Is Your Metadata Ready for Direct-to-Consumer Marketing?
In the age of mobile, digital, social, and online shopping, brand and marketing messages are increasingly interpreted and catalogued by computers. As a result, metadata is taking on a new and important role for authors and publishers. It is becoming a crucial foundation for successful direct-to-consumer marketing and discoverability.
We all know that content consumption has changed forever. Consumers now sample and explore book content in dozens of “micro-moments,” as Google calls them. Throughout their day, they change platforms, mediums, and devices. They swipe, they click, they view, they listen, and they ask Siri. Their real-world conversations seamlessly intermingle with their virtual interactions.
On a typical day, consumers can experience hashtags, online recommendations, blogs, Twitter cards, hyperlinks, Wikis, live streams, Rich Pins, Instant messages, search engines, LinkedIn updates, rich snippets, retail websites, pop-up ads, YouTube videos, Facebook posts, podcasts, Instagram pics, a group Snapchat, and on and on…
And what is the key transmitter in this vast, global, neural-like infrastructure? Metadata.
Well-crafted metadata shapes context, displays relevant information, surfaces brand and marketing messages, connects the dots, and enriches the micro-moment for readers. Incomplete, inaccurate, or irrelevant metadata, on the other hand, leads to missed opportunities. In today’s crowded media marketplace, exceptional consumer-facing metadata can offer a strong competitive advantage.
To capitalize on this opportunity, authors and publishers must broaden their commerce-facing metadata strategy. For those who don’t yet have a metadata strategy, it has never been more crucial to develop one. Devote the necessary time and resources to create a plan. Here are the foundations of a strategy that can prepare you for success in a marketplace that increasingly relies on metadata to connect readers with great content.
1. Transition to the ONIX 3.0 Standard. ONIX is the widely implemented XML-based standard created by a consortium of publishers, wholesalers, retailers, and aggregators for sharing data pertaining to print and ebooks. However, the 3.0 standard, which was published seven years ago, has not been widely implemented for a number of reasons, one being slow retailer adoption. It’s time to push past the issues and move forward with implementation of this standard at your organization. As metadata expert Thad McIlroy explains, “You are doing your company, and more significantly, your authors, a disservice by refusing to move. Your books would gain more exposure and sales [with adoption of ONIX 3.0].” Learn why here.
2. Learn about Schema. Schema is a specific vocabulary of tags, also known as microdata, that can be added to your HTML to improve the way your web pages are represented in search engine results pages. Here’s a primer on microdata from schema.org. After you read it, consider how embedding microdata in your ebook samples could improve discoverability. It’s very powerful.
3. Conduct a metadata audit of one title across every possible platform. This is a more casual endeavor, but one that can lead to illumination. Spend a few hours in the shoes of a reader and find the holes in your metadata -- missing data, inconsistencies in your data, inaccurate or out of date metadata, etc. Then, start to create a process to enrich and standardize your metadata across all of these platforms. Creating a simple checklist in Google Docs is a great way to start.
Here’s an example of how poor metadata can lead to a missed opportunity. I am not going to name names, but I recently searched on Google for two New York Times bestselling authors in the romance genre. I was preparing a talk on metadata, and thought both of these authors would provide solid examples of what a “rich snippet” looks like on Google. Rich Snippets are a type of page mark-up that allows search engines to display more detailed content alongside a search result, like a book rating or review. Both of these authors have powerful international brands, but the search of one author’s name led to a wealth of information while the search for the other led to almost none. This missed opportunity is all too common. Here’s a Google tutorial on Structured Data Markup (aka Schema) that could have helped author number two.
4. Explore new types of consumer-facing metadata and microdata. For example, photo metadata can be added to your digital photo files, including descriptive, technical, and administrative classes of metadata. The image’s creator, creation date, copyright holder, color characteristics, size, keywords, source, and description can all be included. Creating a process to provide rich metadata for photos of an author, book covers, and other visual elements has many benefits and is becoming increasingly important as the Web and social become more visual. Here’s a primer from photometadata.org.
5. Use platforms that automate and integrate metadata into content creation. At my company, Bublish, we’ve automated much of the metadata process for authors and publishers. When they upload a book into our system, metadata is pulled directly from the EPUB file and multiple retail product pages. To ensure that enriched metadata is added, we’ve integrated the data entry process into the content-creation workflow. A book upload can’t be completed until keywords and other important metadata is added. After that, the process is automated.
Every time content is created and shared from Bublish in the form of book bubbles -- our version of an ebook sample -- that metadata is pulled, ensuring that each book bubble connects the dots for readers and improves discoverability in multiple ways. As Bublish evolves, we’ll be focusing on further integration of ONIX 3.0, Schema, and other microdata into our content creation and distribution workflows. It’s a priority for our team, as we see the growing importance of metadata in discoverability and ecommerce.
Kathy Meis is the founder and CEO of Bublish. With more than 25 years of experience in the media and publishing industries, she has served in a wide variety of editorial and management positions at some of the industry’s leading media companies, including CBS and Forbes, Inc. She is a founding partner of PubSmart, a publishing conference in Charleston, South Carolina, as well as a professional writer, editor, and ghostwriter. Kathy speaks and blogs regularly on the subject of book promotion, author branding, social marketing, and discoverability. She has appeared at many conferences, including Book Expo America, Women in Media, GrubSteet, PubSmart, and IndieRecon.