Is Your Book Blog Search Friendly?

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 

  1. 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.
  2. It involves a lot of terminology like organic search and keyword density so becomes very technical (and, frankly, often very boring).
  3. 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

Hands on keyboard of laptop searching Google site for book blog
Source: Unsplash.com

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.

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on April 24, 2020, in Blogging and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. A writer friend was an SEO guru so she taught several of us everything she knew. This was years back – It’s too much work.

  2. When I was a newbie blogger, I thought and thought about some of these things, but now that I’ve been blogging for twelve years, I have just given up on all that and focused on blogging for fun. Thanks for sharing these tips. Maybe I should focus on some of these things again!

  3. I had never thought about using the words that people search with to arrive at my blog as a guide to what I should include in my posts! Great idea – thanks Karen.

    • This was an even more useful tip that I first thought. I hadn’t checked the stats page on blogger for ages. They’ve updated it!!!!! I thought the powers that be had completely forgotten blogger and nothing new would ever happen. Maybe they may even fix the commenting problems one day (won’t hold my breath though)!
      I was also surprised to see pinterest so high on my referring list.

  4. Daunting. I have never paid any attention to searchability. I religiously fill in the Category & Tags for each post, and do include links where appropriate . But other than that? nope.
    Lets face it: I’m a lazy amateur.

  5. Great tips, thanks – I’m going to look into all of this when I have more time. I have not done anything about searchability!

    • You don’t need to do all of it in one go. Maybe just start with one of the techniques, get used to that to the point where its a natural habit, then pick up another one

  6. I do very little to encourage people to find me so I am always astonished and excited when I appear on the first page of a google search. BTW although we all do use google, it collects an alarming amount of information about searchers, and for everything except obscure literature I search using DuckDuckGo.

    • I hadn’t heard of DuckDuckGo so have been exploring it for the last hour. Interesting to see that they have been going for so many years yet have still low visibility – it just shows the dominance that Google has on this space. Also interesting that they never set out as a business based on privacy; they were just a regular search tool, the privacy angle materialised after a few years. They are still mirroring Google in many ways though – the tabs on the menu are almost identical. The search didn’t prove as effective as Google though…..

    • Forgot to say that in my trawl through DuckDuckGo I found some interesting articles about how to protect your privacy in other ways on the Internet. So thanks for pointing me to that helpful stuff 🙂

  7. Good food for thought here! I have a basic SEO checklist that I apply to every post. But….I tend to get lost quickly when I ho beyond the basics! I’m learning about all this very slowly …but then I think I’m only approaching my 3rd anniversary and when I look back to year one, I’ve learned a lot!

    Re the permalink…. I’m always afraid to mess with it because I think I’ve heard that if you change it that you will need a redirect page for older posts and I don’t know how to manage that. Mine has the date plus my blog title …like whisperinggums commented…I’m not sure I care that my date is there. Book reviews are not dependent on a date….they don’t become outdated. Even though I wouldn’t mind having it gone to make the url shorter, I also don’t want the hassle of changing it if it causes issues.

    I do look look at my DA authority from time to time out of curiosity. It came up a couple of points after about a year when I was more focused on SEO….but I really noticed a jump as I started updating my old posts!

    I think it’s beneficial to look at the search terms used to land on your blog! Mostly it’s book titles…but one thing I did notice is that some people are searching for book discussion questions plus the book title. I’ve often thought that I should create a paragraph at the end of my book reviews specifically addressing book club discussion questions! It’s obviously an important key word in my niche that I haven’t fully taken advantage of!

    It’s funny you mentioned in your first paragraph that you probably wouldn’t want to use a bullet list for a review….because that’s exactly what I did for today’s review. I just couldn’t muster the energy for coherent words in a paragraph so I used a bullet list! 😱

    By the way, thanks again for this series! It gives me something to look forward to in these long boring days of isolation!

    • I’ll be making sure to see your latest review post Carol – I’m curious how you did a bullet point version 🙂

      Re the permalink, the general advice is captured in this extract from an article on Hubspot “While you may be tempted to update the post’s URL slug, it’s important to keep the URL the same, even if your software automatically creates a redirect. f you feel compelled to update the post’s title, try to avoid changing it drastically from the original. While the URL is more important to keep the same than the title, if you really need to change the title, do your best to keep your keywords in there.”

      I hadn’t read that guidance before I started doing some updates to very old reviews – it knocked out some links that I then had to re-create.

  8. Yes, good advice all Karen. In the early days of my blog I would pore over SEO advice, and sometimes as you say become overwhelmed with technicalities and with tools. In the end I decided pretty much to follow exactly what you’ve suggested here.

    Very early on – I think we discussed this before – I decided to make my review post titles just the author and title (and then I added Book Review after it) primarily for SEO. And I leave the URL at the post-title, though I leave the date in because I find it useful! If it marks it as dated so be it.

    One question though that I’ve never fully resolved is the anchor text for links. I am complexly inconsistent about that, and feel I’ve read different advice about how signifiant that anchor text here. I’ve read not to say “click here” but sometimes it’s hard to find something more meaningful. “Click on the webpage” or even “my review” (which I use a lot) doesn’t sound more useful. And “For more information about Heather Rose click on Heather Rose’s website” seems clunky and redundant. Do you have anything definitive on Anchor Text?

    • I still bear the scars from the time I was given the assignment of managing the paid keyword programme for my employer – the campaigns were set up for each of the 10 markets. So every week the agency sent me 10 enormous spreadsheets with the results of every single keyword purchased. After 3 weeks I sent them all back and told them they were paid to give me the analysis, not expect me to do it. Phew.

      Any way, enough of history, let’s tackle your question about the anchor texts. Yes the general guidance is to avoid click here. Your anchor text should give an indication to the reader of what they will find if they click the link. Click here doesn’t really tell them (or a search engine) that. But you are right that sometimes it’s hard to find an elegant way to do this. In your example, maybe you could use “for more information about the author visit Heather Rose’s website.” Or if her website name was a very clear and evident one you could just use ” visit [her web address] for more information about the author.” That would be acceptable because a simple http://www.sitename.com anchor link is perfectly fine. Not all anchor texts have to be descriptive.

      • Thanks Karen. I will clearly have to work harder on it. I think for the reader it’s usually clear what they’ll find at “click here”, but it seems like it’s useful for search engines if the anchor text is more descriptive.

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