Sunday, April 29, 2012

Book Marketing for Nitwits: SEO

Diary of a Book Marketing Novice: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Last week, I came up with a bunch of keyword phrases that will surely lure Google users to my site, boost my Web traffic enough to impress agents and publishers, and land me a six-figure book deal that will lead to groupies, People magazine cover stories, and stints in rehab.

But identifying the right keyword phrases is only step one in the SEO process. The words don't do any good if they just sit in your spreadsheet. You have to add them to your Web site so Google can find them.

Here is my step-by-step process for adding keywords to this blog.

1) Open yet another book on Internet book marketing, read section on SEO that discusses Meta tags and includes lengthy discourse on HTML. Close book and go outside to look for a cigarette butt that isn't smoked too far down. Smoke it. Little kids across the street watch with great interest.

2) Back at desk, search blog's Help section for info on Meta Tags. Find an article from 2009 that claims Google doesn't care about Meta tags stuffed with keywords. That makes two of us.

I abandon Meta tag exercise and move on to section on "Title tags."  Another discussion of HTML. Close book and search fridge for beer. Find a half bottle of wine that smells like old gym socks. Drink it.

Note: Title tags are the words that appear at very tippy-top of browser window and identify the Web page you're viewing.

3) Back at desk, search Google for: "How do I edit title tags in Blogger." Find an article on how to alter your title tag so Google will like you better. The article recommends copying some code into the bowels of Blogger. The instructions make no sense. I follow them.

Now the titles of my Blogger articles appear before the blog name. For example, the title text for this article now reads:

"Book Marketing for Nitwits: SEO | The Loneliest Planet by Randy Ross"

instead of

"The Loneliest Planet by Randy Ross | Book Marketing for Nitwits: SEO."

Is this idiotic? Yes. Do you want to risk making Google unhappy? Didn't think so.

Note: Though all the cool kids use WordPress for their blogs and Web sites, I use Blogger because it is supposed to be easier. I'm pretty happy with it. Also, Google owns Blogger -- you must get some SEO bonus points for being a good customer. (Too see this in action, click the title at the top of this page "Book Marketing for Nitwits: SEO")

4)  Wine kicks in, Title tags section of book now makes sense. These tags are derived from the actual title of my blog posts. I go into most popular posts in my blog and stuff article titles with keywords. Now, have a writer's blog that reads like it was written by non-native English speaker. Change titles back to originals.

<page 2>

<Link to story on Twitter>

Book Marketing for Nitwits: SEO - P2

Diary of a Book Marketing Novice: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Page-2
<continued from page 1 of article>

5) Book Marketing book recommends creating article descriptions packed with keywords for most popular articles. Blogger has a field for each article that allows this. Easy.

6) I notice that Blogger also lets you create Labels for articles. No such thing as too many keywords: I create Labels with words that will no doubt attract my readers. Labels include: "happy ending," "sexy massage," and "mile high club."

7)  Other sections of Book Marketing book discuss embedding keywords in articles, graphics, text links, plus the use of keyword density analyzing tools.

Look down at computer keyboard: It is covered with sweat. Check Facebook page and find strange posts from someone who sounds a lot like me. Enough online book marketing for one day.

8) Smoke another cigarette butt on front stoop; kids and parents watch. Remember more ideas for a keyword-packed Labels.  

9) Back at computer, add Labels for "erotic humor" and "how not to find love." Recall that I paid $500 to meet agents at an upcoming writers conference. Agents may ask for my Klout score, a measure of success at Social Networking. I sign up for Klout. It doesn't work. Done with book marketing for the day.

10) Pack bag for gym. Remember that I might be able to boost Klout score -- if tool ever works -- with something called Twitterfeed, which automatically takes new blog articles and posts them to Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In. This tool works as advertised. But will it mangle posts and make me look like an idiot? Doesn't matter, I'm done with online book marketing for today.

11) Repack bag for gym. Recall that a tool called Friend or Follow will make it easy for me to identify people I'm following who aren't following me. Following more people than you have following you is a sign of desperation and low Social Media status. I sign up and start dumping people. Within an hour, I am following 447 people and have 458 followers.

