How book metadata optimization can help you sell

You’ve finished your book, and you’re eager to get it into the hands of your readers, of course. But before you publish and list your book for sale, whether it be on Amazon or the Blurb bookstore, take the time to get your book metadata in shape. It can be the difference between being discovered by a new audience and readers never finding your book at all.

What is metadata, anyway?

Technically speaking, metadata is data about data. It describes all of the phrases, descriptions, and words used to organize electronic information. In the world of online book listings, this is the information that will help your book get discovered. When you search for anything on the Internet (using Google or any other search engine), metadata optimizations are helping to drive the results of that search. No matter what the subject of your book may be, there are numerous ways to optimize your book metadata so that your book appears in the search results you want it to. Depending on where you sell your book online, you can choose your title, book description, keywords, and category.

Learn how to master SEO as an author.

How to get started

Using and optimizing metadata correctly is the key to getting your book discovered, so you’ll want to brainstorm and do your research from the get-go.

  • Make a list of every possible word associated with your book’s subject and genre, including words and phrases you think would work in the title.
  • Next, head to Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner and sign in using a Gmail account⎯or create an account on the spot.
  • Start by entering each of your keywords and phrases to determine how often they’re searched and whether the competition for them is high, medium, or low.
  • Keep a spreadsheet with all of your findings so once your research is complete, you can finalize which combinations will be perfect for your book. The goal when measuring up keywords is to find phrases and word combinations with high searches but medium to low competition. That way, you’ll have a shot of coming up on the early pages of search results.
  • Once you’ve wrapped up your research, hit up Amazon’s search field. If your photo book is about the Rockies, for instance, enter words such as Rocky Mountains, British Columbia, Rockies, etc. What you want to determine are the phrases that auto-populate once you enter a keyword into Amazon’s search field. While Amazon does not officially publish its keywords, they do pop up when users are searching.

Get it right—the first time around

You’ve got your spreadsheet, and it’s seriously populated with possibilities. Now’s the fun part.

Evaluate your keywords and keyword phrases

Categorize them into first, second, and third-tier sections based on the sweet spot of high search and low competition. If you have enough to work within your first tier (7-10 keywords or phrases), you’re in good shape.

Play around with word combinations

Make tweaks here and there to ensure they accurately represent your book, its topic, and its description. Once you’ve got a few solid title options, leave it for a few days and come back with fresh eyes.

Determine which optimized title feels right

Poll friends and family to see which one they favor. And better yet, ask writers in your peer-to-peer network for their gut reactions. Once you’ve settled on your optimal title, follow the same process to generate your book description and top keywords. Come book-publishing time, you’ll be happy you optimized before launch.


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