How Nonfiction Self-Publishers Can Become Keyword Naturals

by | Mar 29, 2010

Keywords help Self-Publishers market nonfictionRecently I wrote a post about how self-publishing is a perfect long-tail business. As I said there,

As publishers, we can use this information to our advantage. Google and other search engines make available the actual search terms that people type into their search field. This powerful information is studied by internet marketers under the term keywords. An author who understands keywords, how they are used, and how to target the people who search on them, can go a long way toward making his nonfiction book a success.

Now I’d like to take a closer look at keywords and how they can help the nonfiction publisher.

Web Presence First and Foremost

Before we can address keywords, though, I have to say something about web presence. This is, for many self-published authors, the beginning of their platform building efforts. Most of the people I see entering self-publishing have little or no web presence before they begin the publishing process.

Maybe they have a personal blog, or a website connected to a business. But I’m talking about an actual personal presence on the web and in social media. That includes:

  • active blogging on your specialty, and or
  • Facebook marketing through fan pages and regular updates, and or
  • developing a Twitter profile and connecting to people with similar interests, and or
  • connecting on other sites appropriate for your subject area. Lots of business-oriented publishers congregate on LinkedIn, for instance, and there are subject-oriented online communities centered around most topics.

As an author in whatever field you write in, you need to become familiar with these social settings. This is where people interested in your topic “hang out” and where you can learn what their interests, their problems, and their needs are. And they can get to know you.

Interacting in these social media spaces helps to establish your expertise as well. All of these efforts will bear fruit when it comes time to market your book.

The Big Funnel

With some kind of presence on the web, with a central location you can refer people to when they express an interest in your book or your niche, you are ready to look at keywords. Why? Because every nonfiction author has goals, and those goals are usually dependent on finding more readers.

Your challenge is figuring out how to find the people looking for your book, even though they may not even know it exists. Going back to my example of pizza baking, if I’m publishing a book on the best way to bake pizza at home, I want to find the people who are already looking for that information. Pizza is the number one fast food in the United States, outselling burgers, tacos, burritos and every other form of fast food, so we know pizza is popular. We also know more and more people are interested in cooking at home, in slow food, and in artisinal food preparation.

This is where keywords comes in. Keywords are really nothing more or less than the terms that people use when they are searching for something. But which keywords will work for a nonfiction author of a book on home pizza baking? Single keywords—like pizza—are virtually useless for us. They are too general. If you search on that keyword, most of the results you’ll get are for local Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Little Caesar’s and so on.

Here’s where I’m going to introduce you to a great free tool you can use to investigate your own specialty area. It’s the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. There are lots of keyword tools available, but this one is free and easy to use. It’s a great place to start. (Please note: You now need to log into Google AdWords to get access to the Keyword Planner tool.)

Going Google on Keywords

self-publishing nonfiction is keyword friendly

Click to enlarge

Google provides this tool for people who want to advertise with them because their AdWords program is a way to “buy” keywords and the searches that are made on them. But let’s take a look at the tool itself:

You can see I entered the phrase “baking pizza” in the entry box. I put the phrase in quotation marks because I want only results that mention this exact phrase somewhere. In the bottom half of the window you see the top of the results list. Looking at the top line, for instance, we see that “bake pizza” was searched for in the previous month 33,100 times in the United States, in English. The green bar indicates that advertisers are bidding on this term to capture traffic from people typing “bake pizza” into a Google search bar. This is also how Google’s software matches its ads to your searches.

But the real value for niche marketers is in going down, down, down the list to find the real treasures. This is where you’ll learn more about your target market, the people most likely to be interested in your book and your other programs associated with it. Below this section is another section Google calls “Additional Keywords to Consider.”

The list starts with short keywords, like baking stones and pizza ovens, highly sought-after keywords for companies looking to capture searchers looking to make a product purchase. Farther down, the phrases get longer. This is where you start traveling out the long tail of this search. Now we encounter active search phrases like these:

  • making pizza dough, 5,400 searches
  • wood burning pizza ovens, 1,900 searches
  • pizza dough recipes, 27,100 searches

Keep in mind that each of these longtail keyword phrases can also generate more keywords. For instance, if I enter “making pizza dough” in the entry box and search again, I’ll get a whole new set of keyword results, one of which is “quick pizza dough,” with 8,100 searches a month.

In the next installment, I’ll show you how you can use this very exact information that Google makes freely available about the searches run through its software. And just how powerful this kind of information can be for the nonfiction author who knows how to use it.

Takeaway: Nonfiction self-publishers are in an ideal position to take advantage of keyword marketing once they’ve established a presence on the web.

Image: Stock.xchng / Luca-Baroncini

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Pat

    I like your article very much. Must tell you I am truly a novice at this stuff; however, I’m attempting to learn how to build a platform for my upcoming memoir, “On My Own Terms.” How shall I stay in touch to receive each one of your blogs?

    Thanks for your thoughtfulness to help us.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Hi Pat, thank you very much. I think you can tell how much I enjoy writing the blog, so I’m glad you’re getting something from it.

      To subscribe to the blog so you get each article by email, click this link: Subscribe to TheBookDesigner

      You’ll have to confirm your subscription, but there are simple instructions and then you’ll be all set. Enjoy!

  2. Joel

    Thanks, Robert. As more authors move online, the ones who can understand these basic concepts will really have a leg up. I’m going to continue this series in a few days, so stay tuned, and thanks for stopping by.

  3. Robert Collings

    Good post Joel and (intended or otherwise) a really good introduction to the importance of metadata, which authors need to understand as more of their works move into the digital space.

  4. Joel

    Mike, I was going to address that in my next post. I don’t think most authors will be interested in buying Adwords. This is really about educating yourself about potential readers, then using the keywords as a way to capture search engine traffic.

  5. Mike Lipsey

    Are you recommending buying the ad-words, or just using the keywords in the website text or as metatags?



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