This article, written by Katrina Hatchett is from the March 2020 edition of Nink, the monthly newsletter of Novelists, Inc.  (NINC). Nink, which is packed each month with informative articles for career novelists, is a benefit of NINC membership. 

In today’s digitally dominated professional world, optimizing your strategies for improved Google Rankings is an essential part of your business planning. Through Google’s Google My Business, you can get your company (your author website/brand) listed repeatedly on Google and this can be an invaluable asset for your success. But it is important to know exactly how to go about using it to your advantage and to avoid bad SEO practices.

SEO (search engine optimization) essentially covers any actions you take to make your online company presence easier to find. Generating great rankings relies on good SEO, but bad SEO is not uncommon and it can seriously jeopardize your Google My Business Rankings if you are not careful. Bad SEO is anything that would be considered unethical or outside the Google webmaster guidelines or using outdated techniques.

1. Don’t duplicate
Website content which is SEO-friendly must be entirely original and unique. Posting duplicate content can produce the opposite of your intended effect: the search engine algorithms will not index your content, since there already exists an entry in their index that matches.

2. Keywords
While it is obviously important to include your keywords a handful of times throughout your posts, repeating them too much can be damaging to your Google rankings for a number of reasons. First, filling your content with obviously unnecessary mentions of keywords will deter readers and decrease your traffic. Additionally, search engines are able to detect when you are trying to manipulate them. Just write naturally, using your keywords coherently when you can.

3. Guest posting
Guest posting can be a highly effective method of generating buzz and traffic if you handle it appropriately—this means sourcing high-quality websites or authors that are directly related to your company’s niche. It also means prioritizing the exposure this opportunity can offer you over simply getting more links. Publishing guest content should always be high quality, relevant to your brand, and original writing to contribute to good SEO practices—using your keywords again—by alternating between your website’s own content and guest content.

4. Cloaking
What used to be a common trick for optimizing many kinds of websites has now become definitively bad SEO practice. Deliberately hiding (cloaking) the real destination of a link or showing different versions of a page to users and search engine crawlers is no longer remotely acceptable—you should only ever offer one cohesive version of a page to crawlers and users alike and also ensure users can always differentiate between genuine content and ads.

5. Ads above the fold
Be aware of your website layout algorithms on your author’s site and make sure you don’t have many ads above the fold (the part of the web page that is visible without having to scroll). “Google search engine algorithms can recognize when your page is too crowded with ads—especially above the fold. They consider this bad SEO and will punish you accordingly,” says Erica Baehr, project manager at Britstudent and Australia2Write.

6. Paid links
Taking the time and effort to cultivate a successful author website with natural backlinks is always going to be worth it in the long run, while shortcuts like buying links will only provide short-lived success before negatively affecting your Google rankings. Buying links is considered bad SEO practice and once Google catches on to what you are doing, your rankings will suffer. It’s just not worth it!

7. Outgoing links
Both ingoing and outgoing links for your site can cause problems if you don’t handle them correctly. You should try to not have too many outgoing links throughout your website and always “no follow” tag outgoing links in ads or comments if you don’t trust them 100 percent—otherwise you could be marked as a link farm or paid directory by Google.

8. Outdated information
Listing outdated information makes it difficult and frustrating for people to get in touch with you and less likely to read your books or post reviews—consistency is vital to cultivating a trustworthy, respectable author image online, so ensure your information is listed with the same details wherever it appears online.

9. Don’t fake it
It is a bad idea to post fake positive reviews for your novels or fake negative ones for competitors, as you will likely get caught doing this and your rankings will suffer. In the words of Jeffery Wright, marketer at Write My X and NextCoursework, “For one thing, it’s immoral and bad business practice in general, but if you are exposed you could be putting your company’s reputation at stake.” If you focus on improving your writing, you will soon have many honest, positive reviews for your novels if you use a platform that allows reviews like Amazon.

Outdated techniques for improving SEO are now considered unethical and bad practice—so avoid falling into these “quick-fix” traps. Success takes time and effort, so focus on doing what you can to elevate your site through genuine SEO practices. In other words, devote your resources to improving your online presence and the rankings you desire will follow.