Greetings! This is the first in a series of articles about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for comic creators. Firstly, I’m a SEO professional by day and an aspiring comic writer by night. I’m a lifelong comics fan and I got into comics with 80’s Chris Claremont Uncanny X-Men and the Sienkiewicz run on New Mutants. I read mostly indie and non-Big Two titles these days but I’ll read anything with a good story.
Now that the introduction is out of the way, let’s start with asking and answering the question of why you need SEO as a comics creator.
Why Do You Need SEO?
SEO is useful for indie comic creators because it helps you rank highly in Google (and other search engines) and gets eyeballs to your work. It can help you get hired for gigs or vet you to a publisher.
Besides that, I think the most important reason to have good SEO is to own your name in organic search and have it rank #1. Combine that with a good online portfolio and good social media and you’ll come off like a pro.
Let’s look at Frank Gogol, one of my favorite indie comic writers. If you Google the name “Frank Gogol” on mobile, here is what you see:
That’s pretty good SEO! The first three results are all pages from his personal website and you know immediately he’s a comic book writer from the title in the first result. Very simple and clear. I also like the colorful and clickable thumbnail images that appear to the right of the results (more on that later). As a web searcher, I know I’m in the right place. The great news is this is easy to accomplish with no deep technical knowledge.
All of this leads me to my first Pro Tip for comic creators…
Pro Tip #1: Establish a Website
I’m going to assume you, as a comics creator, already have an Instagram or Twitter (or both) with plenty of posts about your work. If not, it’s an absolute must and don’t read further until that’s done.
Next would be to establish a simple portfolio website on either Squarespace, WordPress, or other cheap website platform. I’ve done some research into this and I can safely recommend going with Squarespace because it’s cheap ($12/month if paid annually) and easy to get started. They also have a good toolset for SEO out of the box . No, I’m not an affiliate of Squarespace.
I mention WordPress because it’s also cheap ($8/month if paid annually) and it’s a good gateway to full WordPress websites if you want to get deep in the weeds with SEO down the road. The drawback is WordPress can be complicated for non-techie people. I’m a huge WordPress nerd, so I lean that way, but it may not be for everyone.
I also looked at a bunch of comic creator sites and the majority are Squarespace sites. This list is certainly not comprehensive, but check it out:
- Frank Gogol
- Jesse Lonergan
- Cliff Chiang
- Jamal Campbell
- Jen Wang
- Jillian Tamaki
- Tillie Walden
- Shannon Wright
- Kevin Panetta
- Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
- Jason Shawn Alexander
- Harden Sherman
- Michael Moreci
- Raina Telgemeier
- Denys Cowan
What I like about the best of these sites is they are simple, fast loading on mobile, and show off the comics and artwork. Just having a portfolio and bio online is a great start for SEO.
Importantly, when I Google the creator’s name, their personal site appears in the top 3 results, usually competing with their Instagram or Twitter. That’s good SEO and 80% of the work is simply establishing your web presence.
Websites are inherently good for SEO because it feeds a bunch of content to search engines and search engines love content. It also stakes out another piece of Internet real estate in addition to your socials. I can’t recommend this enough to dominate the SEO game.
Pro Tip #2: Use Your Name as the Domain
Most people purchase domains through a domain registrar like GoDaddy or Domain.com, but we can save a step here. If you’re going with Squarespace or WordPress, you get one free domain for a year. Just be aware, the promotion ends after a year and you’ll have to pay around $20 per year thereafter. You can always purchase a domain through a different registrar and link it to your website.
When you choose your domain, try to get your name or a variant thereof. My personal site is benogrady.com but if that was taken and I knew I wanted to market comics, I would try something like benogradycomics.com.
Using your name as the domain is a critical SEO piece, as that is what people search when looking for your portfolio.
ALWAYS get an SSL for your domain, as that is a major SEO factor. With Squarespace and WordPress.com, the SSL is free and automatic. If you’re using a different platform, you may have to pay a yearly fee for the SSL.
The SSL is what creates the little lock symbol in your browser bar. The full URL looks like this:
A non-SSL site would be (bad):
When you paste that URL in your browser, it should automatically redirect to the SSL version of the site, which is what you want. If it does not redirect, that’s an SEO error and you’ll want to get that fixed.
Pro Tip #3: Fill out all Page Titles and Meta Descriptions
After you’ve got your website launched, make sure to go to each page and fill out the page titles and meta descriptions. This should take just a few minutes per page. This is basic SEO stuff and easy to do.
There are a couple of best practices for page titles and meta descriptions:
- Page titles should be around 70 characters
- Meta descriptions should be around 160 characters
- Both should contain SEO friendly keywords
The titles and meta descriptions are important because those are what appear in search results. Remember the Frank Gogol site from earlier? Here is his homepage in search results on desktop. I added my notes to show each element:
Again, good SEO. He has a simple and effective page title and the description further reinforces what he’s all about. I like that he used the keywords Comic Book Writer in the title. If you’re an illustrator or colorist or letterer, be sure to put those keywords in the title and description.
Here is an example of a less than ideal search result, again with my highlight:
Tillie is a terrific comics creator, but this meta description is kind of a mess. Google doesn’t have any good content to crawl so it’s spitting out text from the navigation and even .jpg files. Just filling in the meta description field for her homepage would fix that.
Without getting too in the weeds about SEO keywords and keyword research, follow my advice from above. Put your name and what you do in comics in both the title and description. If you’re an illustrator or colorist or letterer, be sure to put those keywords in the title and description. That’s all you need for starters.
Here is one I like. Concise and to the point with the artist’s name and what he does. If I’m looking for a letterer or editor, I’m clicking on this. Shout-out to my letterers!
BONUS TIP: Set your Social Image
Remember the cool thumbnail picture that appeared next to Frank Gogol’s name in mobile results? That’s called the Open Graph image in SEO and Squarespace refers to it as the Social Image. Other types of sites might refer to it as a Rich Snippet image. You can easily set that for each page of your site and it adds a bit of code that Google crawls and uses for the image. It looks great on mobile. Here is another example for the comics writer and artist Trung Le Nguyen:
Nice! It shows of his art right in Google results. I recommend setting a different image for each page of your site if you have the option. Here are instructions for how to do this on Squarespace.
If you’re looking to play the SEO game and get eyeballs to your work, I recommend the following:
- Establish a simple artist and portfolio website
- Pick a domain name that is your name
- Fill out the page titles and meta descriptions for every page of your site
- BONUS: Set your Social Image
It only takes a couple of hours to get all of this done and it can go a long way towards driving traffic to your portfolio and getting you noticed in the indie comics world.
Cover artwork by Debora Lancianese
Ben O’Grady is an SEO Manager for Disney and a long time SEO and WordPress expert. He just started his journey as a comics creator. Any SEO questions hit him on his Instagram or email firstname.lastname@example.org