Meet the Author: September 2018 – Search engine optimization

The number one slot: a Google search for “Maria Hayden medium”

The number one slot:
a Google search for “Maria Hayden medium”

Hello newly published author! If you (like I do) have a very common name and aren’t famed for anything in particular (either in a good way or a bad way), the chances are if you Google yourself, you’ll have an awful lot of wading to do before you end up finding your listing. Six years ago, I doubt I even could have. I had no digital footprint. Now I only have to wade through nine pages to see me there.Hmmm. Note to self: probably could do better.

What I couldn’t improve on, however, is the ranking for my article about Maria B. Hayden, the Victorian medium who provided the inspiration for Mrs Harmon in Octavius Guy & The Case of the Mendacious Medium. Yes, that’s my website in the number one slot…and on the very first page!—though it does help that there’s no Wikipedia entry, and only 2 million similar results. My article about Florence Cook (inspiration for a very different character of mine) ranks sixth in a search for her, but there are two Wikipedia entries above it and this time a hefty 7.4 million results. As you may have guessed, this month we’re looking at ways to improve your ranking—and therefore your discoverability.

A lot is written about SEO (Search Engine Optimization to make your website—and online presence—search-engine friendly), as it helps to determine your rankings. People even do it as a job. Most of what they say is very techie. It needn’t be. It basically boils down to this: what is it those cute little crawler-bots are looking for?

It turns out that, apart from a few important things which I’ll list later, it’s exactly what any ordinary visitor would expect: an easy-to-navigate layout, regular updates, clear titles and other indications of what pages are about, links that actually work and manage to take you to the right place, signs that other people like the site, and informative (information-rich) text which is both authoritative and not readily available elsewhere. The more obscure the subject matter—though still relevant to you or your book—the better (there’ll be fewer similar results to contend with). Oh, and it helps if there’s a mobile-friendly version if visitors happen to be using their phones. Do these simple things (and give it a spring clean once in a while) and everyone is happy.

What they don’t like (and nor do many visitors): a website that’s hard to navigate, slow-loading pages, irritating pop-ups or forms to fill in, links that have expired or simply don’t work, images that only appear as “alts” and even then with no written description, 404 errors (page not found), and repetitive, poor-quality text of little relevance. Almost a perfect score for my email provider’s latest galumphing incarnation, then! They don’t much like spam, either, or plagiarism (scraping) of other sites. You avoid these things? Good! So what can you do to become even more search-engine friendly? Well…

Use headings, tags/labels, and metadata where available

This is especially important for any unique, high-quality content you might generate. These are the pointers that help determine how relevant your post is to any given search query. Whatever you do, don’t lie or spam when you add them. If your post is mainly about what you did last Thursday, then own up to the fact; don’t label it, “How to become a best-selling author”. You may fool the bots (unlikely), but you will never fool the humans. When they immediately hit the “back” button to return to Bing or Google after two measly seconds on your site, don’t think their annoyance will slip past unnoticed. The search engine’s analytics will be watching their pain. And you will be scored accordingly.

Write good links

Example of a bad link: Want a free gift? Click here!
Example of a slightly better link: Want a free download of my book? Click here!
Example of a good link: Want a free download of my latest book, The Mendacious Medium? Just click on the link!
The first one tells your visitor (human or crawler) very little unless they’re prepared to go exploring, the second a bit more, but only the third places your book title in the anchor text (which crawlers assume is important), and everyone can see what’s on offer at the other end of the link. And while you’re at it, don’t write too many links. Don’t make the crawlers’ trip too exhausting for their little legs.

Link all identical/near-identical posts

If, like me, you write a monthly post that syndicates to your various author pages and blogs, make sure to link them all to the page where the text originates (presumably on your website). If you don’t, search engines may see all the various copies of your post and decide that it’s all spam. It’s not; it’s your attempt to engage with new readers on alternative sites, as well as with people who prefer to follow you on a particular site. So how do you go about linking them, then? Use this special bit of code:
<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.yourwebsite.com/whereyouhappenedtoputit/" />
replacing the URL with your own, naturally. This goes on each of the copies—but not the original—and preferably in the html header section. If that’s not possible (and it seldom is), then put it at the start of the html text; that seems to work. Don’t worry if the link has disappeared when you view the page online; it’s meant to. A good tip to know: unlike most other links, this one doesn’t close. And finally…

Aim to get reputable sites linking to yours

The keyword here is reputable. Any site that charges you for a link is unlikely to meet that criteria, and may even prove damaging to your own reputation. If people want to link to you, let it happen naturally.

Big Bona Ogles, Boy!

This month’s giveaway is indeed a free download of Big Bona Ogles, Boy!: Octavius Guy & The Case of the Mendacious Medium (#3). This time everyone’s favourite Victorian boy detective and his ragtag bunch of friends investigate a shadowy spiritualist medium (as inspired by the good Maria), recently arrived from Massachusetts, only to discover that somebody desperately wants her dead. Use coupon code MR99Y. Offer ends on September 30th 2018.
“In a locked room, everyone is a suspect…Once again Michael Gallagher creates a vivid, almost tangible reality in Victorian England. That, with his rich character development, and engaging plot makes this book incredibly enjoyable and downright fun!”—Devon Lewis (The Pinkaholic) Goodreads Reviewer (5 stars).

Happy reading!
Michael

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Michael Gallagher is the author of two series of novels set in Victorian times. Send for Octavius Guy chronicles the attempts of fourteen-year-old Gooseberry—reformed master pickpocket—to become a detective, aided and abetted by his ragtag bunch of friends. The Involuntary Medium follows the fortunes of young Lizzie Blaylock, a girl who can materialize the spirits of the dead, as she strives to come to terms with her unique gift. For twenty-five years Michael taught adults with learning disabilities at Bede, a London-based charity that works with the local community. He now writes full time.

You can always message me using the Contact Me form or send me an email. Both Malane, who designs this website for me, and I really look forward to hearing from you, and I will always try to respond personally if I can. Why not include a photo we can use if we publish?