Day 19 of the A-Z challenge.
S is for Searchability
Here’s a statistic that might knock your socks off.
Google handles more than 40,000 search queries every second. That’s 3.5billion times a day someone in the world turns to Google to find information and get answers to their questions.
How many of those searches could end up with a visit to your book blog?
None of them if you haven’t made your blog search-friendly.
How do you do that exactly?
Well I could tell you that you need to apply a technique called Search Engine Optimisation (commonly referred to as SEO). At its most basic level, SEO is about showing search engines like Google and Bing that your blog is a relevant resource for people searching for information about your topic.
But I’m not going to spend time delving into SEO because
- It’s complex. You could spend a year learning the basics of how it works and then figuring out how to put it into practice. That’s why many businesses put SEO into the hands of specialist agencies.
- It involves a lot of terminology like organic search and keyword density so becomes very technical (and, frankly, often very boring).
- It’s over the top for people (like us) who are blogging purely for interest and not as a business.
Instead I’ll just talk you through some simpler steps to help make it easier for searchers to find you on search engines like Google or Bing.
Need To Register Your Book Blog?
But first let’s get one question out of the way. Do you need to register your site with a search engine? Simple answer is no.
Search engines like Google crawl the internet every second grabbing new content and adding it their vast index. Their web crawler will find you – it might take a few weeks to do that if you are a new blog site – but it will capture you. If you were using your blog for commercial purpose it would be worth speeding up the process by submitting specific URLs and site maps to Google via their search console but I suspect most book bloggers can wait.
Instead I’d suggest taking the time to focus on making it easier for the web crawlers to identify relevant material on your site when they get there.
How To Improve Your Book Blog Searchability
1. Write content in a way that’s easily scanned by these robots.
Bullets and numbered lists help break up the content and create more white space on a page. You probably won’t want to use them when you write reviews but they work well with other types of posts; for example a round up of your favourite books from last month.
Headings of different sizes can signal your most important content to the search engine . Your blog platform will automatically generate a H1 level headline when you write your post title. In the formatting tool bar you’ll find other sizes called H2, H3 and H4 (you may also have an H5). For sub headings I prefer to use H3 and H4 size text – H2 looks too big and dominant for my taste,
Avoid very long post titles. Check out my earlier post on How To Power Up Your Headlines for the guidelines.
2. Use a search friendly URL
Your URL (Uniform Resource Locator) should clearly indicate what the page is about. Say you wrote a blog post about your favourite Christmas novels. A URL along the lines of “www.yoursite.com/2020/775” won’t do you any favours. It would be more effective to use “www.yoursite.com/best-christmas-novels.”
You do this in WordPress by first going to your admin menu and selecting Settings/Permalinks. There are different options available. The one you want is “Post Name” . Don’t go for the options which include a date because they can make your content look outdated a few months or years down the line. If you want a fuller explanation of these options, head to this tutorial about seo friendly URL structures on the WordPress site.
Once you’ve saved your new setting the WordPress system will now automatically generate your URL based on your article headline.
WordPress says this format is search engine friendly. But there is still room for improvement.
Say you are using a headline of book title and author name for your post tile. This will often be longer than ideal. You should aim for the URL length after the site’s root name (in my case, that is http://www.bookertalk.com) to be 2-5 words long.
To change from the WordPress generated version to one that is even more search friendly you use the right hand panel of your editing screen. Under the heading of Permalink you’ll see a field for “slug URL”. Using this I shortened the URL for my most recent book review on The Age of Innocence. The WordPress generated version looked like this:
http://www.bookertalk.com/The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton: Masterful Expose of A Stifling Society
Far too long to be effective so I changed it to the much shorter www.bookertalk.com/age_of_innocence_by Edith Wharton
The longer your book title, the more tricky it becomes to follow the recommendation to keep the url short. I’ve resorted to using just the author name on occasions but I’m not convinced that is the best approach.
3. Learn to use keywords
Keywords play a big part in search engine optimisation. Put simply they are the phrases that people might enter when they do a Google or Bing search.
To figure out what keywords to include on your site, put yourself in the mind of a potential visitor to your site and think what words/phrases they would enter into the search box.
For further inspiration look at your dashboard in WordPress – in the site stats section you’ll see the phrases people have used to reach your site.
Then you make sure those words are featured in your blog post; in the headline, in the body copy and in the tags. Your keywords in a review will likely be the name of the book and the name of the author. Other keywords could be the name of a literary prize.
Ideally aim to use each of those keywords roughly once for every 100 words of your article. But do take care, sometimes using them that frequently can make the text seem awkward.
Avoid very generic keyword phrases like “book review” because they are too broad and you will be competing against too many people for Google to really pay you much attention.
4. Include links
Search engines love hyperlinks, especially if they are within the main body of the text.
There are two categories of hyperlinks.
Outward bound links. These link to content on an entirely different blog or website. Examples include linking to a publisher’s site, an author’s site, the site relating to a literary prize or a review by another blogger.
Inbound links. These are links to relevant content within your own site. This could be a link to a review of a different book by the same author or to a topic you’ve written about previously or to a page within your site where you list a project
Adding links helps search engines better understand the topic of your blog content.
5. Update and Refresh
Search engines do like new content. It indicates the site is active and providing up to date material. Establishing a regular schedule of publishing completely new content essential. But another key way to signal ‘freshness’ is to update material you’ve written previously. I’ll explain more about this in a later post.
A Note Of Caution
These tips will not guarantee you more traffic to your blog. Book bloggers are working in a competitive space – the big media publications will always be considered by search engines to have more “authority” than medium size book blogs. So you are highly unlikely to appear on the first page of a Google search for a book review about a best selling novel. But if you are operating in a niche or featuring lesser known authors, you. have more of a chance.
Don’t expect your visitor numbers to boom by improving your site’s searchability. But applying these techniques will at least increase the chances that someone searching for insights about a particular book, will be directed to your review.
What Do YOU Think?
Have you ever considered how search friendly your blog site is or even tried to apply some of the recommended techniques? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.