In this digital era, anyone can try their hand at being a publisher. From blogs to YouTube channels, the internet has opened up routes for everyone to launch content to a mass audience from the comfort of their sofa, and as a result, competition for readers’ attention is becoming increasingly fierce.

In the midst of this flurry of content, the role of the traditional publisher is coming ever more under question, as they try to get ahead and cut through the noise for the sake of their authors.

You don’t have to look too far to see that the publishing industry has already made great leaps towards digitalisation. Worn out paperbacks are gradually being replaced by e-readers as the commuter’s companion of choice, whilst many children are learning their first words through interactive apps instead of library books.

Despite all these leaps and bounds, one question never ceases to be on every publisher’s lips: ‘What’s next?’. It’s clear that simply transferring products into a digital format isn’t going to cut it, and every industry debate out there seems to be looking for a solution.

I wanted to explore how adopting SEO in the publishing industry can improve visibility and open doors to a new realm of digital readers.

Here is how and why traditional publishers should make more use of SEO to reach new audiences, engage readers and ensure their survival in a challenging market.


As someone who has previously worked in the publishing industry, I know what fantastic digital skills are already at publishers’ fingertips. The industry is embracing all sorts of creative and innovative content, from videos and apps to QR codes.

In addition, many larger publishers have whole teams dedicated to gathering complex digital analytics to guide ongoing strategy, with more statistics than you could shake a stick at. It is clear, therefore, that for many publishers the basic architecture and content is already in place.

What’s still missing though, is the optimisation to give content the best possible chance of competing in the search engines. With more focus on this, it could go a long way in helping publishers to keep up with the ever-growing competition.


It’s only natural for publishers and authors to want their content to be discovered and read by as many users as possible, and of course to maximise sales. After all, no matter how creative the publishing industry is, your business has a bottom line just like any other.

Whatever your published products are, if you want to improve usage, it is crucial to ensure that they can be discovered by search engines.

A whole range of techniques can be used to help improve the visibility of your online products, including:

  • Optimising on-page content, abstracts and metadata, to ensure they are search engine friendly.
  • Technical optimisation to address any on-site issues that may be restricting your site’s visibility.
  • Improving your site architecture and internal linking structure.
  • Producing supporting content, such as blogs, infographics and multimedia content.
  • External outreach and building relationships with key influencers and bloggers.
  • Multilingual and international SEO, to help build readership overseas.

It’s important, of course, to adapt your SEO strategy to match your individual business model. If you are publishing an academic journal, you might find optimising abstracts and on-page content effective in helping end users find and cite your articles, whereas if you’re a fiction publisher, you may wish to focus more on outreach to get the word out about your latest page turner.


There’s already great emphasis within the publishing industry on producing high quality metadata to make products discoverable, as well as to promote them before publication.

What doesn’t seem to be mentioned much in publishing, though, is how to ensure that keywords get the best possible results in the search engines. Often, publishers are focused on making a single piece of content discoverable within their own site, but it’s important to start considering the bigger picture.

Think about what readers are searching for in the real world, and whether the keywords you use internally really are the best ones to use in order to compete in a global marketplace. That way, you can attract new users to your on-site content, as well as helping your existing readers find what they want to read next.


When it comes to online content, people won’t go to great lengths to seek out what they want to read. More and more users are turning to the search engines to find what they want as quickly as possible. Take academic publishing as an example. Although most university libraries will have specialist portals for users to search for their desired content, a lot of students and researchers will naturally default to a Google search  – whether they admit it or not!

It’s also pretty likely that they’ll read and cite the first relevant articles that they come across. So, putting this into practice, optimising your website could really have an impact on whether your content gets found and used. When it comes to publishing in the digital world, ignoring the search engines is the equivalent of sticking your head in the sand.


If used correctly, SEO can really help to get a grasp of what works for your customers. By gathering benchmark figures, applying these techniques, and monitoring the results closely, you can begin to build up a picture of what works for your audience – and what doesn’t.

This all-important information can guide you on your way to ensuring your digital offering is the perfect match for your customers for a long time to come. If you’re a publisher who swears by SEO and want to share your insight, give us a shout over on our twitter @silverbean. We’d love to hear all about it!