Distribute press releases

Once you have an award or some form of “recognition” to promote, either about your book or your service/product/company, you should distribute a press release electronically through the Internet.  Not only do distributed press releases that contain links back to your author or company website often appear high in organic search results in their own right, but they also help with optimizing your author or company website, too.

There are a number of ways to distribute press releases, ranging in cost from $0 -$800 or more. As with everything, you get what you pay for.  The free press release distribution services are appealing for self-published authors on a budget because they increase the exposure of your book, although not to the extent of a paid-for service like prweb.com.  

The free press release services may also be appealing for your company PR distribution needs, although you may find yourself shying away from the free services due to an extreme case of Adsensiphobia (TM).

Adsensiphobia is experienced by marketing people when they are faced with the dilemma of directing potential customers to a website on which some of their competitors may be advertising (either via banner ads or contextual  text ads in a Google AdSense box).  Free PR distribution services are notorious for this, as are MySpace, YouTube, and many other “Web 2.0” websites.   I fear a day will come when Twitter decides it needs to monetize its traffic via AdSense, as well.  

Ultimately, however, altering your marketing initiatives due to adsensiphobia is self-defeating and, in the long run, pointless. Thanks to XML, even distributing your press release through paid distribution services like PRWeb doesn’t protect you, since some AdSense-specific websites exist solely to pick-up the XML feed from PRWeb AND display contextual AdSense links (which probably include links to your competitors).  If your book or company has proven to be profitable for AdSense advertisers, there is no getting around it; and by refraining from distributing to every possible outlet solely because of adsensiphobia, you are really only shooting yourself in the foot.

If you are marketing a company and experiencing adsensiphobia, ask yourself this… is it realistic to believe that your potential customers have never heard of your competitors?   People don’t drink Perrier because they are unaware of tap water. They drink Perrier because Perrier has established its value to its customers.

Optimize your book or company for search

As we continue discussing how book marketing is similar in many ways to marketing a company, one consideration to always keep in mind is “search engine optimization.” This may seem a more appropriate topic when it comes to marketing a company, specifically as it relates to optimizing a company website, but the same considerations — and therefore the same tactics — hold true with regard to book promotion as well.

Optimizing your book for Internet sales starts with the title.  I discuss this subject in my book Sell Your Book on Amazon in regard to how Amazon’s search engine indexes books, but the same can be said for Internet search engines in general (Google, Yahoo, etc).  When “content” is indexed by computers, the “title” of that content is weighted quite heavily. For books, the title is… well, the title. For web pages, the title is the “title page” in the HTML.

This is so important for authors that Outskirts Press offers an optional service whereby we offer title suggestions to our authors.  This begins with seeing the author’s initial title and/or sub-title. We analyze that against the content of the book and against other books that may either share that title or be “too similar” to that title.   Next, we suggest 3 alternate titles and sub-titles that are geared toward maximizing the applicable “keywords” that define the book’s subject matter or content. 

Sub-titles for books are one of the most powerful, and one of the most overlooked, marketing opportunities for books in the Internet age.  One need look no further than five of the top 10 bestselling books published through Outskirts Press in 2009 for perfect examples. I’ll highlight the keywords that are helping these books get seen by more potential customers who conduct searches on the Internet.

  • The Complete Guide to Day Trading: A Practical Manual From a Professional Day Trading Coach, by Markus Heitkoetter
  • LEED AP Exam Guide: Study Materials, Sample Questions, Mock Exam, Building LEED Certification (LEED-NC) and Going Green, by Gang Chen
  • Meat Smoking and Smokehouse Design, by Stanley Marianski, Adam Marianski, Robert Marianski
  • Sell Your Book on Amazon: Top-Secret Tips Guaranteed to Increase Sales for Print-on-Demand and Self-Publishing Writers, by Brent Sampson
  • What To Do When You Become The Boss: How New Managers Become Successful Managers, by Bob Selden

If sub-titles are so successful for books, ask yourself…. should your company have one?  Are the names/titles for the products or services you launch optimized for search? These are important things to consider.

