When planning search engine optimization strategies, what if you tried to promote your site like you're promoting a book?
It's a timely question, as some social media gurus have recently capitalized on SEO best practices when releasing their books. It's a great time to read many of your favorite bloggers in print, including Forrester's Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff (whose book is the best you can read on social media), Rohit Bhargava (whose book is next on my list), Joe Jaffe (whose book I panned - nothing personal, of course), Geoff Livingston (whose book I'll eventually order), and the 103 authors of "The Age of Conversation "(I'm one of the hundred, so I'll refrain from a review).
An underlying theme in promoting these books is getting bloggers involved. Here's why:
1. Bloggers will link back to the authors' sites and book blogs. The added links ultimately lead to higher rankings in search engines. The authors want to make sure they rank well for any terms related to their books, and after book sales die down, the benefits of the links remain.
2. The other blogs rank for relevant book terms, too. Assuming that most of the book reviews are positive (all of the above average at least 4 stars on Amazon except Bhargava's, the newest, so it hasn't yet been reviewed), the reviews add to the pool of favorable search results.
3. Bloggers perfectly complement book reviews from established media sources. A book review in The New Yorker has the weight of authority, but a book review on one of your favorite blogs comes off more like the advice from a trusted friend.
4. Bloggers make it easier to buy the books. Even if you read The New Yorker in one hand with a Kindle in the other, there's still a disconnect between the review and the purchase. Blogs tend to make it easy to buy.
A few case studies demonstrate how this all comes together.
Interviews Included with Personality Not Included
Rohit Bhargava, who coined the term "social media optimization," found a way to get guaranteed coverage ahead of the launch of his book, "Personality Not Included," before anyone even read it. On his blog, he offered exclusive five-question interviews to any blogger who agreed to post the Q&A, and then he linked back to those interviews. Bhargava had to answer 250 questions, so he worked for his links, but he got them, along with all the content about his book, and then the general buzz around it (full disclosure: I took part).
Bhargava then picked a dozen of his favorite interviews (full disclosure: mine was one of them) and opened it up to voting, with prizes going to the top five winners (full disclosure: I bombed in the reader's choice). Now he had a dozen bloggers all blogging and Twittering and Facebooking and working their social media mojo all to drive people to his site, and he allowed room for a write-in candidate. That meant more links, more buzz, more content, and more search dominance.
As of Monday, five of the top 10 first page links in Google for a search on the book's title (without quotes) were other blogs' interviews. Amazon had the top spot, Bhargava's blog claimed listings two and three, and in the middle were a Flickr page with the book's cover from a Mumbai blogger and then the book's official site that Bhargava set up. In sum, Bhargava controlled eight first-page links, with Amazon taking one and a Flickr fan the other. You can't do better SEO than that.
Ready, Aim, Buy with Conversations' Bum Rushes
Imagine you're a manufacturer and you tell all your potential customers when you'd like them to buy something of yours, which sales channel to buy it from, and to kindly share the word with everyone they know. That's the definition of chutzpah, and the mascot, gold medalist, and chairman of the Chutzpah Olympics is the indefatigable Joe Jaffe.
Jaffe launched a "bumrush" for his book "Join the Conversation" where he asked everyone who planned on buying the book to buy it on the same day. It wasn't the first such event; he chronicled the Bumrush the Charts history when he ran it last October. Yet he did help popularize the concept, and in the course of a day, his book went from number 4,840 on Amazon's sales chart to number 26 overall and number two among business books.
Last month, "Age of Conversation," a massive collaboration whose proceeds were donated to charity, took the same approach, and thanks to round-the-clock blogging and Twittering from many of the authors involved, it jumped from number 102,282 to 262 overall and 36 on business.
The bumrush isn't a surefire tactic. There needs to be a built-in fan base, a dedicated evangelist or group pushing it, true market potential for the product, and an appropriate sales channel. When there is that perfect storm, it creates a community (or groundswell) posting, linking, and spreading the messages.
While the focus with all the examples mentioned involves blogs due to their potent SEO cocktails of links, content, and buzz generation, all of these authors are using a mix of supporting tools that provide awareness both among bloggers and their general audience: groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, wikis, Flickr, video, and heavy doses of Twitter.
The best lesson from them is that these authors figured out new ways to generate awareness and sales when launching a new brand (the book) supported by an existing brand (themselves). They're constantly experimenting, racking up far more hits than misses in the process. That's something you can bookmark and highlight, whether or not you follow what's in their books.