Search Engine Optimization, in case you forgot.

But we shouldn’t forget, because as the internet dominates our life more and more, it becomes ever more important. Basically SEO is a cunning trick to have your website be the top answer to as many Google (or other) searches as possible. Now of course nobody can get their site to come up for every search on whatever topic, but if I were to invest a bit in SEO I might be able to get “Making book” to come up as one of the top hits on the first Google page of results rather than halfway down the third page as it does. (I actually think this is surprisingly good! Searching without the opening and closing quote marks means you’d have to click your way through more pages that I was willing to waste time doing.) If I was selling stuff, this ranking would be important. Nobody is going to click over to page 2 of the results: they’ll have bought their underpants or sneakers long before that.

I’m not altogether clear about how SEO works (if you care to start to learn go to this beginner’s guide at Moz) but one of the idiot level techniques involves having closely similar words (keywords) lead to you. If I could swing it to have every search for “book” to come up with Making book, I be home and dry, if SEO was my bag. Digital Book World gives some basic ideas about keywords and their selection here. A couple of years ago Publishing Perspectives gave a useful short account of how SEO might be applied to books. Good SEO involves at base an understanding of how Google’s search algorithm works, so that you can serve up the answers that it looks for. For example Hearst magazines have created a new site called BestProducts.com through which links to their magazines look like independent, disinterested information to Google’s system.

Mike Shatzkin has a post about publishers’ failures in this area which starts off with the story about Hearst Magazines. One of the links in his piece takes you to a lengthy discussion of the Hearst business by a somewhat apologetic employee. It’s all fascinating, and publishers should learn from this if they ever want to compete for direct-to-consumer sales. I searched for books about love in St Malo, and did as expected get directed to All the Light We Cannot See. But the first link to a publisher was at the bottom of the first page and was the link to the Cliff Notes support book! I gave up clicking through pages and pages of search results in an attempt to find a Simon and Schuster, or Scribner hit. Maybe S&S think this doesn’t matter, but it seems to me that maybe they should want me to be aware of their involvement, and to attempt to sell me something else to take on what the internet would assume was my imminent sentimental journey to Normandy.

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