Tag Archives: web

2 Ways Google is Killing Online Booksellers & How You Can Help

(1) Google Uses its Dominance in Search to Hijack Traffic from Websites

Google does this by placing content, it has collected from other websites, ahead of their search engine results, to sell its own products and services.  Google engages in this practice in a wide variety of areas from restaurant ratings to travel directions.

However, Google has had a particularly devastating impact on online booksellers—Google has literally embedded its own online bookstore prominently in their search engine results.  Rather than directing visitors to other websites, which should be the purpose of a search engine, Google is abusing their virtual monopoly in search by standing in bookseller’s virtual doorways and grabbing visitors before they can enter.

I’ve been tracking, and participating in, online book sales for 20 years.  My niche is Black literature and the impact on this group of sites has been particularly devastating.

Despite websites being less expensive and easier to create than ever before, there are far fewer websites dedicated to black literature today than there were 10 years ago. Those that remain are struggling to grow because they are unable to attract enough visitors to generate the revenue needed to maintain their websites.

The video below demonstrates how Google does this:

 

(2) Google’s Virtual Monopoly in Search Allows Them to Control Which Sites are Visited

I would argue that Google’s search engine is one of the the most significant developments on the web.  In fact, I use Google’s search engine on this site, because it is an excellent service (Google is discontinuing this service in 2018).

Unfortunately, Google does make mistakes, and these mistakes and be very costly if not catastrophic for the affected business.  Consider the following graph from Semrush’s website, which shows their estimate of this site’s traffic.

Graph of AALBC.com Traffic hit

While Semrush’s data is not prefect, they estimate a site’s traffic based upon how frequently it shows up in Google’s search results (big data stuff), they did correctly identify a significant drop in traffic to AALBC.com, back in 2011.  The drop in traffic was a direct result in a reduction of traffic from organic search from Google.

Now Google never provided, or even made themselves available for, an explanation of this dramatic, overnight, drop in traffic from search.  Many, less sophisticated, web site owners never knew what hit them. The drop in our traffic was apparently the result of a change in the code Google used to rank websites. Affected businesses were left to speculate on the specific underlying reasons for their site being penalized in search engine results.

This lack of transparency from Google has fostered a industry of people touting services to help you understand and improve (or game) your site’s search engine rankings.

This has also fostered a level of paranoia, which has led to an unwillingness of websites to link to each other for fear they could hurt their own site’s ranking in search. This behavior actually puts more power into Google’s hands, as websites are no longer a good way to discover other sites.  AALBC.com has never stopped linking to other good sites. Part of the value the site our site provides is helping visitors discover other websites they will enjoy.

From my experience, the best way to address Google’s search engine rankings is to follow all of Google’s recommendations and guidelines.  No matter how you feel about it, if you want your site to rank on the only search engine that matters, you must follow Google’s rules.

AALBC.com’s traffic has completely recovered 2011. 2017 is on track to be a record year for page views. Visitor quality is also better; visitors look at more pages and stay on the site longer.

AALBC.com is a higher quality site because of my adherence to Google’s mandates, but I invest a significant portion of my time addressing “Google Issues.”  This time and energy comes at the expense of creating valuable content for the site.

The environment created by Google also discourages the creation of new sites because it is not enough to produce quality content, you must also be well versed in Google search engine optimization.

Google Makes the World Wide Web a Less Rich Place

Because of these practices and more, Google makes the World Wide Web a much less rich place.  We are rapidly reaching a point where only the most massive corporate sites have a chance at survival.

Google has argued that they are trying to create the best possible experience for their visitors. In reality, what they have done is help make the web less accommodating to diversity and creativity, by making it an environment hostile to independence and where only the wealthiest companies have a chance to maintain a profitable platform.

Many who would have operated their own website, just 5 years ago, are now using Facebook as their primary web presence, because they believe their chances for discovery and survival are better on Facebook. As a result, visitors need a Facebook account to engage with this content. Once on Facebook visitors are treated to the same cookie cutter style and presentation. This situation contributes to concentrating of wealth into the hands of a few massive corporations. The rich get richer and wealth inequality continues to rises…

What Can You Do?

Support independent bookseller websites by;

  • Visiting their websites (here are more than 50);
  • Purchasing the products they sell;
  • Sharing their content by utilizing word of mouth, social media, anyway that makes sense;
  • Linking to bookseller websites from your website or blog;
  • Engaging with their content by leaving comments and participating in their discussion forums; and
  • Buying advertising on their platforms if available;

Sure, buying from an indie bookseller, might cost you a bit more on the price and you may need to wait a little longer to receive the product, but will we be better if the only place we can buy a book is from Google and Amazon?

