By Chris Hickman
As an indie author, it’s important to have a website so people can find out about you and your work. Chris Hickman has some tips on how to make sure your website is easily found in Google’s search engine.
Webmasters who want to rank high in Google’s engine need to ensure that their sites conform to Google’s standards. Google wants its highest-ranked sites for any keyword to have a high level of quality. By controlling for quality, users can have a good experience with their searches and retain their good impression of Google.
Google doesn’t reveal the details of its algorithm, but they do say what they are looking for in a quality webpage. Here are ten things you should check on your page to make your site more Google-friendly so you can maintain a high search ranking.
1. Give Users What They Want
This is the fundamental rule for Google-friendliness. Any site that doesn’t give the user what they are looking for will drop down the rankings no matter how attractive or speedy it looks. If you keep this principle in mind while you follow the other checks below, you’ll be on the right track to creating a fantastic site.
Here are some of the things people look for on independent author websites:
- A list of works and where to get them
- Contact information for the author or their agent
- Biographical information about the author
- Information about writing commissions, if you offer them
- Your blog, if you maintain one on your author website
- Social media pages so your fans can connect with other fans
Google ranks secure sites higher than non-secure sites. Secure sites are recognized by the protocol header of HTTPS in the URL bar, rather than just HTTP. Securing a site is fairly straightforward, but it does require some technical knowledge. Google has instructions on how to secure your site. If you sell your works directly from your website, this is a must to assure customers that their financial information will be safe.
Did you know that Google has a separate search engine and algorithm for mobile users? Since mobile devices are so different from traditional desktops, Google rewards sites that are able to service both. But mobile sites have gone far beyond just having a responsive theme. Here is Google’s tool for checking whether or not your site is mobile-friendly, and their guidelines for creating mobile-friendly sites.
Speed is another major factor in site quality. Google does not like sites that are slow to load. This applies to all devices, but it is especially pertinent to mobile devices. Long load times can point to poor site code. Google has a set of tools called Page Speed that can tell you how to push your site’s accelerator a little harder. Even a small site might have some tweaks that can help push the load time down for mobile devices.
5. Strong Link Profile
Because a strong link profile is essential for high rankings, sites that don’t check the status of their backlinks could find themselves in trouble. Site owners should check the status of their backlinks at least once a month with a tool like Ahrefs or another backlink analyzer. Removing broken or spammy backlinks will show that you’re taking an active interest in the health of your site.
Readers are likely to find you directly by searching for your name or the title of one of your works, so an author site doesn`t need to have a broad link profile to get a high ranking. But every quality link you can gain will help push up related search terms like genres.
6. User experience
User experience, or UX, is a bit of a nebulous term, but it refers to how your site design contributes to the quality of your site. Sites that are easy to navigate, well categorized, and load fast contribute to a quality experience. Many of the components of good UX are tiny polish details that contribute to the whole. Here is a list of forty tweaks you can do to your site to improve UX.
7. Quality Content
Writing for the web these days is just like writing for humans. Just writing good common sense copy is enough to get started. From Google’s perspective, they want to see well-organized pages with quality information. No keyword stuffing or technical SEO tricks. Just good information. Unfortunately, quality content, like quality UX, isn’t something that you can really check off of a list. But SEO and PPC management agencies can help to increase your online visibility and develop trust with your target audience.
Navigation is part of good UX, but it’s also part of good accessibility. Here’s a test. Download a text-only browser like Lynx and spend a half hour learning to navigate with it. Now, go through your site. Can you get to everything easily? Text browsers give you a search spider’s view of how they see your page, so if you’re having trouble finding things then it’s certain search engines are struggling too.
Rule one for images is to not put text that is required for navigation in your images. Google cannot read text in images. The way to get an SEO boost through your images is to use ALT tags to describe the image if it’s not obvious what’s in the photo through context clues. Any quality CMS will have a way to add ALT tags to images automatically. Use it! As a starting point, put your name in the ALT tag of your profile picture and the title and author of your works into the ALT tags of the images of your covers.
Google hates duplicate content, but sometimes a site’s backend system will create multiple copies of the same content. Heavy use of categories and tags in WordPress can lead to this and confuse search engines about which version is the correct page. Another trap is creating printer-friendly pages. Great for the user, but confusing for search engines. The way around this is to use canonical tags. These will tell search engines which version is the real version.
If you keep these ten rules in mind the next time you have a site overhaul, you should start to see a significant improvement in SEO after a few weeks. Remember that it takes time for Google to recrawl and re-rank your site after an update. But your site visitors will love the improvements right away. And happy customers beats high search rankings any day of the week.
Chris Hickman is the Founder and CEO at Adficient with 15 years of experience in search marketing and conversion optimization. In 2006, he founded GetBackonGoogle.com, helping businesses and websites suspended in Adwords to Get Back on Google.