Column | DIGITAL PERSPECTIVES
answer or book. The challenge with keywords is as much selection as presentation. It can be helpful to use tools such as
Google Adwords to understand what
readers are looking for.
Publishers sometimes default to author
names and book titles as keywords. These
can be effective when consumers know
what they want to find: To Kill a
Mockingbird, or Harper Lee, for example.
But other terms can be very effective
tools for publishers, whose lists include
titles that offer unique content to targeted audiences. A cookbook featuring
Cajun cuisine or an appetizer for a Mardi
Gras party might find that jambalaya and
Louisiana crab dip (as well as Mardi Gras
appetizers) work well. The number of
users who search for each of these terms
might be smaller than the one searching
for Harper Lee, but the conversion rate
(the share of visitors to a Web page who
buy something from that page) can be
higher among those who find pages
using targeted keywords.
The order, spelling, punctuation, and
capitalization of keywords all matter. This
is true anywhere the keywords appear,
including page fields that present the
title, body text, or metadata about a book.
Keywords can help a book’s Web page
rank highly in search results. So-called
keyword stuffing (repeatedly using certain terms in page descriptions with the
hope of boosting the page’s ranking) is
controversial and for the most part does
not deliver the results publishers need.
Instead, try to use keywords as follows:
● early in the title tag, but just once;
● once prominently near the top of a
● up to three times in body copy (more
is allowed if the text is extensive);
● smartly, at least once in the alt text
description of an image;
● once in the page URL.
Last month, I described how the Book Industry Study Group is working to align Onix with the way search engines look for information
on Web pages. The work is important,
but publishers looking to make their content more visible need not wait until the
committee recommendations are released.
Best practices in making content discoverable on the Web extend well beyond
the use of rich, linked metadata. These
practices include the following:
● making sure content can be indexed;
● providing crawlable link structures;
● using keywords effectively;
● writing good tag descriptions;
● creating informative URL structures.
To improve discovery, publishers should
ensure that their content can be consistently indexed by search engines.
Providing so-called alt text to describe
images is an easy way to allow those
engines to associate the title of a book with
its cover image; so, too, is offering a text
transcript of video and audio content.
That great interview with an up-and-coming author is invisible without the
Because many publishers’ sites are targeted at wholesalers or retailers, they rely
on search boxes to help trading partners
find what they want. That approach won’t
attract consumers, since most readers are
still unlikely to search for ISBNs or similar identifiers.
Publishers who rely on search boxes
often think less about how search engines
might navigate from a landing page to
title-specific pages on a site. If a site lacks
crawlable link structures, search engines
will miss some (or much) of the descriptive content elsewhere on the site.
Use Keywords Effectively
Keywords should be the terms consumers
are likely to use when searching for an
Five ways to improve the visibility of content Brian F. O’Leary
Good Tag Descriptions
Both title tags and metatags give publishers opportunities to aid discovery.
Title tags describe the content of a website.
Ideally, the length of the tag would fall
between 65 and 75 characters, with the
most important keywords featured early.
If there’s a brand—a series, for example—
the title tag should end with it.
The title tag should be readable—an
effective description of the content of the
page. The more effective tags convey
emotion, something tied to the content
of the page. Too often, publishers miss
this opportunity to bring aspects of a
book to the immediate attention of those
searching the Web.
Metatags essentially provide the promotional copy that appears when search
results are returned. The best metatags
run fewer than 160 characters. Once a
page is found, metatags give publishers
a chance to describe what’s on the page
in their own words. It’s important to
complete metatags because without a
tag, search engines will create something
based on the page.
The structure of URLs is another under-used opportunity for publishers. The best
URLs help you figure out what’s there
before you click. As with most aids to discovery on the Web, shorter is better, but be
smart about it. Refer back to your keywords and try to include them where they
make sense. And make sure the URL is
something humans can read. Numbers and
other characters can make for a unique Web
address, but they don’t appeal to readers.
Paying attention to indexing, link
structures, keywords, tags, and URLs
won’t solve every problem publishers have
in making their content discoverable, but
they provide a solid foundation. ■
Brian F. O’Leary is founder and principal of
Magellan Media, a management-consulting firm
that works with publishers.
Getting Seen on the Web