Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
When I first started working in marketing, I had one task. Read. Absorb. Learn all I could about…parenthood. Well, it was actually strollers and carseats that I was specifically supposed to learn about, but in order to understand the product, I needed to understand the lifestyle.
And I was 25. No kids. No husband. No interest in the topic of parenthood whatsoever.
I remember this time of life so0ooo very vividly because I was completely bored out of my mind. I had gone from a job that involved travel and presentations and sales to one that felt as though I were a trapped bird within a computer screen cage.
Four months later, I was an Internet-smart parenting whiz. I knew the struggles and the panic and the don’ts and the things that they fail to tell you about childbirth. Granted I never actually put my knowledge to use, but that wasn’t the point. The point was for me to speak the parenting language. To learn the jargon and the trends and more importantly…to learn the needs. The desires. The wants.
And that’s when my boss had me put together a keyword chart. This chart would be the backbone of all of the marketing and writing we did on behalf of our client (who happened to be an internationally-known baby gear manufacturer). It would give us the words to use in our online copy (back when wording was fairly heavily weighted in SEO) and would allow us to position our client as a company that “understands” parents and their language. The keywords would affect everything that we ever wrote on behalf of the client.
WHAT IS A KEYWORD?
A keyword is informational. It’s a word or phrase that describes something. Typically in the SEO world, it’s thought of as something that lives on the back end of a web page and describes that page. And if that page is selling a product, like a book, then that’s when the keywords will be descriptive of that book. If the page is an author page, then the keywords will describe that author’s brand.
An easier way to think of it is in terms of an online search. Keywords tend to be the words that you type in when looking for, say, “chocolate cake recipe” or “cheap oil change in Atlanta.” Keywords come in both short-tail and long-tail form. The short-tail contains simple, generic words or ideas, like “romance novel” or just plain “romance.” These keywords have a large reach. The long-tail form is usually two or more of the short-tail words put together…typically phrased like a question or a thought. This narrows the keyword’s reach and creates a more specific phrase that targets a smaller audience. So, while “romance novel” targets all romance novels and romance readers, “difference between sweet and contemporary romance” zeroes in on those specific romance genres and that specific problem. Long-tail keywords will reach fewer people, but the people they DO reach will tend to be perfect matches. Short-tail keywords have more of a spaghetti-to-wall approach. You throw them out there, and see what you end up with.
HOW TO FIND KEYWORDS?
There are plenty of programs out there that help with generating keywords. Many times, they cost a bit of money. The free programs usually require manual research…but that’s not a bad thing. Spending time online, reading and absorbing the words your target market uses is invaluable. It helps you truly start to speak their language.
One of the most common tools to use is Google’s Keyword Planner, and there are plenty of articles to help you understand and get the most out of the program.
SO WHAT DO YOU DO WITH KEYWORDS?
By having a list of keywords at your disposal, you can:
1. Use them in your Tweets and in other social media communications. Fact is, while hashtags tend to be a primary and popular way of weeding and sorting Tweets, there are rumblings that Twitter might be thinking of phasing them out. After all, you can just as easily search for keywords and phrases as you can a hashtag. So while it’s a great idea to include a specific list of hashtags in your keyword chart, be aware that really great nouns and descriptors also carry weight within your Tweet and make it “findable.”
2. Use them in your PPC ad campaigns. Nothing is worse than an ad that has a few buzzwords (such as “free”) but no meat (“Free” what? Free book? What kind of book? Who is the author? Why do I care?). Keywords add clarity to any ad campaign.
3. Use them in your back cover copy. If you’re seeking traditional publication, this is a great way to convince the publisher that you know your readers. If you’re an indie author, then you have the added benefit of making sure that this copy actually makes it on your book’s page! You then can ensure that you’ve done your best to make your book’s blurb resonate and connect with your target audience.
4. Give them to your publisher’s marketing team. Let’s be honest…publishers do their best to develop great keywords and metadata for their authors. But they just aren’t going to be as thorough as you. By handing them a list of keywords, you’re giving them a goldmine, as they can draw on those words to do all of the above.
5. Include them in your proposal. If you’re in the process of pitching your book to publishers, you’ll be interested to know that metadata is making its way into proposals. In fact, it was this tweet by Jane Friedman that got me thinking more and more about this topic:
— Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) May 3, 2014
I realize this is the tip of the iceberg, and there are gobs of articles out there if you’d like more info, but it’s a start! If you haven’t really thought much about keywords and really turning your book or brand into a list of descriptive words and phrases, then I challenge you to give it a go.
WHAT TIPS OR ADVICE DO YOU HAVE REGARDING KEYWORDS?