Siri, where’s my book?Why authors need a voice search strategy by Miral Sattar


“Call mom…”

“Dialing Monique…”

Arghhh, cancel!”

“Call mom”

“Dialing Monique…”


Can you remember the first few times you tried using your hands-free dialing feature on your phone or car?

Mine kinda went like the above.  Now that was a few years ago and as with most technological advancements, the early adoption of it gives most of us little confidence it’ll stick or become the new norm.

Fast forward to today, and voice search and voice recognition is without a doubt here to stay and be the dominant way we communicate with our devices.

I knew this was coming when reports that Google, Facebook and other huge companies were investing and buying up companies to lead their voice recognition charge.

Now you may be wondering, “That’s great, but why does that matter to us authors?”.

Great questions and I’m glad you asked!

In order to understand how urgent and important it is for you to be on the cutting edge of voice search technology and why your books sales depend on it, you need to understand how the search engines we use every single day work.

When we use Google or YouTube to look for answers or something specific (Google and YouTube are the #1 and #2 largest search engines in the world) they quickly go to reference all of the pages of content that their robots crawled and indexed.

And based on your combination of search words, the search engines attempt to give you back the exact result you need without you having to redefine your search or try again.

Google and the other search engines depend on getting it right the first time. Why?

Because Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and whatever other platforms we use all make money through a single source – running ads.

If Google can’t return what you’re looking for in the least amount of clicks, you won’t use it. Instead you’ll use some other platform that does the job right.

Google’s income depends on being able to properly categorize your website, pages and book listings. It does this by using super advanced technology to find the most common theme to every webpage (keywords), it looks to see that your images match, it looks for what you set as titles, headlines, bolds and underlines and give importance to, and it looks to see if other pages are giving references (links) to your page and what they are saying about it.

Like I said, it’s a super complicated algorithm that constantly changes to keep nerds (like me!) from gaming the system.

So now that we have that short lesson to give you some context, let’s move on to what it all has to do with you selling more books.

Unless you’re sitting next to Oprah and she’s yelling to the audience, “You get a book, you get a book, you get a book!”, it’s unlikely that most people will know you enough to search you out by name and book title.

Therefore let’s call ourselves, undiscovered authors.  As an undiscovered author, you are going to sell books one of three ways:

  1. You get picked up by a publishing house. Unless you are James Patterson or JK Rowling, you will be doing most of the marketing for your book. This is the least likely and hardest way to get your book published.
  2. You sell your book through your own landing page and run ads to it. Not a bad way but you won’t make money on the book sales unless you have a secondary offer to sell after they buy the book.
  3. And lastly, people will find your book by the keywords and topics they search out. This is your best opportunity to sell your books in the short and long term by harnessing SEO and voice SEO.

(Note: Strategy #2 is a pretty awesome way of selling books and that’s why I’m creating a soon-to-be-released program that will teach you exactly how to do it and I promise to let you know as soon as it’s available!)

When you’re an undiscovered author, lack resources (money) to invest in marketing, and you’re selling your first book – there is no better way to set yourself up for success than harnessing the power of search engines to do the work for you and present your book to thousands and even hundreds of thousands of people everyday who are looking to solve a problem that your book can offer.

And this is what we call SEO or Search Engine Optimization.

Let’s say for example you wrote a book on how to start a side gig creating and selling jewelry on Etsy.

If you know exactly how to optimize the pages that your selling your book on and how to optimize your Amazon listing page and your social media and basically everywhere your book is being marketed, then Google will know that your book is a great resource when someone goes searching for “how to sell jewelry on Etsy”.

Do you see how that works?

Now although this seems pretty easy and obvious, knowing how to properly optimize your pages for the search engines is where 90% of authors either get lost or skip it altogether.

Since you’re here with me reading this post, it’s my goal to help you understand the process so you can leverage SEO and more importantly voice SEO (which we’ll get to next) to sell more books starting today!

