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Rachel Thompson, at Bad Redhead Media does not mince words! But if you want to know what you can do in terms of marketing your book, and don’t mind a little bluntness, she has got some great tips for you. If you are an indie writer, you must also be a business person, even if you hire people to help.
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This Is The Reason Your Author Platform Impacts Book Sales
How much impact does your author platform have on book sales? People ask me this all the time — they want hard numbers.
Author: If I tweet about this or that for three months, if I post on my Facebook page about my book or share a few reviews, if I share a recipe board on Pinterest…how many books will I sell?
Me: There’s no way I can give you a hard number. There are too many factors to consider.
Author: So, 10? 50? 100?
(One person told me that even though she’s writing a book, she’s “not an author,” so she won’t need to market it; though she fully expects people to “just know to buy it.” Um, okay.)
It doesn’t work like that: there’s no easy button. Let’s deconstruct.
Writing Is A Business — So Be Professional
Pardon me while I’m a bit indelicate here, but please, take your head out of your ass for a second. Why do people believe that a few tweets will equal book sales? It boggles my mind. Writing is great — I love it. I encourage anyone who feels they have the talent to pursue the craft, work with professionals, and create an amazing book which will have the greatest chance of catching the eye of a reader to do so.
But there’s the rub: how to catch the eye of a reader. With 1,000 books released daily in the US (Source, UNESCO via Wikipedia), how will readers, book bloggers, book clubs, and book reviewers find your book at all? By marketing! Marketing is a function of business. And publishing is a business.
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Part of uploading your title to the Amazon marketplace includes filling out a lot of “metadata”, you know, all that information you have to input into the fields for Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to accept your book. Each bit of information can help get your title in front of viewers and boost sales. So it is important to make careful choices. Today we will focus on Categories and Keywords.
Readers use categories and keywords to find new books. The goal is to figure out what your ideal reader will do to search for new titles. This might seem like an easy task at first, because your book might be clearly romance, science fiction, or some other genre. By doing a little research and tweaking your choices, you will be able to get your book in front of more people and improve your ranking.
This doesn’t mean you should go for keywords or categories that don’t match your story in an effort to boost your ranking. People will complain and Amazon takes this very seriously. You can get blacklisted. Carefully matching your keywords and categories to your story allows you to get your story in front of an audience who is most likely to appreciate your work and become true fans. Everyone wins!
Categories are basically the genre of your book. Amazon allows you to have two categories, which you should take advantage of. For your research, start off by going to Amazon Kindle Books, and on the left hand side you will see a list of categories.
Select the one that you think matches your book closely. For example let’s select the “romance” category. Now you will find two good pieces of information. At the top left side you will see “Popular Romance Categories”. Continue down and you will see that the original category of “romance” has expanded to many subcategories.
Explore the different subcategories. Again you are looking for the best fit. So if your hot new romance is about two military people who find love in a foxhole, you really are not going to be a good fit for paranormal romance. Unless one of those foxhole loving people also transforms into a werewolf.
Another way of finding categories for your book is to browse until you find a similar book in terms of subject matter and genre. Scroll down the book details page until you find “Look for Similar Items by Category”
Remember you have two instances for categories, so keep that in mind. In the example above, one choice could be military, another paranormal. You want to dig deep. If I click on the “Military” category, there are no more subcategories. The “Paranormal” category does have a bunch of subcategories, which makes it a better choice.
You want to go as deep as you can, and still have the categories makes sense. So try and pick the most specific subcategory you can. The cool thing about finding a more specific category is that you will be searchable in all the parent categories. So “Romance -> Paranormal -> Werewolves & Shifters” will show your book if someone searches for “Romance”, “Paranormal”, or “Werewolves & Shifters”.
Then you can head on over to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and start entering the two categories that you want for you book along with your other information. Depending on what you choose, you might find that there are some categories on the main Amazon site that you don’t see available on KDP. That is because some categories require you to enter keywords to be available.
To list your title in certain sub-categories for Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, you’ll need to add Search Keywords in addition to the categories you choose for your title. Click a category below to see the keyword requirements.
By finding a good fit and utilizing more specific categories with special keywords, your can place your book in categories that have less overall titles. Why is that important? Because a category with less total titles means the odds of your book becoming a top 100 listing increases. This increases the chances of how many people will see it and Amazon promoting your title.
