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websites for authorsAuthors, whether they maintain a frequently updated website or a handful of static pages that outline their general work, will need to make changes soon now to respond to the many changes happening behind the scenes on the Internet. If you happen to write search engine-optimized (SEO) content for a living or as part of your job, you have probably already heard about these new changes. Have you thought about how they apply to poets, novelists, memoir writers, and publishers?

I did!

So these are just three of the myriad changes taking place with online content, how they affect authors, and what writers can do to optimize their websites effectively:

Conversational search. If you have a newer iPhone you have probably been entertained by Siri, the native voice-directed search application. Android-based (and iOS) smartphone users now have access to Google Now, another app with voice-directed search. Also, this past month Google updated the voice search feature in its Chrome browser for iOS. More people can have conversations with search engines. This means search behaviors are evolving.

Instead of typing in “SEO writers in Raleigh” or “plumbers in Raleigh” like a typical search, individuals will be speaking their search and saying things like: “Where can I find SEO content writers in Raleigh” or “My pipe burst, show me plumbers within 5 miles of Raleigh.” This means web content writers need to think more about their target audience and be more creative with the possible and common conversational search terms that they want to be recognized for in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Authors, one very simple way for you to stay a step ahead of competing writers is to create an FAQ section or an author interview section. Phrase the frequently asked questions in the way that a reader of your books or a business searching for your writing services would ask them.

Show me new romance novels. This example is for writers in the romance genre. Use this topic as a web page that is updated quarterly with the latest titles. Maybe create a page of self-published authors and a list of traditionally published authors to show that you are a resource. Alternatively, create a blog post as needed with this information. Of course, showcase your book strategically!

Find books similar to <insert title>. This would be a good spot to insert the types of titles that, let’s say, Amazon suggests readers who have just bought your book. Think in reverse. Think of your audience. You may have book reviews that compare your work to other authors/books – create a page dedicated to comparisons to help boost your rankings with this phrase.

Predictive search. If you have a Google account, your SERPs are not the same as when I login to my Google account and use the search function. They are not the same as your neighbors or other writers in your critique groups. If I search for “writers groups in Baltimore” my results may offer suggestions that take place in cafes for the types of food I have searched for in the past. You may have searched or purchased a book on memoir writing, so the search engine predicts you are primarily interested in memoir writing groups. This is because your account is ever-evolving to suit you. The search engine thinks it knows your interests, age, gender, and more. (Click this link to learn your Google Age, this is the age the engine guesses you are based on your search activities.)

Side note: A few months ago they believed I was a 50-year-old woman, but now they have it right. The thing I think is a little majorly inaccurate about this feature is that 95% of my searches are not for me or my preferences, they are research for my clients’ businesses that have little to no relation to my personal interests.

How does predictive search affect authors? The way predictive search works is that the search engine will predict what you are about to search and instead deliver the information to you before you even search for it. A perfect example is a dinner reservation you have in your Google calendar. The location and time are there. You will be prompted for directions to the restaurant instead of having to search for them. Also, if there is a traffic accident and your account knows you are going to a certain destination, it will alert you before you leave and ask if you would like to call the restaurant to change your reservation. The predictions become more suited to you the more you use your account and the application. (The one at focus here would be Google Now.)

For authors, you need to predict what other services, features, and interests your audience will likely be searching for so that you, your book, your writing services will be part of the SERP suggestions in predictive search.

A reader searches for your novel and finds it. They buy it on Amazon. Let’s say they live in Asheville, North Carolina and you live in Wilmington. You have an upcoming reading in Asheville, but your site does not show you, the author of this novel, reading there. If your site is optimized properly and you list this information, the SERPs should predict the reader’s interest in your book, know that you will be in their area, and prompt them with information about the event. This is another reason why it is so important to keep your site up-to-date, even if you don’t maintain a blog!

Not provided. Or as you probably see it “(not provided)” in your Google Analytics. It is most likely your #1 key search term, and you have no access to it.not provided google analytics
Why is it there? When people use their Google accounts, their search terms do not show up in analytics. When people use Google without signing in, you see this info in your dashboard.

If the information is not provided, how can you learn what most users want to see and what they are searching to find your site? Look at your most viewed pages instead. Look at the pages where users spend the most time. Is it information about you, your books, writing classes? Then craft your key terms from this to keep the traffic coming. (Or if they are not going to where you want them to: Decide the key terms, write effective content, and monitor the activity.)

The above is just a little peek into part of what I will cover in my overnight workshop at The Farm at Weather’s Creek later this month. Blogging authentically is no good if you can’t be found! The Western North Carolina writing workshop is on June 15-16 and registration closes on June 5! Register directly with the farm.