Indie Authors SEO to Sell Ebooks

Indie Authors SEO to sell ebooksFor 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 winnersteenage 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.

Share a thought or comment?


HomeAuthor Training VideosHow-To GuidesNovelsAbout


 

Subscribe to this blog for updates on indie authors and self-publishing.

add me to Google Plus circles

Amazon Tags for US Kindle Ebooks are Back!

Amazon kindle tags they're backGood news for Indie authors who want to sell ebooks; Amazon Tags have returned for US Kindle ebooks. They disappeared about two weeks ago, oddly just for the US Kindles but not for paperbacks, hardcovers or for any versions in other countries. Understandably, there was much speculation as to why from both readers and writers alike. In fact, this blog posted an entry on the subject of where did they go? and listed the main (assumed) reasons.

Interestingly enough, there still hasn’t been an official announcement from the world’s largest bookseller. We’re still wondering what the heck happened? Was it really just a glitch? A glitch that took two weeks to fix after speculation of so much tagging abuses? Strange indeed.

The reasons tags are a great way to help indies sell ebooks is because they’re a search term many customers use when looking for a book on something like SEO, for example. And so if a reader searches products tagged with SEO, they’ll find books like Get On Google Front Page. Works for me.
Welcome back, my little friends. We missed you.

***Update June 9, this just in from Amazon as an announcement on the issue:

“All –
We’d like to provide a little more information about the Tag feature on Amazon.com. Tags are not intended to be used as a method to promote your titles. The tagging activity occurring in this thread does not follow the terms of use for the Tag feature on Amazon.com and could be considered abusive. You can learn more about the Tags feature by visiting Amazon.com.
For this reason, we are locking this and all threads that organize this type of tagging, and future threads of this nature will be deleted from our Community. We encourage you to share your work with each other and discuss marketing and promotion ideas, but organized manipulation of any feature is not something we will permit on our boards. Website features and tools should be used as intended.
We understand that you have put a lot of time and effort into this thread and that it can be quite a challenge to increase the visibility of your work. We hope you will check out the tips we provided which may help improve your titles’ searchability on Amazon.com and continue to support each other’s success.”***


Click here for the home page of How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks All for Free.
Subscribe to this blog for updates on what Indie authors can do to sell ebooks.

Bookmark and Share


add me to your Google Plus circles.

+Jason Matthews

Amazon Kindle Tags, Where’d They Go?

extinct tags for Amazon Kindle ebooks*Update June 9th, tags are back!*

*Update Update Dec. 2012 Tags Gone Forever?*

For Indie authors who want to sell ebooks and for readers who like to browse by subject matter, the tagging function for Amazon Kindle ebooks is… or should we say, was…  a nice feature. Maybe a little too nice. Just last week this blog posted an entry on Indie writers using tags and even joining tag parties for compiling lots of tags quickly and making any ebook more visible to Amazon search engines. That may all have changed entirely, or at least for the near future.

Why? Because Amazon has removed the tag section from their Kindle ebooks for US authors. While the tag function still exists currently for Amazon UK, Germany and other countries, it is presently not existing here in America. Interestingly enough, the Amazon US paperbacks are still functioning as usual with tags, so perhaps this is either a temporary thing or perhaps those will soon disappear as well.

We don’t really know the exact reasons, and Amazon hasn’t come out with an announcement, but there are a few obvious possibilities being widely discussed in the forums. Here are the most accepted Kindle-tag-killing culprits:

1. The boycott anything over $9.99 thread and others like it. Kindle readers often complain about the high price of some ebooks, especially those from the big publishing companies, which tend to represent best-sellers and tend to be similarly priced to paperbacks. These ebooks also cost the publishers hardly anything to produce – so the obvious complaint becomes, why should an ebook cost the same as a paperback? Some of the more outspoken readers promoted boycotts and left tags for high priced ebooks including “9.99boycott,” “ripoff,” “agency 5 price fixing,” “kindle swindle,” etc. Their efforts were not small ripples in the pond either, as many readers simply refused to buy ebooks with high prices, especially if they were tipped off with these tags. Result: big publishers complaining to Amazon.

2. Indie authors and tagging parties. A verified book purchase is not required to tag a specific book. Since any purchase (ever) on Amazon is the only requirement to be a customer in good standing and to enable tagging, many authors (including yours truly) participated in tagging parties to boost the number of tags by subject matter and (hopefully) appeal to more customers. Done with integrity, this seems like a rather harmless practice to help the small self-publisher compete with the traditional publishing houses. Done without integrity, this practice can be riddled with abuses. For example, fake tags, like award winner (for books without awards), romance (for a book that is not romance genre), Harry Potter (when the book has nothing to do with Harry Potter), or Stephen King (you get the picture), or any misrepresentation of a book to capitalize on all the common searches that occur for popular subjects and authors is a bad practice. Once a book is tagged with a misleading tag, and all the Indie authors are blindly copying and pasting tags to help each other… a book may rise to top of search results under false premises. Result: disgruntled readers complaining to Amazon.

