People have done it. And here’s the secret…
You need to build an AUDIENCE of people ready to pre-order your book.
It’s the exact strategy that Tim Ferriss used to become a four-time New York Times best seller.
In this article (NB note: written by SEO expert Michael Tesalona) we’ll break down exactly how it’s done. Spoiler alert: you’ll need to get very good at blogging and SEO.
An Introduction to SEO
Building an audience online is about:
- having a blog and
- getting thousands of people to that blog
If you have thousands of people visiting your blog every month and reading your content it is possible to get those same people to buy your book.
How do you get thousands of people to your blog?
Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing send them.
The process of getting your blog – or any website – to appear higher and more often in search engines is called search engine optimization, or SEO.
Let’s start from the beginning. What should you blog about?
Blogging Topics for Authors
Your blog should be about the topics related to your book.
If you write zombie horror fiction like David K Roberts, you blog about zombie stuff.
If you write self help like Tim Ferriss, you blog about human performance.
Define your category and think of blog topics related to that category.
Once you know your blog topics it’s time to do a little keyword research.
Keyword Research for Authors
Keywords are the words people type into search engines.
You need to find out what keywords are related to the topics you discuss on your blog.
My favorite tool for keyword research is Moz’s keyword explorer.
We simply type in our main topic, in this case our topic is “zombie apocalypse”:
The Keyword Explorer gives us a list of one thousand keywords related to our topic:
By reading through this list we can easily come up with a few blog ideas
- “zombie apocalypse movie” – post about one zombie movie or maybe a list of the best ones created
- “zombie apocalypse quiz” – post about signs we are heading towards said apocalypse
- “zombie apocalypse survival kit/guide” – post about everything you need to survive brain eating zombies
Keep track of all the keywords in an Excel file and repeat this exercise for your other blog topics.
The Key to a Successful Blog Post
In a word…
Your blog posts need to be the perfect article for the keyword you are targeting.
If your keyword is “zombie apocalypse survival guide” the post needs to be 10x better than any other blog post around covering a zombie apocalypse survival guide.
SEO guru Rand Fishkin goes into great detail about this concept in this video about 10x content.
Here’s a three step process to ensure you are writing 10x content:
- Google your keyword
- Read all the web pages that show up
- Write something better
On-site Optimization for Authors
The process of making sure your blog posts are “search engine friendly” is called on-site optimization.
This gets a little technical, but hang in there – this is easier than you might think.
My preferred blogging platform is WordPress. If you have a WordPress blog on-site optimization is made easier with the Yoast SEO plugin.
The Yoast SEO plugin will automatically optimize your blog post (make them search engine friendly, remember) as long as you get the blog post name – or title – correct.
Make sure the name of your blog post title includes your keyword (keyword underlined).
Good title: The 10 Must-Have Tools in Your Zombie Apocalypse Survival Kit
Bad title: What 10 Tools Zombie’s Hate the Most
Another big tip is to organize the structure (and sections) of your blog posts before writing. You want to create a structure that will make it easy for you to naturally work in keywords.
For example, before writing this article I knew I wanted to cover the following SEO topics:
- Blogging topics
- Keyword research
- Quality guidelines
- On-Site optimization
When I wrote each section it was easy to work the keywords into each section heading (keywords underlined):
- An introduction to SEO
- Blogging Topics for Authors
- Keyword research for authors
- The Key to a successful blog post
- The Four Backlinks each Author Must Have
Each section heading should use a heading tag or h-tag. This is easy using WordPress. You simply highlight your text and click which heading tag you want to use:
On-site optimization is a topic that gets very confusing, fast. You can spend hundreds of hours diving into the technical details about keyword density, alt-tags, inner-linking to name a few.
But there are diminishing returns to on-site ranking factors. We’ve already discussed the most important on-site factors and the other items will not be as impactful to your search rankings.
The Second Half of Having Great Author SEO
SEO breaks down into two main categories:
- On-site optimization
- Off-site optimization
Up until now we’ve spoken all about on-site optimization: your blog topics, keywords, and technical on-site optimization.
