What Is Book Metadata And Why It Is Important

What Is Metadata For Books

How does book metadata work with SEO? Metadata is text that is written and added to web pages specifically for resource purposes for computer systems and search engines.

It helps them to be able to understand the page content for discovery and identification so that pages are ordered and ranked by relevance.

You can use metadata for blog posts, articles, website pages, and listing services such as online book retailers.

It contains any information that is important for a web page, such as location, publishing date, color depth, file type, or even store opening hours.

What is metadata?

Metadata can be created in many ways, but generally, document metadata describes the page title and SEO description.

Other instances of metadata items include dates, locations, and star ratings. It is sometimes called internal metadata because regular page visitors cannot see it.

When you do a Google search, you will see meta tags in action as the page title and description for each search entry in the list of Google search results.

Here is the Google Search result for this article.

metadata serp

The purple line is the article’s meta title. The green line is the URL. The black text is the meta description.

Compound objects are put in some entries. The orange stars and rating scores are also metadata.

Metadata creation is what drives search engine optimization (SEO), so it is important to take the time to learn how to use basic SEO practices.

With a blog, metadata can be created manually except for possibly the publication date.

But metadata is not only for your website and blog posts but also for your books.

There is no mystery about it other than the fact that it is a vital part of information technology.

Metadata is data about data, but you can’t see it on a web page.

It is used to summarize basic information about data that a search engine uses when it indexes pages.


Book metadata can help you sell ebooks

If you are an author and self-publishing on Amazon, Kindle, Smashwords, Draft2Digital, Apple, B&N, or anywhere else, you need to know what book metadata is.

You need to how to use it to help sell more books.

Take it from me, as an author who has been chronically lazy and left many of my long list of previously published books unchanged from the day they were published; times have changed. And how.

I have been booted into action, however, because, well, um, here comes my admission.

Because my book sales were falling, and I know why.

I have not made it easy for readers to find my books.

No matter how many great reviews my books may have, if readers can’t search and find my titles on retail sites, how can I hope to sell more books?

The word metadata may sound technical, but in reality, it is very simple.

It is only about words and phrases that will help readers find your books.

For the sake of simplicity, I’ll use the example of what you can add to an ebook on Kindle Direct Publishing, but it will work almost the same for all other publishing platforms.


What is book metadata, and what does it do?

Book data is what Amazon and search engines such as Google use to list your entry (book), so it can be found by people using the search feature on Amazon or Google Search.

When you publish your book, all of the data you enter is metadata. You can add even more Amazon metadata by using your Amazon Author Central page.

There are defined fields that hold instances of your data or, in some instances, preservation metadata.

These add information to help manage your book entry on Amazon and other book retailers.

There are technical metadata standards for books and ebooks.

Book metadata will include elements such as title, author, subtitle, series title, categories, contributors, book description, and keywords.

For Amazon KDP, there is also a type of administrative metadata for Age Range and United States Grade Range.

You can create these by using all of these metadata fields when you publish a book.

They will be indexed and used to make your book and data easier to find online by book buyers.

It takes some time to do the necessary research to update all of my books, and in particular in selecting keyword phrases.

But after modifying the data on only one of my books, changes in the way my book was listed happened almost immediately on Amazon.


Keywords are vital metadata

Firstly, instead of my ebook appearing in only the two general categories, it is now listed in four.

It is because I chose Kindle keyword phrases that were already listed in the Kindle Store.

I had initially selected espionage and spies as separate keywords.

But combining them into espionage and spy thrillers, which was suggested when I typed espionage into Amazon’s search field, it gave me a search term that has been used before by book buyers.

It also suggested wartime espionage and military and spies, which I also used as keyword phrases.

By making these two simple changes to my keywords, I now have four genre listings.

Even better, now, when someone searches for wartime espionage, my book lists at number 4.


This is the power of metadata

My previous keywords had my book listed at the wrong end of thousands of books, so it was almost impossible to find.

My seven new keyword phrases now get my book up into at least the top 20 search results.

