Have you ever wondered how to get your book discovered by potential readers? If you’re not already using search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, then you’re missing out on a powerful way to boost your book’s visibility and reach your target audience online.
SEO might seem like a complex and daunting topic, but it doesn’t have to be. In this post, I’ll break down the basics, offer some tips for authors looking to improve their website’s search engine ranking, and offer advice to help authors find new readers online. So, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been dabbling in SEO for a while now, read on for some valuable insights.

How Search Engines Add Your Site to Their Database

In order for a web page to show up in a search, search engines such as Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo, add them to their database of potential results.
Major search engines use programs called spiders, crawlers, or robots to index websites. These spiders crawl a website by following links to a page, reading the content on the page, and recording it in the engine’s database. When people do a search, they are not really searching the web, but rather the search engine’s database of websites.

Types SEO for Authors

There are several types of SEO that you should consider for your overall search engine optimization strategy – each of which I’ll go into more detail further on in this post.


This is the behind-the-scenes stuff you can do with your website and code that helps boost your rankings. Much of it is one-and-done techniques you can do when setting up your site; others are simple steps you need to do each time you post something new. Thankfully, there is software that can help.


These are the methods employed on your website to optimize each page.


These are techniques you employ outside of your website to boost search engine rankings.
All three of these types of SEO are important if you want to increase the visibility of your books, your business, and your website.
Types of SEO for Authors

Technical SEO for Authors

As I mentioned, there are technical SEO tasks you can do once and then you’re good to go. And there are others that you need to keep in mind each time you create a new page or post.

One-and-Done SEO Tasks

The most important thing you can do to help your website’s searchability is to set it up for success at the start. There are several website platforms that do this, however, the most popular and the one I recommend is WordPress. I’ll go into that in more detail in a moment. But suffice it to say, you want to ensure that your website platform supports your SEO efforts.
Here is a simple list of things you can do once to lay the foundation for search engine success with your website:

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)

Make sure your website uses cascading style sheets (CSS) so that you don’t have to code how things look on each page. (Hint: WordPress does this.) CSS defines your website’s styles in one file and refers to it from each page. This gives you more flexibility in determining the style of your website and makes it easier to make global changes to font size, color, and other design elements. Using CSS also eliminates redundant HTML tags and makes your pages much lighter and faster to load. If you use WordPress, your website’s theme may make this super easy.


Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. This, again, has to do with the CSS on your site. When choosing how to design the site, make sure that it looks good on mobile devices. Search engines, especially Google, are giving mobile-friendly sites preference and may even not list sites that aren’t.

Meta Description

Craft a key-word rich meta description for your home page that does NOT automatically get placed on all other pages. Each page should have a unique meta description that lets users of search engines know what that specific page is all about. If all your pages use the same one, Google (and possibly other search engines) will not rank your site well. Again, if you’re using WordPress and a good theme for it, this will be accomplished fairly effectively. Also, including an SEO plugin such as Yoast or Squirrely, will make this even easier.

Ongoing Tasks

Each time you create a new blog post (or a page you want to rank in search engine results), you’ll need to keep the following things in mind:

Image or alt tags

Search engines often display image results when people search for information. Therefore, using the alt tag to add keywords and phrases to your web pages can enhance your site’s visibility.

The alternative or alt tag is an attribute of the “img” tag and was created as an alternative for non-visual browsers when they come across images. In other words, the text is meant to be used when the image is not visible on the page. Instead, what is displayed (or read) is the alternative text. In addition, many browsers display the alt text when the customer rests their mouse on the image. So, you don’t want to put a string of key words in the alt tag. You want text that is easy to read and describes the image in a meaningful way.

How To Use the Alt Tag

Adding alt text is simple. If you use WordPress, when you insert the image into your post, it will provide you with a field to enter the alt text. However, if you have to code the alt text yourself, here is what it looks like:

alt-tag code format

Here are some quick tips for writing effective alternative text:

gold 1

Be Concise

Alt text that is too long can be broken by some browsers. Also, if you try to stuff too many keywords into your alt text, you’ll get penalized by Google. Basically, your alt tag text should include only those words that will help put the image in context — not be a full description of the image.

gold 2

Be Clear

Of course, you don’t want to be so concise that your alt text has no meaning or is confusing. Remember, it is not only the search engines that will be reading your alt tag text but real people, as well. For example:

  • Book cover – decent
  • Home Sweet Home Page cover – better
  • Second edition of Home Sweet Home Page cover in 3D – probably a bit too much
gold 3

Remember Context

Don’t describe the image if the image is part of the context. For example, the alt text for your company logo would be your company name … not “Company Name Logo.”

gold 4

Disregard Non-Essential Page Elements

You don’t need to include alt tags for images that aren’t important for the context of the page, such as spacer images, bullets, and so forth.

Meta tags

These are tags used by search engines to understand what your page is about and how (or whether) to index it. One of the meta tags should include an appropriate list of keywords. Use them on each and every page of your website. By using meta tags, you are making the search engine robot’s job easier so they will crawl and index your site more frequently.

This is one reason why WordPress can be so powerful. It automatically creates the meta tags for you, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting. Also, there are plugins you can add to WordPress that give you more control over meta tags, making them a powerful tool in your SEO toolbox.

WordPress SEO for Authors

So, you might have noticed I mention WordPress a lot in this post. This is because it is free, easy to use (once you learn how), and search engines love WordPress blogs. According to WordPress:

“WordPress, straight out of the box, comes ready to embrace search engines. Its features and functions guide a search engine through the posts, pages, and categories to help the search engine crawl your site and gather the information it needs to include your site within its database.”

