Indie Authors: Better Keywords Sell More Books

Please welcome my guest star Jason Matthews, the author of two novels and three how-to books. I call Jason my friendly Google guru, and he's here to tell all of us authors how to use keywords to drive traffic to our books.

Jason's nonfiction books are of particular interest to indie authors especially Get On Google Front Page: 2011 SEO Tips, which is all about using keywords.


In His Own Words: Jason Matthews

Thousands of self-published books are uploaded to online retailers every day, according to Mark Coker of Smashwords. Many of these new authors are also creating blogs for their titles. That means, to succeed, Indie authors must stand out from an ever-increasing crowd. It's no longer enough to write a great story, but you also have to assist readers in finding your book.

The Answer

The answer, which eludes many authors, is to rise in search engine results for specific terms. Then new readers will find your book just by searching with Google/Yahoo/Bing or even in the box at Amazon. (Yes, Amazon is a search engine.)

Fortunately, this can be easier than you think. In fact, it can be a simple matter of using keywords wisely as well as knowing which terms to use and where to use them.

How Readers Browse

Face it, unless you're already famous, most book buyers won't type your name and book title into a search box; instead they'll type something descriptive of what they want like "historical romance novel" or "fantasy books for young adults."

Surprisingly, many authors use terms as generic as "ebook," "fiction" and "kindle" to accompany blog posts and book tags, terms too broad and competitive for helping with search engines.

Keywords can be individual words like "action" or "adventure," a set of words like "action adventure genre," or even phrases like "action adventure books for young adults." This is the difference between short and long-tail terms, targeting broad markets with heavy competition versus niche markets with less.

Best Practice

It's best to add both short and long-tail keywords to every site, blog, URL, book title, headline and description that have boxes for them, always ensuring that the keywords are related to the content of your book.

Your best keywords are relevant and being searched by lots of people with relatively low competition.

Make A List

Start by making a list of possible terms and phrases describing your book. Let this list be extensive because a few hours of initial research helps immensely in SEO efforts over time. You can include your name for branding, but the subject matter is most important.

Check Your List

Then go to Google's Keyword Tool External. There you can freely type in words or phrases and get data on how many times per month Google actually receives that request. Notice how slight variations can dramatically affect results, e.g. "action adventure novels" is about five times more popular than "action adventure stories." You'll also see a bar graph indicating competition from others using those keywords.

Then go to Amazon and type in your favorite terms (or tags) to see which books are on the first page of results. That's where you want to be!

Take Action

Begin by employing your researched terms into everything related to your book including retailer's description, tags, labels, blog posts, articles, interviews and more.

Blog regularly on these topics with the keywords, both short and long-tail, spread out among the headline, categories and text. Use those keywords for anything related. Over time, your book will make it to the first page of search results, and you will sell more copies.

Thank You, Jason Matthews!

Jason has been standing by on the West Coast, waiting to take comments and questions. If you leave either, I'm sure he'll get back to you soon. His book is available in print and Kindle editions. I'm getting the Kindle edition, and I recommend it to anyone who needs to gain more exposure for a published book.


Comments Now Open!


Takeaway Truth
Authors need to be as well-skilled in the business of writing as they are in the craft of writing. Using keywords properly can help you greatly.

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(Note: We're off to a bumpy start this Friday since Blogger has been off-line for more than 24 hours. When it came back on, I discovered to my frustration that everything from Wednesday to this moment had been wiped out. Next time Jason appears, I hope things will go off without a hitch. Guess we can blame this on Friday the 13th even though I'm not a bit superstitious.)

27 comments:

  1. I know a lot of people were interested in this post so I hope they haven't given up in finding it! What a day to have technical failures!

    Joan

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  2. tag words are tricky - good tips on how to determine just which ones will do the most good ;)

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  3. I'm going to make Jason my 'go to guy' for SEO from now on...

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  4. Thanks, Tom!

    Sessha, you're right. Tag words are tricky, and judging from how much traffic your blog is seeing I'd venture to say you're doing a good job with them.

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  5. Thanks for visiting, Sessha Batto and Tom Sharp.

    Yep, I've adopted Jason as my go to guy also.

