This is an update on a series of articles on key SEO factors we did last year called “The Optimized Publisher” in conjunction with Digital Book World. While the originals articles were focused on publisher sites, the topics have applicability to sites created for authors, books or series. There have also been changes from Google and the other search engines that site owners need to evaluate.
One of the key elements in an effective, long term promotional campaign for an individual title, a series or an author is whether readers can “find you” when they are looking. While search engines are not the only area that authors and publishers need to focus on to promote their books and their brand, there are some key factors that need to be focused on to drive the highest ranking possible in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Many of these are “technical good housekeeping” practices that any site owner should make sure they have looked at and implemented. These are some of those factors.
The number of website pages indexed should be equal or close to the number of pages that are presented in the Google SERPs. Large disparities in this ratio could mean that the site has duplicate pages or other errors.
URL Structure and Site Architecture
The site should avoid passing parameters and session variables through the URL, the page file names should be descriptive, and page redirects should be used sparingly.
Descriptive and unique page titles should be used on all site pages, without duplication, minding the maximum number of characters that Google SERPs will read and use, but not be so short that they offer no confirmation about the page.
Site content should be updated regularly, avoiding duplicate text. Frequent social media posts, author news and book reviews can help you boost Google search rankings.
Meta Description Tags
While not used for page rankings, these tags show up as descriptive text for your search results. Smart and detailed sales content lets customers know what’s on the page when they are looking to make a purchase among your competitors, and are a big factor in Click Through Rate (CTR).
Heading Tags (H1, H2, H3)
Header tags in the site code should be used for describing page content instead of serving as placeholders and navigational elements during formatting. Header tags should be unique and not be used just to format text. There should be only one H1 tag per page used to reflect the page title.
Structured Data Markup
When added to the site code, this schema defines content for Google’s search engine (and other search engines, as well). It lets Google know that the item is a book by highlighting specific information about the page’s content.
Page Load and Page Crawl Speed
If your pages take too long to load, your customers may go elsewhere. Google searches react to poor loading speed, as well, potentially crawling less of your pages, or ranking slow-loading pages lower than faster pages.
Help Google find your images more easily, and present more of your pages in search results by using descriptive names and alt tags for all your images.
A “mobile optimized” site offers more ways for your customers to find you and purchase books.
When set up correctly, social integration icons for Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest can drive more traffic to your site and let your audience help you promote and share your catalog in the way that you want it to show up on social media sites.
Google uses XML sitemaps to help speed the crawl of your site and to understand which site pages to crawl (or not to crawl). They should be complete and easy to locate during site crawls for SERPs.
Going to a secure HTTP will soon be important to Google’s page ranking factors. But making the switch is more than adding an “s”.
Please check back for follow on posts that will discuss these factors in more detail.