Since it’s the start of the year I thought it would be the ideal time to share some stats from this past year and talk about my plans for AuthorImprints in 2014. First a recap of our top 5 2013 accomplishments and lessons learned:
1. authorimprints.com Alexa ranking drops from 1.4 million to below 300,000
One simple, measureable goal for I had for 2013 was to get authorimprints.com ranked below 1,000,000 in the worldwide Alexa ranking. At the time authorimprints.com ranked 1.4 million and if I could get below 1 million I could solicit sources for blog posts and articles from HARO. I knew that Alexa was not the definitive word on website popularity or traffic but it is the only free, publically available measurement and the results include all websites relative to each other. The lower the number the better and rankings change based on the activity at all other websites.
authorimprints.com reached 667,697 by February 1st and got as low as 297,811 by July 1st.
As Staples used to say, “That Was Easy”, but it really wasn’t (btw, Staples retired that tagline today). I posted twice a week religiously, and a couple times three times a week. I wrote posts with titles that began “How to…” and “7 reasons why…” until I just couldn’t think of more clever ideas. Headings like these did wonders for boosting the authorimprints.com ranking but as my wife Melissa liked to point out, “so what? Does this bring in more business?”
Lessons learned: blogging works to build an audience. I was consistent in posting but regret not practicing the art of promoting those posts more effectively. Nevertheless I believe blogging beats the social networks for building a long-term Internet presence asset. I suggest a 3:1 ratio. For every hour you spend on social networking you should be spending 3 hours on some aspect of your website (which includes email newsletter-related efforts). My ratio is more like 4:1.
2. I produced a 42-part video training series
With book in hand I approached Lynda.com about authoring a training program for eBook distribution and marketing and it was approved. It’s a classy organization and the end result demonstrates why they are the leading video-based training company on the web. My course is 42 video tutorials for a combined 3h 16m.
Lessons learned: only create content that you can use more than one way, or more than one time. Research takes time as does the writing itself. The key is to leverage that time investment which is what I did with Lynda. When I needed a new blog post I looked at the list of videos I wanted to create and wrote something I could use for both purposes.
3. SEO really works
In addition to blogging I spent a lot of time on search engine optimization: figuring out which phrases people were using to look up information relevant to the business focus of AuthorImprints. I determined that search terms like ebook consulting, eBook strategy and createspace publishing would be good goals. ebook conversion would be nice but the competition is fierce. I created new pages, implemented SEO best practices and wrote blog posts using these terms. I focused exclusively on Google by the way and mostly because I didn't have the time to invest in Bing and Yahoo.
Lessons learned: this effort is as much art as science and some factors you cannot control. Still, it’s definitely worth the effort and I ended up generating 17% of our revenue this way, up from just 5% in 2012. Btw, authorimprints.com is currently ranged #2, #3 and #4 in Google results for the term ebook consulting, #3 for ebook strategy and #23 for createspace publishing (we started at position 164 which is page 17 on Google). I’m still debating how to crack ebook conversion (but perhaps this post will help 😉 )
Sources of AuthorImprints Revenue, 2013
(IBPA represents customers who are members of the Independent Book Publishers Association and PWSD stands for Publishers and Writers of San Diego).
4. 2013 eBook self-publisher survey
My goal with the survey was to reach 1,000 respondents and in retrospect that was aggressive for a first-time survey. But I was later told by those with far more survey experience than me that attracting 307 respondents was outstanding. Judging from the views and downloads on Slideshare it seems like others agree. Read it here.
Lessons learned: again, minimize the one-off efforts which means I hope to do this again later this year. But the good news is that conducting it doubled the size of our mailing list and gave me important insights that I plan to implement in 2014.
5. More self-publishers are producing print books than I expected
Judging from the growth of our print book design and development business, self-publishers realize they need both a print and electronic edition of their books. We started offering this last year but didn’t market it extensively. After studying the results of our 2013 survey I optimized authorimprints.com for the term createspace publishing and added it to the home page menus. As you see here it is now 20% of our business and growing fast.
Lessons learned: my lucky discovery was that CreateSpace is by far the largest print-on-demand publisher in the US and our decision to focus on this platform is paying off. When it comes to fighting Amazon, don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. Or if you prefer, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
2014 plans and outlook
One thing to announce today is that I’ll be scaling back my blogging activity on AuthorImprints to one, maybe two posts per week. It’s just too time consuming. Instead of watching my Alexa ranking so closely I plan to focus on growing our mailing list much larger.
With the time saved from blogging I plan to write a series of 3-4 books that will be published in the first half of the year (one is complete and I'll be announcing it in two weeks). Note that I say series because I’m convinced that this is the best way to build a presence on Amazon.com and to brand yourself. The series is focused on book discovery and how to optimize a book’s presence in the online stores, and the Internet more broadly.
That’s it for today. From all of us here—David, Kerri, Yolanda, Kevin and Sam—thanks for reading and best wishes for the New Year.