Join our conversation about the importance of independent booksellers (both online and physical stores).

Support Independent websites, including this one, especially if you want them to thrive rather than merely survive.

Top 50 Authors, Bestselling Books, and More

50 Favorite African-American Authors of the 20th Century

Top 50 African American Authors

1,826 readers cast votes, back in 2001, for their favorite African-American authors. Here we share the 50 authors who received the most votes. Is your favorite author among them?

Bestselling Books May/June 2016

Bestselling Books May/June 2016

Our bestselling books for May and June of 2016 is a mix of books by both major and independent publishers. Recently published and classic titles are represented as well, making for an interesting list.


The 2016 Phillis Wheatley Book Awards Winning Books

The 2016 Phillis Wheatley Book Awards Winning Books

The 2016 Phillis Wheatley Book Awards Winning BooksThe 2016 Phillis Wheatley Book Award winners were announced, during the Harlem Book Fair, on Saturday, July 16, 2016 at 5 p.m. The winning titles are all excellent, but the finalist are definitely worth checking out too. AALBC.com published very favorable reviews of; Bibsy, by Brenda Ross; and The Summer of my Fifteenth Year, by Geri Spencer Hunter; which were finalists for Wheatley Awards.


New Books Coming in August

New Books Coming in August

Jacqueline Woodson, Jesmyn Ward, Teju Cole, Rep. John Lewis, Greg Tate, the names alone should inspire excitement. Visit AALBC.com to learn about excellent books published in the last two months, and to discover great reads coming out soon.


The Results of a Decade on Social Media

The Results of a Decade on Social MediaMuch of what I think about social media runs counter to conventional wisdom, but I appreciate my perspective is rather unique: I have over 20 years of experience building websites and actively publishing original content to the web. I teach web design at the college level and have used all of the major social media platforms for about as long as they have been around.

In this article I share detailed results of AALBC.com’s use of social media over the last 10 years, from BlackPlanet to Facebook and everything in between. Hopefully my experience will help you; “Use social media; don’t let it use you.”


Tiphanie Yanique, Nicole Dennis-Benn, and Glory Edim

Tiphanie Yanique, Glory Edim, and Nicole Dennis-Benn,

Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of Here Comes The Sun; Glory Edim, founder of #wellreadblackgirl; and Tiphanie Yanique, author of Land of Love and Drowning; shout out their favorite bookstores and read from their novels.  These videos were recorded on July 27, 2016 at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, in New York City.


Oprah’s Book Club 2016 Selection

The Underground Railroad by Colson WhiteheadHere is the latest book club pick from Oprah; The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

“Every now and then a book comes along that reaches the marrow of your bones, settles in, and stays forever. This is one. It’s a tour de force, and I don’t say that lightly.” —Oprah Winfrey

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom (Doubleday, August 2).

Also let us know what you think about the phenomenon of Oprah’s Picks.


Poet, Kevin Young to Serve as New Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Poet, Kevin YoungOn August 1st, the New York Public Library announced, “Kevin Young will be joining NYPL as Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He will begin his tenure at the Library in the late fall. Kevin succeeds Khalil Gibran Muhammad, who led the Schomburg with great distinction for the last five years.”

Visitors to AALBC.com will recognize Kevin Young as an accomplished Poet, who was a finalist for a 2003 National Book Award


Events Coming in August

Leimert Park Village Book Fair

▪ The 32nd Annual Rocky Mountain Book and Paper Fair, Aug 5 to 6, Denver, CO
▪ National Conference of African American Librarians, Aug 9 to 13, Atlanta, GA
▪ Blogger Week 2016 UnConference Aug 20 to 21, Washington, DC
▪ Leimert Park Village Book Fair Aug 20, 2016, Los Angeles, CA


Meet Troy Johnson Founder and President of AALBC.com

Meet AALBC.com Founder and Webmaster, Troy JohnsonI had the pleasure of being part of Virgo Girl Media’s Meet 50 Bloggers Tour

“Although Troy runs a digital website you can constantly find him out and about within the crowd. My first encounter with Troy was at one of his literary networking mixers in Harlem and from that day forth, I swear I have seen Troy at 90% of the literary events I have attended. I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying “It not what you know, it is who you know”; well Troy is one of those people to know.”

Check out Virgo Girl Media’s interview with me and share it with others.


Authors Get Your Website Up and Running Fast!Authors Get Your Website Up and Running Fast!

