Why “Discoverability” Matters and How to Maximize Yours
There are a number of buzzwords in publishing right now, one of which (arguably the latest, greatest buzzword) is “discoverability”. The thing is, this is not a buzzword for the sake of a buzzword—this is arguably the biggest issue in the digital marketplace, and for the industry as a whole. It has always been an/the issue, but now more than ever, as shelf space (let alone the very bookstores that house that space) vanishes, and publishers and authors are left to market their projects in the abyss of the internet, competing for visibility with hundreds of thousands of other titles. What is “Discoverability?” – At its core, “discoverability” means making it easy for people to find your work, whether they are looking for it or not. Thishas to do with a lot of technical things related to search engine optimization which I can’t fully explain because I am not an SEO wiz. That said, I have observed a few basics that are important, and worth spending your time on as an artist. It all boils down to having the right information in the right places. Make a good first impression. – When anyone gets wind of you and is interested, they will Google you. Hands down. Part of your job is to make sure that every top hit in your Google search results reflects well on you. If someone finds your CD without looking for it, that is a very good problem, and you should think about that landing page as your business card. Maybe that person will buy your album and review it, or maybe they’ll just visit your website and poke around. And maybe that person has a blog or twitter feed, where they’ll spread the word about how cool you are. But they are unlikely to do any of these things if the information they do find is presented poorly. It comes down to this: Get your metadata* right. – No matter how reputable the distributor or record label, information that gets fed out to retailers large and small often gets mixed up in the delivery process. Sometimes you’ll notice that your CD page on some sites is completely missing, that they have the wrong release date, etc. You should absolutely make sure the information about both you and your release is accurate. Even if it’s a small, “nobody ever goes here” site, you won’t be doing yourself any favors by skipping over it. Anything that comes up on Google (let’s say within the first 5 pages of search results) means that someone could easily stumble on it.
Ready to work? Here’s what to do.
Step 1: Google yourself. You know you want to.
Step 2: Go through each and every search result that is a retail landing page and check out what’s happening. Make sure the information is correct. If not, find out how to send changes to the site (sometimes this is very simple, where any user can submit changes to the webmaster directly; other times you may have to track down an email address).
Step 3: Find out if the sites where you have found your album listed also have author profile pages of some kind, and determine whether this is a worthwhile effort for you to set up. (See below for some notes on artist-controlled profile pages for tips.)People really do see these pages, so it’s worth the effort. – You never know from where your evangelists will come from, but a good bet is starting with the places you know people are. I suggest setting up the profiles with information that is not likely to change (such as your bio and photo), and leave information out that would require constant updating (like gig dates, for example). Many profiles have fields to add links to your website and/or blog, and some even allow you to add your twitter or RSS feeds. Try to keep the info that needs to be updated in a central location, like your website/blog, so you don’t create an insurmountable and overwhelming amount of work for yourself. Increase Discoverability through artist profiles. – I’m not suggesting you put up artist profiles everywhere. But you should definitely hit the sites you know are reputable and where you know there is enough traffic to warrant the time investment. Here are a couple great artist-controlled profile pages:
Amazon: Go to Amazon Artist Central and “claim” yourself! Amazon Author Central has been around for a long time, and is the program behind pages where you can click on the author’s name and see a bit more about them, a photo, and a list of his/her titles on Amazon. Amazon Artist Central honestly blows Author Central out of the water with its features. These pages are free, and definitely important. (P.S. Amazon likes it when you use their tools, and your discoverability will be boosted as a result.) Check out Bill Frisell on Amazon for an example of a great artist page.
All About Jazz: I had no idea All About Jazz had such fantastic artist profiles…and they’re really easy to set up. Think of it as free advertising! Sign up for the site here, and then create/update your artist profile.*Metadata isn’t limited to the very basic info on the album. As much information as you can fill out, including (and especially) “similar artist” or “sounds like” fields, the better. If you associate your CD with someone who you genuinely think is similar, but who also happens to be famous(er), you stand that much better of a chance at being “discovered” by someone who wasn’t looking.
Mary Cummings is the editorial director of Diversion Books, a digital publishing venture that has produced many bestselling ebooks for authors like Mark Cuban, Mike Leach, and Jenny Gardiner. Mary has worked in editorial and marketing capacities, assisting authors in every step of the publishing process. Follow her on Twitter @sum_mary.