With each new release of WordPress, features that once needed a plugin, are now integral to the software. This includes several built-in SEO tools, but there are also a number of third-party plugins, such as Yoast SEO and Squirrely, that can enhance the optimization of your site or make it easier to optimize.

You can do a lot to optimize your WordPress website for search engines. Here are just three of the basics:


Adjust your permalinks so that they follow the category/postname format, rather than the default format. To do this:

    1. Go to the Settings
    2. Click on Permalinks.
    3. Select the radio button next to Post name.
    4. Click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the page.

Permalink example from authorneering.com

Title & Tagline

In addition to selecting a strong, relevant Title, make sure the Tagline you use under General Settings uses keywords your target audience will be searching for. For example, the tagline I use for Authorneering.com is Engineering Your Author-Based Business.

Example of title and tagline from authornering.com

Site Health

Ensure your plugins remain up-to-date and your Site Health is at minimum Good. I check the site health at least monthly, and I’ve enabled automatic updates for those plugins and have that feature.

On-Page SEO for Authors

In my book, Home Sweet Home Page, I talk about the 5 Deadly Mistakes that authors make with their website’s homepage. The fifth deadly mistake is the poor use of copy and copy optimization techniques. There are two reasons that this is a deadly mistake, especially on the homepage:

  1. Your copy must be optimized to attract the right traffic to your site, and
  2. Your copy must be optimized to be compelling to that audience once they arrive.

In this post, I’m concerned about the former. Here are some tips to help you leverage the power of on-page SEO to attract your ideal readers.

Keywords and Key Phrases

What keywords are your ideal readers using to find books like yours? You’ll need to do some keyword research … don’t just guess. Find out the actual words and phrases that are being used by your target audience to find books like yours. You can use keyword research tools, as well as Amazon to conduct this research. And, once you’ve found these words and phrases, you can not only use them on your website but also in your book descriptions on Amazon and other online book retail sites.

on-page seo for authors

Your keywords and phrases should be used appropriately, strategically, and with restraint (you don’t want to be dinged for keyword stuffing), in several places:

  1. Your content, both blog posts, and pages
  2. Your meta tags and descriptions
  3. Your categories and tags

Put Important Information in Text

Search engine robots can only read the text in your source code. For this reason, you don’t want to put important information in videos or static images. If information must be presented visually, be sure to put appropriate keywords in the “alt” tag of your code.

Write Good, Readable, Keyword-Relevant Articles

The true art of SEO copywriting is making the copy readable by humans and search engines alike. Make sure your posts have a keyword density that will rank your website high in the search engine results, while still maintaining readability that will encourage your readers to read and possibly return for more. Remember, the search engines may drive traffic to your site, but if your site doesn’t keep those people there, what’s the point? In general, an effective keyword density is about 2% to 3% or about 2 uses per about 300 words.

Place Keywords in Places that Give them Emphasis

Since words in bold, anchor links, and headlines are given greater weight than ordinary text, use your keywords in all of these places. Headlines have H1, H2, etc. tags around them, and anchor text is what your links say.

Add Fresh Content at Least Monthly

You want to change up your website on a regular basis — ad new content, re-arrange old content — basically keep the content fresh. This is why search engines love blogs — they have fresh content on a regular basis.

Off-Page SEO for Authors

There are several ways to create off-page SEO:

  1. Sharing links to your site on social media.
  2. Publishing guest posts on other people’s sites with a link back to your site.
  3. Having such good information that other sites link back to you.

The first is the easiest but also doesn’t give you as much “Google Juice” either. The second takes some effort, but you can take actions to ensure that it happens. The third is best when it happens organically. Because the second option is the one that gives you the greatest effect for your efforts, I’m going to go into it in a little more detail here.

Once upon a time, guest posting was called article marketing and article directories sprung up for article marketers to post their content on. However, much of this content wasn’t very good and this methodology has died out. In its place, has risen something that’s been around for a while, but under a different name. And that is the content marketing technique called guest posting.

3 off-page SEO methods for authors

Basically, it works like this:

  1. You pitch a respectable site with an idea for a post on their site. This post is relevant to their audience and their site, while also being a vehicle to showcase your authority on a topic.
  2. The site accepts your pitch, and you write and submit the promised story.
  3. They publish the content, and it sends traffic to your site for as long as it remains published.

This takes effort because you need to research relevant websites to pitch, create awesome pitches, and then write fantastic posts after they are accepted. However, this effort can be worth it because that article you wrote three years ago can still drive traffic to your site, and that traffic may convert into readers and clients.

Why does this work? Here is the slightly technical answer. Some of the factors that search engines use to determine a website’s quality and ranking include:

  • Backlinks: Do other sites link to this site?
  • Quality of those backlinks: Are the websites that point to this website of good quality?
  • One-way versus reciprocal backlinks: When a website points to another without getting a link back in return, this is seen as a sign of a higher-quality website. Reciprocal links are given less favor and, in some cases, ignored altogether.
  • Link popularity: How many relevant, respectable links are pointing to your site? This is why you want to comment on forums and blogs (you can put a link to your site in your signature), and why guest posting can be a good traffic-generating method (a link to your site appears in the About the Author box).


That’s it for my crash course in SEO for authors. I hope you now have a basic understanding of how search engines work and the different techniques you can use to improve your author site’s ranking. I also hope that you feel confident enough to start implementing some of the techniques I’ve discussed. Remember, as with all things marketing-related, experimentation is key – so don’t be afraid to try new things and see what works best for you and your audience. So, what are you waiting for? Happy optimizing!

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Editor’s Note: This content originally appeared over several posts in 2008, 2009, and 2010, on CarmaSpence.com. It has been merged and updated to be relevant to SEO standards of 2022.

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