12) Halfway out the door. But have to check Web analytics to see if 10 yours I've spent today on SEO has started to boost traffic.

Traffic has spiked: I'm a genius!

Then check to see source of new traffic: All changes I made to my site were counted as new traffic. But no one needs to know that. (You won't tell anyone, will you?)

More Book Marketing for Nitwits

1) Easy, Sleazy Book Marketing Tips
Change you traffic measuring tool, join a Facebook Like-fest, and if anyone asks: "But officer, everyone else is doing it."

2) Book Marketing for Nitwits: Keyword Phrases

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Easy, Sleazy Book Marketing Results

Results from using "Easy, Sleazy Book Marketing Tips" for a month or so.

1) Facebook Fans: added 75 fans (Now 1961 up from 1886)

2) Twitter Followers: added 270 followers (Now 444 up from 170 from 270)

Still not sure if I get Twitter or it's useful for fiction writers in my situation, but plowing ahead anyway.
Also, used an online tool called friend or follow to dump people I was following who didn't follow me back. My opinion: It looks better to have even number of following and followers.

3) Linked In: added 90 connections (now 890 up from 800)

4) Goodreads, I've just been clicking away and added 92 friends (142 friends up from 50)

What does this all mean? Not sure -- my numbers still aren't big enough to impress a publisher or agent. If I keep at it for a year. Maybe. How much time am I wasting? A lot. Probably an hour or two a day.

Has all this boosted my all-important traffic to my blog? No. Seems only sure way to increase traffic is to write more good blogs. Which also takes time. Time that should be spent FINISHING MY DAMN BOOK.

Has it increased sales of my little ebook? No.

Can I offer any useful advice?

What are you kidding?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Book Marketing for Nitwits: Keywords

For months, agent blogs have been exhorting writers -- even fiction writers -- to build a massive online platform of potential readers. So, last week I took the plunge and borrowed "Online Book Marketing" by Lorraine Phillips from the library. (If I had the dough and could be guaranteed this would get me an agent, I surely would have paid for it.)

Note: The book is geared toward non-fiction writers, but it was one of simplest, most clearly written books on online book marketing that I'd seen. I decided to see if it would work for fiction writers.

One the first steps: Figure out my brand, my audience, and find keyword phrases that will entice readers to my site when they perform online searches. (Key part of successful platform is a Web site that gets lots of traffic.)

My brand is supposed to be me. But that made no sense and I had to get to the gym in six hours, so I decided that my brand would be my novel in progress, "The Loneliest Planet: A Handbook for the Chronically single." The book is about a never married hypochondriac who takes a trip around the world looking for love.

In describing my book, a few keywords came to mind:
- weird travel
- lonely single guys
- failed relationships
- personal growth through suffering
- puerile humor

And a few possible audiences
- men seeking naughty massages.
- women who think all men are pigs.
- politically-correct men who think all men are pigs.
- people who like the Three Stooges
- other writers who might take pity on me and buy my book.

(I'm not saying these are great search terms, but I had to start somewhere. Plus, I still had book to write, I couldn't spend a week on this, and the gym closes early on Sundays.)

Then I read the first couple of chapters and decided to take the following steps:

1) I went to Amazon and looked at comparable books' pages for keyword phrase ideas.

Comparable book: "About a Boy," by Nick Hornby:
A section called "Inside this Book" listed "Key Phrases" that included:
"Kurt Cobain," "Dead Duck Day," "Macaulay Culkin," "Planet," and  "Upper Street."
At the bottom of the Amazon page, under a section called "Tags Customers Associate with This Product," I found "too expensive for kindle," and "contemporary fiction."
Not so useful.

Comparable book: "Portnoy's Complaint," by Phillip Roth:
In a section called "Inside This Book," "Key Phrases" included: "The Monkey," "Uncle Hymie," "Puerto Rican," and "Bubbles Girardi."
The customer tags for this book were equally worthless.