Written Vs Spoken

With the revolution of blogging, podcasts and internet marketing, something pretty cool has happened to writing – and that is the switch from conventional writing standards to ‘conversational writing’.

I’m sure you already know or at least can guess what conversational writing is.  But what I find so cool about it and maybe you’ll agree is that our brain can understand it, relate to it and process it much quicker than reading something that is different than the way we speak.

This is also what the search engines are switching to.  Since computers and robots are made to understand us and help us (until the rise of the machines, I kid!) they will continue to transition to how we communicate with other humans.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

Today, if you wanted to find a good Mexican restaurant in LA, you’d likely type in and search for something like: “Mexican food in Los Angeles”, right?

But this isn’t how you’d ask Siri or Alexa is it?  You wouldn’t press your phone button and just say, “Mexican food in Los Angeles” or else she might reply with a “no comprendo!”

Instead you’d say, “Hey Siri/Alexa what’s the best taco place near me?”  and she would go to all the available food review sites, business listings and websites looking for all the places that have the search terms “best taco place” and match it to your location.

Do you see how different voice SEO is to traditional SEO that we started with?

What makes this crucial to know and for you to harness the power of voice SEO is that by next year, 2020 30% of all searches are going to be conducted without a screen, meaning through voice activation.

And by 2022, it’s predicted that over 50% of all searches will be done this way.

If your website, blog, Amazon listing, social media and landing pages aren’t additionally optimized for voice search, you are going to be on Google’s chopping block.

So, let’s get you smart about how to use voice search to your advantage as an author!

Just like with regular search engine optimization (SEO), there are things you need to do to get your book optimized for voice search SEO.

What you can do right now to prepare for voice search

In fact, there are a couple things you can do right now to make sure you’re prepared for the voice search revolution.

1. Update your meta description.

Having a meta description for your home page is especially important for voice search and voice assistants. The meta description is what voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google use to describe your website.

The meta description is hidden text on every page of your website that tells search engines what’s on the page. It’s a snippet of up to about 150 characters.

Search engines display the meta description in search results mostly when the searched-for phrase, such as the author’s name, is in the description. You can make sure yours is as good as possible using an SEO plugin like Yoast SEO.

To see how this works, do a test. If you have an iPhone, ask Siri about your favorite author and see what comes up.

Example: “Siri, who is (favorite author name)?”

If you have an Amazon Echo or Dot device, speak the following prompts.

“Alexa, who is (favorite author name)?” 

The search results that typically get displayed on your phone screen or read aloud are often the meta description on the author’s website.

2. Make sure your book is available in audiobook format:

Because smart speakers can play audiobooks, they give preference to books that are available in audiobook format when delivering search results.

That means that if there are two books with the same title and only one of them is available as an audiobook, that’s the one that will be at the top of search results.

To see how this works, if you have an Amazon Echo or Dot device say the following prompts:

“Alexa, read (book title).”

It will demonstrate why you want to make sure your audiobook is available on Amazon and Google Play. That way, the smart speakers can purchase, read, and recommend your audiobook to potential readers.

Authors and publishers stand to lose millions this year because they are not optimizing for voice search. Be prepared for the voice search revolution. It’s already here.

About Miral Sattar

Download my SEO Cheat Sheet that helps you get found, read and followed just for members of NFAA.

Miral Sattar runs author SEO training series on Over 500 students have taken her tech training courses designed for writers and authors. Miral has worked in the media industry for 15 years, most recently at TIME Magazine where she developed and implemented the digital SEO strategy that enabled TIME to be one of the most trafficked sites in the industry. Miral has lectured at Yale, NYU, CUNY, Pace, and other universities across America and helped numerous authors market their books. She and her writing have been featured in TIME, CNN, WSJ, NYTIMES, NY Daily News, among other media publications. She has a MS in Publishing (Digital + Print Media) from NYU and a BS from Columbia University in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

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