3. Mean-spirited tags. It’s a shame that people can become bitter enemies through forums and online chats, but it happens often. When that occurs with authors and readers, one way for readers to lash out is to leave bad tags on an author’s book. These could be anything from “spammer,” “Christian crap,” “author fakes 5 star reviews,” “author behaving badly,” “shameless self promoter,” etc. Of course, sometimes the tags are true while sometimes they aren’t. It’s hard for a reader to know what to believe these days when it comes to tags (reviews too). But when mean-spirited tags get left on an author’s book (especially to a self-published author), it hurts. Result: Indie authors complaining to Amazon.

What’s the future for all these tags and all these complaints? Don’t know but interested. One solution echoed by many is to design a system which only allows verified purchasers of a book to leave tags for it. That should cut down on the tagging done without integrity. In the meantime, readers and authors and publishers will be watching Amazon closely to see how this pans out.

Add a comment?


HomeAuthor Training VideosHow-To GuidesNovelsAbout


 

Subscribe to this blog for updates on indie authors and self-publishing.

add me to Google Plus circles

Tagging Books-Tag My Book, Does it Help with Amazon Search Results?

tags for books, book taggingFor authors who want to sell ebooks or paperbacks, having their Amazon books tagged seems like it can be a big deal. Tag-my-book parties are even common at forums for writers including Goodreads, Authonomy and more although they have been banned from Amazon forums for “gaming the system.” But regardless of the ethics or lack of  ethics, does tagging really help?

What exactly are tags for books, you might ask? If you visit any book at Amazon, try one of mine for example, and scroll down past the product description and reviews, you’ll find a list of tags that customers (or others) have used to identify genres and subject matter of a book. This is meant to be helpful to browsers searching for books of similar nature and for Amazon to group books accordingly. In my example some of the tags will be: self publishing, sell ebooks, ebook business, writers, kindle, online marketing, etc. You can click on an individual tag and find a huge list of books with the same tag, usually ranked from highest number to lowest. Therefore, the consensus of many authors is–having more tags is great and having lots of commonly used tags–even better.

What are commonly used tags? Words like Kindle, adventure, fantasy, romance, humor, fiction, science fiction, history, young adult, vampire, christian fiction… the list goes on. Amazon has a page of commonly searched tags here. But tags don’t have to be so general; they can be much more specific as many of mine are like social marketing and ebook publishing.

How does a Tag Party work? A collection of authors (and sometimes readers/family/friends) agree to add tags, up to 15 per person, to each others books. A forum list develops with an agreement to tag everyone on the list and get tagged too. The more people in the party, the better. Once several dozen people are tagging each others books, in little time a book can achieve a fair number of tags.

However, at first glance it appears this helps with visibility and book sales, but that really hasn’t been proven to me yet. For example, currently my book has more tags for the tag term “epublishing” than any other Amazon book and will come up very high if you click a tag that says “epublishing.” But if you type the same term “epublishing” into an Amazon search box, my book doesn’t even appear in the top 100 results. Odd, isn’t it? The question becomes; what percentage of Amazon buyers really search for new books by using tags? Conversely, we know that many book buyers, myself included, search for books by typing terms into the search box.

The tag term “sell ebooks” currently places my book #2 in a tag search, but if you type that into a book search it comes up as #1 probably because those words are a part of the title. So, I’m still in the school of thought that keywords in the title are far more important than a huge number of tags. I’d still like to know, do the tags help? Maybe. I know of at least one reader, from her forum comments, who says she uses tags to search for new books of a certain subject. Maybe there’s more people like her, but I believe she represents the exception and not the rule.

Still, when it comes to selling both ebooks and paperbacks, Independent authors (Indies) should try a bit of everything and hope it helps. There are several good places to join tagging parties. You can find them on Amazon Kindle discussions at the Meet Our Authors Forum and currently at the Kindle Book Forum, though that might get moved to the former due to Amazon’s restructuring of what they consider to be blatant self-promotion. You can also find taggers at Goodreads, Authonomy and even some of the Indie groups on Facebook.

By far the best place I’ve found to date is at Kindle Direct Publishing New April 2011 Tag My Book. This group is serious and selective on who they accept. You will have to get your tagging act together, however, or you will not be tagged. This means you will have to learn how to copy and paste the author’s preferred 15 tags and do it for everyone on the list before you will be added to the list. There’s a thorough explanation for newbies at the start of the thread. Once that’s done, the tags on your books will increase by HUGE amounts. If you think you can handle that, try this exceptional tagging group.

Also for trans-continental efforts, notice that for a US Amazon author to tag a UK Amazon book, she/he must have made a purchase from UK Amazon. This rule is true regardless of the country of the author’s origin and the country of Amazon products (US, UK, Germany, Japan, France, etc.)

Any other highly recommended groups or opinions on this? Please share them in the comments section.


HomeAuthor Training VideosHow-To GuidesNovelsAbout


 

Subscribe to this blog for updates on indie authors and self-publishing.

add me to Google Plus circles

%d bloggers like this: