7 Tips for Amazon Keywords and Best Selling Books

Amazon Keywords for Books and Authors 3Best 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.

(Save 83% off the video course)

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.

Amazon Keywords for Books and Authors 25. 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.)

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)

Amazon Keywords for Books and Authors7. 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

Other tips:
● 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.

If you have questions or comments, leave them in the comments section.


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56 Responses to “7 Tips for Amazon Keywords and Best Selling Books”

  1. Wylee Says:

    Question: which keyword would be better: Young Adult or YA?

  2. Stephen Says:

    great post. thanks.

  3. Vicky Says:

    This is a great article…but I’m a little confused. If amazon requires a keyword like “romance” on their chart, do you know if it has to stand alone? Or if I put in “urban fantasy romance” as one keyword, would that qualify?

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      Thank you, Vicky. KDP Amazon gives you 7 keywords (or phrases). For your example, you could do these:
      urban fantasy, urban romance, urban fiction, fantasy romance, and also combine with some of the terms relevant to your book that Amazon recommends on the Romance link or the Teen and YA link: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A19G4ONBAU6NO3https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A1XEN0SRCO1KPB

      • Vicky Says:

        Thanks! I understand about the seven keywords – what I’m wondering is if the chart says, for example, the word “humor” should be a keyword, then would I need something like “humor, paranormal humor” – or would the inclusion of humor inside paranormal count. – It’s all very confusing, not the least because the categories listed in those charts do not appear in the category selections available as I set up my book 🙂

        • Jason Matthews Says:

          I agree with that, and I remember wondering how my books came up in the Top 100 of certain Amazon categories that I had not chosen (some of them weren’t even an option). Is your book really paranormal humor? If so, that’s going to factor into the rest of this reply although there are gray areas when dealing with undefined secret algorithms. If your book is “urban fantasy romance” as you mentioned and also has “humor” and “paranormal,” then you have a lot going on for the best 7 keywords and a fun book. In cases like this pick the 7 most relevant terms: “paranormal humor” is far more specific than “humor” and so that would be more important to me as a keyword, but you might want to include either “paranormal” or “humor” as a solo keyword if you have room after the “urban fantasy romance” possibilities.

  4. Vicky Says:

    lol- yes there’s paranormal, humor, and romance and (in the new one) zombies…which don’t have a catagory or keyword! I did a free period last month and came up in some very strange “free” categories…but oh well. At least we can experiment. Thanks again for the very helpful post (and replies).

  5. Barbara Hinske Says:

    Thank you, Jason. What a well-written, easily understandable post on this topic! I appreciate having this in my arsenal.

  6. maxradin Says:

    Hi Jason
    Great post and video, thank you. I have an additional question about keyword searches. If I think new adult readers might be interested in mysteries, does it make sense to add a keyword ‘new adult mystery’? I believe a search on just ‘new adult’ would match as well. So am I getting extra search potential for free essentially? Or does it not work that way?
    thanks again
    Max

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      Hey Max. If that’s relevant to the book then I think you should benefit with both “new adult” and “new adult mystery” especially since this is still a fairly new genre.

      • maxradin Says:

        Thanks
        I guess my question is: if I have just the one phrase ‘ new adult mystery’ won’t the search of ‘new adult’ include my book as well.
        Max

        • Jason Matthews Says:

          I assume it would at least to some degree, but only an Amazon insider would be able to answer that with certainty. If it’s a matter of choosing one phrase or the other, “new adult mystery” is probably best.

  7. Free Days, the Dangers of Over-Selling Books & Social Media Demographics - Social Media Just for Writers Says:

    […] 7 Tips for Amazon Keywords and Best Selling Books by Jason Matthews: Best selling books are more likely to happen when authors use smart Amazon keywords. Are you using yours wisely to help strangers from all over the world find your books? Most authors are not 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). […]

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    […] Matthews gives seven tips for how to make your keywords. This has been one thing that has continually frustrated me about publishing, how to choose your […]

  9. The Writer's Weekly Wrap-Up (Issue #19) | Your Writer Platform Says:

    […] 7 Tips for Amazon Keywords and Best Selling Books from Jason Matthews at How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks […]

  10. Lloyd Lofthouse Says:

    Reblogged this on CWC – Berkeley Marketing and commented:
    I read this post and will read it again and maybe again. Highly
    recommended.

  11. dm yates Says:

    This was excellent. No matter how hard I try, I seem to fail at keywords.

  12. Rosanne Dingli Says:

    When you say “get you into trouble” what do you mean? How does Amazon deal with authors who try to mislead intentionally?

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      Oh, very good question. Hasn’t happened to me personally, but I’ve heard of authors who have had books removed and accounts held in suspension. My guess is that there are a range of potential “punishments” depending on the severity of the infraction to their Terms Of Service (TOS) in Amazon’s opinion.

