Using metadata to improve discoverability

We’ve looked at how to optimize our own website for search engines. We can now consider how to apply some lessons and techniques from SEO to metadata in order to influence discoverability of our books on other websites.

Search optimization vs search engine optimization

Google, Bing and Yahoo are important, high-profile search engines but as we know, a lot of search queries for books take place elsewhere. Among the most important are the search boxes on ebookseller websites.

DartWhile general SEO principles will apply, the algorithms that drive these search queries — and other functions such as the auto-generated recommendations for other products — are different in some areas from those behind search engines like Google.

While they will be strongly influenced by the metadata publishers provide, other factors such as user activity on the site also feed into their search algorithms. We’ll review some of the discoverability issues on ebookseller sites when we look later at marketing to ebookstore users.

Of course, the content in these online bookseller catalogs is also indexed by search engines and many — perhaps most — searchers are likely to end up on an ebookseller site rather than a publisher or author site.

Applying SEO techniques to metadata to improve discoverability

With these similarities and differences in mind, here are a few techniques to optimize metadata and ensure your books and ebooks have the best chance of being found and clicked on.

  1. Provide complete metadata, including enhanced as well as basic metadata. This might be obvious, but hopefully you’ll have a better understanding of why.
  2. Descriptive copy should contain keywords, especially in the first 50-100 words.
  3. Titles or subtitles might include keywords (this is not always possible or desirable).
  4. Use categories, and provide several categories if you can (for instance, Amazon allows for up to 5).
  5. Include prizes, awards, reviews (including some review excerpts), and media mentions.
  6. Make excerpts available.
  7. Use HTML tags in metadata (if permitted — it often isn’t).
  8. Provide website links (for example to author pages). Again, this is not always possible or permitted by distributors or ebooksellers but use it if you can.
  9. Apply these principles to author information as well as book information.
  10. Add author location which will help online retailers target the local audience.

Question icon

Review the list above. Compare it to the metadata for your most recent publication. How many of these techniques did you apply to your own metadata?


Find out more about this topic on our Digital Publishing 101 useful resources site.

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