Hello Lifers! Today, we're diving into the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for book descriptions.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of making your online content more attractive to search engines. Most of the time, when people talk about SEO, they're talking about using certain strategies to help their website or content pop up higher on Google, Bing, or Yahoo search results, making it easier for people to find them.
But Amazon is also a search engine, and optimizing your book's SEO will make it easier for Amazon to show your book to the right folks.
So this isn't about crafting the perfect blurb—though we've covered that in a previous post. This is about making your book discoverable, ensuring your masterpiece doesn't get lost in the vast (and sometimes dark and terrifying) universe of online literature.
"If a book is published on Amazon and no one is around to see it, does it make a sale?"
The answer, dear Lifers, is likely no. Bordering on "Absolutely not" with gusts up to "Fuggeddaboudit."
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the lighthouse guiding readers to your book amidst that shark-ridden sea of competitors. Having a compelling story and a beautiful cover won't help much unless your book is found by the right people at the right time.
So how do we do that? How do we get your words into the right hands?
As is so often the case, it comes down to (key)words...
Keywords, in the context of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), are the specific words or phrases that people enter into search engines when they're looking for something. Think of them as the key to unlocking the right audience for your book. They're the bridge between your potential reader's search query and your book. If your book description and metadata are rich with the right keywords, your book is more likely to appear in the search results when a potential reader is looking for a book like yours.
However, not all keywords are equally beneficial. Some keywords are highly competitive, meaning many books or websites are trying to rank for them. These are often broad, generic terms like "romance novel" or "thriller". While these keywords have high search volumes, they're also highly saturated, making it difficult for your book to stand out. On the other end of the spectrum, some keywords are so specific or obscure that they're rarely used in search queries. These might include highly specific phrases or niche terms that only a small subset of readers might use.
The sweet spot, then, is finding keywords that are both relevant to your book and have a moderate level of competition. These keywords accurately represent your book and are used frequently enough in search queries to drive traffic, but aren't so competitive that your book will be lost in the crowd. This might include a mix of broader genre terms, specific sub-genre terms, and keywords related to your book's unique themes or features. For example, instead of just "romance novel", you might use keywords like "historical romance", "Regency romance", or "romance with strong female lead". By strategically choosing and using the right keywords, you can improve your book's visibility and reach the readers who are most likely to be interested in your book.
In the dynamic (aka "ever changing and sometimes maddening!") world of self-publishing, it's crucial to understand that each platform—be it Amazon, Kobo, Nook, or others—operates with its unique algorithm. These algorithms are the invisible puppeteers that control how books are ranked and displayed to potential readers. They sift through countless books, determining which ones get the spotlight and which ones fade into the background. This means that a one-size-fits-all approach to your SEO strategy may not yield the best results. Ideally, your strategy should be as diverse as the platforms you're targeting, tailored to meet the specific requirements of each one. That said, who has THAT kind of time? So focus on the places where you
a) get the most sales and want to capitalize on that,
b) get the FEWEST sales and/or want to improve sales,
c) some mixture of the two.
Don't shotgun it. Be specific as you can, and as your time allows.
Take Amazon, for example. Its algorithm, which is at the heart of its search function, prioritizes factors like sales history and relevancy. This means that a book that sells well and is relevant to a user's search is more likely to be ranked higher. A well-optimized book description that not only captivates readers but also aligns with relevant search terms can drive sales. Then, as sales increase, so does your book's ranking and voila! A positive feedback loop. Your book becomes more visible, attracting more readers, which in turn boosts sales and further improves your ranking. It's a great cycle to get caught in, but it begins with understanding the nuances of each platform's algorithm and optimizing your book description accordingly.
Finding the right keywords is a crucial step in optimizing your book description. It's about understanding what potential readers are searching for and ensuring your book shows up in those searches. But how do you find these elusive keywords?
The first step is to put yourself in the shoes of your potential reader. What terms or phrases would they use to search for a book like yours? Think about your book's genre, themes, setting, and characters. Brainstorm a list of potential keywords, but remember, specificity is key. Broad terms like "thriller" or "romance" are likely to be highly competitive, making it hard for your book to stand out. Instead, aim for more specific terms that accurately represent your book, like "cyberpunk thriller" or "second chance romance".
Next, validate and expand your list of keywords using keyword research tools. These tools can provide data on how often a keyword is searched for and how competitive it is. Google's Keyword Planner is a popular (free!) choice, but there are many others available. There are also paid options like Publisher Rocket.
Whatever you use, look for keywords that are relevant, have a decent search volume, and moderate competition.
Finally, check out the competition. Search for your potential keywords on Amazon and other platforms. Look at the books that come up. Are they similar to yours? If not, the keyword may not be as relevant as you thought.
Remember, finding the right keywords is as much art as science--maybe more so. It takes time and experimentation. But the payoff—a book that's easily discoverable by the right readers—is well worth the effort.
[For a more in-depth guide on keyword research, including step-by-step instructions and tips on advanced strategies, check out my courses on Bestseller Life. I delve into the nitty-gritty of keyword research, providing you with the tools and knowledge to master this crucial aspect of self-publishing.]
Once you've identified your keywords, it's time to weave them into your book description. But placement matters. Search engines give more weight to keywords found in the title, the beginning of the description, and the headings. However, avoid keyword stuffing. It's not just about ticking boxes for algorithms—it's about creating a description that's engaging and natural for your readers.
In the realm of SEO, backend keywords are akin to a secret weapon. These are the keywords that remain invisible to your readers, yet they play a crucial role in how search engines index and rank your book. Think of them as the invisible threads that connect your book to potential readers searching for their next great read. They're the terms and phrases that a reader might type into a search bar, and while they won't see these keywords in your book description, they're working behind the scenes to boost your book's visibility.
Amazon, for example, allows authors to enter up to seven backend keywords. You'll find this feature in the "Keywords" portion of your setup when you're publishing your book through Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). This gives you the chance to target additional keywords that you couldn't fit naturally into your book description or title, or that you COULD fit, but would mess up your beee-YOU-tiful description.
While Amazon might be the most well-known, it's not the only platform that allows for backend keywords. Kobo Writing Life, for instance, provides a "Keywords" field during the publishing process. Like Amazon, this is a valuable space to input relevant keywords that can help readers discover your book.
Nook Press, Barnes & Noble's self-publishing platform, doesn't explicitly offer a backend keyword feature. However, they do provide a "Book Description" field where you can naturally incorporate keywords.
Upshot: almost all (if not ALL-all) of the ebook retailers allow you to target not just keywords, but backend options that let you grab that many more readers!
Optimizing your book description for SEO is a game-changer. It's about understanding and leveraging the rules of the digital marketplace to get your book in front of the right readers. It's not an overnight solution, but with patience and persistence, SEO can significantly boost your book's visibility and sales.
Remember, too: SEO isn't static. It's a constantly evolving field, with search engines regularly updating their algorithms. Staying informed about these changes is crucial for maintaining and improving your book's visibility.
Writing the book is just the first step. Getting it into the hands of readers—that's the next challenge. And with a well-optimized book description, you're well on your way to conquering it.
I'm Michaelbrent Collings, an international bestseller and produced screenwriter, as well as a multiple Bram Stoker Award and Dragon Award finalist, and maker of a fair-to-middling chocolate chip waffle.
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