How To Make Your Author Website Easier To Find Online

Row of self-published books on a shelf

How easy are you and your author website to find online?

An author website is an essential marketing tool for any writer, whether your books are self-published or commissioned by a trade publishing house.

These days, readers and reviewers expect to be able to find an official website dedicated to every author, and if you don’t have one, you’ll disappoint your reader. The absence of a website or any other online presence that you’ve devised yourself (Facebook page, Twitter profile, your author page on Amazon etc) also means the reader will have to find his information about you elsewhere. Sources devised by a third party are unlikely to be as accurate or comprehensive as those you compile about yourself!

Maintaining Your Author Website

So if you’ve set up an author website – well done! Your next trick is to regularly update it, not only to ensure that it has your latest information available, but also because frequent updates to a website will make it more likely to be selected from the seething hordes of other websites whenever anyone searches for you online. 

The internet is a big and crowded place, growing by the day, and clearly search engines can only show up so many websites in answer to every search. There are few searches these days that don’t run to many pages of results, listed in the order of priority that the search engine thinks fit. Your challenge is to make search engines choose your site over others – and the more common your name, your book’s title and your genre, the harder it is to rise above the masses.

How Search Engines Work

Search engines do not have an easy job, though their instant response to any request might make you think they do. If they have access to thousands of websites that appear relevant to the word or phrase you are looking for, how do they prioritise which site appears on that all-important first page of results?

Although the algorithms they use change constantly and are closely-guarded industry secrets, it’s safe to assume that search engines give priority to: 

  • large sites (the bigger, the better) i.e. with lots of pages
  • frequently updated sites (the more often they’re updated, the better)
  • sites with more inbound links, i.e. where the site’s URL (website address) is featured in lots of other places on the internet
  • sites with lots of daily hits
  • sites that have more frequent mentions of the particular search string that you’re looking for

They assume, quite reasonably, that sites fitting these criteria are likely to be the most helpful to the searcher. If a search string relevant to your website and your book appears on lots of other sites that are bigger, longer-established, more often updated and accessed than yours, then they will be given priority over yours. If you’re an author with a very modest website of just a couple of pages and not many visitors, your book’s mention on an online bookstore’s vast website can reasonably be expected to appear higher up the list that your own site.

Searching for Authors’ Names

Cover of "Ancestors" by Rob Collins

Less competition for “Rob Collinge” than the more common “Rob Collins”

This is when it’s helpful to have an uncommon name. As Debbie Young, it’s taken me nearly 4 years of blogging on my personal blog, www.youngbyname.me, to rise to the top of the Google search under “debbie young”, even with around 300 blog posts. I’ve been jostling with a Rabbi Debbie Young, a local councillor Debbie Young, an astrologer Debbie Young and a Jamaican poet D’bi Young for years.

Not that a very uncommon name is necessarily the answer – at least mine has the advantage of being easy to spell. When I set up a website for the author Rob Collinge last year, I was partly pleased that his name was unusual (there’d be so much more competition if he was the more common Rob Collins), and partly anxious as to whether people would guess how to spell his name if they’d only come across it by word of mouth, rather than seeing it written down. 

The good news is that there are plenty of things that you can and should do to increase the chances of your author website being listed further up the search engine’s pages:

  1. Keywords  Include the most likely key search terms throughout every page of the site, without disrupting the text (search engines will penalise your ranking if you overdo this). Mention your name and your book title frequently, spelled out in full – “Debbie Young” rather than just saying “Debbie” or “Young”, and “Sell Your Books!” rather than “my book” or “SYB!”
  2. Links  Ensure that wherever else online you are mentioned, you add a link to your website. Where your book is listed in online stores, add your website details (on Amazon, for example, you can do this by setting up an AuthorCentral page).
  3. Social Media If you have accounts on social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc, write posts there with links back to your site.
  4. Emails & Online Comments When commenting on other websites and blogs, include your URL in your signature, and also in the footer of all your emails.(Set up a template to make it easy.)
  5. Updates Keep updating and adding to your site. The more pages and the more frequent updates the better. Add new reviews, reader feedback, plans for your next book, events, photos – anything that is relevant to your work as an author.
  6. URL Meet searchers halfway – make your URL (website address) easy to find! Put it on your book covers, bookmarks, business cards, and anywhere else it might be seen by your readers. That way, they won’t even have to use a search engine to find you – they can just go straight to your address! 
  7. Blog Add a blog to your website. Every extra blog post helps lure in the search engines. A website with just a few pages and no blog will always be lower profile than a big one with lots of pages and a new blog post every few days. 

The Author’s Guide To Blogging

I realise that last point may sound daunting to many authors, who may be wondering how to set up a blog, what to blog about and how to sustain a blog long term. Because I believe passionately that all authors will sell more books if they blog, I’m currently working on a book to answer all those questions and many more. The Author’s Guide to Blogging will be published in April 2014 by SilverWood Books, and I hope that it will help authors everywhere raise their profile online. To be kept informed about this book, click the “Follow” button to get new Off The Shelf posts by email. For free previews and the chance to win copies on its launch, just sign up for the Off The Shelf Newsletter by sendng a request via the Contact Form.

Related Posts

1 Simple Tip for Planning Your New Year of Book Promotions

2014 Date Book

Date books available from card shops for only pence/cents

Set your new book promotion year off to a great start with this cheap and easy tip that will cost you only pence/cents.

Invest in a simple “date book” – the kind of pocket-sized planner that most card shops display by their tills at this time of year. These small lightweight notebooks provide a handy at-a-glance chart of each month’s calendar, with a square about 2cm x 2cm for each day.

One day’s square allows just enough space to insert  a single key event, such as a new blog post on your author website, a guest post on someone else’s or a special price promotion. Inserting your key activity each day will allow you to see at a glance how your promotional plan is panning out:

  • Looking back each month will help you plan future activity
  • Spotting future gaps will prompt you to fill them
  • Seeing each page fill up with constructive activity will keep you motivated as the year goes by

Useful for Many Things

If using just one date book sounds too restrictive, try investing in a separate date book for each type of book marketing activity. Having snapped up half a dozen when I was out shopping just after Christmas, I’ve already found a use for them all:

  • 1, 2 & 3: planning the posts on the three blogs I run (this one, my author website at www.youngbyname.me and the self-publishing advice blog for the Alliance of Independent Authors, for which I’m commissioning editor)
  • 4: keeping track of my invoicing (something I was always behind on in 2013)
  • 5: monitoring URL renewal dates for the author websites that I manage for other authors
  • 6: monitoring my progress up the Amazon reviewer ranks (they update the listings once per day (I started the year at #1,514 on the UK site)

I’m also planning to buy another to keep track of my progress on Twitter (where you’ll find me at @DebbieYoungBN, by the way):

  • number of followers/following each day
  • number of retweets received
  • number of new tweets made
  • schedule past posts for retweeting

I plan to do this via a series of colour coded dots. It’s either that or learn to write as small as a fairy to fit it all in!

Date books show a month at a glance

Use separate date books for different projects

My eighth date book will enable me to schedule various self-publishing projects I have planned for the new year – writing time, editing time, publication date and book launch. These projects include The Author’s Guide to Blogging (to be published by SilverWood Books in the spring) and some collections of short stories, flash fiction and travel memoirs.

Keep It Simple

This may not be rocket science, nor is it high technology,  but I do believe it’s a simple way to monitor my progress, keep my spirits up and maintain momentum – and much more sustainable than setting up a series of spreadsheets or online calendars to do much the same thing.  When we have so much high technology at our fingertips, at work, at home and on the move, it’s too easy to aim for the complex and fail, when sometimes simple tricks may be just as effective and considerably less stressful.

So here’s to a less stressful 2014 – and I wish you a very successful New Year of book promotion!

Throughout 2014, new book promotion tips will appear on this blog every Wednesday. To receive every tip in your email inbox, complete the subscription box at the top right of the homepageTo receive a monthly newsletter including these tips, plus more news and giveaways, email me a message with “OTS Newsletter Request” in the subject line. 

How to Use Guest Posts to Sell More Books – A Practical Demonstration

Image used for Jessica Bell's guest blog spot

Image from the guest spot on Jessica Bell’s blog

I’ve blogged before about how guest blog posts can help you raise your visibility and so sell more of your books, whether you’re host or guest.  I’m pleased to share with you now a practical example of how I’ve just been featured as a guest blogger on author and writing coach Jessica Bell’s Alliterative Allomorph treasure trove of a blog.

A Great Example of Hosting Guest Bloggers

Jessica hosts a different guest blogger every Wednesday, under the subtitle “The Artist Unleashed”. Her brief to her guests is simply to produce copy that will inspire and inform other writers. The result: a wide range of posts on different aspects of writing.

The regularity and diversity of these guest posts, and the professionalism with which Jess runs it (specific guidelines re deadlines, word count, comment policy, etc), makes hers an excellent example of how guest blogging benefits host and guest:

  • Her regular readers, many of whom have never heard of me, now have
  • I’m sending Jessica’s way regular readers from my Off The Shelf Book Promotions blog, and from my personal YoungByName blog too, exposing them not only to my guest post but to news of Jessica’s poetry, novels and writing guides too

How I Wrote My Guest Post

When I realised how many accomplished writers Jess had already hosted on her site, I thought “This will be a hard act to follow.”  And that thought was my jumping off point for my post – a bit of fun in which I consider Victorian literary greats and wonder how they coped without the modern writer’s high-tech tools. My conclusions may surprise you. Here’s my opening line:

“Sorry for Tolstoy?” I hear you cry. Why should a little-known writer with zero published novels to her name pity the author of one of the world’s longest and greatest works of fiction?

Find out Why I Used to Feel Sorry for Tolstoy (and Why I’m Over It Now) by clicking here to hop over to The Alliterative Allomorph.

Jessica Bell As A Guest on My Blog

You might also like to read the interview I hosted here on Off The Shelf  with Jessica a little while ago.

Some of My Other Posts About Writing

If you’re interested in reading more of my posts about writing, as a writer rather than a book promoter, try these for size, all published on my personal YoungByName blog:

The Lost Art of Letter-Writing

Writing on the Run

Flash Fiction for Summer Lightning

Memoirs