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.
If you have questions or comments, leave them in the comments section.
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October 6, 2013 at 8:12 am
Question: which keyword would be better: Young Adult or YA?
October 6, 2013 at 8:19 am
I think Young Adult would be better in that choice, but more importantly you want to check this Amazon recommendations for the Teen & Young Adult Category Keywords and see if some of the choices on the right are relevant to your story (if so choose the ones that are): https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A1XEN0SRCO1KPB
October 6, 2013 at 9:40 am
great post. thanks.
October 7, 2013 at 9:22 am
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?
October 7, 2013 at 9:52 am
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=A19G4ONBAU6NO3 – https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A1XEN0SRCO1KPB
October 7, 2013 at 11:30 am
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 🙂
October 7, 2013 at 11:53 am
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.
October 7, 2013 at 12:07 pm
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).
October 8, 2013 at 4:24 pm
Thank you, Jason. What a well-written, easily understandable post on this topic! I appreciate having this in my arsenal.
October 8, 2013 at 4:38 pm
Thank you, Barbara 🙂
October 9, 2013 at 8:55 am
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?
October 9, 2013 at 9:01 am
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.
October 9, 2013 at 10:26 am
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.
October 9, 2013 at 12:22 pm
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.
October 10, 2013 at 11:16 pm
[…] 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). […]
October 11, 2013 at 12:16 pm
Thank you for sharing this, Frances
October 11, 2013 at 12:04 pm
[…] 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 […]
October 11, 2013 at 12:17 pm
Thank you, Nathan 🙂
October 13, 2013 at 2:08 am
[…] 7 Tips for Amazon Keywords and Best Selling Books from Jason Matthews at How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks […]
October 17, 2013 at 10:26 pm
[…] https://ebooksuccess4free.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/7-tips-for-amazon-keywords-and-best-selling-books/ […]
October 21, 2013 at 12:51 pm
Reblogged this on CWC – Berkeley Marketing and commented:
I read this post and will read it again and maybe again. Highly
October 21, 2013 at 3:54 pm
Much appreciated, Lloyd 🙂
October 22, 2013 at 11:11 am
This was excellent. No matter how hard I try, I seem to fail at keywords.
October 22, 2013 at 11:21 am
Haha, I can sympathize with that feeling, Donna 🙂
October 25, 2013 at 5:47 am
When you say “get you into trouble” what do you mean? How does Amazon deal with authors who try to mislead intentionally?
October 25, 2013 at 6:36 am
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.
October 25, 2013 at 6:46 am
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”.
December 10, 2013 at 11:09 am
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.
December 10, 2013 at 2:57 pm
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.
December 10, 2013 at 3:54 pm
Thanks. I think I understand, though I would like it if Kindle had more categories instead of subcategories.
December 10, 2013 at 4:27 pm
I agree 100%, Jerry. Thank you for visiting 🙂
December 20, 2013 at 10:44 pm
[…] 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 […]
January 17, 2014 at 10:32 am
Your video was very helpful and informative
January 17, 2014 at 11:37 am
Thank you, Dreamah. Always good to hear feedback like yours 🙂
April 27, 2014 at 4:23 pm
Excellent advice, thank you! I just bought your self-publishing book, looking forward to learning more.
April 27, 2014 at 8:26 pm
Thank you, Autumn!
August 15, 2014 at 2:31 am
[…] Here is some guidance for when you choose key words for you book. […]
August 15, 2014 at 7:17 am
Cheers, Angel. Thank you for sharing 🙂
December 11, 2014 at 4:39 am
[…] 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. […]
January 20, 2015 at 10:02 am
Reblogged this on Author Ingrid Hall and commented:
Food for thought…
January 20, 2015 at 3:44 pm
Reblogged this on Roisin Black and commented:
One of the best pieces I’ve read about Amazon keywords.
June 26, 2015 at 9:54 am
Thanks man! This really helped! You’re awesome. 😀
August 7, 2015 at 9:17 am
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!
August 7, 2015 at 6:44 pm
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.
August 13, 2015 at 3:26 am
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!
August 13, 2015 at 6:08 am
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.
August 27, 2015 at 4:22 pm
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.
