December 15-31, 2004 Edition

Publishers Encouraged

to Check Search Engine

Behaviors When Marketing

DALLAS, TX/12/14/04—An item in Publishers Weekly prompts Authorlink to encourage publishers, especially smaller ones, to think about their online-marketing strategies, and to double-check the order of their titles in major Internet bookstores such as, Barnes&, and others.

The PW item pointed out that when one enters the search phrase, “Great Expectations” on the site, the first book to appear is not the Dickens classic, but rather Barnes & Noble’s own latest publishing project, titled: Great Expectations: All-in-One Resource for Pregnancy and Childbirth.

The gist of the PW article was that B&N is making yet another inroad into the nonfiction reference niche, this time against rival backlist title, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, a 2002 release from Workman Publishing, Inc.—and not about search engines, per se. But The Great Expectations search results, which properly shows the BN title and the Dickens classics in publication date order, is an example of a publisher who has probably carefully considered the idiosyncrasies of keyword programming, when choosing the book’s title. Such clever results, whether planned or accidental, should remind all publishers planning title and overall web strategies to think about how online search engines behave.

Search engines can be “seeded” to skew results in favor of the site’s own interests. For example, a site that sells used books has a special interest in seeing that its used titles appear at the top of search results, rather than later editions, perhaps because there could be a higher profit margin on such used sales.

Online booksellers aren’t necessarily out to scam people, and sometimes an out-and-out error causes titles to be out of publication-date order. However, some search results are deliberately programmed to favor one entity over another. Such a practice hurts publishers, especially smaller ones. So, it’s a good idea to check listings to ensure that they are appearing where they should be in the search results. If not, a publisher may want to bring the situation to the bookseller’s attention, or rethink how a book is titled and marketed.

Not long ago, one of our own Authorlink Press titles, a newly-revised edition of a classic book (original edition no longer in print), appeared only as the sixth or eighth entry when conducting a title search. Editions which came up in first, second, third place and beyond, were the used editions, rather than the latest revised edition we published. When we alerted the bookseller to the problem, they promptly corrected the programming code to place our newer edition at the top of the search results, where it should logically be, rather than having older, used editions preceding the new one.