Home » Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Amazon » The Importance of Keywords to Ranking Your Book on Amazon

The Importance of Keywords to Ranking Your Book on Amazon

21 February 2016

From The Book Designer:

One thing many self-publishers don’t realize is that Amazon, like Google, uses a search engine to find, and list its books. All you have to do is type in the search box a phrase or sentence, and Amazon will provide you with a list of best options.

One thing that can be a powerful marketing tactic for authors is to ensure their book reaches the top of a search list. If you wrote a book on weight loss, I’m sure you can imagine how great that would be for your sales if your book were the first to show up.

However, what makes Amazon’s search engine chose one book over the others?

Why is it that certain books show up for specific terms but not for others?

It turns out it’s all about the words you use and the method of execution in your sales.

. . . .

One of the quickest and best-known ways to let Amazon know you should be considered for a keyword phrase is in the Kindle Keyword selection. These are the seven keyword phrases that Amazon asks for when you go to publish your book.

Once you’ve told Amazon your seven keywords, they will take your list into consideration and rank you somewhere in the results list for those keywords. It could be on the first page or the 27th page – that all depends on the competitiveness of that particular keyword.

However, these Kindle Keywords don’t just help you rank better. They can also be important in unlocking special Kindle categories. So, make sure you choose wisely when selecting your seven.

. . . .

Although there are some super important factors that you should consider when choosing the title for your book, the ability to add targeted keywords in the title can play a large role in where your book ranks.

The title is the best indication of what your book is about. Therefore, if someone types a keyword phrase into the search box and your title has that exact phrase in it, then there is a good chance they are looking for your book or a book just like it.

Now, I’m not saying you need to change your title so as to make a keyword fit. I only highlight that keywords should be a part of your decision matrix as you work to craft that perfect book title.

. . . .

The good news about a Kindle book description is that you have 4000 characters in which you can type. This is a prime opportunity to discuss some of your targeted keywords in a natural way without being obnoxious.

This can also be beneficial to fiction authors too. In the fiction book Terms of Enlistment, Marko Kloos added at the bottom of his description the following:

The debut novel from Marko Kloos, Terms of Enlistment is a new addition to the great military sci-fi tradition of Robert Heinlein, Joe Haldeman, and John Scalzi.

It just so happens that now, his book shows up for anyone searching for books like Starship Troopers, Forever War, and Old Mans War which are all books that the above writers have written.

That’s some great company to be with and has definitely increased the amount of times his book has shown up in the Amazon searches over this past year. It’s also how I found him and read his series since I love all three of those books.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Amazon

27 Comments to “The Importance of Keywords to Ranking Your Book on Amazon”

  1. One thing many self-publishers don’t realize is that Amazon, like Google, uses a search engine to find, and list its books.

    Seriously?

    Be careful of keyword stuffing. Amazon is cracking down on authors who force keywords into the title.

  2. Where to start?

    First, Amazon search engines DO NOT index the blurb. The Terms of Enlistment book shows up in the searches for Starship Troopers, et al, because they are in each others’ alsobots. Keywords in descriptions have zip, nada, nil effect on the search engine at Amazon.

    Simple test: Choose an obscure character name mentioned ONLY in a blurb for an ebook and do a search on it in the Kindle Store. Does the book come in the results? No.

    The caveat to this is that Google Play apparently does index the blurb, but most of the other major sites follow Amazon’s lead and don’t.

    It would be nice if posts were vetted before the info was disseminated into the wild. Otherwise, these myths continue to be perpetuated.

    Another fun fact: If a book has the Search Inside feature activated for the PRINT version (most CreateSpace pubbed ones do), and someone searches in the BOOKS library (not the Kindle Store one!), then terms that appear in those indexed books will pop up in search results as well.

    So the SAME searches done in the Kindle Store vs the Books library yield different results.

    Clicking on alsobots, coming in on a link directly…all these things influence search word rank, including relevance, number of mentions of the keyword, etc. And, as noted above, searching on specific titles or authors will ALSO bring up titles and authors in the alsobots.

    Also, terms in different metadata fields are weighted differently. A keyword in a title will weight more in a relevancy search. Because weighting is the whole reason relevancy search engines were born.

    Another simple test: Search on your name. Do OTHER authors and titles come up under your name? Yes. Why? Because either their names are some derivative of yours or their books are in your books’ alsobots.

    And some of it is just going to be randomness we can’t influence. Each month or so I have a few titles I enter into the relevancy search engine by ASIN. Because ASIN is so specific, those books are the only ones brought up in a relevancy search (which is Amazon’s default search), but the ORDER they are brought up from one day to the next varies fairly randomly. It’s not just by sales, not just by reviews, not just by what’s been published most recently. Believe me, I’ve looked hard for rhyme and reason, and am fairly astute at discovering patterns, but not once have I been able to predict the pattern the results will be shown day-to-day.

    Are keywords important? Absolutely.

    Are the search engines influenced in the ways some folk think they are? Nope.

    • You can also contrive pen names and keywords to co-opt the names of established traditional authors and forcefully hijack your way into their pages, I hear.

    • As PG often says, the comments are frequently the best part of The Passive Voice. Thanks for this information.

