I’ve been blogging for nearly five years now. That’s a long time, but it was only last year that I learned about SEO and how to improve it on my book blog. If it took me that many years to hear about it, I figure it was because no one in the book blogging community is talking about it!
So to help out my fellow book bloggers, especially those new to blogging, I’ve put together a list of tips to improve SEO for book reviews and book bloggers. Keep in mind that I’m not an expert in SEO, but I’ve gained enough knowledge over the year to explain the basics. To make it easier to remember these tips, I recommend installing the free version of the Yoast SEO plugin! It analyzes your post content on the editor page to tell you how to improve!
For those of you who don’t know, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s basically a phrase that encompasses the concept and practices of getting your website and content ranked in search engines, like Google.
The good news is that you’ve likely already done all the hard work: writing valuable content!
The MOST important tip for improving SEO is to write quality content. If you’re running a blog, you already know how important this is. The very essence of book blogging (or any blogging) is writing content that will appeal to your audience of readers.
You want to help a fellow bookworm find their next favorite book, and to facilitate excited discussions about your favorite authors! You want to help new books find success and new readers!
So if you’ve been writing good content, probably book reviews and bookish discussions, you’ve done the hardest part. If you’re just starting out, this should be your primary focus. Write book reviews with your readers in mind!
Now let’s move on to the less-obvious things you should be doing to improve the SEO of your posts.
- finding and using keywords,
- writing descriptive post titles,
- including specific ALT and title attributes for images,
- why you should use headers (and what that can look like for book reviews),
- and including inbound links to older content in your new posts.
First, find your keywords!
Book reviews are easy to pick keywords for because the topic is obvious: the book you’re reviewing. The keywords for a book review are usually going to involve the book title, the word “review,” and possibly the book’s author or genres.
So if you’re writing a review of Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, then your keywords can be:
- “Turtles All the Way Down”
- “John Green”
- or combinations of the above options.
You can use tools like Google Keyword Planner, if you want, but if you’re not looking for anything too advanced or that involves too much effort, don’t bother. Besides, the best keywords to use are the ones that are most obvious, especially when your focus is so narrow (a review can focus only on one book, usually).
Once you have your keywords, you should make sure you use them!
Include the keywords in your post title.
I tend to keep a similar title format for all of my reviews: “Review: [BOOK TITLE] by [BOOK AUTHOR].” While its not the most creative way to write a title, it is straight to the point and includes all the important keywords.
You don’t have to use that format, but make sure the keywords for your post are used in the title. Be as creative as you like! Odds are, this is something you already do to make sure your readers know what the post is about.
Use the keywords in the body of your content — but not excessively.
When I first started writing book reviews, I never used the book title in the review. Not at all. I always referred to it as “the book” or “the story” because it was already obvious what book I was talking about from my post title.
But it was vague and unprofessional. While it might feel redundant to use the book title in the content, it’s really not — unless you overuse it. Plus, it usually sounds better and clearer when you say “Turtles All the Way Down was an interesting book” compared to “The book was interesting.”
These are the guidelines…
I follow to include my keywords (usually the book title) in my reviews, without overusing them or unnaturally stuffing them in.
- Use the book title/keywords once in the first paragraph of your review. — Your content shouldn’t rely on your title to provide key information like the book title, so don’t feel like you’re being repetitive by including the book title in the body content.
- Use the keywords naturally — don’t squeeze them in everywhere possible just to use them. Using keywords can be difficult because you can fail to optimize your content if you don’t use them, but you can cause search engines to ignore your blog if you overuse them. To find a middle ground, write them in only where it feels natural, and don’t force them into your content just for the sake of SEO.
- Always write with a human reader in mind as your priority — SEO comes second to your actual readers. While you shouldn’t ignore SEO completely, don’t treat it as the most important aspect of your blog writing. Writing for your very real readers is way more important, and if your content doesn’t appeal to them, then your SEO doesn’t matter anyway.
Write specific ALT and Title attributes for ALL your images, especially cover art!
This is something I’ve always done, even before I knew of SEO. I like to use detailed titles for my images to make them searchable if I ever want to re-use them or find them quickly in my media database. The very same concept applies to SEO.
Don’t title your images “image.jpg” or something equally vague. If it’s book cover art, write a title that is specific to the book.
ALT tags are used for screen readers to tell what a particular image is about; you can read more about it here. While I always filled in the ALT sections for images, I didn’t always include very good descriptions or my keywords when doing so; I wrote really vague descriptions. That’s not good. The key is to be specific.
This doesn’t have to be a lot of extra work. When you insert an image into your post, just describe what the image is very quickly, using your keywords if they fit, and that should be enough.
For example, if you include the cover art for a review, then you should write an ALT tag that includes the book title, the author, and the words “cover art”. It’s that simple. This helps your images show up in search engine image searches, too.
Use headers to break up your content!
This allows readers to skim your content to find the sections that are most important or relevant to their needs and interests. While you might like to think that every reader reads every single word of every post, that’s usually not the case.
So using headers helps readers get an idea of your content by seeing how it’s outlined; this can encourage them to read more because they can easily see what the content is and why it’s important to them.
It might be tricky to include headers in your reviews if that’s not how you are used to formatting them, and that’s totally fine.
But if you usually break your content up into paragraphs that individually talk about different aspects of the book, like the plot, characters, setting, etc., then all you have to do is provide headers to online that. See my book review of Alex, Approximately for an example of using headers in a review.
Important Note: Use a hierarchy when using headers: your post title is an h1 header, so don’t use that in the body of your content — start with h2 for main headers; use h3 for sub-headers under h2 headers, and so on.
This is important to help search engines understand the organization of your content.
Include inbound links to other content on your blog!
Inbound links are links that go to other content on your website or blog (outbound links go to pages on other websites).
Use inbound links to help your readers discover more of your content, especially content that is relevant to the post their already reading. Don’t link to irrelevant content!
For example, if you’re writing a review of Turtles All the Way Down, you might consider linking to other reviews of books that are similar to that one or that are in the same genre. If you’ve reviewed other books by John Green, then you should definitely include links to your reviews of his other books.
Example of irrelevant inbound links: links to adult high fantasy novels in this review (of a YA contemporary book) — unless it connects in some other way than genre.
That’s it! Simple enough, right?
While there are more SEO techniques that you can look up, these are the basics. As a book blogger, you likely won’t rely on getting extreme amounts of traffic and ranking in google as much as business bloggers do.
That means SEO is important to keep your blog on good terms with search engines, but not important enough to waste time or money to completely overhaul your website to improve SEO.
Many of these tips will also help you organize and improve the clarity of your content, so they’re working double time to help you improve your blog.
If you have any questions about SEO, feel free to leave them in the comments (or explore the internet for expert articles! p.s. try the Yoast blog.).
Do you use SEO on your book blog or in your book reviews? Let me know what you think of my SEO tips (and if they’re lacking)! Do you think it’s worthwhile for book bloggers to use SEO?