[This is part 1 of our SEO for author websites articles.
This article covers the starting points, the basic, yet critical SEO elements you need to know and get right – and how to do it.
The next part will cover the content of your website, choosing keywords, why they are important, advanced keyword research, and how you can do it for free.]
You probably view SEO or Search Engine Optimization as something of a puzzle, and that’s not surprising when there’s so much contradictory information out there.
I’ve been involved in SEO since 2003 in some really competitive niches, but the good news for you is that the SEO you need to focus on for your author website is very straightforward.
If you want people to find your website when they search for your name, or “your name author,” etc, then it’s much easier than trying to compete with hundreds or thousands of other websites all competing for well-known brand names or highly sought-after products or services.
The main SEO areas you need to get right on your author website are:
- Meta Titles
- Meta Descriptions
- Site Speed
- Internal Linking
Choosing The SEO Meta Title For Your Author Website
The meta title is where you tell Google and other search engines the main topic for each page on your website.
You can think of it as a bit like a book having a title, except with a website you add a title to each page, rather than just on the cover.
Google doesn’t rank websites, it ranks web pages, so you need to make it crystal clear what each page is about, and how each page relates to the other pages (more on this later in internal links).
If Google were a library, it wouldn’t have shelves full of books, it would have shelves full of the pages from each book, all stacked next to each other by topic, relevance, importance, and cross referenced to other related pages on other related topics.
This is why it’s imperative that you carefully give each page a clear title, and that title is what is known as the meta title.
The meta title is what Google, etc, use in the search results, as in the image below.
(Note that when Google likes your site it may also add extra site links, which are the meta titles for other pages under the main result – in this case, it’s Diana Urban’s website, which, by the way, is an exceptionally good example of what an author website should look like).
Your home page might use your name as the meta title, or maybe “Your name Sci Fi author.”
On each page about your book, you will probably use the book title and your name, to make it as easy as possible for search engines to understand what the page is about, and to make it clear for people looking at the search results to see that this is the website they’re looking for.
As you can see in the image below, if I search for a specific author, all of the meta titles in the results contain the authors name.
In some cases you might want to use a call to action: “Your Name Newsletter – Get a Free Short Story” etc.
Remember though that you only have a maximum of 60 characters including spaces, anything longer will be truncated by Google – so think carefully about your titles!
The aim is to achieve the maximum impact you can while focusing on your main keyword.
Next is your meta description.
Writing The SEO Meta Description For Your Author Website
The meta description is the text that appears under the meta title in the search results, as in the screenshot below.
As with the meta title, the meta description is limited in how many characters you can use, it’s currently around 155 to 160 including the spaces, so you need to think carefully about what to put here as well.
Ideally, you want to include your main keyword, and then you want something enticing to encourage people to click through to your author website.
If you can’t fit a call to action in your meta title you could put it here instead, or you could expand on your genre, or maybe even include a short testimonial you’ve received.
You want something that will tell the person reading it why they should visit your site, and what’s in it for them if they do.
It might sound a bit blunt to say that, but typically you have a couple of seconds to try and grab their attention and encourage them to click – and everyone else is trying to get their attention too!
One interesting thing to bear in mind is that while Google will generally show the meta description you set, if their algorithm thinks that a block of text from your content will match the intent of the searcher better, it might show that instead.
There’s nothing you can do about this, it’s just how Google works.
How To Set The Meta Titles And Descriptions On Your Author Website
In the olden days when I first started building websites and working on SEO, websites were built using HTML, meaning that everything had to be hand coded for each page.
Fortunately, today it’s much easier.
If your website is built with a website builder like Squarespace, GoDaddy website builder (no, please, just no!), Wix or many others, then usually there will be an area where you can manage them in your control panel.
For a WordPress author website then your best bet is to use an SEO plugin.
Most of them have free or paid versions, but really the free versions will be fine for you.
Even the free versions have lots of additional options other than just the meta title and description, but, they aren’t things you’re going to need to worry about.
Let’s look at three of the most popular ones.
SEO Plugins For Your WordPress Author Website (Free)
In my experience (and I have used all 3 at different times), you could choose:
- Yoast SEO plugin
- All In One SEO Plugin
- RankMath SEO Plugin
As already mentioned, don’t pay for the premium version, the free one is just fine.
Yoast SEO and All In One SEO have been around for quite a long time (2010 and 2007 respectively), RankMath is newer (since 2018) but has rapidly become very popular.
This is because Rankmath has more features in the free version than the others, has an easy to use interface and control panel, and seems to be achieving great SEO results.
Rankmath is the WordPress SEO Plugin I now use on all websites.
Each of the three mentioned will allow you to easily set your meta title and description for each page on your website, so if that is your sole aim then any of them are fine.
