By Ted Witt
To be found, you have to rank high with search engines on the Internet. Your book is more likely to be found if you have created thoughtful metadata behind your title.
Metadata is best defined as “information about information.” Metadata consists of data fields such as title, subtitle, description, categories, author biographies, ISBN number, and keyword descriptors. To illustrate, let’s use the Amazon platform to explore how we can market better with metadata.
Without your book being given any special treatment, an Amazon reader can find your book by:
- · Typing a subject-oriented phrase or keyword in the Amazon search box.
- · Clicking on an Amazon book category, such as “Romance,” and browsing through the top sellers in that category.
- · Scrolling through various Kindle and Amazon lists, such as “Book Clubs,” “Best Sellers,” and “Books Under $3.99.”
- · Typing the exact name of a book, the author’s name or the ISBN number in a search box.
- · Being associated with a competitor’s book in the section that says, “Customers who bought this item also bought…”
Whatever mechanism a reader chooses to find a book, you must provide the Amazon software engine with reasons to pick your book out as relevant. Amazon has its own super-secret algorithm that decides how to display books on its website. Amazon, foremost, is interested in selling books – not you. So it tweaks its search engine to push books it thinks are most likely to sell and are most relevant to the customer.
You must participate in Amazon’s scheme to be relevant. As relevance rises, sales increase. As sales increase, your ranking increases, and your chance of being found increases. Only then does Amazon start to include you in its lists that rank you higher among topical categories.
The first and most important factor you can use to create relevance is the concept of the “keyword.” It applies to all metadata you create when setting up your account, not only on Amazon, but also with Bowker, and Ingram.
A keyword is a term or phrase people use to type into search boxes for topics they are interested in. For example, if you were to type in the key phrase “award-winning historical novel,” as I did recently, Amazon delivers 126 results starting with River Rising, a Christy Award Winner in the category of “suspense.” The term “award-winning” with “historical” and “novel” brought forward a unique set of books for review.
So if your book has been an award winner, include “award winner” somewhere in your metadata, so your title ranks higher if people search for that term. Metadata does not have to be only about the topic of your book. It is all about whatever may be in the mind of the inquisitive customer. What would you type if you were looking for your book? Those are your keywords.
Here’s another example. Say you just saw a movie about President Lincoln. You want to read more about him. If you type in “Lincoln biographies,” you get David Herbert Donald’s book Lincoln at the top. It is not the best-selling Lincoln biography because Bill O’Reilly’s book Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever sells better. But the phrase “Lincoln biographies” for some reason had more relevance for Donald’s book based on the buyer’s profile and search term. But typing just the two keywords “Lincoln” and “assassination” pushes O’Reilly’s book back to the top of the list. Keywords make a difference. Test this.
Include relevant keywords and search terms in your title.
When naming your book, swallow your pride. Give up writing a cute title in favor of being found. That means including keywords into book title or subtitle. This tip even applies to fiction. If your romance novel about a jilted teacher is titled, “Heart to Heart,” include a subtitle that says, “The School Romance in Room 3.” You now find buyers, not only interested in “romance,” but also interested in “schools.” If you want to sell books, opt for keywords ahead of literary artistry. Yes, it is possible to be cute and artistic with your title while still including keywords. But it is hard.
Make full use of Amazon’s book description field. Amazon gives you 4,000 characters for this field. Use every single space the search engine allows you. Write your description as an emotional story that includes natural keywords and phrases that people might search for. If you have published a memoir about your life as a struggling vocalist, you might shape your description to include keywords and phrases such as “easy listening,” “crooner,” “in the style of Frank Sinatra,” “Rat Pack,” “Jazz,” “classic vocalists,” “lounge singers,” “Las Vegas,” “top recording artist,” “Grammy,” and “vinyl records.”
Apart from your book description, Amazon allows you to tag your book with keyword phrases. Choose these keywords based on the most popular phrases that customers use for the topic of your book. How do you know what is most popular? Take your topic, a relevant word or an inquiring phrase. Start typing it into Amazon’s search box. Amazon will prompt you with suggested phrases. These suggestions are the most popular ones customer type into the search engine. Perform the same experiment on Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
For example, if your book is about mortgages and you type in that word into the search box, Amazon immediately prompts you with nine phrases that include the word “mortgage.” It suggests “mortgage-backed securities” and goes on to phrases such as “mortgage ripoffs.” It behooves you to work in phrases such as “mortgage-backed securities” and “mortgage ripoffs” inside your keyword phrases. Every word is searchable. Make use of the space.
Amazon allows you to choose two book categories when you set up your book for sale. Study the many categories Amazon offers by looking in the administrative section when you set your book up. Know what categories competitive books are placed in. Look at their sales ranks. You want to start ranking high in at least one category, so don’t choose a category where your competitor’s book is already wildly popular and in the top 10. You’ll have a hard time rising to the top. Use a lesser popular category to be in a different section where the competition is not as tough.
Make full use of the author’s page that Amazon gives you. Use your biography and description to include as many relevant keywords as possible that relate to your book and areas of expertise.
Ted Witt is a publisher, working at Pretty Road Press, an indie imprint located in Folsom, California.