Book Marketing for Self-PublishersSelling Your Book

SEO for Authors: Get Found, Get Read, Get Paid

Is SEO for Authors?

A lot of authors think writing a book is the hard part. Now, don’t get us wrong–writing is hard–but at least you’re doing something you love (we hope). Once you’ve published your book, however, you’ll need to make sure people find it. We’ve covered this in several articles already, but it bears repeating that this particular part of the publishing process falls outside many writers’ comfort zones. While we’ve previously discussed how to promote your book, and how to use social media to get the word out, SEO for authors is something we’ve only touched upon briefly. In this article,  that changes. It’s time for a crash course on SEO for self-published authors!

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It revolves around making your website (or individual pages on your website) easier for people to find via search engines like Google. A lot of the time, people will make a distinction between technical SEO and content SEO. We’re going to focus more on the latter in this article, as it is the most accessible to you as a writer. While it doesn’t hurt to get a bit more tech-savvy, a lot of the basic technical SEO you need can be handled by third-party apps and plugins that are easy to install on your website.

Before we begin, however, you ought to have a basic idea of how search engines like Google actually work.

The Inside of a Search Engine

Essentially, Google has little minions called spiders, or web crawlers, which it sends out to explore the internet. The spiders collect all the information they find and brng it back to Google. Google then takes this information and puts it in its ever-expanding index, which is essentially a gargantuan library filled with all the web pages of the internet.

Then, curious humans like us come along and decide to type a phrase or word into Google in hopes of finding what we’re looking for. Google then reads our search phrase and looks through its index to find what it thinks are the best possible answers to whatever it is we’re asking. It’s even nice enough to hand us these results in order of relevance and quality (at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work). What Google perceives to be less relevant or lower-quality content will be pushed further and further down the list of search results, until it’s confined to obscurity on the second page.

Where to Start

The advice in this article is based on the assumption that you already have a website that you’d like to optimise, or at least have a clear idea of how you’re going to make one. There are heaps of content management systems (CMSs) out there to help you set up a website, and they’ll be better at explaining the process than we are. WordPress, Drupal, and Squarespace are some popular options.

Depending on which CMS you’re using, the extent to which you can optimise your website may differ. Semrush has a great article explaining the different SEO tools available for various CMSs.

While the actual implementation of your SEO strategy is going to differ slightly depending on the tools available to you, everything leading up to that point, i.e. most of the work, is going to remain the same. Starting with the basic building block of SEO: thorough keyword research.

Keyword Research – What is it?

In order to be found by your potential readers, you have to know what they’re looking for. If you know this, you’ll also know what you need to do to make it easier for them to find you. This is why all good SEO starts with keyword research. The point of doing keyword research is to find keywords and phrases to create content around. By “content”, we mean pretty much anything people can read, watch, listen to, or otherwise consume on the internet.

So if you’ve written a thriller, you’re going to want to create content based on the keywords you find that relate to thriller books.  Generally speaking, each piece of content you create, be it a page, or a blog post should be “built” around a single keyword or phrase. This makes it easier for Google to classify the content in its index and increases the chances of it being placed high on the search engine results page (SERP).

The most basic form of keyword research you can do is simply typing phrases into Google search (and the search fields of other major websites like Youtube or Reddit). As you’re probably aware, Google will spit search suggestions back at you when you do this. These suggestions are the most popular related searches Google can dig up, and as such, they are solid keyword options.

You explore keyword options more in-depth by using a tool like Google Trends, where you can compare the popularity of different search phrases within a certain geographic location. Pretty useful, in other words. This tool can help you make more informed, optimized decisions about your keywords. Answer the Public is another such tool, which can help you discover even more specific search terms, categorized by prepositions.

Now that’s all well and good of course, but what exactly are you supposed to be looking for?

Keyword Research – How to Go About it

Let’s say you’ve written a fantasy book. You might use “fantasy book” as an entry point to your keyword research, and type that into Google search or whatever tool you’ve chosen to use:

Google search for fantasy books

Now, that’s a lot of results right off the bat. While you could simply go ahead and write an article focused on the term “fantasy book” or “fantasy book series” that mentions your book, it would be very general. There are doubtless thousands of pages out there that fall under these umbrella terms, and you’re going to have to compete with all of them. So, what you want to do is eliminate as much of the competition as possible. That means getting specific.

This is where sub-genres come in handy. No matter what genre you’re writing in, it’s probably part of a particular sub-genre as well, and the fans of that particular sub-genre are doubtlessly very picky readers hungering for more of that particular type of story. So let’s say your fantasy book is actually a dark fantasy book, examining the less flattering aspects of human nature and society. Your Google search suggestions are going to look quite different:

Google search dark fantasy book

These search terms are already more specific, and therefore, less competitive than the previous ones. Now, for the sake of this example, let’s say your dark fantasy book also happens to feature a female protagonist. You’re in luck; it’s one of the most popular search terms relating to dark fantasy, as shown in the image above. Is your book meant for adults? If so, that’s another popular search term you can spot in the picture.

Diving Deeper into Keyword Research Strategies

These longer, more specific search terms are known as long-tail keywords. These tend to be used by people who are closer to making a purchase, or who are using voice search. It’s essential to further refine your strategy to stand out in a highly competitive digital environment. A more specific keyphrase also means you’ll be reaching a more specific audience. For instance, instead of targeting “dark fantasy books,” you might focus on “dark fantasy books with strong female leads.”

This refinement not only reduces competition but also attracts a more targeted audience. At least, this should be the case assuming you’ve interpreted the search intent behind these keyphrases correctly.

Understanding search intent

Another strategy involves examining the search intent behind the keywords. Search intent refers to the reason why someone conducts a specific search. Is the user looking to buy something (transactional), find a specific website (navigational), get information (informational), or find a local service (local search)? Understanding the intent can help tailor your content to meet those needs. For example, if the intent behind “fantasy book recommendations” is predominantly informational, creating comprehensive listicles or guides can meet this demand.

Determining the search intent behind keywords is crucial for matching your content with the needs and expectations of your audience. Here are some strategies to accurately gauge search intent:

  1. Analyze the SERPs: One of the most straightforward methods is to use your intuition when doing initial keyword research. As you enter your keywords into Google, have a critical look at the first page of results. What kind of content is ranking highly? Is it predominantly product pages, informational articles, or news? The dominant type of content can give you a good indication of the search intent.
  2. Use Keyword Modifiers: Pay attention to the words used with your primary keyword. Modifiers like “buy,” “deal,” or “review” indicate transactional intent, while “how to,” “what is,” or “guide” suggest informational intent. Local searches often include location identifiers, such as a city name. Answer the Public is a decent freemium tool that can help with this.
  3. Check Out Related Searches: At the bottom of the Google search results page, you’ll find a section titled “Searches related to [your keyword].” These suggestions can give insight into other related areas of interest or more specific queries, helping you to further understand what users are looking for. Similarly, the “People also ask” section will illuminate search intent for long-tail keywords.
  4. Utilize Keyword Research Tools: Many keyword research tools offer insights into search intent by categorizing keywords according to their likely intent. Tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs generally offer freemium tools and features that can provide you with an intent metric for several keywords, which can make all the difference when it comes to planning your content strategy.

Answer the public dark fantasy book search

Getting hard data on your keywords

The techniques we’ve covered so far are a great way to get started with your keyword research, but eventually, you’ll want to scale things up and build a substantial list of keywords. However, doing this manually takes a lot of time. That’s where keyword research tools come in.

A standout option for this is Google Keyword Planner. This tool, typically used for Google Ads campaigns, is also very useful for SEO research. It allows you to discover new keywords related to your book or genre, and see estimates of the searches they receive. While this tool is primarily intended to help with paid advertising, its value extends beyond this; it can guide you in identifying keywords that are relevant to your content strategy.

Google Keyword Planner is particularly beneficial because it leverages data directly from Google’s search engine, ensuring accuracy and relevancy. In fact, many keyword research tools simply use metrics pulled straight from the Google Keyword Planner. So you might as well go straight to the source.

For a self-published author, this could mean finding the perfect keywords that potential readers are using to find their next read. By targeting these keywords in your blog posts, author website, and book descriptions, you can increase your visibility in search results. The tool’s straightforward interface is user-friendly, making it accessible even to those with little to no SEO experience. This, combined with the fact that it’s free to use, it’s an excellent starting point for authors looking to dip their toes into SEO without committing to paid subscriptions of more advanced tools.

Use your keywords to optimize your book listings

At this point you should have a sizeable selection of keywords of various lengths; both short and long-tail. The latter type is going to be most useful when creating content to draw attention to your book and build your author brand. The former, on the other hand, is best used to optimise your book listing.

How do you do this? It’s pretty straightforward. Include promising keywords in your blurb, product description, author bio, and perhaps even in your title (if appropriate!). This will be incredibly useful when your book is made available in webshops. This drastically increases the likelihood of your book being shown to your target audience.

Depending on how you’ve published and where you’re selling your book, you may have different optimisation options when it comes to your book listing. When publishing on Bookmundo, for example, you can apply your own keywords and write your product description from scratch, both of which will be implemented in all the webshops you’ve selected.

