Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Online Marketing For The Comic Book Industry Part One: Search Engine Optimization

The following is probably not as exciting as a Skrull turning into a cow, but for comic industry people -- from the biggest companies to the self-publisher -- the advice I am going to give you is invaluable.

In my job I deal with two aspects of marketing online:

1) Search Engine Optimization: maximizing your site's traffic from search engines

2) Social Media: blogs, social networks, forums, Twitter, etc. (very "word of mouth"-oriented)

An understanding of both is absolutely necessary for competing in today's comic market.

And yet, I see definite deficiencies in these areas across the board in the comic industry, the exception being many webcomics who are particularly savvy in the social media department.

That said, let's take a look first at Search Engine Optimization, and why it is so important for your company or website.

If I type "comic books" in Google, the first result I get is the site Comic Book Resources. I get Comic Book Resources before I get the Wikipedia entry for comics -- that's really good. Comic Book Resources is what we call "optimized" for the keyword phrase "comic books."

How did the site get so optimized for "comic books?" A combination of factors, including their name, their content, the frequency of referring keywords, the age of the site, how many people link to the site, techniques built into the site to help improve their search engine rankings, and paid search help via Google.

Now, if I type in "comic book" singular in Google, Comic Book Resources still comes up as #2, this time behind Wikipedia. And, most importantly for the site, if I type in "comic book news," CBR comes in at #1. That means whenever some dude or lady who just wants to get some news on comics types the phrase into Google, the search engine will first direct him or her to CBR. That might not at first seem like something huge. But it translates in a tremendous amount of extra traffic for the site, which translates in more notoriety and more revenue from ads.

Just to cause trouble, let's see where the other comic news sites fall under the Google search rankings for "comic book news" (these are all on the first page) --

#1 Comic Book Resources
#2 Comic Book Resources again, for a different page
#3 Newsarama
#4 Comic Book News
#5 Comics Continuum

In tenth place is The Pulse. Comic Mix is on page two of the search results.

Where is Wizard?

I could not find Wizard Online within ten pages of Google search results for the keyword phrase "comic book news." (at least of the search made as of the date of this post)

That is horrible.

Wizard's site is not optimized for the phrase "comic book news," even though that is a big part of the service they are offering readers.

Neither does Wizard come up in the first ten pages of results for the term "comic books."

In fact, the only keyword phrase Wizard seems to do well in is "comic book magazine," in which it ranks #1. But that is not enough. It should be doing well on the other keywords as well, and it's not.

I would argue that a person is more likely to type in "comic book news" than "comic book magazine."

Now, to cause even more trouble, let's see how the big comic book companies rank on certain keyword searches on Google:

"Comic Book"
Marvel is 4th place on the first page
DC is 9th place in the second page
Archie Comics is 7th place on the seventh page
Top Shelf is 3rd place on the eighth page

That's all the major comic companies that come up after ten pages of search. That's not good.

And it's not good that DC is not more optimized for something as basic as "comic book."

Or how about the term "graphic novel?" DC comes up on page three of search results for that. That's also unacceptable, considering what a big piece of the pie graphic novels are for DC, and their big budget.

Now, surely DC's own website would come up #1 in search results for "Superman," right?

Nope. The Superman Homepage, a fan site, comes up in 1st place. DC itself comes up in 9th place.

Another key phrase would be "comics for girls." comes in #1 for that. But DC's Minx line doesn't come up, after ten pages of search...

...and neither does Friends of Lulu (grumblegrumblegrumble).

The point is, people are turning to the Internet for information about comics more than ever before. Especially returning or new readers. They are not going to slog through ten pages to get to your site or comic. They will probably choose something on the first page (unless they are looking for something very very specific, in which case you still need to be optimized for that).

In Part Two, I will explain how Social Media can be used to market your comic or company.

Okay, back to Skrulls turning into cows.

For more information on how Search Engine Optimization could work for your company's site, email here.

And remember kids: using Flash is pretty for your site -- but it will kill your search engine rankings!


  1. This. Is. Awesome.

    As always, sound analysis and useful for anyone publishing anything online.

  2. Staggering. A symptom of how slow these companies have been to exploit the new medium.

  3. there are ways around the flash issue actually.

    we do it all the time!

    (i work for an interactive advertising firm, we run all the internet campaigns for Pepsi, Nokia, Air Force, ATT, American Airlines, etc).

  4. Good analysis. Looking forward to SEO and blogging rankings since I am always trying to figure out how the industry is changing.

    I have been told there are now new programming techniques to circumnavigate not being listed properly when a site is full-on Flash. Was I told wrong? I have seen full-sized and creative advertising agencies design their sites and clients sites in Flash saying that Flash can now turn up fine in SE rankings.

  5. Hey, this is a pretty good companion post to Kevin's:

  6. Great and helpful analysis, Val! For those of us who run webcomics, I hadn't thought of search engine optimization before. ^_~

    On that note, would you really WANT Friends of Lulu to be singularly known as "comics for girls?"

  7. Invaluable! Thank you for this.

  8. Be more specific about the second CBR result...


    The second CBR result is actually Steven Grant's column on CBR Permanent Damage

    go, Steven!

  10. The thing that drives me up the wall is that DC's website never comes up when I search for names of specific DC comic books. For instance: I recently wanted get a high res image of the cover for Countdown to Mystery #6...googled "Countdown To Mystery #6"...hmm, DC 's website no where to be found on the first results page...perhaps "Countdown To Mystery #6 DC"...nooo...."Countdown To Mystery #5 DC Comics"...sixth result down, and it just gives me the March sales list. JEEZ.

  11. Great analysis, I'm just curious about a few tidbits of info like what are the search settings and the displays per page. I'm assuming it's the standard 10 results per page, safe search on, etc., but would just like verification.