Nonfiction Authors Are Keyword Naturals: Case Study

POSTED ON Apr 26, 2010

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

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Today I’m following up on my earlier post about how authors can use keywords to help them both find readers and market their books.

Instead of my hypothetical pizza book self-publisher, I’m going to use real examples from my blog to illustrate how you can get started using these long-tail, search-oriented marketing techniques.

I know I prefer actual, real world results to hypothetical situations, and since the data is freely available, I can show you a couple of things I’ve tried on as I’ve been learning about these techniques.

You Know the Opportunities in Your Niche

Before we leave our pizza-loving self-publisher, here’s an opportunity he might have spotted.

A few years ago Peter Reinhart, one of the most influential bakers in America, announced a new project. He had just completed publication of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, a beautiful and award-winning book on artisan bread baking. His new project? A book on pizza baking.

Knowing that there would be a lot of media attention, news stories, author appearances and interviews for weeks around the launch of the book, our pizza publisher might have tried to gather some of the traffic generated in Google and other search engines as people surfed the web looking for information. That’s where his research on keywords and long-tail keyword phrases would pay off, since his subject is very similar to Reinhart’s American Pie, the book he eventually published. (I highly recommend it, by the way.)

It’s Part of the Mindset

Solo entrepreneurs, guerrilla marketers, self-published authors, we all share an intense connection to the field with which we operate. Part of the entrepreneurial mindset is a vigilance about spotting trends and opportunities.

In my niche, the big event of the year so far has been the launch of the Apple iPad. Right from the start a lot of the pitch about the iPad was about its possibilities as an ebook reader, and the impact it might have on publishing.

I’ve written about ebook readers and some of the challenges they present for people who design and produce books, so I was keenly aware of the whole buildup to the launch, and the flood of articles and reviews that would come in the launch’s wake. Predictably, media attention would be at a frenzy.

I sat down and started to write blog articles about the iPad’s typography. I realized there was little talk or concern about the fonts that would be available, and how the reading experience would differ from the Kindle or other machines already on the market.

Setting Targets

My first job was to select some keywords that represented the readers I was interested in reaching, and I came up with two:

iPad typography
iPad fonts

I was interested in how the iPad would handle fonts and whether the typography of books would be any better than on the other ebook readers.

Here’s how I implemented my strategy of targeting these keyword phrases to see whether I could attract some of the readers stirred up by Apple’s remarkable publicity machine:

  • I used these phrases in the title of the articles.
  • I also used them in the title tag field that controls the title that shows up in the very top of the browser window.
  • In later articles, I used these same keyword phrases to link back to these articles.
  • When I linked back, I tried to use the keyword phrases themselves as the anchor text that contains the actual link, giving the phrase even more emphasis.
  • I set up Google Alerts for these phrases so I would know if they were appearing elsewhere.
  • When I found someone else writing about the iPad from this point of view I left comments where I could with a link in my signature line back to these blog posts, not to the homepage of my blog.

These are all pretty simple steps that any author could do, based on their niche. I’m still a newbie at blogging and I’m just learning about Search Engine Optimization, but what I’m interested in is how to make this practical for nonfiction authors.

Well, What Happened With the Keyword Experiment?

Hey, I promised real-world results, so I guess I better come across. For detailed information on the results of these experiments, I used the Google Analytics program that I installed on my blog when it was new. It’s a free program provided by Google that provides an amazing amount of information on the activity of your website, all in a pretty easy-to-use interface.

Looking at the period of March 23 to April 19, that is, two weeks before and two weeks after the launch of the iPad, here are the top seven search terms responsible for bringing visitors to my blog:

  1. ipad fonts 238 visits
  2. ipad font 95 visits
  3. book designer 50 visits
  4. ipad readability 35 visits
  5. joel friedlander 33 visits
  6. what is an “”arc cover”” 29 visits
  7. ipad typography 27 visits

Just from this part of the list there’s a total of 395 visits from people searching on my keyword phrases. For a blog my size, that’s pretty significant. But look what happens as you continue down the “long tail”:

  • successful self publishing 16
  • 16
  • aperture publishing 15
  • book design 15
  • fonts ipad 14
  • bookdesigner 11
  • 11
  • fonts on ipad 11
  • ipad font list 11
  • ipad font size 10

Different combinations of my targeted keyword phrases just keep showing up. These detailed reports (and this complete list of search keywords for my blog runs to 1,706 lines) tell us something vital: what people who are looking for our information are actually typing into their search bar.

You can also see that the phrase “iPad fonts” was much more popular than “iPad typography” but I didn’t know that until I did this test.

Real World Opportunities for Nonfiction Authors

I’ve said repeatedly that the most stable thing for a self publisher to do is add products—like a sequel, a workbook, or a series of lessons—or services connected to the niche in which they are an expert. Diversifying products expands your markets and amortizes all the time, money and effort you put into marketing your book.

In this small test, getting hundreds of additional visitors to my website in exchange for a couple of hours of research and writing seems like a terrific trade to me. No matter what niche you publish in, there are similar opportunities for you. You just need the self-publisher mindset to take advantage of them.

How do you use keywords or search engine traffic to help sell your books?

Takeaway: Understanding keywords helps nonfiction self-publishers take advantage of search engine traffic to attract more readers.

This article contains affiliate links. Image: / Rainer Ebert

Joel Friedlander

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Joel Friedlander

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