How to Improve SEO for Book Reviews

Posted 29 August, 2015 in Blogging Tips / 15 Comments

Bumblings Blog Tips are weekly-ish ways to improve your blogging – from planning to design and social media.

SEO is quite a fickle beast.

I’ve heard a lot of book bloggers mention that they don’t understand how it works, or the abundant keyword stuffing in their reviews proves that they don’t.

What’s the best way to get review traffic from search engines?

I’m no professional SEO, but basic optimization is part of my day job, following a strategy laid out for me by an SEO specialist. I have experience testing on-page optimization strategies, but just a wee bit of working knowledge on the technical side. Why am I telling you this? As a disclaimer that this is a beginner’s guide. So if you already rank pretty well and are looking for advanced strategies, this post may not be for you. Sorry. 🙁

Before You Start: Download Yoast SEO

If you’re self-hosting with WordPress, download the Yoast SEO plugin. It will help you optimize certain aspects of your site. On the individual post level, it will help analyze your post to see how well it’s optimized for the keyword you want to rank for. It’s not perfect, but it’s a pretty good guide and for me, serves as a reminder to do certain things.

Here’s what a Yoast analysis might look like for a blog post after entering the focus keyword:

yoast-seo

Why SEO Matters

If your posts are actually good, get social shares, and are optimized well, organic search will become a passive source of traffic. Unlike things like Facebook marketing or writing newsletters, your traffic from that source can easily increase without more effort on your part.

  • If your blog/posts start(s) getting more search traffic for some reason (for example, one of the keywords it ranks for starts getting searched more frequently), your rankings may go up.
  • If your blog/posts start(s) getting shared more on social, your rankings may go up.
  • If other websites link to your blog/posts, your rankings may go up.
  • If there’s a change in any of the other hundreds of ranking factors,  your rankings may go up.

For example, almost 40% of Book Bumblings’ traffic comes from organic search:

book-bumblings-traffic-sources

And I don’t focus on SEO much, at all. I take maybe five minutes looking at the optimization of a post before publishing it. It’s passive traffic that comes from writing quality content.

Want to start improving your book reviews? Download this free SEO checklist to guide you!

How to Improve SEO for Book Reviews

Book bloggers, start your optimization engines. We’re going to go through the common parts of a book review blog post, piece by piece, and talk about how you can optimize them.

Note: This post is written assuming that your most important keyword (aka ‘focus keyword’) is the title of the book you’re reviewing, since that’s what the most relevant keyword would probably be.

Blog Post Title

Include the book’s title. You don’t needs to do the boring “Review: Title + Author” format that a lot of us (including me 😬) use for our reviews, but the title should say a lot about the post topic.

If Google (or Bing, etc.) doesn’t see the book in the title, it’s that much less certain that’s what the post’s about. Having the book name in the review title will also help with readability and click-throughs – how likely are you to decide to read a book review when you have no idea what kind of book it will be reviewing? If you searched for “BOOK NAME + review” and one of the links didn’t say anything about that book name, would you click?

Permalink

Definitely include the book name in your permalink, as well. You could also consider adding the author’s name and / or “review.” My priority for what to include in a book review’s slug goes like this:

  1. Book title
  2. Author
  3. “Review”

Whether or not I include numbers 2 and 3 depends on how long the resulting URL would be. While URL isn’t a direct ranking factor for search engines, it has a decent impact on click-through rates.

Clean, short URLs are more friendly. SEO is about the entire process of getting organic search traffic to your site – not just about ranking. That means usability factors like this need to be considered.

Book Cover Images

You’ll want to include your focus keyword (the book title) in both the image’s file name and alt tag. Google hates images with file names and alt tags like “IMG00034542” because it tells the crawlers nothing about what the image contains. Not only is the info used to rank images, but it’s also what’s read by screen reading software when someone is having the content of a webpage read to them (for example, if they are blind).

Once again, you can also include the author’s name and a descriptor. In this case, that would be “book cover” or “cover art” or something similar. So for the book cover of Sustained by Emma Chase, I would make both the image file name and alt tag “Sustained by Emma Chase Book Cover.”

Other Places to Use the Book Title

  • Alt tags of other images, such as teasers or review graphics, with appropriate descriptions (“Sustained by Emma Chase teaser”).
  • Subheadings (H2 and H3 tags)
  • In the body of your post: using the book name more than a few times in headings and the body will start to look spammy to your readers, and is considered keyword stuffing to search engines. I usually use it in one H2 tag (usually for the blurb), and at most once in the actual review.

Adding Related Keywords as Context Clues

Google has what’s called latent semantic indexing, where crawlers look at what other keywords you use in the post to determine context. It also helps determine if someone is keyword stuffing: using the same phrase over and over seems over-optimized, where as using synonyms or related terms sounds natural.

So it can tell, for example, whether you’re talking about the TV show or your town’s local summer camp schedule when you search for “Parks & Recreation.” For this reason, using related keywords will also help your rankings. For your book review, that could be:

  • The author’s name
  • The series name
  • Genre
  • Other books by the same author
  • Similar books
  • Character types (bad boy, nerdy girl, etc.)
  • Plot tropes (friends with benefits, office romance, etc.)
  • Links to related content on your blog, such as the author page (if you create them), reviews of similar books and books by the same author, or a landing page for the genre. Try to go through your blog every few months and re-check for new opportunities for internal links.

Do you spend time optimizing your blog for search? What tactics do you use?

Want to start improving your book reviews? Download this free SEO checklist to guide you!

How to Improve SEO for Book Reviews - Plus a Free SEO Checklist for Book Bloggers

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15 Responses to “How to Improve SEO for Book Reviews”

    • It would depend on how long your review is, but you don’t want to use your main keyword so often that it sounds unnatural if you read it out loud. If it sounds awkward at all, like you should be using stuff like “it” or “the book” instead of the title, search engines might think you’re using it a lot on purpose to try to rank, and might then penalize you. :/

  1. I was looking for information on SEO specifically for book review blogging and your post helped. I started blogging in 2009 and neglected SEO, and I think it has really hurt my reviews. Looks like I have my work cut out for me, but at least I have an idea what I should be doing going forward. Thanks!

  2. Thanks so much for the help, that makes it a little easier. SEO was kind of confusing the way others described it. Hopefully this will help me get a little more traffic.

  3. Thank you so much for this post! I stumbled across it and I didn’t realize how much I was missing! Do you think it helps to go back and edit old posts/reviews with updated tags/image alts/etc?

  4. Great article. There may be copyright issues with including the book cover graphic in the blog post though if it’s not automatically generated from a Amazon affiliate link. Smaller thumbnails or creative photos of the cover usually aren’t a problem, but for full sized graphics it’s best to check with the publisher.

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