For self-published Indie authors, the awareness of how SEO tidbits will sell ebooks (or paperbacks) is often lacking, especially at big retailers like Amazon. This diminishes the chance of success for many Indies, since on-page SEO factors at major book retailers is vital to sales. All the little SEO (search engine optimization) elements at your book’s online retailer make a huge difference between coming up in searches or not at all. This is true whether the book is already published or just about to come out, since steps can be taken to rectify either situation.
SEO for books? you might ask. Absolutely. You may not think of an online bookseller as a search engine, but Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Smashwords and the major retailers each have search boxes at their sites designed to put customers and products together.
In fact, guess the 2nd largest search engine in the world after Google? It’s not Yahoo or Bing, but YouTube. People enter words describing the videos they want and YouTube delivers. Amazon, for example, works exactly the same way when someone looks for a book by subject matter, genre or even author. It’s time to think SEO for your books, and there are several things you can do to help.
Very briefly, we need to discuss the best way to determine keywords for your books, and then we’ll discuss where to put them. If you don’t regularly use Google’s Keyword Tool External (https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal), then consider getting to know it. There you can input all sorts of words and phrases, and get results on how commonly they’re searched. Google will also come up with its own list of similar terms that will often be better than your first choices. Pay special attention to similar words like adventure fiction or adventure novel, to see which has higher results. Same goes for things like sci-fi, scifi, or science fiction. Surprisingly, small things like singular or plural in addiction or addictions can have a big difference on search popularity. The keywords to describe your book should include both genre and subject matter. Make sure these are terms that are actually being searched. It makes no sense to have a phrase like 47th artillery brigade if no one is searching for that. If it comes up as a zero on Keyword Tool External, it will probably be a zero at a book retailer too. Once you come up with a list of ten or more SEO terms for your book, you’ll be ready to insert them into a few places.
Let’s start with the title, especially for those who haven’t published yet. Typically non-fiction and especially How-To books are perfect for using titles that are essentially search words, like Best Fly Fishing in Idaho or How to Lose Weight Fast. Titles like that will naturally come up high on Amazon results for people browsing by subject matter. Unfortunately most novels are less likely to, but they can have search-friendly titles or rely on a subtitle’s help. It’s the author’s choice, but it should be seriously considered since the title is the most important element to search engines at book sellers. Perhaps your novel could have an assisting subtitle like, Lingering Doubts: Murder in the Caribbean. Sure, it may not be what you originally wanted in the title, but a small subtitle helper like that will bring plenty of browsers to your book who otherwise might never have seen it.
Next comes the description. This is where you want to get all of the keywords out, making the paragraphs read pleasantly while sprinkling descriptive terms throughout, like historical romance, abuse, addiction, lottery winners, teenage drama, mystery and more. Some of these words are genre related; some are subject related. It’s smart to consider proximity for your most important keywords. Get them out in the earliest part of the description within the first sentence. Word this area with the biggies coming out quickly and the lower priority terms sprinkled in later. For example, Teenage drama gets intense when Stella realizes her best friend’s addiction to drugs is beyond abuse, it’s playing with death…
The book retailers will also ask for Categories and Tags/Keywords for your book. This will vary from retailers as will the choices. It’s a fairly simply thing to identify two to five categories depending on the site. Also use as many tags/keywords as they’ll allow from highest to lowest priority. Smashwords and Barnes & Noble handle this very similarly, while Amazon allows one other bonus feature.
Amazon lets customers (including the author provided she/he has ever made an Amazon purchase) add a Product Tag to the book’s description page. This is true for all formats, both ebooks and print. With Product Tags any one person can add up to fifteen descriptive tags, or they can click on existing tags and even agree/disagree with them. These tags should be thought of as keywords, and you should use the best fifteen to get the ball rolling. Once in place, the tags can help with browsers looking for books by Product Tags. The more you have in a category, the better. Click here to see the most popular tags at Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/gp/tagging/cloud/. There are even forums on Facebook, Goodreads, Authonomy and more for tagging assistance (getting others to add tags for you) but not at Amazon as they frown on tagging parties. Many authors use their own name as a tag or keyword, but that seems like a waste since their name should come up high in a search already just for being listed as the author.
These little SEO tips will dramatically increase your book’s search-ability. Search engine optimization is about doing lots of small things wisely, which collectively adds up to make a huge difference.
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