Subtitle: “An Author’s Relationship with Amazon, Google and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)”

I admit, when the book first came out, I was so antsy to see it on Google. In the beginning I was secretly disappointed to keep finding it behind pages and pages of cell phone battery horrors … “Girl burned when cell phone catches fire” … “cell phone sparks fire that leaves California man severely burned.”

But after the the book came out and gained publicity, my attitude (and my mental status) buoyed happily seeing it at or near the top of search results. Then at international Amazon sites, and in lists in industry journals and college libraries. And the reviews - I printed out page after page to save for posterity!

But … my amusing and somewhat sarcastic writing style didn’t win me this international publicity. Nope.

It’s all about Google and Amazon. And SEO - search engine optimization.

Making Nice Nice with Automated Software

I learned about SEO when I redid some webpages for friends - one had a website that Google had NO CLUE EXISTED. The website was a couple years old. “How could that be?” I thought. Then I looked at the code. Whomever had done the site had embedded much of the text in graphics. Several pages were simply JPG files. No words. Nothing for a search engine to grab on to.

Quite useless in attracting customers searching for specific products!

So that’s when I learned all about this Search Engine Optimization stuff. I redid the site - but added no content whatsoever. I simply removed the graphics, extracted the text, and put the text directly in the HTML. Like it should have been in the first place.

MSN found it in 2 days. Google took a week.

After 2 years of NOTHING!

Book Titles are No Different

I’ve written about the gyrations and anguish about the title of my book. Recall:

If I Only Changed the Software, Why is the Phone on Fire?: Embedded Debugging Methods Revealed: Technical Mysteries for Engineers

YES! It’s a MOUTHFUL!

But why?

THIS TITLE WAS NOT MY CHOICE!

Do you think I ever went to Elsevier and told them, I want this monster-of-a-title for my book? I wasn’t sure there was even space on the cover for something like that. Practically a novel in itself.

Ok, in Elsevier’s defense, I did show up with the first line - “If I Only Changed the Software, Why is the Phone on Fire?” That line came to me even before I sent out the book proposal. I loved it - it had a neat sound, was intriguing (in my mind), and was based on fact. Think about it for a moment - you changed a line of software…something that might change a message on the display, that might make the remote change the channel, that might make the microwave cook for the right amount of time.

i = i + 1

… and this caused HARDWARE to burst out in flames?

I thought it was cool!

Oh No, Lisa … Silly Silly Naive First Author …

The marketing folks at Elsevier, however, begged to differ. While everyone thought it had a great ring, they informed me,

This title is ’suboptimal for searching.’

Ahhh, huh?

Yo Lisa. Just like the search engine optimization you did for that website. The site looked great! All the right information presented! Eye catching colors!

But nearly invisible to Google. Anyone searching for products that company sold…would not find that company in an internet search.

Lisa, we need to work with the title. It ain’t searchable.

Again, my editor went to bat for me, and we were allowed to keep my “Phone on Fire” phrase as the first phrase - despite the marketing group’s disdain. So they insisted on including a subtitle … a subtitle that was completely manipulated to play optimally with the Amazon search engine.

Okay, so screw literary beauty and delightful wordage, What should the title be?

Clearly, we needed several keywords in the title and subtitle: “embedded”, “software”, “debugging”. Secondarily, we needed “engineers” and “technical” or “technology”. Also, “methods” is good, and “mysteries” - that tied in the idea that the book was sort-of non-fiction, a whole new arena for Elsevier.

And to satisfy Elsevier’s marketing group (which I will certainly listen to, being that they are sort of a successful publisher) and because *I* understand the whole SEO concept as well…

Embedded Debugging Methods Revealed: Technical Mysteries for Engineers

But when someone asks me the title of the book, I have to PREPARE them. “It’s a bit of a mouthful …”

I even took to calling it by shorthand… “Phone on Fire.” I wondered if that was ultimately a bad decision, but if you search Google for “Phone on Fire” it shows up within the first few entries. Add “Simone” and you’re golden … every single hit on the first page.

But that whole SEO thing is based on the fact that folks looking for a product 1) don’t know what it’s called, and 2) don’t know your name.

But on the other hand, with this ‘talking with your mouth full’ title, plugging in “embedded debugging book” (without the quotes) puts the Amazon link on the first page.

Similarly, “embedded debugging software” gets me on the first page.

So, I guess Elsevier was right after all.

(But I still like Phone on Fire better.)

PS - I talked to a guy the other day - out of the blue he told me that he loved the title of the book so well that he ordered it just based on the title. (So there. Phhhhbtpt.)