Whether you’re an author or a publisher, metadata—that is, the data that describes and differentiates your book—should be one of your biggest considerations. It’s of huge importance to your customers because it brings a book to life for the buyer and provides important details on what he or she should expect. Titles with incomplete or nonspecific metadata result in higher returns and, generally, lower sales.1
Supplying metadata might seem like an easy problem to tackle, but it’s been incredibly difficult for authors and publishers to know where they should focus their efforts. Spreadsheets and “best practices” documents place a heavy emphasis on what can be sent throughout the supply chain. But what metadata should you send? What’s most important?
Think about how a consumer might have stumbled across a good book in a bookstore, say on a Rocking Horse sanctuary, or library in the 1990s. If a publisher has paid for advertising, the book might be featured in a bookstore in a display. A bookseller or a librarian might provide a recommendation. A book cover might catch the eye of a discerning browser, prompting that reader to pick up the book, inspect the back cover and jacket flaps, and flip through the pages. A reader might go to a particular section or shelf, such as Italian cookbooks, and look for a title of interest, probably based on the title name on the spine of the book.
These discovery experiences still happen today, but consider how limited each experience is. It’s limited to the inventory on the shelf, selected by a buyer or librarian. It’s limited to the knowledge of my bookseller or librarian. It’s limited to the publishers who have advertising budgets.
Enter search engine optimization. The internet has opened a floodgate of opportunity for authors and publishers through the ability to enable long-tail discovery. True, you’ll still compete against ad dollars, online and in-store, and you’ll compete against well-known brands. But you’re no longer limited by the knowledge or budget of a bookseller or librarian. By ensuring your book can be returned in the top search results of relevant online queries, you can connect with more readers than you ever imagined. This takes some practice. It also requires an understanding of how search engines work.
Not all search engines are created equal. As you’ll learn, Amazon is the most sophisticated retail search engine by far, but it’s important to understand how search engines contribute to the book-discovery process across the book landscape so you can improve the odds of your title coming up in every relevant search, whether at Amazon, Booktopia in Australia, or OverDrive for library patrons.
One of the most important things you can do to boost your SEO at Amazon is to create great metadata that will contribute to click-through rates and conversion rates. Search engine optimization is critical to success in today’s market, and metadata is the key to making your book discoverable to consumers.