Create content

So what about the long-tail keywords? These are best used for a more indirect approach to promoting your book. You’ll need to create engaging content for your target audience that leads back to your book, or perhaps more specifically, your book’s store page. This serves a few purposes:

  1. It allows you to build a stronger author brand, boosting your book’s legitimacy
  2. It allows Google to build associations between you, your content, and your book, which can help make you more discoverable online
  3. It allows you to reach potential readers more easily
  4. By creating useful, interesting, and/or entertaining content, readers are more likely to develop an interest in your book.

If we stick to our fantasy book example, you might write a blog post detailing how you came to decide on writing a dark fantasy book with a female protagonist, and what implications it has for the genre. You could also create a wiki-style page detailing the world your dark fantasy book for adults takes place in, including its history, geography, and culture. There are no hard rules and near-limitless opportunities as long as you get creative with integrating your keywords into your content. However, it’s also important to create interesting, entertaining, or otherwise valuable content for the people you are trying to reach. People notice when you’re using your online presence purely as a vehicle for self-promotion, and it’s not very appreciated.

Make it genuine and engaging

To that end, strive to connect with a community organically through your content. Build rapport with your target audience. If you’ve published a book of poetry, for example, you could connect with the poetry community by recording poetry readings, going on poetry podcasts (or starting your own!), or writing reviews, analyses, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

This doesn’t mean you can’t mention or promote your work–just don’t make it the sole focus of all your content. You’ll have a much easier time selling books if people like the free stuff you put out, and even more so if they like you as a person.

Make it shareable

The more people see your content, the more exposure your book will get, and the likelier it is people will buy it. But how do you get your content in front of more people? As an individual, there’s a limit to how effectively you can scale and optimise your content. That’s why it’s important to make it shareable.

Think about what makes you want to share something on social media or in chats with your friends and acquaintances–chances are, it’s either entertaining or informative (or both!). So make sure your content has those qualities. Write an engaging headline that will catch people’s attention, use eye-catching visuals, and keep the tone conversational and relatable.

Another way to make your content shareable is by incorporating a call-to-action at the end. Encourage readers to like, comment, and most importantly, share your content with their friends and followers. You can even offer a reward for sharing, such as a free chapter of your book.

Incorporate your keywords into your content

When writing pages and articles, make sure to include the key phrase you’re trying to be found through in the text itself, especially in headings. Don’t overdo it, however! A good rule of thumb is that if it reads oddly to you as a human due to the number of times a certain keyword is repeated, you’re trying too hard. You should always strive to make texts as reader-friendly and engaging as possible. By doing so, people will spend more time on your site, which is a glowing recommendation to Google. If you’re using WordPress to build your website, the Yoast SEO plugin is an excellent tool to make sure you’re on the right track.

If you’re creating content that is meant to be watched or listened to (like a video or a podcast), make sure to upload transcripts. This is not only great for people who are unable to enjoy these particular formats, but also provides a way for you to insert the keywords that you’ve spent such a long time researching into your content even if they’re not text-based.

Try to create as much content as you can for as many relevant keywords as you can. Just remember that the shorter and more general the keyword, the more competition you’ll have. Also, make sure that the content you create accurately reflects the keyword you use to describe it. Google penalizes misleading sites, so your SEO efforts might have the opposite of the intended effect if you’re not transparent!

Make Sure Your Pages Work

Once you’ve created some pages for your website, you want to double-check that they’re all working as intended. Depending on the size of your website, this task comes in varying degrees of difficulty. Essentially, you have to make sure that there are no broken links or pages that readers can encounter when clicking through your site. This is of course important for the readers themselves (few things are more annoying than clicking on an interesting link and getting to an error 404 page), but also for Google.

This is because Google has a so-called “crawling budget” for each site. That means that spiders will only spend so much time crawling your site, which means there’s only so much information they’ll bring back for the Google index. So, this means that every broken link or dead-end will eat up that crawl budget without giving you anything in return. That’s why it’s important to maintain your website to make sure all the pages work.

Be Generous with Internal Links

Furthermore, adding a bunch of internal links will allow spiders to take shortcuts when crawling, making the process much more efficient. As such, you should link to related pages and blog posts on your website within as much of your content as possible! For instance, if you have an “About the Author” page, you’ll probably mention why you got into writing dark fantasy books for adults. In that case, you’re going to want to link to the page you wrote based on the key phrase “dark fantasy books for adults”. Internal links help both readers and spiders navigate your site more easily, which is good for SEO.

Invite People in

Meta Descriptions

Once you’ve got your content ready and ranking, you want to make sure that people who see your site listed on Google are tempted to enter it. The most important factor here is your meta description. The meta description is the snippet of preview text you see when Google lists your search results:

meta description dark fantasy books

This meta description from Goodreads is actually pretty bad. It’s too long, which causes Google to cut it off mid-sentence for one thing. Furthermore, the copy is bland and boring. If it wasn’t for the fact that this is Goodreads, which everyone knows and trusts, it’s doubtful whether anyone would be terribly tempted to click on it, assuming they had other options.

