By Michele Linn published May 31, 2010

5 Ways to Extend the Reach of Your eBook

Do you have an eBook that is not generating the traffic or interest you would like? Assuming that the content is relevant to your readers and answers the question, “What’s in it for me?” your issue may be that the piece is difficult to find or you aren’t encouraging your readers to share it.

There are some simple changes you can make to extend the reach of your eBook. Here are five things you can do to make your eBook easier to find and your customers more likely to pass it along.

Choose a title that includes common keywords

Think about the general terms that your readers are monitoring and searching for (of course, these words may be very different than the words you use to describe yourself).  Include these keywords in your title so your piece can be more easily found via RSS and Twitter.

Optimize the PDF for more specific keywords

Of course, you also want your eBook to show up in organic search, such as Google. Instead of focusing on common (and highly competitive) keywords that would use in your title, optimize your eBook for long-tail keywords, which are targeted and specific.

Check out this article that walks you through the specific steps of how to optimize a PDF.

Design your eBook so it can be easily skimmed

We all need to realize that most readers skim and don’t read. So, even if your content is outstanding, you need to make sure that key points jump out easily; otherwise, your readers won’t take take time to read your eBook, and they certainly won’t take the time to pass it along.

Clare McDermott had a great post last week on how to use information design to improve your content. She aptly stated, “We are a generation of skimmers and snackers. No matter how beautifully written or logically compelling your report may be, you should always design for those of us with mild attention deficits.”

Clare suggests using callout boxes, shaded text boxes and bullets to make your piece easier to skim. Also consider these ideas:

  • Include an executive and concluding summary
  • Use your headers to tell a story
  • Use fonts and spacing that are easy to read and skim

Include social sharing options

This may seem obvious, but it’s something I don’t see many people do: If you want your eBook to be shared, include social sharing options that encourage readers to pass it along.

My favorite example of this is the B2B Email Marketing Best Practices eBook from Proteus B2B Marketing (note: you can view a sample or register to download the entire eBook). There are a couple of ways that you can share the eBook:

  • Footer inclues four ways to share the eBook (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and email).
  • Introduction inclues four ways to share the eBook plus four ways to connect with the company and author.

Just by having these options available, readers are reminded that they can share your eBook. Galen De Young, the author of the eBook, provides some additional advice on how to make your PDFs social media friendly.

Don’t require registration

If you want your eBook to have the greatest reach, consider not requiring registration. I find this stat from David Meerman Scott’s book, World Wide Rave fascinating:

“When you eliminate the requirement of supplying personal information in order to receive something, the number of downloads or views goes up by as much as a factor of 50. That’s right — if you require an email address or other personal information, perhaps only 2 percent of your audience will bother to download your stuff.

If your eBook is intended to to generate awareness, strongly consider removing the registration requirement. I also tell clients that it is a good idea to remove the registration requirement if they do not have an immediate plan for the information collected. If you are simply collecting leads for a program you want to start someday, chances are your next contact with your readers–that is weeks or months away–will feel disjointed to them.

There can be good reasons to ask for registration (such as the desire to nurture them), but limit the information you require. The more information you ask for, the less likely it is that people will download or share your content.

What other tips do you have for expanding the reach of eBooks?

Author: Michele Linn

Michele is the Vice President of Content at the Content Marketing Institute. She is one of those people who truly loves what she does and who she works with. You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

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  • globalcopywrite

    Hi Michele,

    You've given me some food for thought, especially as it pertains to registration. I've been guilty of collecting email addresses and names for no other purpose than a future lead program. But, you're right. What's the point of having a name I may not use for months? I recently challenged a piece of marketing collateral that appeared in my inbox, taking the time to write to the sender and accuse them of spamming me. (It was one of those days.) I got a very cordial reply reminding me about an eBook I had downloaded 10 months ago. I ended up being embarrassed and annoyed which really isn't the goal most marketers are aiming for.

    One thing I would add is it helps to invest in a good design. I've seen so many eBooks that “look” uninteresting. When I see a professional design on the cover, it makes me want to open the book and start reading.

    Thanks for the good tips.

  • Michele Linn

    Hi Sarah,

    I register for a lot of things because I'm a naturally curious person and I am interested in the follow up process. Like you describe, it's amazing to me how often I get a message from a vaguely familiar company with a link to some content. I'm sure it's from a company I downloaded something from but without any context, I usually delete the message. I'm definitely not a fan of collecting names for rainy day.

    Also, great point about the importance of design. I always tell clients to invest in a good design it's just as important as the content. A great addition to the list.

    Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  • Patsi Krakoff, The Blog Squad

    Oh rats, you make me want to go re-design my Content Marketing with Blogs ebook. Actually, I recently re-edited it and updated it… how quickly things change on the web! But I realize I'm in love with the words and most people just skim through things and if the design isn't user-friendly, the message is lost. Good tips on making it social media friendly. But I'm going to keep it gated since by registering they get weekly additional tips. If I could figure out how to give them a choice on that, I'd make it non-gated now that's it's been around a while … hmmm, there surely a way… Thanks, Michele, good post!

  • Michele Linn


    It really is amazing how quickly things are changing. I think design is one of the really critical things that will make great content stand out.

    As for the keeping your eBook gated or ungated, I ran across two ideas last fall that I thought were interesting (I haven't tried either, so I don't know how successful they are). One interesting option I saw was to let the user self-select. In the example I ran across, the person could say that they wanted to talk to someone OR they could select that they would contact someone when they are ready. Perhaps these options could be changed slightly for your needs: either opting-in to your newsletter or not. The other option I ran into was voluntary registration after the download. Again, not sure how many opt-ins they have, but I think it has some potential. Thanks so much for the good observations.

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  • Marino Fadda

    Thank you for your post. I've especially appreciated including social sharing options. It wasn't obvious for me!

  • Patsi Krakoff, The Blog Squad

    Thanks, Michele. I can envision an option to opt in for the follow-up tips
    after non-gated download, if the extra benefits are made apparent. That
    gives people the choice, thanks for the ideas.

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  • Zak Pines

    Thanks Michele. I'd like to add a couple of points:
    6. Create a teaser (vignette) to promote your eBook
    7. Create a video version of your eBook – many folks, including senior execs, don't have the time to read through an eBook, but they would love to see a visual version of the eBook with audio narration. We recently repurposed an eBook into a video version (which we call Vignettes) and you can see an example of this here – exciting stuff.