Do you have an out of date website and can’t find your webmaster? Is your Facebook page your “official” website? Would you like a website, but don’t know where to begin? If any of the above is true, you need AALBC.com’s Enhanced Author Profile.

Even if you are satisfied with your web site, you will still benefit from the increased exposure an Enhanced Author Profile provides. We are often update our pages before and an author’s main site and out rank them in search. Authors with an existing profile (over 2,460 of you) can upgrade at a discounted rate.

This service is not just for authors. Many publishers, agents, publicists, book cover designers, editors, and other industry professions are discovered on AALBC.com. You’ll attract more visitors, than you would on your own because you be associated with, AALBC.com, the most popular website dedicated to Black books!


Edit 1st – Manuscript Editing Services

Edit 1st Manuscript Editing ServicesWe Provide a Full Range of Editing Services
“Edit 1st’s services are first rate! I found them to be extremely helpful and easy to work with. They offer professional, in-depth insight and comments. Are easily accessible for questions and feedback, and their work is comprehensive in scope taking in the totality of your work, with respect to grammar, plot and voice. I completely recommend them to anyone looking to make a good story great!”—David Lamb, award-winning playwright and author


Participate in an AALBC.com Focus Group

Dear Reader,

AALBC.com Celebrating 18 yearsAre you interested in helping AALBC.com improve? Would you like to share your ideas with us? There will be two sessions during the month of August. In New York City and central Florida. If you are interested in participating let me know which days of the week and times works best for you. Food will be provided and books will be given away. Email me at troy@aalbc.com

As always, thanks for reading!
Peace & Love,

Troy Johnson,
Founder & Webmaster, AALBC.com


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AALBC.com eNewsletter – August 3, 2016 – Issue #236

The Results of a Decade on Social Media

One of the most profound changes I’ve witnessed on the web, in the past decade, is the rise of social media.  Here I share my insight and experience in an effort to help you utilize social media more effectively, or as I always say;

“Use social media; don’t let it use you.”

I’ve been building websites for over twenty years.  My first website was created to promote a business I ran selling personal computers. A more recently built site is used in conjunction with a college course I teach on web design.  AALBC.com, was started in 1997, and is the most prominent website in its niche.

AALBC.com is also my livelihood, as a result I have to follow trends on the World Wide Web. Over the last 10 years this required me to keep up with social media.  I have a presence on all of the major social media platforms and have used them as both; as a regular user, for personal purposes; and for marketing, to help promote AALBC.com.

The graph below, derived from data collected by Google Analytics, shows the top 10 social media platforms that have sent traffic to AALBC.com over the past 10 years.

image002

Over the past 10 years Facebook has made up close to 73% of all the social media traffic AALBC.com receives.  Twitter is a distant second at just over 8%.

The bar chart below shows the relative amount of traffic from all social media sites over that past decade, including MySpace and BlackPlanet (remember those sites). Again, Facebook is the leader with Twitter a distant 2nd.

ranking-top-24-socila-media-over-10-years

The following graph is most telling; It looks at the top 5 sources of social media traffic to AALBC.com, during the first 6 months of 2016, and how those 5 sources have performed over the past decade.

top-5-social-media-ver-last-10-years

We see quite clearly that Facebook has always been a much better source of traffic to AALBC.com than any other social media platform, and that dominance has grown dramatically over the last three years.

Given the fact the Facebook is on track to make up 90% of all of my social media traffic for 2016; one might argue that I should invest more time and money on Facebook to grow my presence and increase engagement there.  But…

…social media is not the only source of traffic.

While Facebook is projected to be the dominant source of social media traffic this year, it is also projected to be less than 8% of my overall traffic.  Over the past 10 years Facebook has only contributed 2% of our site’s overall traffic; and the bulk of that traffic was generated in 2016.  Twitter is projected to contribute less than ½ of 1% to our overall traffic this year.

% Total Traffic
Last 10 Years
% Total Traffic
2016 (projected)
Facebook 2.07% 7.76%
Twitter 0.24% 0.48%
Pinterest 0.05% 0.20%
Disqus 0.08% 0.19%
Total All Social Media Sources  2.86% 8.83%

Considering that all of my social media activity over the last 10 years has resulted in less than 3% of my overall traffic (ignoring the surge in Facebook traffic in 2016), one can argue that any resources (knowledge, time, and money) allocated to social media marketing would be better utilized in other areas.

This was indeed the conclusion I arrived at in 2015.  The table below on looks at the last 3 million visitors to AALBC.com (period ending April 2015) and shows where those visitors came from.  The table shows the vast majority of traffic to AALBC.com originated from organic search.