One nice feature of RankMath is that it allows you to set a focus keyword on each page, and it will then calculate an SEO score – and tell you how to adjust your content to score higher.
The idea is the better your SEO score, the higher you will appear on Google, and I do know other web designers who say they have followed the suggestions on existing posts and pages, and their rankings have indeed improved.
I think this is a large part of why RankMath has become the main choice of WordPress SEO plugin for many designers and SEO professionals.
Choosing The Right SEO Headings For Your Author Website
Headings are really important SEO pointers for Google and other search engines, and you really do need to use them on each page.
They range from H1 through to H6, each reducing in SEO importance as you drop down through them.
Really, you should only have one H1 heading, and that should be first, before any others, it should also contain the main keyword you are focusing on in your meta title.
You can think of it as being like the main headline on a newspaper.
The right way to use the other headings is to break up the content of each page with those headings, with a main topic point using a H2, and if there are subtopics within it, to use a H3.
You could almost think of the H1 as being like a book title, and the H2 as being like the chapter headings.
Most websites don’t really use H4, H5, or H6 as much as the first three.
The key thing is that in each SEO H1, H2, or H3 heading, you use the main keyword or a variation of it. I’ll cover this in more detail in part 2 of my SEO guide for authors.
As long as the main topic is contained in the headings, then Google will understand what the page it’s looking at is about.
Mix up the keywords in your headings to include topics people are likely to want to know, and more importantly use phrases they are likely to search for using variations of those keywords in the title.
In the content under each heading, you should make sure the keyword from the heading (or a very close variation of it) is included at least once, and the content should be tightly focused and relevant to the heading.
Add hyperlinks from within this content to other related and relevant pages on your website (more on this later).
Site Speed: An Important SEO Factor For Your Author Website
Google now take serious note of how fast your website loads and use it as part of its ranking algorithm, so you need to make sure your site is as fast as possible.
They take it so seriously they’ve even created a tool so you can see how fast your website is, it’s the Google Page Speed Insights tool.
This is because Google is moving more and more to user experience (UX) as an important factor in where a website deserves to be in the results.
What this means is that they are looking at how a visitor engages with your author website to determine if they had a good or bad experience.
Part of the way they measure this is to see how long they stay on your website.
If the page takes a long time to load, or certain parts of a page, like images, take time to show up, the visitor is likely to just leave and go to the next website in the search results.
People are just so impatient online!
There are things you can do to speed up your site, but you will be limited to a great degree by your hosting company and the platform your site is built with.
Many hosting companies have slick advertising and promise amazing results, but they will usually jam as many websites as they can onto each server, meaning your author site is competing with all the others for the resources of the server, like the processor, for example.
Clearly, this will have a major impact on how fast your website can load, and there isn’t a lot you can do about it from that perspective, apart from moving your site elsewhere.
Sometimes the biggest gains in site speed can be to move to new hosting, but that isn’t always possible if you’re using, for example, the Squarespace, GoDaddy, or Wix, etc website builders.
You must host on their platform to use their website builder.
Even if this is the case, the main thing you can do that is in your control, is to make image file sizes as small as possible by compressing them
If your author site is built using WordPress, you can also use a caching plugin to dramatically improve your website speed score.
Compressing Images For Your Author Website (Free)
Most of the images you’re using will probably be JPG or PNG images, and these can have a very large file size.
I’ve worked on websites before where the owner was loading up images that were 4MB to 6MB, which is enormous.
Even if you scale the image dimensions to a more appropriate size, most PNG images will probably be 200KB to 500KB, which is still way too big.
All of that data needs to be transmitted over the web, and if the visitor is using a mobile network, then it will slow things down even more.
There are compression tools that can reduce that JPG or PNG file size (it doesn’t alter the dimensions of the image, just the size in MB or KB), but usually you’ll still have a large file size, and the more you compress, the more degraded the image will become.
There is however a newer way of compressing images that could reduce your images by up to 90%+ without any degradation to the image quality.
This technology is to convert your images to WEBP.
The WEBP format is relatively new, but I’ve personally taken 300KB PNG images, and when converted to WEBP they were less than 30KB. Without any loss of quality of the image.
That is a dramatic reduction in file size and will help your website load much faster, particularly if you have a lot of images on a page.
The (free) website I use to convert them is Cloud Convert.
It’s easy to use, you simply select the image you want to convert, select convert to WEBP, and hit the button, then download the image.
In the two images below, the top one is the PNG original with a massive 1.74MB file size.
The second one is the WEBP version of that image, converted using this free tool, that has a file size of 72.2KB – a massive 95% reduction in file size – and as you can see, with no loss of image quality.
You can imagine the impact so much data reduction can have on your site speed if you choose the much lower 72.2KB WEBP image, over the 1.74MB original PNG image.