Am I a best-selling author? Part One

I’ll start this topic by referencing a previous posting where I was considering adding “best-selling author” to the name of my blog.  The purpose is to add another applicable keyword phrase that people who may have interest in this blog could conceivably type into a search engine. I’ve already discussed in the past how blog names and individual blog post titles are important to consider for SEO purposes.

But, as I mentioned, adding “best-selling author” brings up a host of considerations, the first of which I’ll dissect now.

1. Keyword optimization is already complicated, and is made even MORE annoying by words and phrases that are – or could be – hyphenated.  At Outskirts Press, we run into this issue all the time within our marketing and IT departments regarding “self publishing” because you see it hyphenated just as often as not, and when considering topics like SEO, you are wise to support what people might do, and not necessarily what is correct.  That’s why pay-per-click bidding on common misspellings of popular keywords is almost as competitive as bidding on the correctly spelled words.

At any rate, adding “best-selling author” to my blog name raises one issue solely based upon the hyphen.  Without any other considerations, would it be better to say “best-selling” or “best selling” or “bestselling?” 

Hyphenation is often subjective, and everyone has an opinion. Other writers and editors are particularly apt to point out your foibles if you do something they don’t agree personally with — so there’s one can of words, right there,  raising the ire of my target audience. What can you say about a language where there are multiple manuals of styles — Strunk & White, A.P., Chicago– all equally credible, but often different in their approaches?  Officially — which means, in my humble opinion — “best-selling” should be hyphenated because you are linking a modifying adverb that doesn’t end in “ly.”  Other examples of this include “ill-favored” and “well-known” and… yes … “self-publishing.”

So, if one believes that little dose of English 201, one agrees that “best-selling” with the hyphen is the way to go.

But here’s the problem. The whole point of adding “best-selling” to the blog name is to optimize this blog for search engines, not to toot my horn!  Well, okay, maybe it is to add a small amount of additional credibility — but we’ll address that later, too…

The fact is, the majority of people don’t type hyphens into search engines. In fact, a surprising number of people often don’t type spaces into search engines, particularly in the case of potentially hyphenated or compound words like “self-publishing” or ‘best-selling.”

So, that logic would suggest that “bestselling” is the way to go.   But you know what? “Bestselling” isn’t a single word according to either of the dictionaries I use as a resource –where, often, compound words will be spelled differently depending upon the dictionary.  To add further complexity, of course Bill Gates and Word thinks “bestselling” is just fine; so who do you believe? Webster, who has been dead forever, or the richest guy in the world? It’s a tough choice, and Word for Windows has let me down before… I think we’ve all become too reliant upon its “spell check” and “grammar check” functionality that we sometimes eschew true copyediting due to time constraints or resources. Word is fairly competent when it comes to correcting misspellings, but less capable when it comes to correcting incorrect word usage. For that reason, when submitting a book for publication, I would recommend utilizing the services of a human copyeditor and not relying solely on a computer’s functionality.

Back to the story of what to do with this “best-selling” quagmire.   All decisions should be made by weighing all the pros and cons. And that requires understanding more of the issues.  Am I a best-selling author?  There’s more to that answer than just a hyphen, so more on that in the near future…

Titling your blog postings

The third titling opportunity for optimizing your blog is the headline used for each specific blog posting. This one is a tight-rope act. You want to optimize your posting headline for search engines, but you also want it to serve the purpose of accurately identifying the content/topic of the specific post.

For one of our other blogs, at Self Publishing News, one of my requirements for the headline titles is that they contain either “self publishing” or “self published.” One of my purposes with that blog is to establish it within the circle of “self publishing” sites that appear from that specific keyword search. The downside, of course, is that having such a mandate prevents the headline from being as applicable as it otherwise could be. Which is better? Who knows… So I’ll do an A/B test with that blog and this one to learn the answer to that question. These posting headlines, at least so far, have been more subject-applicable than search engine optimized.

Do you see how I linked “self publishing” up there to Outskirts Press?  “Self Publishing” is the most valuable keyword term for our self-publishing book company, and Google’s search engines particularly like to see applicable search terms that are linked to the applicable website.  Blogging is all well and good for creating a platform for your career, but the blog, in and of itself, probably isn’t your (or your company’s) sole presence on the Internet, so it is important to “link” the two, and when doing that, you might as well link them in a way that is most conducive to search engine optimization.

