You’ll hear the term metadata a lot in book marketing. It used to be referred to as bibliographic data, back in the days when its main users were humans, like booksellers and librarians.
But these days we use the term ‘metadata’ which is more widely-used in the computer industry. This reflects the importance of metadata to the smooth operation of computer systems and online booksellers.
So, what is metadata?
It’s the information you provide about your book or ebook to help retailers and librarians sell or catalog it, and to help potential readers learn what it’s about. (‘Meta’ means ‘about’.)
There are two broad types of book metadata:
- Core metadata includes essential information such as the title, price, author, category (classification), and so on.
- Enhanced metadata is marketing-related. It helps to sell the book but it’s not essential to getting it listed on bookseller sites or in library catalogs. Things like blurbs, author bios, quotes from reviews, sample chapters and so on.
By borrowing lessons and techniques from search engine optimization (SEO), you can use metadata to improve your book’s chance of being found on other websites such as bookseller sites. In fact, good metadata is essential to getting found by search engines.
10 tips to optimize ebook metadata
Here are 10 tips to optimize metadata and ensure your ebooks have the best chance of being found.
- Provide complete metadata, including enhanced as well as core metadata. This might be obvious, but hopefully you’ll have a better understanding of why.
- Descriptive copy should contain keywords, especially in the first 50-100 words.
- Titles or subtitles might include keywords (this is not always possible or desirable).
- Use categories, and provide several categories if you can (for instance, Amazon allows for up to 5).
- Include prizes, awards, reviews (including some review excerpts), and media mentions.
- Make excerpts available.
- Use HTML tags in metadata if permitted.
- Provide website links (for example to author pages). This is not always possible or permitted but use it if you can.
- Apply these principles to author information as well as book information.
- Add author location which will help online retailers target the local audience.
Search optimization vs search engine optimization
Google, Bing and Yahoo are important, high profile search engines but a lot of search queries for books take place elsewhere. Among the most important are the search boxes on ebookseller websites.
The algorithms that drive these — and other functions such as recommendation engines — will be different from those behind search engines like Google. They will be strongly influenced by the metadata publishers provide, but also by factors such as a user’s activity on the site.
Amazon’s ‘recommendation engine’ is one of the most famous — and important — examples of an algorithm. It combines information about a product with what it knows about a user to filter what the user sees and suggest other products the user might be interested in.
So bear in mind that SEO principles that work f0r Google won’t necessarily have the same impact for Amazon or Kobo on their own sites, but they’re a great starting point.
Related article: SEO for books: Search and the keys to discoverability