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eBook creationOne thing that the Internet may never be able to replace is the tactile feeling we get when we walk into a book store and handle a physical book. In real life, you can see the cover of a title in all its brilliance. You can flip through the pages, read the author’s bio, examine some of the content, look at the price and see who published it. Online, all of that information would be taken away from you were it not for an unsung hero called metadata. It doesn’t matter whether you are selling online books or print books — metadata is how those titles are discovered. Having more complete metadata gives your title a greater likelihood of being discovered by people who might buy it. Accurate, complete and rich metadata is effectively SEO for your eBook.

What does Metadata have to do with SEO?

In February of 2012, more than 73% of Americans used a search engine to find something online. People invariably head to their computers to search for information on the products and services they are interested in buying. The same is true when it comes to books. Metadata used to have a much different purpose than that of online discoverability and marketing of eBooks. Now that so much commerce for eBooks and physical books is occurring online, this data serves as the fodder search engines look for. Keep in mind that this refers to product metadata and not the other kind, which is used in the eBook conversion process.

When people search for products and services online, they may not all use the same terminology to get the same result. As it pertains to books, some people remember books by their titles, whereas others may be partial to particular authors. They may even try to describe the book by what it’s about instead of its title.

For example, take this exact match search I conducted on the Google Keyword tool for “white whale book.” There are more than 210 global, monthly searches for the phrase on Google and many other related phrases showcasing other less conventional ways to search for Melville’s masterpiece, Moby Dick.

Moby Dick Search term Screenshot

So what does this tell us? People use all kinds of terms to search for the things they want, and they may not always be close to the best description for that item. Having very descriptive metadata will help your title show up in search for a broader range of key terms.

Making Your Data Stand Out

When a title is born, there may not be a lot of data available to associate with it. Once a book goes through the process of publishing, printing, eBook conversions, distribution and other steps, more data becomes available. New things like awards, reviews, interviews and images may come to light and need to be associated with the book. This data is a part of the title’s identity. Each piece increases the chance that the book will be found in search, and it also increases the likelihood that someone will buy it. For instance, someone may not be interested in a title at first, but if they find dozens of stellar reviews on it, they may end up making a purchase. By contrast, if the same title only had a picture of the cover, an author name and a brief bio, the prospect may pass it up for a something else with more information associated with it.

The Metadata Handbook

If you are looking to market an eBook and need more information about metadata, you should really check out the Metadata Handbook written by Renée Register & Thad McIlroy. This book is arguably one of the most comprehensive texts on metadata for publishing print and eBooks on the market. It contains a lot of information on what data you need to have in your eBook, book data aggregators, distributors, wholesalers and how you can use SEO to your advantage in the eBook market. It also gives readers a detailed breakdown of metadata standards such as those laid out by ONIX (ONline Information eXchange).

When you shop for a book online, you can’t touch it or leaf through the pages to find information that will help you make a purchase. Metadata helps fill the void left by a virtual world and allows people to get as much information as they can about the titles that interest them. For authors and publishers of eBooks (and print books), metadata helps increase the chances that a book will be discovered in search.
If you are publishing an eBook, check out these other resources:

Best Practices for Data Senders – Book Industry Study Groups (BISG)
Mobipocket eBook creator
KDP Select from Amazon

What strategies have you used to market an eBook online? Have you found search engine optimization techniques to be useful?

About Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher has written 384 post in this blog.


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