You can tell how many books are in a category, by typing the category in the search bar. Make sure you are searching in the Kindle store, under the title category, for our example “romance”. This way you can see how many books are being sold under each sub-subcategory.
So in our example above, if one soldier was a werewolf but the other was an angel trapped in soldier’s body, then you could choose “Romance -> Paranormal ->Angels”. Then your book would show up under “Romance”, “Paranormal”, and “Angels” and your book is only competing with 3,102 other titles. If you choose “Romance -> Paranormal ->Werewolves & Shifters” then you would be competing against 13,606 other titles. Both searches fit your book, but the “Angels” subcategory allows you the best option for a top 100 listing.
Keywords are what a reader might type into the search bar to find your book. The goal with categories was to find the most specific category type with the least of amount of titles. The goal with keywords is to find the broadest.
You are allowed seven keywords, separated by commas. But did you know you can also use phrases? The total number of characters allowed in the keyword text field must be 399 characters or less. Keywords are hidden, so the only people who know what keywords you pick are Amazon and you. This makes it a little more difficult to find out what others are using.
The first step is to brainstorm. What main words or phrases would you use to find your book? Try and step into your ideal customer’s head and ask what would they type to find your book?
Some other ways to brainstorm keywords per Amazon
Useful keyword types
Setting (Colonial America)
Character types (single dad, veteran)
Character roles (strong female lead)
Plot themes (coming of age, forgiveness)
Story tone (dystopian, feel-good)
If you are using a phrase make sure to use a natural order. “Sword & Sorcery” is a common phrase but “Sorcery & Sword” is not. Again you are trying to guess what people might type to find your book, so use common phrases that are well established.
When you think you have a good list, go test your keywords one at a time on Amazon, in the Kindle store, and look at the results. With keywords you want more results, the higher the number the better. If your keyword doesn’t have a lot of results, then that means it isn’t a word that users type very often.
As you start to type in your keywords, watch to see what auto-prompts Amazon suggests. Those auto-prompts are the ones that people use most often to search Amazon. For example, when I type in the letter “p”, one of the auto-prompt suggestions is the phrase “paranormal romance.” You want to make sure though that you don’t waste a keyword by using one of your category selections.
Also don’t waste keywords on information or metadata you have already entered, such as your title or any of your information that you have entered on any of the other KDP form fields. Don’t worry about punctuation either, Amazon’s got you covered.
Also you can’t use as keywords
Reference to other authors
Reference to books by other authors
Reference to sales rank (e.g., “bestselling”)
Reference to advertisements or promotions (e.g., “free”)
Reference to anything that is unrelated to your book’s content
You can always go back and change your categories and keywords after you have given them a chance to work. By doing your research and trying out different options, you can optimize your chances of getting your book in front of more readers who are looking for you.
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Today’s post is by Ana Spoke, off of her site AnaSpoke.com on October 8, 2015. Ana gives a pretty decent list of marketing options that she has tried or researched. Full disclosure, as a Freelance Software Engineer I do work for Windwalker Media as a General Manger.
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The Most Super-Duper, Exhaustive, Comprehensive, and Current Listing of Free and Paid Book Advertising Websites and Ideas
As mentioned in the previous post, I have found the hard way that advertising books on social media is not a very good or even a decent marketing strategy, if it is, in fact, your one and only strategy. As an update, I have to let you know that it does work, though – I have ignored Twitter for a few days last week in the wake of this realisation, and my book sales dropped from an average of 11 per week to 3. Not a huge difference in numbers, but let’s express it in percentage points…OH MY GOD, I’VE LOST 75% OF SALES! Sorry for yelling, but you get my point, right? Keep working at social media, but do consider doing what the pros have always done – broadcast to unsuspecting masses.
I hope I can help by sharing this list of book marketing sites and ideas with you. I intend for it to be a continuous work in progress – I plan to update it as I go and then reblog once I have something super exciting to report. Even if you don’t want to advertise a book, the sites below are excellent resources to find free or bargain-priced books.