The following meta description from Book Riot is much better. It’s short, snappy, and tells the reader exactly what they can expect to find when clicking the link. However, the problem with this meta description is that the title is too long, and thus gets cut off:

meta description book riot dark fantasy books

Nevertheless, both of these meta descriptions have included the keyword (dark fantasy books, as seen in bold) in both their titles and the descriptions themselves – that’s a very important takeaway. People are much more likely to click on a search result if it contains the term they searched for. It’s also something Google takes into account when ranking search results.

But how does one edit the meta description? Well, that depends on which CMS you’re using to create your website. In WordPress and Drupal (the most commonly used ones), you’ll find the option at the bottom of your screen when creating a new page or post.

Try to Secure Backlinks

Once your website is ready to be visited by prospective readers, it’s time to be proactive. A major factor Google takes into account when ranking websites is how often they’re being linked to by third parties. This shows Google that the content of a website is good enough to recommend to others. As such, getting other people to link to your website is a great SEO strategy, if you can pull it off. This is probably the most difficult and labour-intensive approach, however. Most website owners and bloggers are well aware of the value of a link, so you have to be prepared to be able to offer something of value to their audiences as well.

Choose prospective partners carefully. Make sure that you have content that is relevant to them. The best way to do that is to get as specific as you can. So if you’ve written a regency-era enemies-to-lovers romance novel, see if you can find a content creator who focuses on one or both of those niches. If you’ve written a cookbook focusing on Ghanaian cuisine, try finding Ghanaian food bloggers or cooking channels. Maybe they’d be interested in reviewing your book, or perhaps the premise of your book is unique enough to warrant an article or video? If they’re open to it, you could potentially contribute to their website or channel with content of your own.

Whatever you end up doing, make sure there’s a link to your website, shop, and/or social media somewhere in the content you’ve agreed on – that’s the whole point, after all.

Support Your Efforts with Social Media

While social media doesn’t give you any direct benefits when it comes to SEO, it plays an important supportive role in the grand scheme of things. Because while a big part of SEO is making your content as Google-friendly as possible, it’s even more important to make content people actually like. If you just make content with Google in mind, then you risk losing sight of the end goal: getting people to engage with your site (and buy your book). While you may get them on your site with good SEO, you also have to make them stay, and ideally, share your content. That’s why SEO is just as much about creating quality content as it is finding the right keywords for said content.

This is where social media comes in. While it has no direct effect on your Google ranking, social media provides you with a shortcut to your target audience by allowing you to find and engage with your particular target group. In the case of your hypothetical dark fantasy book, examples of these shortcuts would be Facebook groups, subreddits, and hashtags aimed at fantasy fans. By joining and engaging with these groups as an author, you can stimulate traffic to your author’s website.

As the people you’ll be engaging with are already part of your target demographic, they are far more likely to become readers of yours. Assuming they like your book enough, they may also become voluntary ambassadors of your book. This is the ideal outcome, as it means an independent third party will be sharing links to your site, talking about your book, and stimulating even more traffic on your behalf.

Bookmundo Widgets

As a side note: If you’ve published your book at Bookmundo, we can provide you with free customisable widgets that you can add to your website or post on your socials. These will take any interested visitors directly to your book’s store page. Nevertheless, in order to make clicking that “buy” button tempting, you’re going to have to maintain whatever social media profile you’re using with quality content as well. We have an article on how to promote your book on social media if you’re interested in learning more.

Whichever social media channels you decide to use, remember to be transparent in your communication! These are your future readers we’re talking about, so building a friendly, trusting relationship with them is paramount.


While the bottom line is that good content is at the core of good SEO, there is more to it than that. Finding the right people and figuring out what they’re looking for and how they’re looking for it is also vital. Once you’ve figured out what keywords to try for, writing good content based on said keywords is your next step. With your content written, it’s time to be proactive and get it to the right people, while your site slowly rises through the ranks organically. Use social media to reach out directly to your readers with the aim of having them spread the word through their own network.

This is a very rudimentary overview of SEO, but it’ll serve to get you started and will make a difference if done right. Should you wish to dive deeper into the subject and maximize the visibility of your website in search engines, we recommend heading over to Moz’s SEO Learning Center. The Yoast blog also offers some solid advice on the topic.

If you want more general tips on how you can market your book, check out our book promotion guide. If you’d prefer to get your tips from a fellow self-published author, you can read this guest article on how to promote your book online.

We hope you enjoyed this article! If you have anything to add or criticise, or if you have any questions, please leave a comment below or send us an email. Also, if you happen to have learned something, please consider sharing this article with your other writer friends!