July 16, 2020
There's a secret weapon for your SEO strategy: an ebook.
Writing a book can be intimidating though. Maybe the word 'ebook' conjures up the image of an Amazon kindle, or a powerhouse competitor of yours churning out content.
Here's a little secret: anyone, and I mean anyone, can write an ebook.
Even though an e-book has nothing to do with SEO or blogging at first glance, it is a powerhouse for your marketing strategy. We'll show you how an ebook can be beneficial to boosting your rank on Google, how to start writing an ebook, and how to promote/publish it.
An ebook is an electronic book usually made available in a PDF format. Unlike traditional physical books, ebooks can be easily self-published and appear in any format/style.
There is no set structure or rules for an ebook. Most are laid out in chapters like a traditional book, though feel free to play around with formats that suit your brand and style. You could opt for a more visual layout, like a magazine for example.
Or go super-traditional and format it like a textbook. Whatever you choose, do it with your target audience in mind.
In short, anything.
Well, within reason. It should be something you are an expert in. It should also be related to what your business does/what service you provide. Remember, this is about marketing your business and brand.
But here's the secret, and how an ebook can help drive your SEO strategy forward: an ebook can be a collection of related blog posts. We'll get to this more in-depth a bit later, but as a teaser the best way to approach writing an ebook is to pick a broad topic, break it down into individual questions/sections, and write blog posts for each one.
This gives you more value out of the content you create, and allows your work to make a bigger impact than it would have otherwise.
Ebooks can take many formats, the most common ones are:
PDF stands for Portable File Document and is the most common format for an ebook, or any file on the web.
EPUB stands for Electronic Publication and is more flexible than a PDF, that means that they can reformat the text based on the screen size making them popular formats for mobile readers.
AZW is designed specifically for Kindle bu Amazon.
ODF stands for Open Document Format, it's primarily meant for OpenOffice - a series of content creation programs similar to Microsoft Office.
99.9% of the time, a PDF is perfectly fine and will suit your needs so we're going to focus on that for the rest of the article.
An ebook is a powerful asset to have for your website.
We'll demonstrate how it helps your SEO and how it can also power your lead generation strategy and turn your website into a conversion machine.
How does an ebook help with SEO?
After all, it's a PDF right - can Google even read those?
Well, Google can read PDFs but that's not the real SEO benefit that an ebook provides. Remember above where I said that the best way to approach writing an ebook is to break it up into chapters/sections and write a blog post for each one to get started? Taking that approach leads to a focused content strategy that goes deep into a topic, and that is something Google really appreciates.
Google has increasingly shifted towards analyzing content for quality and authority. It's commonly called the EAT principle, which stands for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. There is no better way to show you're an expert than having content that goes in-depth into a topic and answers questions, which is exactly what this approach to ebook writing provides.
Here's an example from our website.
Earlier this year we set out to write an ebook to provide an intro guide to SEO. We called it The Ultimate Guide to SEO, you can see the ebook here. In order to write the ebook we mapped out all the chapters we would need, and decided to write them as individual blog posts first. We were creating content anyway, so we might as well get more out of it.
What we did not expect was the incredible boost to our SEO strategy, just look at this screenshot from Google Search Console:
This isn't smoke and mirrors trickery, or growth-hacking nonsense - it's just writing really good, focused content over a period of six months. It was the ebook that helped us to better identify what to write about, and it paid off in our rankings and traffic.
The obvious benefit to having an ebook is that it provides an asset that can power your lead generation strategy.
You can provide the ebook for free, in exchange for an email address of course. Place forms around your site that allow visitors to enter their information and receive the ebook via an email. Go one step further and build out a light automation to send more resources to your leads and move them down the funnel.
There's an SEO benefit here too! Google's primary job is to create a great user experience through the results it returns. Google plays close attention to how long people spend on your site, how often they return, and whether they bounce off or stick around.
Maybe you have a CTA that links to a landing page, or a form right inline with the post - either way it provides a way for a site visitor to spend more time on your website than they would have otherwise, which is something Google looks for in high-ranking content.
The first step to writing an e-book is obviously to come up with a topic that will interest your readers, and is one you can easily write 5-10 blog posts on.
For us it was 'an introduction to SEO', but what is a topic that is close to your business? Maybe you work in finance and could write an ebook on financial basics for new college grads. Or maybe you work in travel and want to go in-depth on a specific city and what to do there.
Pick something you can dedicate a lot of content to - we're talking a month or two of blog posts and then get to writing. List out the individual chapters and commit to a blog strategy with your team. Be sure to set a target date for when the blog strategy is complete and you can begin creating the ebook from your content.
Just as there are no rules for what an ebook should be about or how it should be formatted, there are endless possibilities for how you can create your ebook. To help narrow things down, here are some tools I've used to create ebooks in the past.
This is the easiest option. If you've got a Google account, you have free access to Google docs and can get to writing your ebook with minimal effort.
Google Docs allows you to create headings, set page numbers, and more to make creating a professional ebook a breeze. Get creative with fonts, colors, and images as well and you'll have a branded asset to share on your website.
Another popular, and free, option is Canva.
We created our most recent ebook in Canva and highly recommend it. Canva makes it easy to create highly stylized covers and pages, and has tons of prebuilt templates to get you started. Not to mention tons of free graphics, images, and other elements to add a bit of pizazz.
Speaking of images, use plenty of them in your book! No one wants to read a heavy wall of text.
Both sites are free for commercial use and provide collections of high-quality stock photos ready to be downloaded for use.
After spending all that time writing an e-book it's time to get it in front of your readers.
Ebooks present a great opportunity to have a lead magnet on your site. By that I mean an asset that you can provide site visitors in exchange for an email address.
First, you need to build out a landing page for your ebook.
We built one out specifically for our Ultimate Guide to SEO:
This gives you a page to share for potential site visitors to review and decide whether or not they want to download the ebook or not. This adds an SEO benefit as well, if the page is popular it will come up in search results and provide a steady stream of traffic.
This also gives you a page to link to from CTAs (call to actions), which we'll detail in the next section.
Having a landing page dedicated to your ebook gives you a clear CTA to provide in related blog posts. It's the perfect way to lead site visitors down the funnel. It also keeps people on your website longer, which we've established provides a nice rankings boost from Google.
However, there are other places where you can make your e-book available such as Amazon KDP, Kobo Writing Life, Nookpress, Draft2Digital or Smashwords. Places like these are ideal if you write a much longer e-book that you may want to sell online. Selling an ebook is an entirely different post though, for now focus on giving it away for free (in exchange for an email address).
In most cases, making your e-book readily available for free will lead to better results, particularly if it resonates with your target audience.
Whew that was a lot!
To summarize - if you've got blog posts all around a core topic then you've already got an ebook. If you're newer to blogging then take a moment to plan out a series of posts that could be repurposed into an ebook and boom, you've got a high-value asset to convert site visitors into leads.