First, how about the NUMBER ONE THING I’VE LEARNED from doing this research? It’s simple – you must plan an overall sales strategy, preferably over the whole year. Why? I’m glad you’ve asked:
The main reason for this is that once you’ve had a sale or a free promotion for your book, many sites WILL NOT CONSIDER promoting your book at a higher price for 30-90 days (see below for details on each site).
Some sites you can notify on the day of the promotion, others you have to notify well in advance.
Holidays. You might want to schedule your sales to be around Christmas? Or beach vacations? Or Independence Day?
And now, without further adieu, here are the advertising sites (some of which I’ve used), in alphabetical order:
Addicted to eBooks: Can post a free or low price ($5.99 or less) ebook only for free! The catch is that you will not know when it is posted on the front page, but at a cost of nothing, why not? They don’t accept erotica and you have to have at least 5 reviews. You can only submit your book once.
My experience: I have applied for an account on 25 September and got approved on 28 September. Created a profile and Shizzle, Inc ad on 28 September. Considering paying $15 for a week-long sidebar ad and a Facebook post, although the profile by itself has not made any impact on the sales.
Ask David: They have 43,900 Twitter followers as of October 2015. $15 promo package or free service for KDP Select freebies. Schedule free days up to 30 days in advance.
Author Marketing Club: subscribe to get marketing tips. 25K+ subscribers. Free subscription or optional premium membership. Very flashy website, and it kept sending me to the premium membership form – I almost gave up, but luckily found the Free Membership Form eventually.
My experience: I have signed up to try some of the tools.
Awesome Gang: Appears to be run by the same person that runs the Discount Book Man. I was pleasantly surprised that the top books in their “featured” list had great Amazon rankings (not to say it was all due just to the Gang, no matter how Awesome). That’s only for $10!! They say their newsletter goes to 4,600 subscribers, and they have almost 50K Facebook fans.
My experience: I was pretty impressed with the apparent value for the money, so submitted Shizzle for a promo on 10 October for a $10 USD. UPDATE: hard to say, as I had another promo on the day, however I’ve heard from other writers that they’ve been disappointed. I’ve tried contacting them after to ask when they’ve sent my book out – no response whatsoever.
BargainBooksy – see FreeBooksy.
BitTorrent: this is a bit “out there” idea, as this is the site often blamed for piracy. It has over 200 MILLION users. This seems great if you have a series – just give away the first book in the series for free, to build a fan base which will come back to buy the rest.
BookBlast: now called Booksends (below).
Booksends: claim that big-name publishers advertise with them. NOTE: the promo price has to be the lowest of any within the previous 90-day range.
BookBub: you will need to set up an account, after that you can go straight to Submit a New Deal. The price to list a free promotion is $70, and a $0.99 sale is $140 FOR THE US ONLY. Ouch. Another issue that the sale price has to be the lowest of the last 90 days. Apparently it’s so popular that it’s difficult to get selected, despite the cost. There’s an excellent series of articles by an author Nicholas Rossis, which describe tips and tricks on how to get selected.
Book Goodies: post your book for free, but only once, and you have to fill in an author interview (answer questions). So, you first have to complete the interview, then wait 2-3 weeks for it to be approved, then list your book. Cumbersome – yes. Free – hells yes. Please note that you give the website the right to publish your interview and your photo (if you choose to upload a photo).
My experience: I have answered interview questions and it was live just a week later on Book Goodies website. I received an email notification of the interview being posted on 5 October and it already had 3 Facebook and 4 Twitter shares. On 8 October it had 14 Twitter shares, but that number has not increased since.
Book Gorilla: seems a cheaper option, while still being quite popular and famous. This explains why they are BOOKED UP TO 2 MONTHS IN ADVANCE. Once again, the price of advertising depends on the book price – $4 to $50. You can also ask to be “starred”, although they will decide if they want to do it, based on your book quality – that would be an additional $100. They themselves say that it’s not likely to make much difference.
If you’ve got a book scheduled for release, whether it’s traditionally published or indie-published, the onus is on you to promote it. Here are some helpful strategies for making a big splash by using social media to build buzz before your book comes out.
1. Start early
It’s never too early to get your name and face out there. This gives you time to find your groove, make mistakes, and grow your social media following so that when you finally have news about your book, there will be an audience to hear it.
