As I have been preparing my presentation for Digital Asset Management Chicago 2011, I have been thinking quite a bit about metadata and how publishers manage it. Carolyn McCray has posted some intriguing articles at the Digital Book World site examining how metadata can be used to increase sales: Best Practices for Amazon eBook Sales, Maximizing Digital Book Sales, Part 1; and Maximizing Digital Book Sales, Part 2. Carolyn also participated in a great DBW Roundtable with Matt Mullin on how to Optimize Your Titles for Online Bookselling.
The key on Amazon is to reduce each customer’s resistance to buying the book. There are two main ways to do this according to Carolyn. The first is optimizing your product description along the lines of this formula: an endorsement from an authoritative source, a short product description, and a strong call to action (buy this book if you love . . .). The second is to use the book category to place the book in less competitive company. This will allow your book to more easily reach the top 100 for the category, and once this ranking in the top 100 shows up on your product page, there is even less resistance to customers to buy the book.
The book description is part of the metadata. Carolyn suggests that publishers should to A/B testing week to week until they find a description that sells the book. If sales begin to drop at some point, start testing again, and change the description.
The categories on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing that publishers/authors can choose are actually BISAC codes. While it is best practice to choose a BISAC code the most fully defines the book, Carolyn is suggesting going even further than this. She suggests that publishers look as different possible BISAC categories and choose one that is least competitive. This is similar to checking Google Ad Words to determine which keywords you use on your product description on your own homepage.
Metadata influences search, it influences territoriality and categorisation – metadata is the advert, the sales pitch, the sell in and the advance promotion; metadata is the random book left on the table, the fervent recommendation of a friend, the arresting blurb, the good review, serving the random browser and the determined buyer alike.
Bad metadata means your book is invisible and un-purchasable. Yet compared to many industries either totally or increasingly focused on digital commerce, publishing lags in its understanding of SEO practices, metadata standards implementation, data collection and analysis and systems investment.
I think that most publishers have embraced SEO to some degree on their Web sites. I think the next place the industry needs to go is to MDO—Metadata Optimization. Many publishers treat metadata as something to be completed and left alone. I believe there are huge opportunities if publishers instead begin to optimize metadata, taking advantage of the ability of ONIX feeds to update metadata at all trading partners. This will allow publishers to match product descriptions to marketing and pr campaigns, update them when there are major media appearances, and tie products to current events.
I am sure that a book should have a different description as it moves from pre-publication, to new release, to the heart of the marketing campaign, to backlist. How should they be different? I honestly don’t know at this point.
With discoverability on the Web becoming such a crucial issue with books—especially eBooks—I don’t think publishers can afford to post the metadata for their books and leave it as is for the life of the book. They need to treat metadata as a tool to be managed to maximize the life-time sales of each book. Will it be easy? No. Will it take time? Yes. But how can you afford not to pursue MDO?
By the way, it isn’t too late to register for Digital Asset Management Chicago 2011. If you enter the coupon code DIENER100, you can even save $100. If you go, make sure you say hi. You can also follow the conference on Twitter at #DAMChicago.
What do you think? Are you optimizing your metadata? How?