Book titles and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

As Lord Dark Matter the onimpotent webmaster and editor of Dark Matter the zine with an index of book reviews, I have come to loathe, detest, rant and rave about book titles.  The extra effort some titles cause me for indexing irritates, but that is nothing, I tell you, NOTHING compared with the exhausting effort some titles cause me in my battles to get a green light from the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) add-on.  Why do I want a green light? Why should you as an author or publisher care? And what else can you as a person with a website do to maximise your optimisation and help me in my quest to take over the wor- present you in the best manner possible?  These questions and more are answered below…

What are search engines and Page rankings?

The problem with the web is there are millions – nay, billions! – of users putting their articles and opinions on the web, with no official arbitrator saying ‘Yes, this is good’ or ‘No, that’s crap, get rid of it’*.  So how do we find the good stuff on the web?  Companies have built search engines to filter through the vastness of the web to help us find what we’re looking for.  Search engines act as a library catalogue helping us find what we want in the vast mysterious world  we call the Cloud, the World Wide Web or the Internet.  Google search, Bing and Yahoo are examples of search engines.  They filter through the vastness, looking at your previous search history, what you’ve said you’re looking for, looking for the most reliable sources of information and ranking them in order of a probable match.

The order in which the results of your search come up on the screen when you use Google is a result of Page Ranking.  This isn’t ‘page’ as in ‘a page of paper’, this is ‘Page’ as in the name of the guy who developed this idea.

When complaints are made, sometimes action is taken.

So what does this mean for me as Lord Dark Matter?

I’m blogging and doing my thing, and I’m doing it to be seen.  I might as well save my time and energy for something else – like reading more books – if no-one is going to see my review.  Publishers and DVD/BR distributors send me stuff to be reviewed or at least acknowledged in Items Received for the publicity, in the expectation that people will see their product.  Authors, actors and musicians have taken the time to be interviewed because they expect to be seen, for their project to get publicity.  I enjoy the reading, interviewing and general networking that are the perks of putting in the hard work of adminstering this site and editing the zine, so of course I’m going to put in the extra effort to optimise the website so Dark Matter‘s articles will have as high a Page Ranking as possible, thereby reaching as many people as possible.  How do I achieve this?

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation.  SEO takes into consideration what people are looking for, their previous search history, what is out there and what sites are most likely to provide reliable non-pirated sources of information.

Dark Matter‘s website is built and run using WordPress, a very popular, well-developed, FREE software package that has all sorts of features and optional plug-ins.  Think of a plug-in as an extension: it’s like buying Settlers of Catan (a table top game) then buying an optional extension to expand the game.  The easiest way for me (as a newbie webmaster) to ensure I’ve optimised each individual post is to use an SEO plug-in.

SEO Plug-in

The SEO plug-in I’m using is WordPress SEO by Joost de Valk.  My minion Edward Haynes researched suitable SEOs in forums; two SEOs came forward as the best.  Not wanting to sleep on the couch, Edward installed the one he thought would be easiest to use.

If you look at the below screen shot, taken as I was writing this article, on the right hand side you’ll see a beautiful green light for the SEO rating giving me warm fuzzies.  Possible colours start at red, then orange, then yellow then green.  This SEO plug-in is basing its optimisation ratings on a number of factors.

 SEO screen

 The below screen shows the fields I have to complete to get a pretty emerald green light.  The snippet preview is automatically generated by the plug-in, based on what I put in the below fields.  To get a green light the focus keyword must be identical to the tail end of the ‘permalink’ (URL, see above image) as well as being a shorter version of the SEO title and the meta description (see below image).

SEO screen two

Why do novel titles and author names impact on SEO?

If your novel title or your author’s name has punctuation it is not possible to get an SEO green light if you correctly use that punctuation in a blog title.  No punctuation is accepted in the permalink URL – it’s automatically removed – so it’s not possible to match the focus keyword and the URL.  Nothing else I do can possibly bring my SEO ranking up to that glorious and desirable green light.  The only way possible to achieve that green light is to mangle the title and the first line of the blog post.  This is why, for example, this review of World’s End is called Worlds End; it’s not sloppy editing nor a lack of understanding of the change of meaning, it’s a bid to get that bloody green light.  Should I settle for a yellow light, recording the title correctly?  I’m not sure, this is something I’m still pondering.

Would the author and publisher prefer a yellow light with correct punctuation?  That’s a question I’m not asking them because I’ll get different answers from everyone.  I’m not prepared to cater to individual requests, so I need to come to an autocratic decision.

 And one more thing while I’m on the subject of titles

Creating an index, especially one I was trying to generate semi-automatically, was like having a bucket of cold water thrown over me.  I suddenly realised how many book titles begin with ‘A’ or ‘The’, which required manual alteration of the title or a very long list of book titles that people may never notice.  Drop the articles, people!  It makes for more interesting book titles, easier cataloguing, easier indexing…

In Conclusion

To summarise: if you want your novel or author to get the best publicity possible, tailor the title or name to get the best SEO score.  This means removing hyphens, apostrophes and punctuation in general.  Structure your name to cater for this: O’Malley can be OMalley or oMalley or Omalley or omalley – it’s quite a malleable name really – using a suitable font to become a brand.  Heather Killough-Walden could be Heather Killough Walden or Heather KilloughWalden or…  you get the idea.  And don’t, just don’t, inflict book titles like this on us poor book bloggers.  Not. Ever.  Or we will HURT you.  I’ll send Smokey around.

* When complaints are made, sometimes action is taken.