Book publishers use search engine optimization to improve book discoverability by driving search traffic to books and authors online. The ultimate goal, of course, is to sell more books. When we consider SEO, we often confine our thinking to methods of optimizing content for web search engines such as Google. But customers can discover books in many ways, including searching for them on retail websites such as Amazon. Books on retail sites are discovered in a way that completely bypasses Google and, therefore, traditional SEO efforts.
Searches beginning on Google often lead customers to retail webpages. But a recent study that appeared on Recode, a tech news website, shows more shoppers begin their product search on Amazon (55%) than Google (28%). Google and Amazon solve different search problems, and optimization for one doesn’t always translate to the other. An SEO strategy excluding retailer search engines may not reach a large portion of book searches.
Retailer SEO can be a simpler undertaking than web SEO. First, the intent of searchers on retail sites is understood: they’re looking for information about products to buy. Often, it will be clear from the context that they’re looking for books. Competition for search traffic on retail sites is also lower: books and authors only compete against themselves, and not against movies, music, news, blogs, and other online content.
Due to this narrower intent, retail customers tend to use very specific, or “long-tail,” search queries comprised of several words. Long-tail search queries give matches that are more tailored to what customers are looking for, leading to higher chances of sales.
Second, optimizing product data for retail searches can be simpler and easier than for web SEO. Though the web SEO industry is mature and there are a number of resources to guide searchers, implementing changes can be complicated. Some of the areas to consider for web SEO include backlinks, HTML structure, internal and outbound links, site maps, page speed, HTTPs, and responsive design. Each of these tasks requires specialized knowledge to implement effectively.
Retailer SEO though, focuses on boosting book visibility within the ecosystem of a single website. Publishers have fewer options to influence and monitor search traffic and can typically improve book visibility only by changing the metadata sent to retailers in Onix feeds. As each search engine functions differently, the metadata fields that influence search traffic can vary. On Amazon, for instance, keywords are particularly important.
This can result in higher returns with lower implementation costs. The freedom to experiment is greater, too, and the risk of negative impact from metadata changes is lower than it might be with web SEO changes. This is especially true for keywords.
So where to start with retail SEO of a book? Given the average book’s complexity, marketers can match books to a large array of search terms and topics. This is particularly important for keywords and categories, where granular terms and classifications perform better. Surfacing varied and nuanced topics generally attracts higher-quality traffic than does surfacing broad, short-tail topics such as romance or cooking. In most cases, a book that ranks within the top few results for several different long-tail search queries will perform better than one that ranks several hundred positions deep for more popular search terms.
Web SEO will always be invaluable when working to increase the awareness of books and authors online. But retailer SEO can pay significant dividends and is a worthy addition to any book marketing strategy.
Chris Sim is the CEO of Kadaxis, a data science company foscused on improving book discoverability.