How to Use SEO to Sell Your Book: A Guide for Self-Publishing Authors

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If you’re an independent author getting ready to self-publish a book, it might seem like an impossible task to spread the word about your new work. You have to, though—it’s the only way people will learn about it, and the marketing burden falls entirely on you. Thanks to the miracle that is the internet, there is a way for you to do it on your own. 

Utilizing SEO to build an audience for your blog is the key to getting your name out there and pre-selling your book before it even drops, but it will take serious time and dedication on your part to make it happen. If you would like expert help in promoting your book and growing your brand on popular blogs, check out our targeted blog lists for authors

Let’s start with the basics.

What is SEO? 

SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” and it’s what drives traffic to your website from search engines. To get traffic to your blog so you can grow your email list and promote your upcoming book, you’ll first need to include SEO keywords in your blog posts (known as on-site optimization) and then get popular websites—such as Amazon Author Central, your social media profiles, and other third-party sites—to link back to your blog (known as off-site optimization). 

The internet is mind-bogglingly vast, so if you don’t optimize your content for search engines, people won’t magically stumble across your website. Therefore, SEO is critical for the modern-day marketing scene.

Embedding the right keywords in your posts will ensure more people click on your link at the expense of the competition. To put it another way, you’ll direct more traffic to your website by making your posts search engine-friendly. That said, there’s a lot involved in SEO, so where do you start? 

Pick a topic to blog about 

The first step (assuming you’ve already set up your blog) is choosing topics to blog about that are related to your genre or the subject matter in your upcoming book. Is your book about travel? Archeology? Art? History? Beauty? Is it a supernatural horror? A spy thriller? A family drama? Define your genre and themes first and then choose related topics that will attract new readers. 

While SEO refers to embedding keywords into your posts to direct more traffic to your site, providing valuable, engaging content is still the pillar of your website. Even if you get people to visit your site, they’ll quickly depart if it’s not offering them anything of value.

Appropriate topics for your blog can be broader than you might think. For example, if your book is a family drama, you can talk about genetics, nature versus nurture, parent-child relationships, or even child psychology. If it’s a spy thriller, why not blog about real-life spies, government agencies, top-secret missions, or even interrogation techniques? 

Make sure you write your posts using the same tone and voice as in your book so your readers will know what to expect once your title is available for pre-ordering. The idea is to show off your writing skills while generating interest in your upcoming book and cultivating a loyal fan base that will not only pre-order your book but also recommend it to friends.

Choose keywords that relate to your topic

Keywords are a fundamental element of successful SEO. Once you’ve selected your topics, you can start narrowing down the best keywords, which you will then incorporate into your title, headings, and content body. Remember that keywords are what people type into a search engine, so you need to think like someone who’s searching for your topic and embed them naturally into your writing—these aren’t a list of tags. 

Using them naturally is crucial—you won’t build a big fan base if your posts are stilted, awkward, and obviously there just for SEO. You’re a writer, so you know how to write—think of ways to work in your keywords naturally. Knowing which keywords ensure the most success will help you craft your blog post titles and structure. 

Create high-quality posts

Keywords and SEO alone aren’t going to grow your audience: You need to produce high-quality posts on interesting topics and do it better than everyone else. Take some time to read what other people are writing about your niche, which will help you gauge the general quality of the content that’s out there and discern how you can do it better. 

Steer clear of clickbait, proofread for spelling and grammar, and double-check that your information is factual and up-to-date. Make your titles intriguing but not misleading, and if you’re using thumbnails with your posts, use images that capture the overall feel of the pieces while enticing readers to click.

Get your name in the media

Organic blog traffic alone might not be enough to get your upcoming book noticed, but it’s a must if you want to write guest posts or be featured by social media influencers. Popular bloggers and influencers are unlikely to partner with an unknown writer with low traffic. Your chances of landing a guest spot will improve if you can show your audience is interested in what you have to say, which, these days, is measured by the number of followers and website visits. Media appearances and influencer marketing can dramatically increase your exposure, but it’s hard to take advantage of them before you’ve already built up a bit of a following.

Once your blog and social media accounts get some traction, you can reach out to other bloggers and social media influencers about collaborating. Find creators who work within your niche or genre and ask them if they would be interested in showcasing your work. It could be a guest blog post, an infographic, or a video—just make sure there’s a link to your website. Remember, the idea is to direct more traffic to your blog through backlinks, which means you want your link to be featured on other websites. Some bloggers will want to be paid, while others are happy to do a promotional exchange if they like your work, which is yet another reason to make sure you consistently create high-quality content. 

Promote your book to boost pre-orders

The whole point of this is to promote your book, right? So, while you’re writing high-quality content for your blog and guest posts, keep mentioning the awesome book you’ll soon be releasing. Work it into your posts naturally, and only mention it once or twice per post—you don’t want to come off as a pushy salesperson. The idea is to get lots of pre-orders, which will result in an improved sales rank and get the algorithms to do their work promoting your book before the release date. Just make sure you actually release on the promoted date, or you might be penalized by online retailers like Amazon. This means you should choose the date carefully, one that you’re sure the book will be ready by.

Making your book available for pre-order (Amazon only allows this option for new eBooks, not print titles) while you grow your online presence will mean having an eager audience awaiting its release and a higher-ranking title, so follow these tips to build excitement until the release date. If you’re ready to start reaching out to relevant bloggers, check out our targeted blog lists for book promotion.

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