By: DeAnna Knippling
This is a two-part post; this week’s post covers how to pick article subjects for SEO. Next week’s post will cover a series of small tasks to optimize your website and post for SEO.
And the best of all SEO tips for fiction writers is…to blog.
Ironically, fiction writers can be scared to use their powers of wordsmithing for anything other than fiction writing. Query letters, synopses, book descriptions, ad text, log lines, bios, and other promotional material can all seem terrifying. I was no different, until I realized that learning good sales writing techniques could not only help me sell books, but write better fiction.
I’ll go into more depth about that another day.
Today, let’s talk about the easiest, most no-brainer sales writing for a fiction writer: Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.
In writer terms, SEO is:
- Having a blog.
- Figuring out what niche or sub-sub-subgenre you write in.
- Brainstorming an accurate answer to the question, “Where do you get your ideas from?”
- Writing a 1000-word article on one element of your inspirations that you have already researched for your story.
- Tweaking a few things before you hit publish.
Using good SEO techniques won’t solve all your writing and publishing problems, and it won’t make you a superstar overnight. But it will bring in more eyeballs to your website, and it will train you to write reader optimized content, less focused on what you feel like writing that day, and more focused ono what your audience is interested in.
Personally, I felt like the hard part was figuring out my niche, which took me more than a few years. If you’re not sure about your niche, just make your best guess and jot it down for now; you can change your mind or refine from “mystery” to “house restoration witch cozy with dogs” later!
Here are the tips:
1. Set up a website with an “about” page and the ability to post articles—that is, a blog.
I also recommend setting up a sales page, but that might be a task for another day. Do make sure that you update your social media profile information with your website link right away, though! If you already have a website set up, check your social media profiles anyway, to make sure no links are missing or broken.
2. Figure out your niche.
More specifically, figure out who loves your fiction beyond all reason and what makes them do that. If you don’t know of anyone who loves your fiction that way yet, ask yourself what makes you write the stories that you do (other than “entertain people” or “make money”). Some soul-searching may be involved here.
What you are looking for:
- The name of your sub-sub-subgenre or niche.
- The type of person who loves your fiction, and any demographical patterns you see (for example, I have a fair number of readers who are high school teachers). If you’re not sure, then you are your #1 fan for now.
- Why those people love your work beyond all reason.
- Why you write the fiction that you write.
- Ideally, why your fiction is unique for the people who love your work beyond all reason.
A good template for this might be: “I write [niche] for [audience with these traits]. [Audience] wants [list of demands!]. I’m a [relevant background or personality, writing skills]. What makes my work unique is [unique trait among same types of work].”
One example (not mine!) might read something like, “I write LitRPG for Gen-X and Millennial video gamers who can’t connect with classic SF, dabble in manga and light novels, and want drama about hacking systems without the extreme darkness of an old-school cyberpunk novel. They want to be with characters who defeat systems using their own wits and knowledge, and they want it in incredible detail. I’m a long-time video gamer who knows how to make the nuances of stat choices clear and emotionally resonant, and I can tie those micro-choices to larger questions like dealing with mortality and grief and finding one’s purpose in life. What makes my work unique is that I have a great familiarity with classic SF works, and can come up with scenarios that out-game and out-twist what’s coming out of the video game industry currently.”
Like I said, this is the hard part. Just do your best! Once you know this stuff, you can sleepwalk through a lot of sales writing! In sales terms, you’re identifying your product, audience/persona, what audience needs it addresses, and your unique selling proposition (USP). On an SEO level, this is how you’ll pick keywords.
3. Brainstorm a list of keywords.
Keywords are a list of words or phrases that your readers might type into a search engine in order to find new books, like “new mysteries 2020” or “what to read after Hunger Games.”
This can get really nerdy and number-crunchy. My advice here is: don’t bother. You don’t need to perfect your techniques here! Most writers are so bad at SEO that any thought you put into this is going to improve the number of readers you receive.
Here are my minimum-effort, maximum-result suggestions:
- Brainstorm a list of terms that’s related to your sub-sub-subgenre or niche.
- Plug those terms into Google and see if the results on the first page are mostly related to books. (For example, if you type in “time travel,” you’ll get theories about time travel, not time travel books.)
- The terms where mostly fiction shows up on the first page of results are your new keywords. Yay!
4. Brainstorm where you got your ideas from.
You can do this in general or by picking one particular story/series that you’ve written. KEEP THIS LIST!
What you are looking for:
- You are an experienced reader/fan in your niche, either classic tales, recent releases, or both.
- You have life experiences related to this niche, or that have given you a twist on this niche.
- You have researched areas or have experience related to your particular story.
- You got your ideas from a news event or nonfiction event.
- You got your ideas from an event that happened to you personally.
- You got your ideas from wondering about something specific.
The more of these you can come up with, the better!
5. Write your article!
Pick one of the topics from your “where you got your ideas from” list, and write about it.
Shoot for 1000+ words with bullet points and/or separate sections.
While you can always write what you want, when you want, and post it on your blog, writing articles with an eye for SEO means writing longish articles that you can break up somehow. There are a ton of techniques for this, but, again, most writers are so bad at doing this, that anything that keeps your article from being a bunch of really long paragraphs is good.
You don’t need to worry about keywords yet! You can include a keyword if something suggests itself, like writing, “My Top 10 Motorcycle Club Romance Novels to Read After a Divorce” if you a) write motorcycle club romances and b) binge-read them while you were getting divorced.
Now that you have your article written, it’s time to make a few tweaks to optimize your website and content. We’ll cover that next week!
DeAnna Knippling has two minor superpowers: speed-reading and babble. She types at over 10,000 words per minute and can make things up even faster than that. Her first job was hunting snipe for her father at twenty-five cents per head, with which she paid her way through college; her latest job involves a non-disclosure agreement, a dozen hitmen, a ballerina, a snow blower, three very small robots, and a disposable dictator in South America. Her cover job is that of freelance writer, editor, and designer living in Littleton, Colorado, with her husband, daughter, cat, more than one cupboard full of various condiments, and many shelves full of the very best books. She has her own indie small press, Wonderland Press.