In the U.S. alone, 600,000 to 1,000,000 books are published every year. To cut through the clutter and get in front of customers first, retailers duke it out a number of ways from author appearances and other in-store events to optimizing for certain search terms and words, and buying search terms and words on Google so readers searching online will see their website among the first results. Currently, when you search for a book title, its Amazon page is almost always the top link on the page. Goodreads.com, also owned by Amazon, is usually close behind.
Now that publishers, traditional and independent, and retailers like Barnes and Noble are seeking to wrestle away some of Amazon’s power by giving readers more retail options, one way they need to be competitive is by shoring up their SEO or Search Engine Optimization. The smaller and independent presses seem to get this. When you search for titles published by Akashic Books, Graywolf Press, or Coffee House Press, for example, unless the author/title has received special acclaim via prizes, the press’ link or the author’s shows up first.
The order of Google search results is based on an algorithm that the search engine has never fully disclosed, but SEO experts have determined that a link’s search rank increases when there are other links pointing to it; when the site itself receives more qualified traffic than other sites in the category; and when the words being searched for appear in the search result’s title, first few words of the result, and the metadata (search result description entered into the HTML code). The placement of the content on the page is also important. If it’s at the top of the page, Google determines that it has priority on the page.
What does this mean for publishers, retailers, and writers? What can they/we do to be the first result when someone has Googled the name of our book or title? One way is to create your own content that drives traffic to your desired book retail links. This is one of the reasons it’s important to have a website, blog, Facebook page, and accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. If all of these point to your desired retail link for your book, you update them regularly, and you have a decent consistent audience, you should start to see the link you point to rise in your Google search results (if it isn’t already up there). It’s also important to give that desired link to press, and others who are publicizing/promoting your book.
Another way is to use video and imagery. A book trailer that features your book’s title, for example, and images of your books will get double exposure in Google’s video and search results.
Publishers and retailers that have a budget should also buy search terms and key words like the book title and author’s name from Google and Yahoo and other search engines. The key is to be consistent about the one link you’re pointing to.