Because the selection of your seven keywords is so important, you should take the time to find the best possible choices.

You can do this for free using the Amazon search pane.


It is all about making your book more discoverable

If you look at the image below, notice the categories listed on the left.

These are the keyword phrases that can become new category listings for your book if you use them as your keywords and help in making your book more discoverable.

amazon keywords and categories

The other change I made was by adding a subtitle.

As this is again searchable data, it helps readers find your book.

As my book title, Louis, says little and is not going to be found by search, adding the subtitle of The Life Of  Real Spy, guides readers interested in the spy and espionage genre towards my book.

It is such a simple fix.

The most difficult change for me was in rewriting my book description.

Although it needs to contain all the typical SEO norms, such as repeating keywords from the title, subtitle, perhaps series name, and using some SEO power words, it should NOT include the words and phrases used in the categories.

This is a bit weird, but as I have researched, it is a peculiarity of how Amazon uses document metadata.


Book categories are the base example of metadata

Lastly, the choice of categories is very important, but you can only choose two.

Select wisely, but avoid using general categories such as romance or science fiction.

Start by looking for one category that provides information more relevant to your book.

In the book I have changed, I selected FICTION > Thrillers > Espionage and FICTION > War & Military in place of my old categories of FICTION >  Drama and FICTION > Historical.

Dig deeper to find two more specific categories for your book.

Now, does all this work?

Yes, it does help in making your book more discoverable online by making your data easier to find.

One other vital factor to know is that if you don’t get it right the first time, you can try again, and again, and again. Experiment to see what works or doesn’t work.

It could be as simple as finding just one golden keyword phrase, changing a category, or editing your book description that will make your book more discoverable and, hopefully, improve your book sales dramatically.

While I would not suggest that improving your metadata alone will magically increase book sales tenfold, you should consider it as one vital part of your package of book promotion strategies.


Wrap up

The Internet and information technology, in general, run on metadata, which is sometimes called the semantic web.

So it is essential to have a basic understanding of how metadata works.

It is used to summarize basic information about other data on a web page.

Your book sales page on Amazon is a web page. So it describes your book in brief to search engines and Amazon search.

What is metadata? It is what attracts buyers to your book.

So yes, it is very important for you.


Related reading: Parts Of A Book – A Publishing Guide For New Authors

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent writing and blogging, as well as testing and taming new technology.

Avatar for Derek Haines

8 thoughts on “What Is Book Metadata And Why It Is Important

  • Avatar for RAPHAEL
    April 10, 2020 at 10:15 am

    Kindly be sending the articles straight to my email inbox. They are so insightful as am preparing myself to be a publisher on Amazon someday. Raphael, Nairobi, Kenya.

    • Avatar for Derek Haines
      April 10, 2020 at 10:23 am

      You can subscribe to our new articles to receive them by email. You will find the subscribe link in the footer of our website.

  • Avatar for Derek Haines
    December 23, 2017 at 8:29 am

    I’m not sure, Emeka. However, it is always good practice to use appropriate file names.

  • Avatar for Emeka Ossai
    December 23, 2017 at 4:13 am

    What about making sure the file name of your manuscript matches your title/subtitle, does that make a difference like it does for Youtube?

  • Avatar for patriciaruthsusan
    October 24, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    Thanks for this helpful information. :) — Suzanne

  • Avatar for meg calvin
    January 4, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    What is your paid site for promoting books? :)

  • Avatar for Christine Plouvier
    April 19, 2015 at 6:20 am

    I found out that the ISNI that was created for my book from the Library of Congress records had misspelled the title. I sent correction messages to the agencies involved.

    • Avatar for Brian O’Leary
      February 4, 2020 at 2:51 am

      An ISNI describes a creator, not a work. The title of a book would not appear in an ISNI (International Standard Name Identifier). The ISNI could be affiliated with multiple works, but only as a statement (“this book was written by this author”). The name of the book might have been incorrectly associated with an ISBN, but even ISBNs are just numbers. They don’t contain the title of the book.


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