Monday, 23 April 2012

Crafting your book title: Search Engine Optimisation ("SEO") explained

Search Engine Optimisation is hugely important. A whole cottage industry has grown around getting backlinks, page ranking, visitor stat analysis and all the rest. This isn't something most indies ever think about - all we want is a snappy title for our ebook that will get people to buy it.

This used to be done with the help of legacy publishers, but indies are on their own and we rarely take into account much more than how it sounds (and we can get quite attached to titles).

As an example, we've been writing using a working title 'Cut Throat' that I quite like. Our main antagonist is in journalism (a cut throat industry) and we are writing a crime thriller, so it fits.

The problem is twofold here - #1, there are already three books using the same name out. This is a huge no-no, you don't want to be confused with them. KDP has made this a lot harder as there are so many titles about that a completely unique title becomes harder to come up with.

#2 Google will come up with products like cut throat razors, as well as even less suitable links a few pages down (Cut Throat as a search term brings up suicide websites - clearly not what we want to be associated with!). Please Google your prospective title, and parts of it (e.g. the first two words) to make sure you aren't linking your work with something unsavoury.

So what we want it a title that is:

·         Catchy

·         Memorable

·         Links to our genre (ideally making it clear what genre it is)

·         Isn't in use by other authors (at least in the same genre)

·         Doesn't link to other industries, products or services

I can't tell you how to come up with a title that matches these criteria - only you can name your book. What you should do is shortlist your options (which could begin with listing key words and themes, and mixing/ matching to come up with titles) then search for them on Amazon, Nook, Smashwords and Google - if your title is unique, it'll be much easier to find.

Next you want a title that has as many keywords in it as possible. More keywords that are useful means you'll have more people stumble upon your book by looking for those keywords. No-one is going to be search for 'Deja Dead' unless they already know about Reichs, but 'dead', 'death', 'murder' etc are common search terms. The problem with these is again keyword competition. You want something people search for, but not something a million other authors use. Uniqueness is the key here.

Longer titles have been common on ebooks - but the longer the title, the less memorable it becomes. Series' do well, as the series subtitle could be added after the main title.

So our book would go from the working title of 'Cut Throat' to "Cut Throat, an Inspector Morton novel" or similar. Thus your works will cross-sell each other. It's also easy to do with Amazon as they give you a box for series titles.

People also like the idea of finding a new 'must read' author, and knowing there are more books to read after is attractive.  Harry Potter as an example makes great use of this. You might forget the exact title of book six, but you know how you'd find it in seconds. Keeping covers in a similar style can help re-enforce this a la JA Konrath - he uses alcoholic drinks as a branding mechanism, and changes the colour each time ("I know she likes him, but has she got the purple one?" is particularly useful for print publications, but also visually distinguishes each on kindle).

So, there you go, a crash course on why you need to be thinking more like a web designer than an author when it comes to naming your books.
Let us know your thoughts - or links to other articles in the comments section.


1 comment:

  1. It's certainly given us something to think about. We have problems naming our stuff as it is! Right now we have four unnamed stories. We didn't think about it at all when releasing Gunning Down Romance. We stole the title from a Savage Garden song and it fitted so well with the anti Valentine's theme. Luckily, when we put it into Amazon's Kindle section, ours is the only book that comes up. But we'll definitely keep this in mind for future releases.