2. Explore social media
Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Pinterest? Goodreads? You can’t do them all. Start experimenting to see what works for you. If you started early, you’ve got time.
Get creative, think out of the box. If you write historical fiction, post pictures of period clothing, dirty words from your époque, recipes from the era. If you write romance, update the public on the whereabouts of Fabio, post pictures of your favorite cover model. Review romantic comedies. If you write detective fiction, post a recipe for your character’s signature cocktail, or a diagram with the parts of a gun. Young adult (YA)? Post funny YouTube videos. Science fiction or fantasy? Announce and review cons. You get the idea.
Every tenth time, post book news—signing with an agent, book contracts, cover reveals, release dates, book giveaways, early reviews, announcement about pre-sales. People will endure your self-promotion because they like your other posts—kind of like a fundraising drive on public radio.
4. Use Facebook
It ain’t what it used to be, but it still rules across every age group. Last January, Facebook began sending out fewer and fewer posts to the people who like our pages, hoping we all would pay money to boost those posts to reach our followers. Also, posts from liked pages are now shuttled out of our “news stream” into a “page stream.” Here’s a simple trick to help circumvent that.
a. Post the following message on your Facebook page.
“When you like this page, remember to:
* Hover over the LIKED button.
* Click GET NOTIFICATIONS.
* Click SEE FIRST.
b. Pin that post to the top of your page. Followers who use this setting will be notified when you post.
Remember, you aren’t limited to your own Facebook page for promotion. Join existing community pages with members from your target audience. Find pages with a high number of engaged followers (lots of comments and likes). Every time you post, your name is out there. Mention your book when it’s polite to do so. It’s rude to over promote and it can backfire. Make sure you obey the rules.
Always put key words in the “topics” box on the “About” section of your Facebook page to make it more searchable.
5. Build relationships
Respond to everyone who comments with a like or a word. Check often so you can hide offensive posts. I’ve had Facebook followers duke it out over the pros and cons of corsets, so don’t underestimate the potential for conflicts.
I’ve been coaching several of my clients through the process of coming up with a good title for their book, so I thought I’d share my tips with you.
Let’s start by acknowledging a few things. The publisher is usually responsible for the final decision on title, and in the query stage, it’s not that important. In fact, some agents have said they don’t pay any attention at all to titles. But at some point, you’re going to want to think seriously about this. Your title is part of the overall impression you’re creating about your book. It can set a tone and create an expectation. Whether you’re pitching to an agent, or your agent is pitching to publishers, I think you want to have the strongest title possible.
Think of it this way: the better your title is, the better your chance that the publisher will decide to use it, rather than changing it.
So here’s what I recommend when you need a title, for either fiction or non-fiction.
This post by Charlotte Eyre originally appeared on The Bookseller on 6/24/15.
Millennials are less likely to purchase e-books than any other age group, with 63% of 16-24 year-olds saying they have never bought one, according to a report from Deloitte.
For its Media Consumer Report 2015, Deloitte surveyed 2,000 UK consumers about their media habits. It found that 25% of 16-24 year-olds had bought an e-book in the last 24 months, compared to 38% of 25-34 year olds.
Millenials also say they are spending more time using other media, as only 14% of that group read books for more than an hour each day but 67% will watch up to an hour of short form video and 58% will spend more than an hour watching TV.
Authors are as innocent as Alice when it comes to marketing, but nowhere near as fearless to take the plunge. What’s really down that rabbit hole? It’s called the MARKETING rabbit hole so it must be dark, terrifying, and worse yet, ineffective. After all, everyone knows that marketing is hard to do, takes way too much time, and just plain doesn’t work. You’ve already tried everything, jumped on all those cool promotional ideas your author friends are doing. You’ve tweeted like crazy, held Facebook launch parties, and guest blogged on all your best author friend’s blogs. You’ve purchased book markers and some really cool swag, and participated every time your author friends pulled together for a live or online event. Still not happy with your bottom line results? No? So that’s proof positive that marketing doesn’t work, right?
Nope. Not really.
