In the 21st century, if you have something to sell, or merely want to be noticed, you need to have a website and the website needs to be positioned high up in the search engine sites, particularly Google.
- If you search for "self-publishing" on Google, you'll find links to nearly 22 million web pages. There are 12 links on the first page. Four of them go to my websites (when I last checked).
- A search for "self-publish" (no "ing") has links to more than 34 million pages. Two of my sites are on the first page (when I last checked). A great many millions come after me. Wow!
According to experts, many people who use search engines never look beyond the first page of links, so I am positioned very well. My websites that deal with telecommunications and other topics have similar high search engine placement -- and I didn't pay a penny to achieve it.
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There are books and businesses that specialize in SEO (search engine optimization), the process of getting a website into a good position in Google, Bing, Excite, Yahoo and lesser search engines. The SEO experts charge for their services. One company charges up to $4,500. Another reduced its maximum fee from $10,000 to $8,000. Some charge by the hour or month. I’ll gladly give you some free tips based on personal experience.
- People search for “keywords” and it’s important that your website include all relevant keywords, used as often as possible, without seeming obvious, artificial or awkward. Keep in mind that many potential readers or customers don’t know your website, book or other product exists, but may simply be searching for information about buying or using a product. If you have published a book about bicycles or amateur beer making, you want to attract people who are shopping for bikes or hops or need advice about fixing a flat or deciding on dry vs. liquid yeast.
- A keyword may actually be a phrase, not just a single word. If you think that people will be searching for “dirt bike” or “comfort bike,” and those phrases are appropriate for your book, they belong in your website, too.
- Google’s legendary algorithm that determines a website’s position has been subject to much speculation, and it’s protected as carefully as the formula for making Coca-Cola. One key ingredient in Google ranking is the number of inbound links to a website. Google assumes that the more sites that link to a particular site, the better that site is, and the higher it deserves to be in the Google list. Google interprets a link from Susan’s website to Charlie’s website as a vote by Susan in favor of Charlie. So, make a useful website.
- You should create inbound links in any legitimate way you can. If you post a comment in an online forum, put your website address in it. If you’re listed in Linkedin or active in Facebook and other social networks, promote your website there. Every email you send can list your site, and, of course, the web address belongs on your business cards and letterheads. If you have multiple websites (as I do), each one should promote the others. You can also ask the operators of other compatible but not competing websites to exchange links with you.
- There are lots of schemes for getting other sites to link to yours, but some businesses do very well simply by having a good site with useful information presented in a pleasant way.
- To judge your progress, you can use websites such as www.WhoLinksToMe.com. These are the results for one of my websites: Google PageRank: 4. Google Links: 54. Yahoo Links: 2,940. Bing Related: 309.
- Older sites tend to rank higher than newer ones. Even if your book won’t be out for a year, get a preview online right away so you can gradually make your way upward in the lists.
- (Not vital for search engine inclusion, but important for traffic and referrals) Never get a URL (web address) with a hyphen in it, unless the hyphen is part of a term like www.self-pub.info.
- (Not vital for search engine inclusion, but important for traffic and referrals) Short URLs are better than long ones.
- (Not vital for search engine inclusion, but important for traffic and referrals) Avoid long URLs with a high potential for misspelling, like www.getconstipationrelief.com.
- Track your traffic (“hits”). If few people visit your site, maybe you don’t have enough of the proper keywords or maybe you chose the wrong subject to write about.
- Use search engines to find what people are saying about you, your book or other product. Negative comments may keep people away from your site. If you find an error, try to correct it.
- (Not vital for search engine inclusion, but important for traffic and referrals) While URLs can end in a variety of ways, including the ubiquitous dot-com, as well as dot-net, dot-USA, dot-CA, dot-TV and others, it’s generally best to use dot-com. If your website is DavidsBook.net, many people will go to DavidsBook.com. They may find nothing—or a competitor.
- I spelled the sample URL as DavidsBook.com. The web doesn’t care about uppercase and lowercase (and neither does the email system), but by spelling your URL with uppercase letters where new words start, you make the URL easier to read, remember and type.
- (Not vital for search engine inclusion, but important for traffic and referrals) Avoid URLs with consecutive identical letters such as www.whattoeat.com. They can confuse potential customers and cost you business because people may think you were being cute and you chose to spell it as “whatoeat,” or they’ll just mistype.
- (Not vital for search engine inclusion, but important for traffic and referrals) Avoid URLs with ambiguous word breaks where it’s not obvious which word a letter belongs to. These URLs can confuse potential customers and might cost you business. Whenever I see www.releaseyourwriting.com, I automatically pronounce it as “releasey our writing.”
- (Not vital for search engine inclusion, but important for traffic and referrals) Resist the temptation to use the dot-net version of a URL that’s already in use as a dot-com.
- (Not vital for search engine inclusion, but important for traffic and referrals) while it’s been said that all of the good URLs have been taken, if you want to promote a book, your book name is probably unique, so you have a pretty good chance of getting it as a URL. If you want a URL with your personal name in it, you may face some competition.
- (Not vital for search engine inclusion, but important for traffic and referrals) Pay a few bucks so you will own similar URLs to capture bad spellers and to lock out potential competitors. Direct them to your site. I met a man who was planning to develop a website called www.sphixus.com. I suggested that he also register “sfixus” and some other variations. You can register the alternate “phantom” URLs at www.NetworkSolutions.com and have traffic forwarded to the real website address.
- A sitemap will help both humans and bots (robot indexers) discover all of your site’s pages. A template may create it automatically.
- Keep your site hierarchy relatively “flat.” Each page should be just one to three clicks away from the homepage.
- At least once a day, check to see that your website is really “on the air.” There are services that will check for you, such as www.WebsiteAvailability.com
- In addition to search engines, there are online directories for resources in every imaginable field, from farming to diabetes. Search for them, and submit your URL. Check often, and if your site drops out, resubmit your information.
- Sooner or later the bots or web crawlers used by the search engines should find your website, but it can’t hurt to tell the engines that your site exists. You may get emails from services that promise to Submit Your Website to 300,000 Top Search Engines for only $299. There are not 300,000 top search engines, or even 30. You should care about only a few. When you launch your website, notify the major search engines.