I’ve recently started posting my own piece of original young adult fantasy web fiction – Dragon Wars – online. So of course I’d like it to do well in the search engines and draw in lots of fans. Unfortunately it’s apparent that SEO for online fiction poses certain challenges which non-fiction doesn’t face. In this series of articles I’m going to apply what little I’ve picked up about SEO to the site and chronicle it and my rankings here.
This series of articles will run weekly on a Saturday.
The Experiment Week 1 – Researching Keywords
The thing about successful SEO is it’s not just dependent on you optimising for your chosen keywords and topping the search engine rankings. That’s one part of the procedure, but it’s equally important that your chosen keywords are what people who want to find what you’re offering search for. It’s no good topping the search engines for ‘viridian automobiles’ if everyone is searching for ‘green cars’.
So you need to find out what people search for. Never assume you know what they’ll search for – in all probability they don’t. People are strange that way.
A few years ago I had a little website in a fandom I liked. It had decent content, but it wasn’t the best website on the subject. All the same it did well in the search engine rankings until the internet ate it (don’t ask). This was because I spent some time on various sites using free tools to investigate what other fans searched for and optimised for them. Sadly when I started my research for this site I discovered most of them had gone or now required my money to use them.
But I needed to research keywords somewhere so I fired up Google and typed in “free keyword research tool”. Most of the results were not useful, but the top result was for the Google AdWords Keyword Tool – and while it’s aimed at helping advertisers pick good keywords it did provide the information needed. Some of the numbers seem a little odd, but I’m pretty sure the overall proportions are correct. On the other hand I’d like to find another place to double-check the results, so if you have any suggestions please comment.
Here I’d better note that my research was not as thorough as I’d have liked. When I working on my little website I was not employed and had plenty of time on my hands. Now that I’m working full-time and having my hands full writing the actual story it’s just not possible to spend hours researching keywords.
Anyway I divided the research into two kinds of keywords. Those relating to online fiction and those relating to the story genre and researched them.
The first chart below shows the results of the research on web fiction related terms. The second shows the same for genre terms. The Global Monthly Search Volume is what the Keyword Tool says is the average number of searches a month for that term. The competition column lists the number of websites Google says exist if you search for the exact phrase. We’ll get to the other columns in a minute.
|young adult fantasy
|online fantasy stories
|young adult fiction
|young adult fantasy fiction
|online fantasy fiction
What does this mean?
There’s something called the Keyword Effectiveness Index (KEI) which a lot of people swear by. The KEI equation is search volume^2 / competition = KEI. The higher the KEI the better the search term apparently. It can be an okay guide, but it has a problem.
It doesn’t tell you anything about competition quality. It’s easier to get past many poor quality sites than a few good quality ones. For this reason I’m not going to do the calculation at all.
Looking at the list of search terms your research has bought up and assessing their quality is the next step. I’ve got a quick and dirty way of doing this. I look at the top ten and see if all the pages are relevent to the search. If they aren’t then that’s a good sign. Then I look at the first (column google one) and tenth (column google ten) sites in the listing and count the backlinks by searching for link:url (eg link:http://webfictionguide.com/ to see backlinks for the Web Fiction Guide).
In the charts I’ve only done this with Google. Ideally I’d have done it with Bing and Yahoo as well, since Google only list backlinks it considers important so the numbers tend to be artificially low, but this should be a reasonable guide. It’s probably best to check the backlinks on the rest of the top ten as well.
At this point less backlinks is good since one of the key things we’ll need are more quality backlinks than the competition. If sites on the first page of a well searched term only have a handful of backlinks and aren’t entirely relevent to the search that’s a good search term.
And the results?
Well among the web fiction related search terms it’s “online fiction” which is the obvious winner. This will probably come as a surprise to some people since inside the web fiction authors community “web fiction” webfiction and weblit are the common terms. Fortunately the Web Fiction Guide does make it on to the first page of search results for this term now . It wasn’t there 3 days ago when I initially made the list and still doesn’t top the rankings as it does for “web fiction” and “webfiction”
Among the genre terms “Fantasy Fiction” looks good until you check out the top ten. High quality with commensurately high numbers of backlinks. The top ten is almost certainly unassailable. “Fantasy Stories”, “Young Adult Fantasy” and “Online Fantasy Stories” all look much more promising. They still have reasonable search volumes and far few backlinks to contend with.
So the terms I’m choosing for this experiment are:
- Online Fiction (whether I stand a chance on this one is another matter – everyone is going to be after it)
- Fantasy Stories
- Online Fantasy Stories (these 2 will work well together as one includes the other)
- Young Adult Fantasy
Next week I will discuss how I am going to handle the on page optimisation for these terms – something that is a unique challenge for online fiction sites.
Future posts will also note any improvement in my ranking for the search terms (obviously I’m not in the top 100 for any of them yet). I will also be noting my rankings for the search terms “Dragon Wars” (69th currently) and “Firebird Fiction” (1st currently) – because if the site suddenly disappears from Google it means I’ve mistepped somehow and been banned. Something it will be useful for others to know anyway, so they can avoid it.