This is one of the best ways that you can increase your site speed, and thereby improve the SEO performance of your website.
Another way to improve the site speed and SEO of your author website, if it’s built using WordPress, is to use a caching plugin.
The great news is that they are free as well!
SEO Caching Plugins For WordPress Websites (Free)
You might be wondering what a caching plugin does, so very briefly (I don’t want to send you to sleep), it reduces the time it takes for your website to transmit a page to the visitor.
It might sound strange, but on your WordPress website (learn how to create a WordPress author website here), no pages exist until someone clicks on a menu button, or a link to go to a page.
All the page data is stored in a database and numerous files, rather than each page being sat there waiting to be called upon.
When someone clicks a link to a page, the WordPress software springs into action, and looks at the code to determine what data and images, etc it needs to build the page so it can display it.
Once WordPress has gathered all the necessary bits and pieces it needs, it sticks them all together, converts it all to HTML and sends it to the visitor.
All of this takes time, it needs to use the processor of the server to do all the work, and this can make pages very slow.
The main way caching plugins work is by creating each page in advance and saving the HTML output.
When someone then clicks to visit a page, rather than doing all the heavy lifting over and over again, it just sends the end result – the HTML webpage that is prepared in advance.
There are a great many caching plugins for WordPress, and they will all help to improve your author website SEO scores. Among the most popular free ones are:
- W3 Total Cache
- WP Super Cache
- WP Fastest Cache
- LiteSpeed Cache
- WP Optimize
There are many, many more and your hosting provider may also have some caching options that might help you, like Siteground for example having various options to speed up your author website.
If you want me to tell you the best one to use, then I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint you!
The reality is that some caching plugins work better on different hosting platforms, and with different themes, so it’s, unfortunately, a matter of trial and error to find which is best for you.
However, if it helps you to get found easier in Google, then it’s worth the hour or so it might take you.
The best way to do this is really easy.
- First, go to Google Page Speed Insights and enter your URL. Make a note of the scores for mobile and desktop with no caching.
- Second, install the first caching plugin, follow the set-up instructions, and then test your page speed again, and make a note of the new scores.
- Third, deactivate that caching plugin, install the next one and test your page speed score again.
- Repeat this process until you’ve tested them all.
Assuming one of them has a positive impact, activate that one and delete the others.
So What Is A Good Score For SEO On The Google Page Speed Tool?
The Google speed rating follows a traffic light system of red, amber, and green.
The hardest thing to optimize when it comes to page speed for SEO is the mobile speed, you will almost always find your mobile speed score is way lower than your desktop score.
Most websites have the same issues, and in a less competitive SEO niche, like trying to rank your own author website for your own name or book titles, it shouldn’t be a problem if you can achieve a mobile score of over 50.
Your desktop speed should really be green, at least 80+ and ideally 90+.
If your page speed is red then it could become a problem and it needs fixing, I’ve seen web designers offering SEO services with page speed scores of 10 out of 100 – that’s really bad!
Internal Links & SEO On Your Author Website
I’m sure you’ve heard of backlinks (I’ll cover them and whether you need them in more depth in a later SEO for authors article).
In case you haven’t, they are links from other websites that point people to your website.
In the past, they were critically important for getting your website to be seen at all on Google, and while they still have value they are not the be all and end all any more, even though SEO companies obsess over them and will tell you they are.
Equally, if not much more important, are internal links within your website.
As I mentioned at the start, Google doesn’t rank websites, it ranks individual pages from each website.
It’s not a library with shelves full of books, it’s a library where they’ve taken the pages from each book, decided what each page is about, and has shelves full of the pages of different books ranked by relevance, topic, importance, and all cross referenced against every other conceivably related page and topic.
So, when Google arrives at your author website, you need to make it absolutely clear how the different pages of your site are connected to other pages on your site.
Essentially what this means is that you don’t want a website with dozens of posts or pages that are sat, all alone, disconnected from every other page or post, only being able to be found via the menu or blog page.
Instead, if, for example, you have a series of blog posts about book covers, make sure that in the content of those posts there are hyperlinks to the other posts about book covers.
If you have a series of blog posts about romance, make sure that in the content of those posts you link to other posts about romance.
What you’re doing is grouping your related content together by linking between them, basically cataloguing your pages on your website to help Google stack them on the right shelves in its own library of web pages.
If all of your pages are sat kind of floating around on their own, then Google has to work it out for itself, and it may get it wrong or not understand.
If you do it for them, you’ll find your author website gets much better SEO rankings and results, and much sooner.
This is the end of the first, basic SEO for authors websites article, in the next one we’ll look at SEO keywords for your author site, and how to find them.
If you’d like help with your SEO or your author website design, then please feel free to get in touch!