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Indie Author's Guide to SEO (Part 5)

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Indie Author's Guide to Search Engine Optimization: An Interview with Dr. Kevin W. Tharp
Photo of Dr. Kevin Tharp
June 29, 2018
(Part 5)

Welcome to the fifth installment of the Indie Author's Guide to SEO. On June 5, 2018, I had the real joy of interviewing Dr. Kevin W. Tharp, Associate Professor of Digital Marketing Technology at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

In the first installment, we covered the question of how to find an audience and what the implications of that process are on social media choices. In the second section, we talked about handling reviews, including the meaning of that ubiquitous marketing term: brand. In the third, we talked about what to look for in a web-hosting company. In the fourth, we covered video use and voice search.

Marta: What does an indie author need to know about paid search?

Dr. T: Regarding paid search, there's two kinds: something like Google AdWords or Amazon Marketing Services (AMS), and there's social media paid search. When you're doing paid search through Google AdWords or AMS, if somebody is doing a search for a particular combination of keywords, then you're setting it up so you're willing to pay so much for your ad to appear in those results. It's based on keywords. What you know is that when somebody's done that search, if you've done a good job of finding those keywords, then they're going to see your product, in this case, your book. But what you don't know is what they're looking to do with that information. Do they want to buy? Or just learn more? But, with paid search, you're placing yourself among high ranking keyword results, when you wouldn't normally rank there. Paid search is the way to get into those spaces.

In social media, and to an extent, with the AMS Product Display option, you're more targeting affinities and locations. Like, put this ad in front of 18-24-year-old females who like Jim Butcher or Science Fiction. You've sort of defined a persona, and understanding that persona is important. We talked about that earlier. (See the first installment of this blog series for more information on how to construct a persona.) But, basically it means you've pulled data and you're using it with the marketing or targeting tools for social media. It can be a very cost effective way of reaching an audience.

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Marta: So what about paying per click (CPC) or per thousand impressions (CPM) like BookBub offers? Any sense of which way is a better approach?

Dr. T: Per click or per thousand impressions? You might try a small investment in each. See what the return on investment (ROI) is. You may find that one may give you a better return on investment. Ask yourself: How much is it costing me to make a dollar? May be that one way, for every $100 you spend you're making $5000, it may be that for that same $100 the other way, you're getting $2000 worth of books, but it's still making money. That really comes down to business sense. You have to market to make money. It's good to take a systematic approach.

You can try A/B testing, sampling how different ads for your book play to the same audience. You may find one sells better than the other. A/B testing can be extremely valuable. And you can do A/B testing at a very small scale and find out this is working, that's not. You can test to see how that does.

Marta: What about the information I can get about my readers or potential readers through any of these ad platforms?

Dr. T: Right now, data will get less fine-grained rather than more fine-grained, after what's happened with Facebook. For example, your Kindle Unlimited page reads, it sounds like you get to see the total number of pages, but not if folks are reading part of the book, putting it down and not finishing it. And if more folks are doing the same thing. It would be useful to know if everybody's stopping at page 100, and I'm sure Amazon has that information, but, to protect your readers' privacy, they're not going to share it with you. A lot of that's because Facebook got so fine-grained, you could target one single individual, which was creepy, so everybody has backed off quite a bit.

Marta: Thanks, Kevin, for all your help and advice. Do you have any parting words for indie authors regarding search engine optimization or digital marketing?

Dr. T: Marketing needs to be a sustained effort. You can't do it for a month and stop. It needs to be ongoing and consistent. Can't do six posts this week and disappear. If you're trying to make money, I'll say it again, be consistent. It needs to be systematic and you need to evaluate it as you go. Something that was working yesterday may be destroying you tomorrow. Change is fast.

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Marta: Dear readers, thanks for staying with us through the series. Coming up soon I'll have some reviews, a first look at a Haunted & Historic site that made it into the book, and yet another interview!
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