December 4, 2015 at 7:31 pm
[…] 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. […]
July 25, 2016 at 8:03 am
very very useful article. thnx a lot buddy.
August 15, 2016 at 2:38 am
[…] More on keywords here. […]
August 18, 2016 at 2:10 pm
Thanks for posting this information, it was really helpfull I will be trying a few different keywords and see how it pans out. 👍😉
September 4, 2016 at 5:59 am
[…] https://ebooksuccess4free.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/7-tips-for-amazon-keywords-and-best-selling-books… […]
December 9, 2016 at 12:06 pm
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?
December 9, 2016 at 2:04 pm
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.”
January 15, 2017 at 6:17 am
Reblogged this on When Angels Fly.
January 23, 2017 at 4:57 pm
Thanks very much for this post…and for your site! Lots of useful information here.
March 2, 2017 at 2:17 pm
[…] https://ebooksuccess4free.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/7-tips-for-amazon-keywords-and-best-selling-books… […]
May 25, 2017 at 9:52 am
[…] Sources: 1)http://straussconsultants.com/the-power-of-keywords-how-to-make-your-book-discoverable-on-amazon-with-keywords/ 2)https://www.writing.ie/resources/make-your-book-more-discoverable-on-amazon-with-keywords/ 3)https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/power-keywords-how-make-your-book-discoverable-amazon-karen-strauss 4)https://ebooksuccess4free.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/7-tips-for-amazon-keywords-and-best-selling-books… […]
June 27, 2017 at 6:22 am
Great, detailed tips, Jason. Google isn’t Amazon. But A9 algorithm has similar goals as PageRank algorithm. I also said about them here — https://kparser.com/amazon-keyword-tool/
Share your minds about these conclusions, please.
June 29, 2017 at 1:29 am
What should be the best key words for a young adult dark fantasy action thriller that has also love stories?
June 29, 2017 at 9:40 am
I’d recommend following the tips in the article and coming up with some terms to try.
February 13, 2018 at 7:26 am
[…] Test your Amazon keywords by searching for them, and see if your book turns up. Test your SEO keywords by typing them into the search bar of a search engine like Google. If you have chosen frequently sought after, commonly searched keywords, the search bar will autofill the keyword as you type. This is a good indication you have chosen your keyword well. Also, your book should show up on the first few pages of the search results. […]
July 13, 2018 at 4:11 am
There should be more categories. For instance ‘Meerkat’ is not shown in children’s category along with the other animals listed. This means I cannot list my book Pandora’s Frocks – A Very Glam Meerkat Wedding under Meerkat. As it’s a popular animal now I think it should be listed.
Also there is no option to choose ‘Safeguarding Books for children.’ So I just have to list Monty-Moo The Rabbit Says Get off My Tail’ under rabbit books.
February 1, 2020 at 1:06 am
Help. Echoes of Reincarnation (title), a Psychics Eight Past Lives and Their Ramifications Today (sub-title) Key words: Reincarnation, Reincarnation Stories, (what else could I put for Kindle eBook and in what order?)
February 1, 2020 at 11:01 am
Great title and subtitle, Wayne. Full of smart keywords! You could also have keywords like psychic medium books, past lives, past lives books, etc. Try some play time with Amazon search bar and see what comes up as you start typing letters. Amazon will finish your typing with prompts for what it believes you’re looking for, and those are great keyword options. Good luck to you.
April 18, 2020 at 4:42 am
Hey,, Thanks for the article… But I am still trying to figure out keywords for my poetry books.
April 18, 2020 at 8:38 am
Make a list of all the topics your poetry covers. Search some of those terms at Amazon and see what you find and how common the terms appear to be searched. Good luck to you, Euphie.
April 18, 2020 at 11:29 pm
That sounds like a great idea. will do that. Thank you 🙂
May 8, 2020 at 9:04 am
what about keywords of coloring books how i can use the 7 keywords about this topic
May 8, 2020 at 11:23 am
You can use “coloring books” of course. You can also use coloring books for kids or adults or teens depending on your age range. You can also try keyword phrases like coloring books of animals or people or landscapes, etc. I recommend going to Amazon and experimenting with the search function and see what other closely related prompts come up. Good luck in your search.
November 20, 2020 at 3:19 am
[…] Learn more about keywords. […]