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Indie Author's Guide to SEO (Part 1)

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Indie Author's Guide to Search Engine Optimization: An Interview with Dr. Kevin W. Tharp
Photo of Dr. Kevin Tharp
June 16, 2018
(Part 1)
On June 5, 2018, I had the real joy of interviewing Dr. Kevin W. Tharp, Associate Professor of Digital Marketing Technology at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. We had prepped for the interview call with a Facebook Messenger exchange and, on my part, by reviewing Dr. T's Fireside Chats about Search Engine Optimization--SEO in marketing parlance. 

Much of what Dr. T shared in our interview applies directly to sole proprietor businesses, and indie authors automatically fall into that category. So get ready to for some knowledge, here's the first piece of our interview.

Marta: Hey Kevin, thanks for agreeing to talk to me today. I've got a few indie author marketing questions for you. I'm going to be asking about finding an audience/social media, handling reviews, what to look for in a web-hosting company, and managing video, voice search, and paid search.

Dr. T: Thanks, Marta. I'll do what I can to help. Mostly I'm going to stick to recommending strategies rather than specific tactics, because this is a field where the practices change all the time, but the theory behind them remains sound.

Marta: Sounds like a plan. Here's my first question: what does an indie author need to know about finding an audience and how does that impact decisions regarding social media presence?

Dr. T: Anytime you're talking about marketing, you have to think about who the user is. Who is your prospective audience? Everybody likes to think they're writing for everyone, but you're trying to find, more and more, very niche audiences. Think about who is in that audience.

One way to do that is to create personas. There are plenty of places to look at how to create a persona. You are essentially creating an avatar, not a visual one, but a psychographic avatar, a caricature of a person that lets you escape your own perspective and think about, "Okay, Suzanne is a middle-aged mother of kids ranging from ages 12 to 4. Active lifestyle."

The idea is to allow you to see some answers when a question about how to proceed comes up. You ask, "How would Suzanne respond to this?"

Then, you get to role play your own marketing efforts. "Suzanne will love that. There's a tie-in to her yoga group!" Whatever the case may be, it's the first step in building an audience. Start stepping into the psyche of that person.

Marta: And how does that apply to social media?

Dr. T: There are so many social media options now, there's been a huge fragmentation of the channels you can use to reach specific audiences. Now, if Suzanne from our example is an 18-year-old, you're not going to find her on Facebook, but you might on Instagram. If Suzanne is the mother of an 18-year-old, you'll probably find her on Facebook. It's important to start looking at the channels that will work for your audience. That information can be found online by doing search queries like these: "What is the typical audience for Pintrest? SnapChat? Instagram? Facebook?"

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Regarding social media efforts, it's better to pick something and do it well that to pick too many things and do none of them well. Then, if you find you still have time, then you can start going to other places. If you try doing thirty social media platforms on Day One, you're going to burn yourself out.

There are tools like HootSuite that combine multiple social media outlets and are free up to a certain level. Once you identify where your audience is likely to be found, then you need to start establishing your brand.

Marta: Dear readers, for more information about branding, come back for another installment of our series!
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