Click image to read more our last three million visitors

Click Image to Learn More About This Table

Since search is a key source of traffic I decided to spend much less time on social media marketing (SMM) and to work harder on Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  Today given Google’s dominance, SEO means making sure your site makes meets Google’s technical standards. As a result, I decided to completely overhaul AALBC.com with SEO in mind.  The meant among many other things, optimizing AALBC.com for mobile devices.

It also meant creating the type of content that will rank higher in search results.  In my case, it meant concentrating on building quality content that is unique.  For a book website, like AALBC.com using the same book descriptions that every other bookseller uses will no longer cut it.  I needed come up with a unique take and add value to information about books that is already common elsewhere on the Web and provided by much larger sites including Amazon.com and Google.

I increased my focus on building direct relationships with other sites and creating content that they would like to link to. I also worked to help those sites understand why linking to each other’s sites is important.  I’ve noticed that I can get more visitors from a link on another website than I can from a social media website, and with far less effort.

I’ve observed that social media websites work to encourage engagement on their platforms. Facebook, for example, said using their platform for organic reach (people you can reach for free) has been made much more difficult. This is true across the social media landscape.

I’ve watched my engagement on social media decrease despite the fact that my number of fans and followers have increased.  All the time and effort I invested in building my presence on social media was wasted, as the rules were changed and social media became pay to play.   Of course there is the very real risk these platforms will shut down or change so dramatically that all of work will simply be discarded.  I worked to create a substantial presence, and attracted thousands friends, on MySpace; which was all lost as MySpace went through several redesigns.

At the end of 2015 I greatly reduced the time spent on social media for marketing purposes, and I work to ensure what little time I do spend on SMM is utilized as efficiently as possible.  Also, I rarely use social media for personal purposes.

In the winter of 2015, I initiated the following 10 tactics as part of my social media marketing strategy

  1. I don’t pay for promotion on social media (buying ads).
  2. I don’t actively seek new fans or followers (I welcome them, but you will never hear me say, “follow me on…”
  3. I don’t post content directly on social media—I only share links, with a brief description, to my website where my content resides.
  4. I only post a links once.  Very popular content will be posted more than once, but this is rare.
  5. I do control how AALBC.com’s content is shared, by using tools like Facebook’s Debugger Tool.
  6. I always use images when posting on social media. Links will images are clicked more often.
  7. I do respond to comments I receive on social media, but I don’t initiate conversations on social media unless there is no alternative.
  8. I removed all social media applications from my cell phone.
  9. I do encourage social sharing. I share content on other websites by using the social sharing buttons on their website.
  10. I engage with others on their websites, not their social platforms, whenever possible.

The Results

My social media traffic for the first 6 month of 2016 has already exceeded the traffic I’ve gotten from social media for all of 2015 and all of 2014—combined!

Interestingly, despite greatly reducing my activity on social media, traffic to my website from social media (from Facebook in particular) has increased during the first 6 months of 2016, both as a percentage of my overall traffic and in terms of the number of visitors to the website: social media is a larger portion of a growing pie that is traffic to AALBC.com.

I’ve discovered that building content that appeals to AALBC.com’s visitors, which also meets Google’s technical guidelines, is actually more effective in generating traffic from social media than working to strengthen AALBC.com’s presence on those social media platforms. I guess the old adage applies;

“Content is King.”

Despite all the hype and attention paid to social media, social media has no content of its own. The only content social media has is the content that we give them.  Content is indeed king, but it is not free.  Both Facebook and Twitter and are now paying for content in an effort to attract new users and increase engagement.  On top of that Facebook is also battling a 21% decrease in personal sharing.

Adding AALBC.com’s content to a social media platform enriches the social media site and impoverishes AALBC.com.  My strategy of limiting the use of social media to notifying readers about content on AALBC.com, while facilitating sharing of information, has allowed me to invest much more time creating content for AALBC.com and and engaging with readers here.

social-media-icons-2010The effectiveness of this strategy can change tomorrow, but change is the very nature of the World Wide Web.  Anyone unable to easily adapt to change would never be able to run a website for more than a few years—certainly not as a business venture.

Back in 2010, I used to be a strong proponent for using social media and even gave workshops on the subject. However, the Web is a very different place in 2016 than it was in 2010 and my tactics and strategies have changed, out of necessity.

There is one constant however, no website can survive without support from visitors—not even Facebook.  AALBC.com survives because visitors read and share our content through social media, email, and even word of mouth.  Visitors buy books from our website, and authors and publishers purchase advertising or participate in our discussion forums to promote their work. This is the only way we can survive.


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