See, the problem isn’t that you’re not trying hard to market; the problem is that you’re not marketing SPECIFICALLY for your book alone. Really taking that leap down the Marketing Rabbit Hole isn’t about just doing what everyone else is doing, and it certainly isn’t about doing it with other authors—your competition. A true trip down the Marketing Rabbit Hole is a personal adventure that focuses on your book and nothing else. It’s a different way of looking at marketing, and a clearer way of understanding what makes marketing really work for you.
Did you ever hear the expression, “a stitch in time saves nine?”
Whether you’re an author or freelance writer, that’s how you need to think of your writing platform. Get it started first, as the foundation of your business. It’s much more effective than trying to play catch-up.
If you’re an author, your platform needs to be in place before you hit the submissions road (if you’re going the traditional route). And, it certainly needs to be in place before you self-publish.
If you’re a freelance writer, you need to have an effective website and marketing strategies in place before you offer your services online.
To reinforce this thought, let me tell you about my father. He was in construction – he built homes. The first thing that gets done, after the blueprints are drawn, is digging for the foundation. Then the foundation is created. Then the house is built on top of the foundation.
It’s the same when building an online platform. Getting a website is the digging part; the added content and optimization of the website is the foundation of your platform.
This post by Kameron Hurley originally appeared on her site on 12/31/14. Note that it contains strong language.
About this time last year, GOD’S WAR, which had been out in the UK for a solid seven months, had sold just 300 copies there, and every single major publishing house had passed on THE MIRROR EMPIRE, the epic fantasy novel I thought was the most marketable thing I’d ever written.
I was, to be blunt, pretty fucking devastated.
A lot of people think that once you publish a book, that’s it – you go on publishing books. The publishing world opens its arms to you and welcomes every book like a precious squealing babe. The reality is that publishing your first book is when the real work starts. All that time you spent leveling up your craft, on dealing with rejection, on editing and revision: that was just a warm up for the crushing reality of life day-in, day-out as a published author.
In early January of this year, I was getting ready to shelve THE MIRROR EMPIRE and take a break from writing for a while, and come up with something somebody wanted to read. I knew MIRROR EMPIRE was a good book, which was frustrating: it was just a good book nobody wanted to buy at the moment. I needed to wait for the market to shift. The plan was I’d just hold onto it until somebody at some house got a new job – new editors have different opinions. Maybe somebody would buy it some day. In the meantime, I had no project idea that was more marketable than this one, so… I was going to need to take some time to recover from my disappointment and write something new. Another slog of a year, I figured, with no new book coming out, again.
Like a lot of Night Shade Books debut authors caught up in the spiral of near-bankruptcy and eventual sale, my work had suffered from declining sales, especially the third book. RAPTURE had sold low, just 2,000 copies, only about 350 of which actually showed up on Bookscan. Low sales like that give editors on the fence about a project a good reason to pass. The performance of that third book was not helping MIRROR EMPIRE.
We’ve been talking a lot about social media lately and I am always grateful for your comments and thoughts. This kind of feedback not only helps me improve my blog, but my also books, because I get a glimpse of your worries, weaknesses, fears, loves, and strengths.
As a teacher/mentor/expert, it’s my job to address those fears and put you at ease or reinforce when you’re headed the right direction and give you tools and tips to take what you’re doing to another level.
There’ve been some comments that have piqued my attention lately. Namely this notion to give up on social media completely to write more books (out of vexation for the medium and the task).
Social Media is a TOTAL Waste of Time
Write more books instead of tweeting or blogging. Social media is a giant time-suck better spent writing great books.
I don’t know how to answer this besides, Er? *screeching brakes* Personally, I can think of no larger waste of time than researching and reading and spending countless hours crafting a wonderful book of 60,000-110,000 words and then?
No one knows the book exists so few people ever read it, enjoy it or are changed by the author’s story.
It’s like spending six months to a year on an oil painting to hang it in an attic.
It generated more than 100 responses, many insightful and valuable, from working writers, established authors, editors, and agents. My colleague Christina Katz was one of the last to comment. Here’s part of what she said.
This post really makes me chuckle … I wonder how much time folks spent reading and chewing on and commenting on and spreading the word about a post ABOUT platform rather than actually spending any amount of time actually cultivating and working on their own platform?
