How to Boost your Author SEO: An Interview with Murray Izenwasser
As an author in the beginning stages of a marketing strategy, where do you start when it comes to author Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? It can be very daunting having to compete with large publishing houses as well as already successful and well-known authors. To help tackle this really important topic, we had SEO expert Murray Izenwasser give his insights on how exactly author SEO works.
Click play below to watch the video chat or read the transcript below!
Hi Murray, I really appreciate you talking with me today. Why don’t you start out by giving us a bit of background on yourself and Biztegra?
Thank you! I’ve been doing the online stuff since the 90s-- so a long time, but Biztegra has been around for about 6 or 7 years now. When we started Biztegra we wanted to bring the digital agency and the way we approach it to a smaller organization. We do two things: marketing on one side and technology on the other. With marketing, we do the optimizations for searches on social and mobile applications and for technology we have developers in Argentina who build out the web, social, and mobile applications we need to support those marketing programs.
Last year, we launched a product called Publishr, which is a platform where our publishing clients will be able to move their websites over and onto. In the publishing industry, we’ve found that there’s a lot of opportunities for websites to improve. Historically, people in publishing were “bound” to traditional printing and now the people who are left are the ones who still have the love of books, but realize that there needs to be a change in the direct-consumer community.
So, a lot of authors know very little about SEO and don't even try to go near it as a marketing strategy, do you think that's a mistake?
I think that very few authors actually have a marketing strategy or even a plan. I hear people who are coming onto Publishr say they’re developing something like an Instagram and I wonder if that is really the platform that they should be on. Have they really found the small group of people who are interested in their book or website? I think they really just see a popular new application and think they have to be on it.
It’s really important to have an optimized website and there’s several tools out there-- like Yoast plugin-- to use on your website, but you actually have to take the time to learn how to use the tools and the plugins. You need to be willing to put in the work. Think: the website is your house and you need to clean up your house before you invite people over. That’s where a real marketing program comes into play. It goes much deeper than just having the website.
In one of your blogs, “The Two Sides of SEO for Book Publishers,” you mention that you’ve heard people say to you that competing with big name book publishers for top search engine results is basically impossible because they’re too big, too popular. What would you say are the SEO guidelines for authors?
There’s millions of blog posts out there all saying, “10 ways to optimize your website” and they all say things like: every page needs a title and something unique, don’t have duplicate content, build an audience, internal linking, etc. On the mechanical side, there really aren’t ‘guidelines’ to having an optimized website. You just need to follow those 10-15 steps that are already out there to make your website standout.
The other side is what I call the ‘content envelope’, which surrounds the site. What content are you generating? Where is that content going? How are you linking it back to the site? Everyone starts out by creating their blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. and posting a few things before asking, “Now what?” And that’s the issue. You need to plan it all out! Have an editorial calendar, have a schedule for when and what you’re going to post. Even if you deviate from it, at least you have something to refer back to and rely on if necessary. We tell people all the time that I’d rather they were on much fewer platforms than trying to be everywhere and not doing any of it well.
I definitely agree with you on that! Does Google SEO make more sense for nonfiction authors? For example, if I were to write a nonfiction book around a particular subject, like parenting, what can I do in terms of SEO to have readers find me through Google?
If you’re an author and you have the one book, you need to start adding content to your site on that particular topic so Google starts viewing your site as authoritative. It’s the same for fiction authors! From an SEO perspective, there is no difference between fiction and nonfiction. Even if you write in a very niche fiction genre, you need to write about it on your site. You also need to create other content that goes on the side and binding content that links back to your site.
One of our clients has an annual writers conference and we did some research for them about authors who have a web presence and are active versus authors who weren’t really on the internet at all, comparing the royalty checks. The difference between authors who are active online was about a 3000% difference in their royalty checks compared to inactive authors.
When I got to speak to that less active group I told them their goal over the next year is to find 1,000 people who will buy their book the day it’s released. And over the next year find another 1,000 and so on. It’s a 2-5 year program that you have to create-- it’s tough, I know. This is what drives SEO though. It’s generating or curating content on appropriate platforms that drives people back to the site. There, you can capture an email address or start a dialogue with them, so that when you publish your book, people will actually buy it. It’s one of those things where if you’re attempting to do all of this when you publish the book, it’s too late. Marketing needs to happen almost a year before it’s published so you have an audience to release it to.
For an author, you can Google “tips and tricks for author marketing.” There’s people who have put spreadsheets and blog posts out there on “all the things you need to do 6, 12, 18 months before your publishing date.” The way that I always look at is, the people who have been successful marketing themselves and their books are no smarter than you. They’ve just spent more time on it.
That’s really interesting because I know if I were to search, “How to have a better SEO” there would be hundreds of articles that will pop up. Are there any tools authors can use to boost their rankings or is the answer really just time?
If you have a WordPress site, use the Yoast plugin and learn how it really works. Beyond that, choose one of the SEO articles that gives you 20 things to do for SEO and go and complete them! It doesn’t matter which one, they all say the same thing. There isn’t one thing you can do that will place you at the top. It takes a thoughtful plan on generating content, and interacting with other people on blogs, creating conversations and followers that way.
There’s a lot of research out there that all seems like a 3-for-1; produce three great pieces and when you post the third, invite the reader to sign up for your newsletter. People understand if they’re reading your blog posts, they’re going to be asked to sign up for the newsletter. If you’re constantly out there begging readers to subscribe to your newsletter, they’ll tune you out. Curate great content that makes people actually want to read it.
Once you’ve started to get comfortable around a particular audience and have generated some great content, don’t stop. Just keep going and going until you’ve reach your goal… and then set a new one. It takes time and effort, but that’s really the key even on a technical platform.
That's great and I agree with you that it really just does come down to time and not annoying your audience. This has been very helpful for our authors who are either trying to rank higher on Google or building their author website or trying to gain traffic on their blogs. Thank you so much, Murray!
Have you experimented with SEO and Content Marketing? Do you have a marketing strategy for your next book launch? Let us know your thoughts, or ask Murray any question you want, in the comments below!