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Indie Author's Guide to SEO (Part 3)

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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 19, 2018
(Part 3)

Welcome to the third installment of the Indie Author's Guide to SEO. 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.

In the first installment, we covered the question of how to find an audience and what the implications of that process are on social media choices. In the second section, we talked about handling reviews, including the meaning of that ubiquitous marketing term: brand.

In this third segment, we'll talk about what to look for in a web-hosting company or what to watch for if you're planning to construct your own author website. After watching Dr. Tharp's first Fireside Chat about SEO, I organized my seven questions as a means of condensing the information from that video. For further information on any of these topics, the Fireside Chats are a great place to start, as is the Search Engine Land article on migrating to HTTPS.

Marta: So, Kevin, your first Fireside Chat indicates that there's one key item to watch for above all others when choosing a web-hosting company or when going the DIY route to an author website: mobile first. You want to explain?

Dr. T: Yes, thanks, Marta. "Mobile first" means optimizing a website for mobile access. Over the last few years, more and more people are using their phones and tablets to access all kinds of information on the web, not just personal interest, but actually doing research and conducting business. Any site that doesn't take that usage into account as primary is behind the times. Mobile dominance is the new reality.

Phone image

Marta: And I understand the next key item is a time-sensitive security issue.

Dr. T: Yes, as of July 2018, Google's Chrome browser will mark any website that hasn't migrated to HTTPS as an insecure site. As you choose a web-hosting company or put a site together, be sure that you address that security issue.

Marta: Next up, Kevin, your Fireside Chat addresses loading speed.

Dr. T: Absolutely. In terms of image speed, your page should load in three seconds. By ten seconds, folks are gone. Google PageSpeed is a tool you can use to do an audit. It will tell you how long a page takes to load and what you need to do to optimize it. Reducing image sizes is often the best route to speeding up your page loading.

Marta: What about web-hosting prices?

Dr. T: There are both free and paid options out there. A free site will include a fair amount of advertising, which may be from your competitors. A paid site will generally eliminate that factor.

Marta: Your first Fireside Chat mentioned something called "responsive design," I'm not sure I understand that term.

Dr. T: Sure, "responsive design" means you can create one page and it displays differently on different devices. You want a web-hosting company that has web-optimized mobile pages.

Marta: And the next item--analytics?

Dr. T: The analytics available for your website--statistics about its usage and performance--determine what you can learn about your audience. Whatever web-hosting you use, Google Analytics is free. I would always recommend using Google Analytics. Otherwise, make sure that the analytics package from your web-hosting company is doing analytics on the users, not on the servers. What's important to me is the data on the people who are using the website, their use patterns, demographics, browsers, not the servers. You want to avoid old-school analytics, which are based on the server, not the user.

Analytics Image

Marta: The last items you mentioned in the Fireside Chat were progressive web apps.

Dr. T: Progressive web apps make updates easier. That's more of an enterprise-level piece of information management. Most likely if you're a one-stop shop as an indie author, progressive web apps won't apply to much of what you're doing. But they follow the principle of store in one place, publish in many. At UW-Stout, for example, certain news items get stored in a central location, but they appear in many locations. We may have a story show up on the marketing page, on my page, and on the university's main page.

Marta: Dear readers, stay tuned for more SEO information. Next time, we'll talk about voice search and video usage.
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