Best selling books are more likely to happen when authors use smart Amazon keywords. When used wisely, keywords help strangers from all over the world find your books. Most authors are missing out because the whole metadata thing can be confusing. Think of it like this:
- At bookstores, readers browse in sections where covers, titles and blurbs help them decide to inspect further.
- Online, readers type phrases into the search bar where the most relevant books show up in the results (or the books Amazon thinks are most relevant).
Obvious question: how to choose the best ones so the search engine at Amazon leads browsers to your book? Here are 7 tips to help select the best words and phrases plus a tutorial video at YouTube at the bottom of this post.
1. Make a list of words customers might use in the search bar to find what they want to read that is also what your book is about. This is called relevance. You don’t have to worry about a search for your name or book title. Those results will do fine on their own. You want to focus on subjects in your book like “travel writing” or “young adult romance” or “dating for women” as examples. From Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP): Along with factors like sales history and Amazon Best Sellers Rank, relevant keywords can boost your placement in search results on Amazon.com.
2. Test these words at Amazon. How? Type them into the search bar slowly, one letter at a time and watch as prompts appear with words Amazon thinks you might be looking for in the search field. Example: if you type in R-E-I, the word “reincarnation” comes up immediately in the drop-down menu but it takes R-E-I-N-C before “reincarnation books” appears. This indicates to me that reincarnation is probably a better choice than reincarnation books if that is a major subject in your story.
3. Cross-test the words at Google Keyword Planner. Since Amazon’s search bar gives no data on how often a term is searched, it’s wise to check terms and similar ones with Google and see if one word or phrase is much more popular than the other. Back to our example–let’s say you wanted to add a term like “reincarnation books” along with “reincarnation” to your list of 7 keywords (or phrases) at Amazon. By testing similar terms at Google, wouldn’t it be nice to know the term “reincarnation stories” gets searched 40 times more often than “reincarnation books” does? Thus, you’d be wise to use reincarnation stories rather than reincarnation books.
Remember to try multiple ways of writing the same thing with slight variations like “psychic” vs “psychics.” The tutorial video below demonstrates this is great detail or watch it on YouTube.
4. If possible, adding keywords to your book’s title or subtitle will do more good than at any other location since the title is most influential on search results. For non-fiction especially, your title must be related to search terms. For fiction, this can be hard if you already have a title and are set on keeping it. Perhaps the title is Dawn’s Quest. A brief subtitle will help bunches with keywords that actually get searched like Dawn’s Quest: A Caribbean Mystery. Don’t feel like doing that? I understand–most of my fiction titles don’t have keywords either, but it makes the battle that much harder to reach the top.
5. Some Categories are linked with Keyword Requirements
The genres below are designed to be linked with keyword suggestions that help rank books in certain categories. Click on the genre to see some of the recommended keywords to rank your book in the top #100 of a specific category. (Notice the yellow highlight example for “new adult” as a keyword requirement for the broader category of Romance–New Age & College–New Adult.)
- Science Fiction & Fantasy
- Teen & Young Adult
- Mystery, Thriller, & Suspense
- Comics & Graphic Novels
6. Implement these tips with examples from 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)
7. Input your keywords with KDP Publishing.
KDP gives you 7 choices (see the highlighted area in the photo on left). It’s recommended to use short phrases, 2-3 words long but I also have good success with 1-word examples like “publishing,” “dogs” and “skiing.” Combine those with phrases like “sell ebooks online,” “children’s bedtime stories” and “extreme sports” respectively as examples to cover the bases. Think like readers who are searching by subjects they enjoy.
Finally, do not include these things:
● Information covered elsewhere in your book’s metadata—title, contributor(s), category, etc.
● Subjective claims about quality (e.g. “best”)
● Statements that are only temporarily true (“new,” “on sale,” “available now”)
● Information common to most items in the category (“book”)
● Common misspellings
● Variants of spacing, punctuation, capitalization, and pluralization (both “80GB” and “80 GB”, “computer” and “computers”, etc.). The only exception is for words translated in more than one way, like “Mao Zedong” and “Mao Tse-tung,” or “Hanukkah” and “Chanukah.”
● Anything misrepresentative, such as the name of an author that is not associated with your book. This type of information can create a confusing customer experience and Kindle Direct Publishing has a zero tolerance policy for metadata that is meant to advertise, promote, or mislead.
Don’t use quotation marks in search terms: Single words work better than phrases—and specific words work better than general words. If you enter “complex suspenseful whodunit,” only people who type all of those words will find your book. You’ll get better results if you enter this: complex suspenseful whodunit. Customers can search on any of those words and find your book.
Other no-no’s that might land you in trouble:
• Reference to other authors
• Reference to books by other authors
• Reference to sales rank (i.e. ‘best-selling’)
• Reference to advertisements or promotions (i.e. ‘free’)
• Reference to anything that is unrelated to your book’s content
● Customers are more likely to skim past long titles (over 60 characters).
● Focus your book’s description on the book’s content
● Your keywords can capture useful, relevant information that won’t fit in your title and description (setting, character, plot, theme, etc.)
● You can change keywords and descriptions as often as you like
● If your book is available in different formats (physical, audio) keep your keywords and description consistent across formats
● Make sure your book’s metadata adheres to KDP’s Metadata Guidelines.
This video tutorial goes through this in a step by step fashion.