This week, Digital Book World held their annual conference on digital publishing in New York City.
This year the conference was buzzing about book marketing, data, and discovery, among other topics. And from SEO to author branding, many sessions focused on connecting with readers and increasing revenue.
Here are eight of our top takeaways from the conference.
1. Authors and publishers need to collaborate more on author branding.
According to Mike Shatzkin, there is a huge opportunity for authors to create platforms to communicate with their audience, but publishers need to collaborate more with authors to establish their brand. For example, he suggested publishers audit the platform of every author they sign and find ways to improve it.
2. Apply more startup tactics to book marketing.
We’ve been hearing more and more about applying the inbound marketing model to book marketing. Rand Fishkin from Moz suggested specific ways to do this during his presentation, embedded below. He encouraged publishers to use startup marketing tactics, including the following:
- Identify the right customers. Use surveys to learn more about your target audience. Learn which social networks they use, where they spend time on the web, and who their influencers are.
- Target the right audiences in the right places. Contribute valuable content on platforms your audience already pays attention to, such as popular social networks, online communities like Reddit, Q&A sites like Quora, niche communities like Inbound.org, and comment sections of relevant publications. Also reach out to relevant publications that accept guest contributions (e.g. Good Housekeeping).
- Target your audience with paid advertising. Be smart about sophisticated targeting methods (e.g. running ads specifically to people with particular interests or by email address) to purchase ads that deliver a high return on investment.
- Attract an audience to your platform. Create content that’s consistently interesting, useful, and/or engaging to a distinct audience. Think outside the box — content types can include photos, data, tools, comics, communities, blog posts, guides, opinion pieces, whitepapers, and stories. Give your audience a compelling reason to subscribe, share, and return.
3. Keywords still matter.
SEO was a big topic at DBW, for both retailer product pages and book marketing content. In Rand Fishkin’s session, he showed how keywords still matter, but Google is smart about matching concepts and topics to keywords, so we don’t need to be as literal as we used to be.
Elements that are still important:
- Titles and headlines: these come from the HTML code and appear as the headline of the piece.
- Search snippets: these are the title, URL, and meta description viewers see in search results.
Elements that are not important (and may hurt you):
- Meta keywords: these are useless; you’re basically just showing your competitors what keywords you’re targeting.
- Keyword stuffing: keyword-stuffed pages aren’t user-friendly, and Google penalizes pages that implement this strategy.
4. Make the back button your enemy.
According to Rand Fishkin, part of Google’s algorithm for determining ranking of search results is called pogo-sticking. This is when Google observes many searchers clicking a result, visiting the page, then bouncing back to the search results to visit another website instead. When this happens, Google will shift the results to rank the second site higher.
As you build new pages on your site, think about earning visitors’ traffic. Don’t annoy them; engage them, and keep them interested.
5. Create vertical sites for target audiences.
Create vertical sites with valuable content for target audiences to increase discoverability of books, sell more books, and build a brand. According to Kristine Hoag in a recap of a session from Mary Ann Naples, former former senior vice president and publisher of Rodale Books:
Rodale diversified and created projects that each benefited its book publishing business. One such project is Rodale Wellness, a website that repurposes content from the company’s books and reports on general health topics. Others are “author center” websites (which facilitate book discovery), an online wellness summit, a compelling direct email marketing strategy, and engaged Facebook groups.
One such Facebook group was for a “10-Day Grain Detox Challenge” where 3.5K readers support each other to achieve the goals outlined in a book published by Rodale.
6. Authors and publishers should own the #1 spot on Google’s rankings for a book.
In an SEO Q&A session, Rand Fishkin encouraged authors and publishers to do whatever they could to own the #1 spot for a book on Google’s rankings, instead of letting retailers like Amazon or massive sites like Wikipedia own that spot.
The benefits to owning the #1 spot:
- Control the messaging all the time
- Embed one-click-to-purchase/preorder links from Amazon
- Add your own affiliate link to these purchase/preorder links to increase revenue
How to own the #1 spot:
- Create a page on the author or publisher’s website for a book. Purchase the domain name for a book and redirect that to the page on the author or publisher’s website.
- Link this page on the author’s bio across all social sites — Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Quora, etc.
- Link to this page in any book marketing content you create and distribute.
- Send this link to reviewers and reporters instead of sending them the retailer product page link.
7. Discount the first book of a series as a gateway.
In an Elastic Ebook Pricing panel, Nathan Maharaj from Kobo and Phil Ollila from the Ingram Content Group discussed how discounting the first book in a series or making it free serves as a gateway to the rest of the series.
There are gates the readers need go through in a series, and making the first book free or priced low opens the floodgates. It’s like a traditional marketing funnel, where the first book serves to capture readers’ attention and begins to move them through the sales cycle. A certain percentage of readers of the first book will move on to book two, another percentage will move onto book three, and so on. Usually, readers who read book two will read the remainder of the series.
The best practices of discounting a series — such as how much you should discount the first book in the series — aren’t static and warrant experimentation. For example, the moderator of this panel, Dan Lubart from Hachette Book Group brought up an example of a series where every third book was discounted to encourage readers to continue on.
8. Publishers should be open to transformation.
Transformation was a theme throughout the day. As publisher income sources shift and readers discover books in new ways, publishers need to be open to adapting their strategies.
John Ingram from the Ingram Content Group encouraged people in publishing to have a strategy but also be opportunistic. He also noted that over 50% of Ingram’s revenue now comes from sources that didn’t exist 20 years ago (see the data in the tweet below). Mike Shatzkin spoke of the need for publishers to bring skill-sets in-house that weren’t needed just a few years ago, including digital marketing, website design and creation, and analytics. Mary Ann Naples emphasized how transformation gives publishers a competitive edge.
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