    • Thank you Phoenix for saving me a lot of typing. You are correct in all your assertions.

      The other important factor is people don’t buy searching keywords. According to Amazon over 82% of all purchases happen on the Amazon/Kindle platform itself. Meaning clicking links in the back matter of the book or clicking on alsobots.

      That only leaves 18% of sales for all other modes of purchase (clicking outside links, keyword searches, specific searches, ads from outside sources etc).

      So sure go pull your hair out and make your description unreadable because it is laden with keywords to attain those mythical “keyword” sales 🙂

      • Carolyn, what is your source for the 82% of purchases statement?

        • From an editor at Amazon. Plus I talked about it with my marketing team when I had a 7 book deal with Amazon. They were pretty darn sure about it. Sales primarily occur within the Kindle environment. Search/keywords are only negligible components. I certainly found this to be true.
          Back when keywords were first a big deal (along with the good old day of tags) I went in and optimized for keywords rather than ad copy and had a drop in sales. When I went back to exciting verbiage and dropped all keywords my sales went up. I have no key words in any of my descriptions and I do just fine 🙂

        • From an editor at Amazon. Plus I talked about it with my marketing team when I had a 7 book deal with Amazon. They were pretty darn sure about it. Sales primarily occur within the Kindle environment. Search/keywords are only negligible components. I certainly found this to be true.
          Back when keywords were first a big deal (along with the good old day of tags) I went in and optimized for keywords rather than ad copy and had a drop in sales. When I went back to exciting verbiage and dropped all keywords my sales went up. I have no key words in any of my descriptions and I do just fine 🙂

    • “Simple test: Choose an obscure character name mentioned ONLY in a blurb for an ebook and do a search on it in the Kindle Store. Does the book come in the results? No.”

      I was curious and I tried this with a character’s name that does not appear in the keywords or the title (The ISIS Lone Wolf Trigger): Angela Bow

      The book popped on the third results page.

      However, if I just type ISIS in the search box, I don’t show up until page 20 of the results, after out-of-print books, cookbooks with authors who have a first name of Isis and God knows what else. So much for keyword exposure.

  3. “In the fiction book Terms of Enlistment, Marko Kloos added […]”

    Did he, now? You mean Amazon/47-N made him write his own blurb when they bought the book? I guess I understand, then, why people are _so_ against Amazon’s publishing arm…

    Take care.

  4. Another factor is that if you list your book in Erotica categories they will not be listed in general search results, but only in search results from people browsing the Erotica category.
    This is why you will find many erotica titles in general fiction categories like romance or women’s fiction.

  5. I just saw a listing whose author is using Kindle as his first name. Jeez Louise!

    • @ Jeanne Miller

      LOL. Was his last name Mobi? Or, perhaps, Unlimited? 🙂

    • That’s hilarious. And awful.

      And his competition is Mr. Authors United. 🙂

    • I had to do some Google Fu after reading this.

      Kindle is a name. According to some sites it is a variant of Kendall. Other sites claim it is Kindle (as in to set alight and that Kyndal is an alternate spelling with the same meaning). Some say it is a girl’s name. Others say it is unisex. It doesn’t seem to be very popular. (Popularity of Kindle according to BabyCenter

      ETA There are at least two other Stephen Kings selling through Amazon. One at least it is his legal name. He sells as Stephen H King. I’d still use a pseudonym if it was me.

  6. Over the years, the Amazonians have indicated they hate it when authors try to game the system. As an example, at one point they demanded all of us remove the names of famous authors from our keywords, even if they were appropriate (e.g., a Regency romance citing Jane Austen). Those who didn’t obey saw their books removed from sale until they complied (I was too much of a coward to chance it).

    Yes, keywords and blurbs are important and Amazon does consider them. But getting too cutesy can backfire. Just a friendly word of warning.

  7. Once again, I think an old bit of SEO wisdom applies, subbing “Amazon” for “Google.”

    If you wouldn’t do it with an Amazon employee looking over your shoulder, you probably shouldn’t do it.

  8. “The debut novel from Marko Kloos, Terms of Enlistment, is a new addition to the great military sci-fi tradition of Robert Heinlein, Joe Haldeman, and John Scalzi.”

    Apparently, the above (using author names) is O.K. with Amazon in the book’s description:

    We prohibit including any of the items below in your description:
    • Pornographic, obscene, or offensive content.
    • Phone numbers, physical mail addresses, email addresses, or website URLs.
    • Availability, price, alternative ordering information (such as links to other websites for placing orders)
    • Reviews, quotes or testimonials.
    • Solicitations for customer reviews.
    • Advertisements, watermarks on images or videos, or promotional material.
    • Time-sensitive information (e.g., dates of promotional tours, seminars, lectures, etc.).

    However, it would not be O.K. in Amazon’s search keywords:

    Examples of items that are prohibited as search keywords include but are not limited to:
    • Reference to other authors
    • Reference to books by other authors
    • Reference to sales rank (e.g., “bestselling”)
    • Reference to advertisements or promotions (e.g., “free”)
    • Reference to anything that is unrelated to your book’s content

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