SEO for Authors: What Should You Rank For?

We often talk on this site about SEO and keywords, but when it comes to being a fiction author and using your website to your biggest advantage, what keywords should you rank for? Are your readers really searching Google for you?

The answer quite simply is yes, and no. Most users start their search for books on Amazon, and they start it by category or genre, until they become a fan of your work in particular that is. This means that your ranking on Amazon means more than your Google ranking.

However, not all readers worldwide use Amazon, and the world is your audience. There are those who blame the demise of the book industry on the internet retail giant, and won’t spend money with them. There are those readers who are in favor of IBooks, Nook, or even Kobo, especially in Europe.

Of course, all of this depends on whether you distribute your work widely or with Amazon exclusively, a debate that still rages on with many authors/ Either way, your website still matters. Here is why, and what you should be ranking for.

Your Name

The first thing that matters is your name, and you might think that ranking for your own name would be an easy thing, but that is not always true. If you have a common name like Smith or Jones, there may be many people with your name in various fields. If there is someone truly famous who shares your name, this may also be challenging.

For instance, if your name is Steve King, if you type a query into Google for your name, the search engine will probably first ask you if you meant Stephen King. Even if you correct it, there are several Steve King’s in the United States, and you will find rankings for several. In order to rank for your name, you will have to beat all of them.

For instance, if you Google Troy Lambert, I will come up high in the search and on several sites. However, there is also a Troy Lambert who is a basketball player and also ranks for my name. If he were to put efforts into SEO, and I was not, he could easily outrank me.

Fortunately, that is not the case. Because I participate in several blog exchanges, link build for myself intentionally, and own several websites and a company of my own, my Google ranking for my name is pretty secure.

Honestly, you need to do the same. You need to take deliberate steps to rank for your own name, and make continuous efforts to do so. If you have a business, this is true for your business name as well. No matter how unique it is, you want to be number one in Google if people search for it.

Your Genre and Your Region

This can be easy or difficult depending on where you live and how many other authors are from your area. Ranking for your genre can be challenging. If you are in the romance or thriller category, both are very crowded. However, if you want to rank for the Best Romance Author from Your Home Town, that may be very possible.

This means just like any other business, local rankings matter, and you need to include your city or state or both in your bio everywhere you put it. This means from guest posts to your own blog to your Amazon bio, your name needs to also be associated with both a genre and location.

This can be pretty easy. Your bio could read: “Troy Lambert is a suspense thriller author from Boise, Idaho.” Boom. Geo-tagged.

The question is, does this really matter? The answer is a mixed one. How often does a reader search for the best author of any genre in their area? Truthfully, not often, but it does depend. Bookstores, libraries and others conduct such searches for local authors. Conferences or schools looking for guest speakers and colleges looking for mentors may also do this type of search.

Such engagements can seriously improve your sales and your career. Many come with speaking stipends, and can therefore boost your income.

Through these searches you can obtain notoriety and local fame to a certain extent. This should not be the largest focus of your marketing, but as an incidental side effect, it can be extremely beneficial.

The Words Writer and Author

In any other business, it seems obvious that they would want to rank for the things that they do: Nike wants to rank for active wear and shoes, Red Bull for energy drinks, etc. However, writers are often hesitant about what they should rank for.

The answer of course is the same as what other businesses want to rank for: you rank for what you do, and what you do is write. You are an author, and your goal is to sell books. This hails back to the series on my website about writing as a business: this is part of your marketing.

There is of course one final aspect of this marketing piece. The message of your work, fiction or non-fiction is unique and you need to rank for whatever that message is as well. This is in part for you to determine, but also pay attention to what your readers and reviewers are saying about your work and how it speaks to them. These are things that will help you make good marketing decisions as well.

SEO for authors is not new, it is just something authors are not good about and do not pay as much attention to as they should Still your ranking in Google matters and can affect your Amazon ranking as well. Once you have determined what you need to rank for, you can take steps to make sure your name is the first thing readers find when they search for you and your work.


Originally published at Unbound Northwest.