    Jason, I have a question. What do you think about an author using his own name for a keyword? Is that good, bad, or indifferent?

    Joan

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  6. I bought Jason Matthews book "How to Make, Market and sell ebooks". It is an amazing book to read for Indie authors. It gave me detailed, step by step directions relating to everything Jason discussed in the article above, as well as other valuable info. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in marketing their work. I can tell you from experience, it's working for me.


    Christopher David Petersen
    http://christopherdavidpetersen.wordpress.com

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  7. This gets into branding and is a fine thing to do especially if the name is common and the author is attempting to stand out from the (e.g.) Lisa Johnsons of the world. However, many authors get stuck just branding themselves and book titles instead of focusing on their subject matters and genres which are ultimately most important for strangers online to find their books. No stranger will type Lisa Johnson into a search box when she/he is really looking for a book on (e.g.) recommended beaches near the Mexican Riviera.

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  8. Wonderful news, Christopher! Thanks for commenting.

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  9. Christopher David Petersen: Thanks for the great endorsement.

    Jason, thanks, for answering my question. That's what I thought.

    Joan Reeves (never knew how common this name was until the Internet exploded!)

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  10. Yes, and there are over 1,000 people with my name too. I used to come up around page 20 for Google searches. But ultimately I want to be on page one for my subjects like "sell ebooks," "google front page" and "spiritual books." (You'd be surprised how many people type in "google front page" each month, something like 140,000!)

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  11. Currently the web is crammed with so many tips on how to self-publish it can make one dizzy. "How to Make, Market and sell ebooks" gives solid advice needed in order to make the dream of being a published author come true and most importantly, gets that book sold.

    Thanks Jason!
    Jaen Wirefly
    http://jaenwirefly.wordpress.com/

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  12. Thanks, Jaen. Another book and another plug. That one does have some of the same Google SEO advice and is tailored just for authors.

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  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  14. A must have book for anyone even thinking about publishing an ebook.

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  15. Scott Moloney
    Love: In The Future Tense
    Great advice for any writer facing the "I'm not a salesman blues".
    If you're going to sell words, write the best, avoid the rest.

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  16. Jason, thanks for being here.

    Thanks to everyone who dropped by. Good luck to all with your books.

    Best wishes,
    Joan Reeves

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  17. Ok I get our business into the top ten easily. Works every time.

    Now you ahve to back my book
    Antonia Marlowe's Blue Diamonds

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  18. I've avoided looking at anything other than traditionalpublication. This has been interesting.

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  19. Steve, I think you're wise to stick with your gut instinct and shoot for a traditional approach. However, if you find no response from agents/publishers and also believe your book has value to readers, then I highly recommend getting it out there with smart practices and letting the public decide.

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  20. Steve Hawgood, thanks for visiting. I'm multi-published the traditional print way, but I've now published 3 ebooks in 6 weeks. My first ebook is now #13 on the Amazon All Book Contemporary Romance list so I have a little credibility in the book biz.

    Personally, I don't you must choose one or the other. Ebooks are just another avenue for authors - another profit center, if you will -- and that's a good thing. Options are always good.

    Try both. Keep your options open.

    Best wishes,
    Joan Reeves

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  21. Can we have a chat about an ebook soon, Jason?
    Tonia

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  22. Of course, I'm always available to chat about ebooks, both making them and marketing. My website above has a contact page.

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  23. Let me clarify my last remark. Somehow the word CHOOSE was left out. *g* (That's what I get for typing in the dark.)

    What I was trying to say is that I don't think one must choose print over digital or vice versa. One can choose either, or, or both. Now, authors have viable options.

    Okay. That's it for me. Leaving the porch and going inside to bed.

    Goodnight,
    Joan Reeves

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  24. Great information! It was well worth the wait! Thanks for sharing, Joan! I'm off to pick up a copy of Jason's book. I need all the help I can get. LOL

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  25. Glad to hear it, Melissa! Please know that I'm always happy to work with customers on any issues they may run into. Hopefully you won't, but just in case.

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  26. Thanks for the great info. I just went over and added some great keywords to my book tags!

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

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  27. Morgan Mandel... Great, Morgan. So glad it helped.

    Best wishes,
    Joan Reeves

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