Getting that correct will put you ahead of 90% of blogs out there but it may not be enough to get on Google’s first page for your main keywords.
The second part of the battle – off-site optimization – is about getting other websites to link to your blog posts.
This process is called “building backlinks”.
A backlink is an incoming link from another website to your blog.
The Three Backlinks Every Author Must Have
Good news is you may have already done this!
The three essential backlinks are:
- Amazon Author Central
Getting backlinks from these pages is as simple as setting up an account and inputting the URL of your blog.
Depending on the topic of your book it might make sense to create other social media profiles (Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.).
Where does your target audience hang-out online?
Make sure you are on those platforms.
A Rant About Backlinks
You will be tempted to ignore backlinks.
Great SEO is like a bread. Bread = flour + water.
If you just have flour, you don’t have bread.
If you just write blog posts but don’t get backlinks, you won’t have great SEO.
As a rule of thumb, you should be spending as much time promoting your articles (looking for backlinks) as you did in writing the article.
Blogger Outreach for Authors
One way to get backlinks from other blogs is to ask for them.
Who do you ask?
Create a list of all the websites and authors who are interested in the topics you cover and might give you a link.
One way is to Google “your topic + blogs”. For example, “zombie blogs”.
Take a look at the results and jot down the URLs and contact information.
You can also use a tool like Ahrefs.com to find out which websites and authors link to these types of blogs. Let’s see who links to zombietime.com:
Make your way down the list of referring pages and jot down the contact information.
Blogger Outreach Template
Reaching out to bloggers is as simple as an email. But it’s important to realize that you must offer some sort of value if you expect a backlink from them.
Some bloggers might ask for money. It’s typical to pay $75-$200 for a backlink.
Another option is to create something valuable like an infographic which you can then distribute.
Subj: think you might like this
I read some of the stuff you wrote about [topic]. I especially liked the article about [insert something you liked].
Since you’re interested in [topic] I thought you’d enjoy this infographic I put together: [URL].
Feel free to use it if you like. I just ask you give us attribution with a backlink.
All the best.
If you’ve made sure your content is following the 10x rule you can write them an email like this:
Subj: resource for you
I read some of the stuff you wrote about [topic]. I noticed you linked to blog posts about [blog post subject].
I’ve put together a detailed article about that very subject. If you think it’s worth it, I’d love to get a link from you guys. Here’s the URL: [URL].
All the best.
Finally, you can mention bloggers in your articles and link to them. This should make it a little easier to earn a link back. This outreach email would like this:
Subj: mention you in article
I love the stuff you put together about [topic].
I just put together an article about [topic] and linked to your content. Here’s the link: [URL]
Hopefully you like the article and can link back at some point.
All the best.
Guest Posting for Authors
Guest posting is when your content appears on someone else’s blog. This post is an example of a guest post. Nathan and I had a conversation about SEO and he offered to have me write a post for his blog.
There are many blogs that actively accept guest posts. You can find these blogs by searching Google for your topic +:
- Zombie blog “add articles”
- Zombie blog “add content”
- Zombie blog “become a contributor”
- Zombie blog “become a guest blogger”
- Zombie blog “guest post guidelines”
You can approach these websites with the following email template:
Subj: Good for you?
I love the stuff you put together about [topic]. Especially liked your thoughts on [insert a thought out, genuine compliment].
I’d like to contribute to your blog. Do you think you might be interested in an article about any of these topics?:
- Article idea 1
- Article idea 2
- Article idea 3
Let me know and I can get a draft to you.
All the best.
Blogger outreach is a game about follow up. Don’t give up if someone doesn’t respond on your first outreach.
My company does this type of outreach for clients and we have found we will typically get a response on the sixth follow up message. So be persistent!
Closing Thoughts for Dominant Author SEO
SEO is a process that takes time and dedication.
It’s very easy to dive deep into SEO and feel overwhelmed with information. But for authors it’s quite simple:
- Create great content
- Get people to link to that content
If you take care of that you’re well on your way to building your audience.