We’ve tagged ‘search’ with the word ‘discoverability’ because publishers have learned that, without bookshop displays, getting found online (‘discoverability’ in the industry’s jargon) is at the heart of digital selling and one of their greatest challenges.
The two most important — and closely connected — aspects to this are:
Search engine optimization (SEO) is at the heart of most successful online businesses because large search engines such as Google are the starting point for many buyers. It is a well-established field with a vast amount of information, expertise, and specialized tools and techniques. Learning SEO has become essential for publishers, too. In fact, SEO is arguably the most important marketing skill publishers need to master.
But the importance of search optimization goes well beyond using search engines to drive visitors to your website. It’s key to being found on an ebookseller website, in an online library catalogue, or even in social networks.
Discovery in all of these is largely determined by algorithms — data-driven, automated systems in the software that runs these sites. And one of the best ways for publishers to influence these algorithms is through providing high quality metadata.
While publishers have complete control over their own websites, one of their only ways to influence discoverability on other websites is via good metadata. Most basic principles of search engine optimization apply to metadata optimization too, hence the tight connection between these two fields.
A website is the sometimes-unglamorous Swiss army knife of digital marketing and it forms a central hub that draws the other strands together. While much of the buzz in digital marketing is around social media, your website is the workhorse and it’s important to set it up in a way that supports online marketing.
For an author or a specialist publisher, a blog can be the single most effective digital marketing tool. It’s not for everyone but if you can make it work, it will pay dividends. Blogging is social and a good blogger can attract an influential following. Blog software is designed to make creating content, sharing and community interaction easy. For many smaller publishers and authors, it can also double as their website.
Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla of social media. With more than a billion users, it’s likely to be part of your marketing mix, especially in consumer markets where Facebook is most effective. If your list is heavily weighted to fiction or general-interest non-fiction, Facebook will probably lead your social media strategy. Among the social media, Facebook also provides the most extensive set of features for marketers. But be warned: Facebook is deceptively easy and free to get started, but it may end up being far from free as you find yourself spending real money to make it work.
Twitter attracts business users, news junkies, and enthusiasts in a vast range of subjects. While it has fewer than half the users of Facebook, it often drives as much traffic to websites because it attracts knowledgeable and influential users. They enjoy its immediacy, easy link-sharing, conversational style, and its ability to attract like-minded enthusiasts as followers. Twitter is relatively simple — restricted to 140 character messages, with few extra functions — but in spite of this, it’s a surprisingly good communication tool.
LinkedIn is the social network for business and the professions. A powerful feature for marketers is its groups, many of which are very active and cover a wide range of professional interests. Like all social media, these groups must be used very carefully where marketing messages are involved. You’ll make yourself very unpopular, or even be blacklisted by the group, if you contribute in a way that’s seen as spamming. Whether or not you use LinkedIn for your book marketing, you should join LinkedIn for its professional value.
As a driver of sales and response, it’s still hard to beat email – as long as it’s a list of people who’ve given you permission to send stuff. If you plan to build a business that will actively sell to repeat customers (and you probably should), you should start building a permission-based (‘opt-in’) email list.
The eighth tool, online advertising, is closely connected to the seven tools above. Indeed, while they offer extensive free ways to reach an audience, each of these tools is also a major vehicle for online advertising.
Understanding how online advertising works will help you decide where, or whether, it fits into your marketing plans. For a few publishers, it’s an essential part of their digital marketing, especially so-called pay-per-click advertising. For many, it routinely proves too expensive and ineffective.
We’ll look at the basics of online advertising in a later section.