I am a person who does not distinguish between writing, selling, specializing, self-promotion, and continuing ed, and also a person who sees all of these things as essential and necessary to my writing career success. …
For me, there is no separation. Writing is the center. (If you read The Writer’s Workout, you saw the diagram.) But it’s all critical. There’s nothing to debate.
I’m (mostly) in the same boat as Christina. I find it impossible and irrelevant to distinguish between writing activities and platform building activities. My approach is far too holistic.
So why did I write a post splitting them up?
Because most writers don’t and CAN’T see them as one activity. They’re still asking questions that show they need some concrete ideas on how to manage what they perceive (and what can be) a very real split in one’s life.
I see and hear about a lot of writers wanting to sign an agent and go for a traditional deal because, “The agent and publisher know how to market my book and I don’t. It’s too hard.”
Here’s how it works: Agents know how to market to certain editors; Editors know how to market to their editorial heads and marketing departments; Marketing departments know how to market to retail distributors. What none of them know (or maybe they don’t bother with) is how to market to readers. That’s the writer’s job. Trad or indie, if you don’t know how to market, your books are sunk. In fact, if you don’t have a marketing base before you submit to either an agent or editor, your chances of even getting a second look are slim to none.
What’s a poor writer to do? Panic is not an option. Truly, marketing is NOT that hard. Basically, all marketing is: Being in the right place in front of the right people with the right product.
Okay, you’ve done it! You’ve written your YA novel, and either sold it to a publisher or decided to self-publish it. Either way, it’s about to “go out into the world”! Congrats!
Now you just want to make sure that readers can actually find your gem out in the crowded marketplace. You must promote! But how? I’m going to tell you what’s worked best for me. Keep in mind that your mileage my vary.
First off, whether your book is available both digitally and in bookstores or just digitally, word-of-mouth is very important to your sales. You need to get people talking about your book–and the best people to get talking are bloggers. If your publisher’s publicity department isn’t getting ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) into their hands, then you should make sure they get copies–either ARCs or electronic galleys, or even finished copies. I’m not saying send out copies to everyone who asks, but you should definitely be out there on social media, building relationships with bloggers/reviewers, and giving some of them the opportunity to review your book without having to purchase a copy. And don’t worry–while I do think that blogger/reviewer love can actually “make” a book (i.e. bring it to the attention of readers who might have missed it, giving it unexpected success), I don’t believe that bad reviews necessarily “kill” a book. But, for better or for worse, you need to get readers talking about your book.
Imagine you’re making an appearance at a bookstore to promote your latest novel.
Someone approaches you to chat. This person gushes that she’s read all your books and is excited to read the latest one. She holds the newly purchased book in her hands, hoping that you’ll sign it.
Immediately you launch into an elevator pitch, explaining the genre you write in and a quick summary of your storytelling style. You conclude with the various places your books can be purchased, and that you hope she’ll give your books a try.
Clearly, a longtime fan doesn’t need an introduction to how you write and the stories you’ve written. Having the right person pay attention does little good if the wrong message is shared.
Maybe you don’t make this kind of mistake when you’re face-to-face. Can you say that’s also true when you communicate over the internet?
The downside of using online media
We all know about the promise.
A platform in cyberspace meant you had a stage to project your voice. Your digital words could travel far and wide, attracting and corralling those who care about what you do. With one click, you could reach just about everyone.
I know you don’t want to think about any other sites for marketing!
But in this post, I outline why I think you should consider Slideshare and how I’m using it for both my brands, J.F.Penn thriller author, and Joanna Penn, professional speaker and non-fiction author.
Why care about Slideshare?
Slideshare is basically a presentation sharing network.
It’s a form of content marketing, but more visual, and if done well, it can be much more effective than writing a blog post on a topic, especially if you are unknown and your site has no ranking. Visual marketing is very much the big thing now. In an age of text overload, people are clicking more on visual content – whether that’s Instagram, pics on Twitter or Facebook, infographics or SlideShares.
It’s easily shareable and viewable on any social platform as well as on mobile devices. On the right, you can see a tweet that actually embeds the whole SlideShare so it can be read within Twitter. Awesome for twitterholics like me!
Slideshare is one of 120 most visited websites in the world, with 60 million monthly visitors. It ranks highly in Google for keywords, and you can use embedded hyperlinks to direct traffic to your site.