When mousing-over the link, without clicking on it, you may also notice in the information bar (at the very bottom of your browser) that I’m using a tracking code with a tag. In this case, the tag is “BrentBlog” – and when I aim links from this blog to Outskirts Press, I try to remember to add that tracking code, which will allow us to analyze the quality and quantity of the traffic we receive on Outskirts Press that originates here.  Ultimately, those statistics allow me to justify my time-expenditure on this endeavor (or prevent me from being able to justify it) to our Board of Directors.  If links originating from this blog are following to Outskirts Press, and registering for free publishing information, and then, ultimately, quality book publishing, I’ll be able to establish that this blog has a true value, rather than simply a perceived one. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to engage in activities that only have perceived values.

Isn’t that nice? I’ve just established my “exit strategy” to this blog, so if it “stops” in the future, I can blame it on my Board of Directors.   “Blaming the Board” is a CEO’s most valued– albeit least publicized — prerogative.

Naming your blog

The username or domain name you use for your blog  is the most heavily weighted in terms of search engine optimization, so the URL is the single most imporant part of branding your blog.  The second opportunity comes in the form of titling or naming your blog. Currently as I’m writing this (in December 2009), the name of this blog is “CEO Self Publishing Start-Up OutskirtsPress.com” which is not so much a title as a string of keywords I’m hoping will result in my blog being found in relevant search engines. An ideal blog name would be a combination of two things — an accurate, grammatically correct description of the blog’s benefits or purpose AND an infusion of relevant, highly-applicable search words or keyword terms.

My current name misses out on the “grammatically correct” portion of that criteria. Of course, I’m composing this blog posting in December of 2009 so perhaps by the time this blog launches in January 2010, I will have had time to arrive upon a better name. Like the headline of a press release, or the subject heading of an important email, or the title of a book, the name of your blog is vital, and it’s mandatory that you spend time getting it exactly right. Fortunately, WordPress allows you to change the name of your blog at any time, and then that new name propagates through previous posts. In essence, that means you can deliberately change your blog name from time to time to massage your SEO position/tactics. And, frankly, that’s probably what I’m going to do, so even though I’m writing this in December 2009, you may be reading it years later (isn’t the archival power of the Internet great?) and as a result, it is anybody’s guess what the “name” of this blog may be in the future…

The importance of blog titles – domain name / URL

As I continue to experiment with the different themes available through WordPress, I will touch upon another important element of creating a blog: the titles.

There are three parts to naming a blog: the URL of the blog, the name or title of the blog, and the heading used for each specific blog posting. All of them have SEO (search engine optimization) ramifications, so in that sense, they are all important.

The URL used for your blog is where you have the least amount of control. It will probably come down to availability. “Good names” are being grabbed left and right. Whenever a new Internet company surpasses the “tipping point” to become commonplace (facebook, twitter, etc), the usernames become somewhat valuable. By valuable, I’m not implying they have a dollar amount associated with them. No, instead it means that they having a branding, “platform,” SEO equity.  And if you’re not quick or savvy enough to secure the usernames you want for these successful internet properties, you can rest assured that your competitors are.

Let’s look back at history. The first internet “user names” were domain names, and in the 90’s, it became known as the Internet Landrush to register as many “good” domain names as you could. Nowadays, getting a “good” domain name is next to impossible – they’re all taken. But, look! When MySpace launched, the opportunity presented itself again. You could register a good “username” on MySpace. And again with FaceBook. And now with Twitter and Ning.

So, if you have a brand you’re trying to build, or a particular search-term you’re trying to leverage, be sure you attempt registration for those words/phrases with all the major Internet Properties. And yes, you should still try to register your own name as a domain name, too; it might still be available.  And register your kids’ names, too. Who knows what the Internet will “be” 20-30 years from now?  In not-so-hypothetical world, your kid having his/her own domain name could possibly mean the difference between being hired or not.