      • Rosanne Dingli Says:

        Makes good sense to observe their terms then. I see no point in trying for a romantic thriller to top the rank in say “Cooking – chicken” or “Sport – basketball”, even if there are vague or passing mentions in the narrative of chicken and basketball. There’s a lot more credibility in having it rank reasonably well in “Thrillers – romantic”.

  13. Jerry Bidos (@JerryBidos) Says:

    Do you have to use as a keyword the category, Teen & Young Adult Science Fiction/ Action and Adventure as well as the kindle keyword category, Action, Adventure to get it listed in the Teen and Young Adult Science Fiction/ Action and Adventure? I don’t see how just using the keyword, Action and Adventure will get it listed in Teen & Young Adult Science Fiction/ Action, Adventure.

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      That is an example of a Sub-Category: Teen & Young Adult Science Fiction/Action & Adventure, while the Keywords Amazon recommends to get it listed there are either action or adventure or both, among other keywords relevant to your book. Each sub-category (in this example for Teen and Young Adult) needs a certain keyword to be recognized for the sub-category as in this list: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A1XEN0SRCO1KPB.

  14. Jerry Bidos (@JerryBidos) Says:

    Thanks. I think I understand, though I would like it if Kindle had more categories instead of subcategories.

  15. Blogs for Self-Publishers September 29 – October 5, 2013 — The Book Designer Says:

    […] Matthews on How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks 7 Tips for Amazon Keywords and Best Selling Books “Here are 7 tips to help you select the best words and phrases plus a tutorial video at […]

  16. Dreamah H. Lockwood Says:

    Your video was very helpful and informative

  17. Autumn Macarthur Says:

    Excellent advice, thank you! I just bought your self-publishing book, looking forward to learning more.

  18. Choosing key words for your book | The Proof Angel Says:

    […] Here is some guidance for when you choose key words for you book. […]

  19. Sobre publicar un libro en Amazon - techleo Says:

    […] favorable definir el texto con entre 5 y 7 palabras clave: ciertos términos o frases que llevan hasta nuestro documento a quien use el buscador de Amazon. […]

  20. Author Ingrid Hall Says:

    Reblogged this on Author Ingrid Hall and commented:
    Food for thought…

  21. Roisin Black Says:

    Reblogged this on Roisin Black and commented:
    One of the best pieces I’ve read about Amazon keywords.

  22. Steven Steel Says:

    Thanks man! This really helped! You’re awesome. 😀

  23. Geoffrey Saign Says:

    great article! Thanks!
    Could never get the keyword planner to come up. tried for hours on adwords.
    Do you also advise putting these keywords on your website?

    Thank you for your time and help!

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      Hi Geoffrey. Sorry about the issues with Keyword Planner. Yes, I do recommend adding keywords to websites and blogs in URLs, titles, posts topics, tags, categories, and metadata where available.

  24. David Henderson Says:

    Thanks for the summary on Keywords Jason, I have also watch (and enjoyed) your Lynda.com video course.
    I think there are some recent updates made to the Amazon algorithms that affect the choices of keywords and categories that differ from your video advice. For example, you would rather want longer-tailed (yet still popular)keywords within Amazon to make sure your chances of reaching the first page results are better. – Thanks again!

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      Thank you, David, and I agree that changes are constantly being made. It’s always a great idea to consider long-tail keywords, although when you get past 3 word phrases it can be difficult to find the right ones.

  25. Jean Says:

    Can anyone remind me of the Amazon site on which an author can search for the keywords people are looking for when buying books on Amazon. I have some notations on this, but would need to search for this information. Thank you.

  26. How to Make the Bestseller Lists: Why Categories and Keywords Matter - Anne R. Allen's Blog... with Ruth Harris Says:

    […] Jason Matthews, author of How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks and new adult novels, posted a comprehensive and easy-to-understand post plus video about choosing and using keywords. Jason explains how to test keywords at Amazon and at Google and tells why sometimes what seem to be trivial differences can make a difference. Jason also shares insights and valuable advice about important keyword dos and don’ts. […]

  27. kazirhut Says:

    very very useful article. thnx a lot buddy.

  28. Neil Says:

    Hi Jason,
    Thanks for posting this information, it was really helpfull I will be trying a few different keywords and see how it pans out. 👍😉

  29. Harvey Flinder Says:

    Thanks for your short but informative video. Seems like Google have withdrawn the Keyword Planner. I tried to get into it but was directed into signing up as a company and an advertiser. Any thoughts, any recommended alternatives?

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      It does appear Google keeps making this tool more difficult to access for newbies. I believe you can set up an account without actually needing to make a purchase. Another on the topic wrote this: “If you go to www.google.com/adwords to sign up for an account, you will be taken through a sign up process that will require you to create your first campaign and enter billing information in order to create your account. This can be frustrating when you only want to use the Keyword Planner tool without a campaign.
      We can get around this requirement by creating a Adwords MCC or My Client Center account. This is a type of Adwords account that is used by agencies and consultants to manage many different advertising accounts.”

  30. MThomas Says:

    Thanks very much for this post…and for your site! Lots of useful information here.


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