The March 28th event was chock full of information both tech-y and theoretical about that one word that’s been on the mind of all us publishing folk: metadata. What exactly is it? What does it do for our books? How do I wrangle it to work for me? What does SEO even stand for?? Our team of brilliant panelists answered all these questions and more! Read ahead for a recap of the night and learn a thing or two about the “M” word.
Once again, our panelists were: Maria Diaz of SocialChorus, Karla Simmons of the Perseus Book Group and Dr. Jason McDonald, founder of JM Internet Group.
Q: What is metadata? And don’t “say data about data”! Why is it important to publishing industry
Karla Simmons describes content: Everyone has books. Metadata is all the info about the book. important because when a user goes to any website, that’s the only thing they see. It goes out in a feed. Also it hits Google. Making sure all your metadata, all your info about your books, is in a system and correct is incredibility important because that’s how people buy books.
Maria Diaz: It’s how you format your titles to your blog posts, descriptions of photos. If you format the title wrong, when you share it on Facebook, all the followers will see is just a bunch of gibberish. Formatting means when you’re writing a blog post (for example) write in a title that’s friendly to people so when you’re sharing it can show up nicely. Using a short title, so when you’re sharing things out, people will click on it.
Jason McDonald: Here’s your homework: Google “chicken soup”. The leading industry for microdata (a type of metadata) is the recipe industry. When you google it, you’re going to see calorie count, breadcrumb trail, pics of chicken soup. Chicken soup is the best way to think about this: how can we become like the chicken soup industry?
Question for Jason McDonald: explain metadata vs microdata?
Jason McDonald: All these terms are messy. Metadata, is older and messier things like title, metadescription.
Microdata is a new format that emerged a year and a half ago (schema.org). Little pieces of info for Google, e.g. “here’s the suggested picture”. Microdata is a kind of microdata.
Question: Where does social media fit into this picture and SEO?
Maria Diaz: It’s important to write your post correctly. Tag everything, makes easier to find.
Question: What’s tagging?
Random terms that cover the subject of what the blog post was about. Example: name of author, title of book, subject of the book. The more info you can feed, the more info can be found.
Social media: Look at the way the articles look on Facebook. You see a title, by “NY Times”. Always think about how it will look to the person you’re sharing it with.
Question: How about sharing a book, how would you tag that? ISBN, title?
Karla Simmons: Amazon took keywords until not long ago. They stopped, and didn’t tell anyone.
Jason McDonald on tagging: if you go to schema.org, they have suggested categories. They leave out reviews, there’s a different format for reviews.
Re: news that Amazon bought Goodreads
Maria Diaz: You should never rely on one platform.
Karla Simmons: agrees with Maria Diaz. Biggest thing publishers have is content; that’s so important.
What platforms do you recommend that best support discoverability?
Maria Diaz: All of them? It depends on your goals. For some books even Pinterest and Instagram. Twitter is probably number one. Facebook is difficult because there’s a lot of privacy controls.
Jason McDonald: I wanna advocate that you look at Google+ looking through the personal author profile. You can attach your blog posts to your personal Google+ account. Google is hijacking Schema’s standard in this case!
Problems with bad metadata?
Karla Simmons: Changing metadata at the distributor level can be difficult. This happens because things change, or get data in before they know. One particular problem is, if one of the authors gets taken off, there’s no way to do that. 30 days before your pub date you want to make sure there’s a lot of good data out there.
Jason McDonald: Where this is going is all about trust indicators: things that indicate to Google that you’re trustworthy. Google is looking at external references to you.
Name the metadata providers
Karla Simmons: Ingram, Belcor, Library of Congress takes feeds but has a different way of weighing them.
What’s the #1 tool for managing metadata?
Karla Simmons: keep all your metadata in one place. If you’re big: use a database. If you’re small: use an excel spreadsheet. Don’t go on individual sites and make changes. Use Hootsuite or Tweetdeck. “Listening Tools” are the next step. Radian6 is the standard.
Jason McDonald: The structured data testing tool you’ll land on a tool Google provides that will tell you if your site is feeding them data.
How is metadata changing publishers distributors, etc workflow? Not a lot of publishing companies are looking for metadata experts. What background skills do we need to acquire to fill these roles?
Karla Simmons: It’s changed the workflow tremendously since the 90s, when there was limited data in three systems. Now you need to have one source of truth that says what is correct.
Maria Diaz: It’s the person who knows the most about the book who should be updating the field.
Jason McDonald: You need two skill sets:
1. the technical part: what’s coming out of Schema, how to structure the info so web crawlers can read it.
2. Skill in cultivating data, because it’s becoming crowd sourced. Got to nurture the humans and their fickle little egos.
If i get an email from a reader who says “I love your book!” is there a way to maneuver them to review the book in the right spot? Where do you steer them to?
Maria Diaz: “Thank you so much. I spent a lot of time on this book. I’d love it if you told your friends on Twitter/told about it on your blog/wrote an Amazon review.”
What about incentives?
Maria Diaz: They do. But in this case you don’t want to get in a situation where you’re paying someone to write something positive.
Samantha, the moderator: sometimes if you put on your feed, thanks so much, PERSONS NAME! people like it when you call them out.
Jason McDonald likes games, and has made SEO into a game: People don’t think through the staging of books on Amazon. When he creates a book, he gives it away for free for reviews on Amazon. (which is probably a violation of their terms of service). Then he says to close that process off, after twenty or thirty days.
Inside the book, make another offer if you review the book, email and “I will give you this extra bonus copy or whatever. These people are a verified purchase review.”
In the SEO community, reviews are shamelessly purchased.
Ask people for questions.
Any tips for fiction writers? differences?
Jason McDonald: sequencing fiction books: they’ll stage their book so they rocket it up. Try to get a book number of sales in a very short time horizon. Which will put it at the top of the bestseller list.
Karla Simmons: make sure you put it in a lot of categories [on Amazon], as many as you possibly can. What time period is it? Does it have something do with women? dogs?
Can you talk more about building trust indicators?
Maria Diaz: Google+ is good for microdata, not great for following. (i.e. don’t bother)
Don’t buy followers! Not going to make sense if you see people (not celebrities) with 500,000 Twitter followers. It looks fake and wrong.
Keep updating your accounts. You can always crosspost. It’s ok; the audience is different.
Be authentic. It’s cliché but true. Look for your book titles on Twitter, friend those people that like your stuff. It’s social! Be a real member of the community.
Jason McDonald: on a technical level, both Google and Bing have webmaster tools, make sure you’re in both of those. They’ll alert you on suspicious behavior.
Any words on Panda update and its pitfalls?
Jason McDonald: Panda and Penguin aren’t particularly relevant to this group. The Penguin update was all about fake blog posts. He suspects Google and Amazon will be cracking down on buying reviews and followers soon. They look at the reviewer profile.
Pricepoints and social marketing
Jason McDonald: on Amazon the royalty changes at 2.99, that’s where you get your 70% royalty. You can change your pricing. He has a workbook that he put up for $50 just for fun, and made good money. Lesson: experiment.
Maria Diaz: people love a good deal. Especially if it’s very shareable. Buy a tablet get a $100 Amazon card. Got lots of retweets.
What are some other microdata tags?
Review, consolidated review reviews, the picture of the thing, events calendar
“keep all your data in one place”? Where? Huh?
In one database on your own. To track your title, subtitle, page count, jacket copy, reviews. And mark, did I send it to these various venues (Ingram, Baker, Onyx. etc.)?
If there’s a change you send it out again.
Maria Diaz: Use Bitly, Google Analytics also has conversion rate.