So, in terms of blogging, the URL for your blog will be largely determined by the availability (either the domain name, or the registration username on the blogging platform of your choice). But if your preferred name is available, ask yourself of its value. In my case, I used “brentsampson” with WordPress to secure that username, and I already had “brentsampson.com” registered as a domain name a while ago. I simply connected them with a DNS forward, which WordPress makes relatively easy. It’s $10 a year. In fact, up until 2010, I had an alternate website set up for “brentsampson.com” but it wasn’t one I devoted any time to, so it therefore lacked any motivating factors for anyone to visit, other than the fact that it was listed on the back of one of my books. It’s my hope this blog is different. Who knows? That’s one of the fun parts of the internet — anyone can put anything up that they want. It’s up to readers to determine their value. In fact, that’s one of the core philosophies of self-publishing, too, but that’s a topic for a different day.

Also topics for different days are the 2nd and 3rd titling opportunities for your blog…

More on branding, SEO, and blogging

Well the Sapphire theme didn’t look so hot either, so for today’s post I’m trying a theme called “Contempt.” Contempt? Really, WordPress? That’s like naming a movie “Gigli” and hoping it makes any money. Titles are very important, and I’m not talking about employee titles like “President/CEO” which, to me, always sounds so huffy-puffy. No, I’m talking about titles as in names of products, titles of books, etc. This will be an on-going topic of this blog.

But today we’re still talking about branding because I’m still in the process of branding this blog appropriately. I haven’t yet settled upon a theme. It occurred to me to simply use the theme we’re using for Self Publishing News, which is “Blix” if I remember correctly. But part of successful branding is being DIFFERENT from everyone else. Being unique. Self Publishing News already takes too much of my time, and I only contribute to it about 3 times a month, but I have to be AWARE of it, and that takes allocation of my own brain’s resources. So, if I’m going to allocate time to THIS blog, too, which I am anticipating will take much more time than Self Publishing News, I owe it to my blog for it to have its own identity. So it can’t share the same theme as Self Publishing News, which is too bad, because that theme “Blix” is a pretty good one.

So, back to “Contempt.” What makes a good blog theme? There are one-column themes, like the Sapphire (bad). There are two column themes like “Contempt” and “Blix” (good) and there are three column themes like… I don’t know even what. When scrolling through the themes offered by WordPress, I even saw one 4-column theme. No!

In my opinion, two-column themes are the best. They allow for the most aesthetic viewing, with the largest column devoted to the content, and the smaller column devoted to the widgets along the side. Then the consideration becomes, which side should the “smaller” column be on? The left side or the right side? Well, this consideration revolves around SEO, which will be a common topic of this blog. At Outskirts Press we’ve always been somewhat cognizant of SEO, and in 2010 we are really accelerating those efforts because, frankly, we’ve hit something of a glass ceiling with the ROI on PPC.

How’s that for an acronym filled paragraph? Here’s a quick key:
SEO: Search Engine Optimization
ROI – Return on Investment
PPC – Pay Per Click (online advertising)

I’m already breaking one of the cardinal rules of marketing and social networking, and that is this: Don’t use jargon. But at least I’m following another rule: If you DO use jargon, at least translate it.

Back to the story: Search Engine Optimization. Search spiders read website and blog content from left to right, and there is a calculation in the algorithm that gives more value to terms that appear “higher” on the page during the spider’s search. Therefore, content that the spider “sees” on the left-side of the page will weigh more favorably to SEO than content the spider sees on the right-side of the page.

Problem solved! The Self Publishing News blog has the smaller column on the right-hand side and the larger content column on the left-hand side (for the reasons outlined above). So whatever theme I end up choosing for this blog should have the thin/wide columns reversed to give me an opportunity to conduct some A/B testing.

Am I shooting myself in the foot by moving the content-column to the right side, given the procedure with which search spiders read blogs? I don’t think so. Because my previous blogging experience has shown me that the “tagging” and “content clouds” that can be added as widgets in the thinner colum will organically/dynamically “grow” with the blog — putting the thinner column on the left-hand side might actually be BETTER. I guess we’ll see when this blog and the Self Publishing News blogs begin their “race” up the pages of Google.