own book (congratulations!) and, following all the advice for indie authors out there, you’ve decided you need a website or an author blog.
Everyone says so, and it makes sense. A blog will give you a chance to explore the ideas in your book, bounce new plans off readers, build a community of interest, and make it much more likely your books will reach a receptive audience.
It all sounds good, doesn’t it?
But as many writers know, there’s one flaw in this picture:
How the heck do you get online readers to actually pay attention to what you’re writing?
Traffic, Traffic, Where’s the Traffic?
Too many blogs wither and die because the blogger who began with such enthusiasm never found an answer to this question. A blog without readers is futile and depressing. You can only publish into this void for so long before you decide there must be better ways to use your time.
So this becomes an existential problem for your blog: without readers, it’s likely to cease to exist. This means that finding readers for your writing is the number-one, most-important job you do as a blogger.
Nobody told you that, did they?
But wait, there’s good news too. There are powerful forces at work, and they stand ready to help you keep that blog—and your dreams of gathering a community—alive. These forces command hordes—hundreds of millions of people—and these people are asking questions, looking for things, and trying to solve problems, whatever they are.
You, the content creator and blogger, have answers to specific questions. If you could connect your answers to the questions those millions of people are asking, your blog—and your books—could prosper.
So what are these mysterious forces? Search engines.
How can we enlist them to help in the life-or-death-of-the-blog struggle?
Starting at the Beginning
Let’s go back to where it all starts.
People have questions and problems. Since the internet has penetrated every area of day to day life, many of us are in front of a web browser nearly every minute of the day. This is only becoming truer as we now carry an internet connection around in our pockets and purses.
It’s only logical that people have become accustomed to looking for solutions and answers online, and the way we do that is through search.
Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! are in the business of providing the best answers to questions they can find. Your job is to figure out how to connect your content to those searches, and that’s exactly where keywords come in.
When someone sits down and types a query into a search bar, they are creating keywords.
How? Keywords are simply the words or phrases people commonly use to search for answers in your genre or category.
If you could find out what those words and phrases are, it stands to reason that you could use that information to make your content more attractive to the search engines that are looking for answers to those questions.
The whole study of keywords is actually pretty deep. Lots of people are researching keywords all the time and, as you might suspect, there are lots of tools to help internet marketers, bloggers, and other people who want to attract traffic online find and use keywords.
That’s a big study, so here I’m going to give you two super simple and easy ways to get started discovering the keywords that have the most power in your own niche or category.
The first of these isn’t even a real “tool” at all, but it works like one. I’m talking about using the search bar itself as a source of instant information.
How does that work? Have you ever noticed that when you start typing a question into most search engines’ search bars, you are presented with potential matches? It’s called predictive matching, where the software is guessing what you’re looking for to save you time.
But guess what? All those matches you’re looking at are actually other people’s searches, specifically the most popular ones that match what you are entering.
For example, suppose I’m looking for a pizza dough recipe. I start entering letters and by the time I get to “p-i-z-z-a- d-o-” I’m looking at these choices:
pizza dough recipe
pizza dough recipe with yeast
pizza dough without yeast
pizza dough recipe no yeast, etc.
Right away, this tells you something about what other people are looking for. Suppose you are publishing about yeast-free baking, a real niche topic. This gives you a head start on finding the words and phrases that are the most popular with the people you are trying to reach.
The second tool is the Google Adwords External Keyword Tool, which is supplied to advertisers for their own research, but you can use it for free, too.
This is where it gets really interesting. If you search for the phrases that came up in your predictive search testing, you’ll find some amazing results. For instance, our pizza baking author would find that there are a lot more searches for some of these phrases than others:
make pizza without yeast = 3,600 monthly searches
pizza dough recipe no yeast = 8,100 monthly searches
pizza dough without yeast = 14,800 monthly searches
There is no way to figure this out without doing the research, but I think you can see right away that this author is going to try to work with the third keyword phrase, which has four times as many searches. Wouldn’t you?
Even More Keywords
The Adwords tool will also give you lots and lots of related keyword phrases, too. For instance, this search also turned up phrases like:
easy pizza dough without yeast (1,000)
make pizza crust without yeast (320)
dough without yeast (18,000)
and lots more, too.
Another way to use these keywords is to do your own searches on them and see who comes up on the first page of search results. Checking into these sites and seeing how they are “ranking” for that specific keyword phrase will tell you a lot about how you can do something similar.
There’s no replacement for this type of research, and if you plan to keep publishing in this category or niche, it makes sense to gradually become familiar with the most common keywords in your area. There will likely be dozens of them.
Not Just Blogs
Keep in mind that you can use this same research for any writing you’re doing online that you hope will come to the attention of search engines prowling for good content to present to searchers.
For instance, if you upload videos to a hosting site like YouTube.com or Vimeo.com, you’ll want your keywords in the description field. The same goes for podcasts and for captions on photos or illustrations.
If you pay attention to these keywords and include them in a natural way in the copy you write, you’ll find that search engines will gradually associate you with those searches. That means they’ll start to send searchers to your blog posts and web pages.
And that’s exactly what we set out to do.
Joel Friedlander is a self-published author and book designer who blogs about book design, self-publishing and the indie publishing life at TheBookDesigner.com. He's also the proprietor of Marin Bookworks, where he helps publishers and authors who decide to publish get to market on time and on budget with books that are both properly constructed and beautiful to read.