Comparable book: "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell."
"Key Phrases" included: "Baby Dolls," Silicon Valley," "Red Bull," and "The Skank."
"Tags" included" "drinking," "stupid," and "swamp donkey."
Beyond worthless.

I gave up on the Amazon idea.

2) Then I looked at comparable authors' Web sites and Web sites on similar topics, and then ran those URLs through a slick Internet marketing tool called Abakus recommended by the book. (The tool tells you what keywords those sites use.)

3) Finally, I took this whole mess of keywords and ran them through Google Adwords keyword research tool to find related terms and to pick the terms that Google claims get the most hits.

Elapsed time: about eight hours. I'm not sure why it took so long, but it did. And I never made it to they gym.

Results: a spreadsheet filled with terms ranked by how popular they are. See my keyword spreadsheet

More on SEO/Keywords for Writers:

- Part II: Search Engine Optimization in Plain English

- Part III:  Search Engine Optimization in Plain English

*Art attribution for nerdy green alien: By LadyofHats (did it myself.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Marketing Keyword Phrase Spreadsheet

My spreadsheet of possible keyword phrases

This is page 2 of blog on Keywords for Nitwits

Note: Those phrases that are popular have a number next to them in parenthesis. Those phrases that were not popular have no number. The idea is to pick the words that are most useful and most popular, such as "world sex (2.7 million)," "vibrator (1.8 million)" and "find love (1 million)." Apologies for my weird abbreviations in the spreadsheet -- like I said, I couldn't spend all day on this -- which I did.

Content Warning: Some naughty words in the spreadsheet. If you're from Cambridge, Massachusetts, you might be offended.

Click on the spreadsheet blow to enlarge it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Easy, Sleazy Book Marketing Tips

Quick and Dirty Book Promotion Tips, or How to Be an Author in Today's Publishing Environment

1) Change your traffic measuring tool
- For years, I've been using something called Statcounter. It's free and a lot of us used it for our personal sites when I was at PC World. It also has a very clean, simple interface. Tech support is great. It's the little guy, the independent bookstore, of traffic measuring tools
- I recently started using Google Analytics and something called AWStats, which comes with my Network Solutions Web hosting service.
- Google and AWStats show much higher numbers for Page Views. (Google and Statcounter are comparable for Uniques.) Which numbers would you pitch to an agent or publisher?

2) Join a Facebook Like-fest or a Twitter Follow-fest.
- There are a bunch of sites and forums where members will Like you or Follow you if you follow them.
- For example: World Literary Forum, several groups on Linked In, and there are some on twitter, such as team follow back.
-The best way to find new ones is to find someone who isn't a celebrity and has a load of followers -- see who they're following. I saw some average Joe's with 30,000 followers. (Tell me a publisher isn't going to drool over those numbers.)

3) Ethical Question: Will you be able to look at your self in the mirror tomorrow morning?
When you get a fat book contract -- of course you will!

4) What will you say when you're in front of Congress, under oath?
- "I did not have sex with that girl."
- "I never took steroids."
- "I never goosed my platform numbers"
- "Everyone else is doing it."

*For my results after a month of "Easy, Sleazy Book Promotion."

*For my experience on why 2) has been a really bad idea for me.

*To read a funny, but not really funny story about boosting Web traffic with search engine optimization, see

Job Opening: SEO Writer  

"Required qualifications: Ph.D in journalism, 10+ years of writing experience at a major metro daily, and one of the following: Pulitzer prize, National Book Award, Medal of Valor, Stanley Cup, or Heisman Trophy." 



Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bad Joke Worth Passing On

Two elderly couples are driving to a restaurant. The driver turns the guy sitting next to him and says: "What's the name of the place we're going?"
The second guy says: "Hmmm. What's that flower that's red on top and has thorns?"
The driver says: "A rose?"
The other guy says, "Yeah, that's it," and turns to his wife in the back seat: "Rose, do you remember the name of the place we're going?"

(from my friend and favorite story-teller Daniel Gewertz.)