The Importance of being Search Engine Optimised
…and also having content.
If you’re working in publishing or working on a novel and you don’t know what SEO means then you probably consider growing a beard and learning to knit because I’ve heard it gets really cold in caves during the winter. And if you do know what it is, why aren’t you doing it properly?
Google a book title, any book title*, and the results page will likely look something like this:
- Amazon (or IMDB – a subsidiary of Amazon – if there’s a film of the book)
- … who cares, I don’t look that far down the list
These search results tell me that, as with most things, we have disappointingly gotten to the race too late and are now fighting over twelfth position, while Amazon jogs ten miles ahead, lazily flipping us the bird when it tires of chatting to Wikipedia about funding.
We lost ground when we continued to write our code in <td> and <tr> well into late 2010; we lost ground when we thought metadata was boring; we lost it when we didn’t update our events pages after the Edinburgh Book Fair in 2009. Search rankings are open to change, but, like any relationship where you are obviously giving less than you’re getting, you have to prove you’re worth changing for.
At the Future Book Conference last year, Michael Bhaskar of Profile Books talked about Google’s Panda algorithm and the fact that we’re not creating content for machines anymore. We need to realise that our pages are indexed on relevance and content. So why should publisher’s websites be less relevant or have less content about a book they publish than a website who draws their content largely from those same publishers? This should now be at the front of our minds – not just optimising our sites globally, but at page level for titles and authors by ensuring our content is up-to-date, interesting and shareable.
As physical sales and physical spaces diminish, publishers need to look at the places that the titles are occupying online and how they can best use it – how they can add value to it, and prepare for the extra eyes Google can give them. The pay-off is self evident: if publishers (or authors) were always ranked first for the titles they published in the territory the search was performed, users would almost certainly not then move onto another website to purchase. It just wouldn’t happen.
*if you can find a book still in copyright where this isn’t true, I’d love to hear it. Maybe we can make some sort of book version of the Googlewhack…