Whether you’ve self-published a book or are traditionally published, you are responsible for most of the marketing. And with half a million to four million books published each year, the experts at Self-Publishing Relief know it’s not easy to stand out from the competition and find your audience. If you want to bump up your online visibility and boost your profits, you need to learn how algorithms can affect your book sales.
How Algorithms Affect Book Sales
“The Algorithm.” You’ve probably heard that phrase hundreds of times, but what exactly does it mean? Essentially, an algorithm is a platform’s or search engine’s proprietary computation used to rank keywords, tags, and other factors to determine what information gets presented to which users. Each algorithm prioritizes the information considered most relevant to its audience and chooses which content to deliver to you based on your behavior.
When something seems popular or gets a lot of attention, the algorithm used by the platform will rank it higher and share that information with more people. As a result, you’ll see social media posts and search engine results in the order of popularity and relevance rather than chronologically. And when the algorithm notices something is attracting a lot of attention, it will push that content out to other users who might also be interested. This is how some social media content snowballs and goes “viral.” If your book has 1,000+ different hits online, it’s going to rank higher in the algorithm than a book that has only 100 related hits online—simple popularity.
And when it ranks higher, it’ll get more clicks and views, because it will be pushed out to more people… generating even MORE clicks and views (there’s that snowball effect). The premise is that, if a book is talked about or mentioned often, it’s more likely to be one that people are interested in.
Of course, having money to spend on marketing helps achieve this goal, since you’ll be able to purchase ads to drive views and clicks your way. But you can also attempt to organically bump yourself up in the algorithm.
Algorithms And Social Media
In order to reach the largest audience of potential buyers, you want your name (or pen name) and your book to get as high up into the social media platform’s algorithm as possible. Hopefully your post will be visible on different social media platforms such as TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. But keep in mind, the social media networks are often vague about exactly how their algorithms work and analyze data.
Check the platforms’ guidelines for any pertinent information about which type of content they tend to promote. And try these basic hacks to help your social media post resonate with the algorithms:
Encourage engagement: The more your audience interacts and connects with your content, the more likely it is to be promoted by the algorithm. An easy way to do this is to simply use posts that ask questions.
Use the right hashtags: A hashtag assigns a category to your content for users interested in that particular topic. Use one or two hashtags on each post to ensure your message will end up in the queue where potential readers are found.
Post consistently: Algorithms notice if you post only occasionally or if you post on a regular schedule.
Tag other accounts: By tagging other social media accounts in your post, you make your message available to a new audience of potential buyers. But be careful not to overuse these types of posts, because they may appear as clickbait—which could get you banned.
Keep in mind, social media platforms can lose popularity (remember Myspace?) as new ones arrive (TikTok, Mastodon). You can also be temporarily or permanently banned from a social media platform for violating the rules—and lose your entire audience in the blink of an eye.
Algorithms And Your Author Website
While social media is great for marketing, your home base should be your author website. Make sure the content on your site is SEO-friendly, and learn how to check Google Analytics to track how your content is performing. Link your social media profiles on your site, and add the link to your author website to your social media profiles where allowed. This will help your audience to find you seamlessly across the Internet.
Having a blog on your author website is an easy way to both connect with readers on a more personal level and to add to the content related to you, your name, your site, your book, etc. that exists on the web.
The content on your website is king, but writing other content that tracks back to you and your writing is also helpful. Freelance articles, guest blog posts on other people’s blogs/sites, book reviews—you name it. The more you put out there with your name on it and the more views/clicks those things get, the higher up you’ll start to rank in the algorithm. Getting more reviews of your own book will help too, so be sure to encourage readers to leave them after reading!
Algorithms And Publishing Platforms
When publishing and selling your book on a self-publishing platform, you might assume the best way to reach more readers is to put your book in a broad category and use generic keywords. But the reverse is true: You should include your book in a niche category and use very specific keywords. Remember, there are millions of books being published every year. If you want readers to have any chance of finding yours, you need to get as specific as possible. This also helps assure that the readers who find your book are much more likely to enjoy it (and hopefully leave a great review!).
One Last Tip About Algorithms…
Remember: It will take time to organically build up your content so that it ranks higher and higher with algorithms. Work on building a trove of content on your author website that relates to you and your book, encourage interaction with your followers, post consistently on social media, and create a presence on book tracking websites. When your posts and content receive more engagement, the algorithms will share your message with more potential fans and buyers.
Question: How have you worked with algorithms to boost your book sales?