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Indie Author's Guide to SEO (Part 4)

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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 21, 2018
(Part 4)

Welcome to the fourth 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 the third, we talked about what to look for in a web-hosting company.

Marta: What does an indie author need to know about video?

Dr. T: If you're not using video, you're already behind. If you look at the number of posts on Facebook, Instagram, etc., you'll see an increasing number use video.

A still image will catch your eye better than text, a moving image will catch your eye better than a still image.

I'm a huge believer in video. I teach from video. Lectures are boring, video is easier to manage. If people have read the book and they come back to your site to find out more, video is a way of really engaging with them. Say your book is set at the edge of a pond, you can record a video at the pond. It really can be anything. It doesn't have to be super high production value.

I like it that when I read a story, it engages my own storytelling. A book works in conjunction with my imagination. Video is different and can be used differently. You could go on camera and discuss backstory or writing process, but it doesn't have to be you as the author talking.

Video can be used to allow fans to submit their fan fiction responses to your work or you could ask your fan base, "Send me a one-minute video about this character or scene." In doing that, you're building a community for people who have an affinity for your work. It's not a guaranteed way of doing it, but video is a way that author, character, and readers can have a moment or two where others can see them. It doesn't have to be high end.

Video Clip Art Image

Marta: What about book trailers? I know I could have one done for several thousand dollars or that I could take a DIY class for as low as $40. What's your sense of things?

Dr. T: Book trailers? I know they're out there, but I can't say I've ever seen one. For an author I don't know, I'm not likely to visit the website of that author, and that's where you'd be likely to find a book trailer. Let me think more about that.

Marta: What about Facebook Live or embedded video in other social media versus having a YouTube channel?

With my own brand: Kevin the professor and Putting up with Doc T, I put my videos up on YouTube. Originally, I started in 2009 by putting lectures on YouTube, because it was difficult to get video into classroom management systems. There's no platform that can't use YouTube. Enough visitors and you can monetize it. But you also bring in a built-in social media community. For those reasons, I put my videos on YouTube. I can still also put it on Facebook or wherever, but Youtube is the second largest search engine in the world, if you exclude China. It has a huge audience you don't have if you just have your video on Facebook.

Marta: Good information to have. Moving to our next topic, what does an indie author need to know about voice search?

Voice search clip art image

Dr. T: Okay, how to optimize for voice search. When I'm searching for information, I'm going to ask Google, Siri, Echo, find me information about THIS...one of things that this search style leads toward is writing questions and writing the answers to them. If I say, "Who's the main character in the Scarlet Letter?" and there's a site that already has that information formatted as a question and an answer, that will rank high in voice search results because its algorithms aren't as mature as others.

Really it comes down to voice search needing to mature from "find a book author near me" to "find a cozy mystery for me." Right now, voice search is a very transactional kind of search, so other searches might be more relevant to book authors. It does change the nuance of how you create content if you're targeting voice-based search.

 Marta: Who tends to use voice search?

Dr. T: Tends to be folks with a smart phone who are doing voice search. But the Echoes are changing that. Echoes are making voice search acceptable for regular usage. Just an aside, my Mom, who is elderly, is now listening to Audible books on her Echo, and she's part of a trend. Echoes are opening up the Audible market to a lot of people. And audiobooks are a whole other ballgame.

Marta: Thank you for joining us, dear readers! Come back soon for the final installment of this series. We'll talk about paid search, like how to advertise (and how not to advertise) with Amazon Marketing Services, Google AdWords, and the like.
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