In our last blog featuring Chris McVeigh we talked about how authors should approach social media and digital marketing. In the second part of this interview, we turn our attention to how authors can improve their Google rankings plus the best way writers can engage with influential booktubers and vloggers.
Is good search engine optimisation (SEO) important – why?
CM: Having a high ranking on Google is vitally important to any author’s visibility strategy. 90% of people click on one on the top three entries on Google so if you’re not in these three you’re not going to be getting any meaningful traffic from those searches.
The very least that an author should hope for is to ‘own their own real-estate’ – ie. rank highly for their own name and book titles.
This alone won’t necessarily vastly increase the numbers of people of visiting your website but it will ensure that should you manage to get some good publicity or reviews then yours will be the website that people see when they reach for Google to find out more.
Want to write? Read on: How authors can master digital marketing
What one thing should an author be doing to improve their Google rankings?
CM: One really useful thing an author could do is to take a little bit of time before they launch themselves on the world to check what the competition is on Google for their name and book title – there’s no point fighting battles you don’t need to.
Here’s a real life example that we faced a few years ago. As it turns out the book ended up being a best-seller and No.1 on the Amazon Kindle charts so I’m sure the publisher won’t mind me highlighting it here.
Publisher: So we’ve got this new book we’d like you to work on.
Me: Oh yeah? What’s it called?
Publisher: London Calling, it’s by a new author called James Craig
Me: London Calling, as in exactly the same title as the classic Clash album London Calling? The multi-million selling Clash album London Calling? The London Calling that takes up every entry of the first 100 pages of Google? That London Calling?
Publisher: Yeah, cool isn’t it.
Me: Yeah, really cool (tries to keep it upbeat, dies a little inside).
So right there and then we had to give up on the getting the title of the book to rank highly and instead had to concentrate on another SEO strategy. As it goes, we also had some problems with the author’s name. James Craig is a pen name (randomly chosen) unfortunately James Craig was also the name of James Craig, 1st Viscount Craigavon, the first Prime Minister of N. Ireland. It took us quite some effort to overtake all the academic and history websites that ranked for that term. We did eventually get the No.1 spot but it was more difficult than it had to be. A few moments of research on Google before pen name and title were chosen could have made the publisher’s job much easier.
Want to write? Read on: How to get an author strategy for your blog
So what if an author’s name isn’t ‘SEO friendly’?
CM: Sometimes you have no option and you have to make the best of what you have – for example if you type ‘Chris McVeigh’ into Google you don’t get me – you get a guy who makes Star Wars animations out of Lego (they’re great you should check them out). Luckily as far as my business was concerned I didn’t really need people to find me by my name – what I needed was for people who needed a ‘publishing consultant’ to find me. Crucially if you type ‘publishing consultant’ into Google, my company is the No.1 entry and we get almost 100% of that traffic.
Publishing companies have been very slow to embrace SEO and because of that there is still an opportunity for savvy authors to make their mark – for example, 12,000 people per month in the UK type ‘crime fiction’ into Google but NO publishers rank on the first page of Google.
Every author can learn the techniques that will help them rank highly on Google, it will take some time and some effort but it will repay that effort over and over again.
How can an author interact with book booktubers or vloggers? What should and shouldn’t they be doing?
CM: Sadly I’d say that the days when ‘ordinary’ authors can just rock up to one of the big booktubers/vloggers and ask them to review one of their books have already gone. The corporate marketing departments of the big publishers have hooked on to the power (and large audiences) of these booktubers/vloggers and they’re all pretty inundated with free books and review requests.
That said it’s still possible for authors to get noticed and reviewed if they use the right approach.
In my experience, the ‘right approach’ in almost any social situation really just means using the appropriate combination of manners and flattery and I think that holds true for the social web.
Social media offers a wonderful opportunity for authors to make contact with many of the influencers in the publishing world but if it’s used badly it can just as easily alienate them. I often advise authors to behave on Twitter in the same way they would at a posh cocktail party.
Stand on the sidelines and assess the mood before you dive into the throng. Be aware of the people you’d like to talk with but don’t target them at the expense of everyone else. I think if an author follows these rules on social media they’ll find it relatively easy to build relations with almost anyone – including bloggers, reviewers, agents and publishers.
Chris’s 9 top tips on engaging vloggers and booktubers:
- Listen as much as you talk.
- Don’t adopt a persona, be yourself.
- Show an interest in what people are saying without drooling on them.
- Don’t talk exclusively in bon mots.
- Don’t assume inappropriate familiarity with people you barely know.
- Don’t tell endless anecdotes about yourself.
- Don’t use every conversation as an opportunity to sell something.
- Be generous, praise other people’s achievements.
- Invite other people into your conversations.