How to Select Keywords for Your eBook on Amazon

How to make money with ebooks orange 270x409How do buyers find your book when it is published? Sure, if you have a mailing list of 50.000 subscribers that helps. But most of the readers of this book will not have such a list.

You’re also going to announce it through all kinds of other media (free websites, YouTube, etc.). And that helps. I will handle all that further on in this book.

But the majority of people will get to your book by landing on Amazon. Then, they fall into the hands of an enormous marketing giant, who excels into marketing all the stuff that they have for sale. Not that you don’t have to do anything anymore and sit back. But having the marketing bulldozer of Amazon working for you will really make the difference.

So back to the initial question: How do buyers find your book? Smashwords has published an interesting study on their blog which you can find here

I won’t go into all the details but let me resume the main results of this marketing study and what works best to sell your book(s):

  1. Word-of mouth. This accounts for about 30%. That’s everything which includes: recommendations from friends, online communities and other people that a potential buyer will trust. Problem for you as a starting writer is: How do you get word-of-mouth if you have no visibility yet?
    The same holds for the number two in this list…
  2. Author brand. 18% of buyers go and look for their favorite authors. It is clear that you don’t become a recognized author overnight. This takes a lot of time and effort and probably 6 months to a year to get anywhere on the scale of ‘favorite authors’ (if ever).
  3. Random browsing. This overlaps for a good part with the previous 2 points and therefore can climb up to about 80%! That’s anything from “I just go onto the book store and I browse the categories”, “I just browse free books sites”, ”I look for books to review” etc.In short, those buyers didn’t have a specific idea what they were going to buy when they went online. “It just happened”.And this is a category where even the starting author can benefit from, because it has not so much to do with your sales or your history as an author.

Random browsing can be subdivided in:

• Someone might just browse through the categories. For example, someone who is looking for ‘classic cars’ would have to browse through:

Kindle eBooks -> Nonfiction -> Professional & Technical -> Automotive -> Classic Cars.

And every time that he clicks on one of these categories, a number of book covers will be displayed on his screen on the right. Which may catch his eye… So do the counting with me: Above I have mentioned 5 categories and their subcategories. On every click he will see something like 10 titles. That’s 50 titles in total.

And if he doesn’t browse immediately to the right sub category, he will first go through a couple of other categories and sub categories before he gets into the right one. So you can add easily another 50 titles. That’s 100 titles. And yours may be one of them…

• Someone types in a couple of words because he is looking for a topic but without having a specific title or author in mind. Something like ‘classic cars’ or ‘horror stories’. And this is where your title/subtitle AND your keywords come into play.

The last point brings us to the importance of keywords. Amongst all the things that you have (or may) fill out when you submit your book, one of the most important fields is the one with your keywords.

You may fill in maximum 7 keywords for your book. Here are some things you should consider when selecting your 7 keywords:

• Use all 7 of them. The more you use, the bigger the chance that your book will show up in a specific query.

• A keyword can actually consist of several words. So it doesn’t have to be a list of just 7 words, separated by a comma.

• Use keywords that describe as much as possible what your book is about. Make a list of at least 20 keywords when you start writing your book. From time to time, throw a glimpse on it and remove some. Until you have the 7 best left.

• Use the predictive search feature from Amazon. This works exactly the same way as in Google. I have written a 148 page book “Find GOLDEN Keywords with FREE Software. Dig up GOLDEN Nuggets with Google Keyword Planner”. You can find it here. This explains you in detail how to find good keywords for your articles, website and other writings. So why not use it for your book?

But let me explain with a short example how this works and how you can take advantage of this predictive search. Suppose I’m now an author of a book about classic cars. How and where to find them, how to restore them, how to maintain them etc. And I have come up with the keywords:

• Classic car repair

• Old-timers

• Car repair

Now I’m going to put those words to the test with Amazon’s predictive search. In the search bar on the top, I type in the word classic (don’t hit ENTER). Now I see:

keywords amazon1

Hmm, nothing with cars. I now add a space after the word classic. I get:

keywords amazon2

Again. No cars :( Notice that the words that are shown by Amazon are actual words that have been typed in by real visitors. (You see the first 10 results). Apparently there are not a lot (if any) visitors searching for “classic car repair”.

I repeat the same exercise for the second keyword “old-timers” (or oldtimers” or “old timers”). Again, nothing pops up.

The third keyword “car repair”.

keywords amazon3

Good. Here we have something. And indeed ‘car repair’ is typed in frequently by visitors. So I select the keyword ‘car repair’ from the list. I now look at the left which categories come up.

keywords amazon4

And I see in which categories this keyword is used. This is valuable information. I keep my keyword ‘car repair’ and I make a note of the categories (just right click and bookmark them to a bookmark list). I also skip quickly through the titles. The first 15 titles are books about general maintenance on any car. Nothing specific to classic cars.

On N° 16 I see the first book that is a bit on the same topic as my book:

keywords amazon5

I click on it to see how it ranks:

Rank 350.000+. Published June 2013. 2 reviews. All this indicates that this is not really a high selling book. Actually, it may have sold only a few copies. Conclusion: my ‘car repair’ keyword is maybe not as good as I thought. Normal, because I haven’t used classic in my query.

I hope the process is clear. Find keywords that people are indeed searching for.

What’s the difference if I would have typed in straight ‘car repair’ followed by ENTER? I would have seen the same results, but I wouldn’t have known that this is a keyword that visitors are actually searching for.

• You can do the same thing with your keywords in Google. Use the predictive search capability of Google to see what people are actually looking for. For more details about Google keywords, see my full book on the subject. This will also explain how to do this with Google Keyword Planner.

• Use one of the keywords that Amazon suggests to be listed in a specific category. Huh? What’s that? Yes, Amazon publishes a list of keywords for all major categories and subcategories specifying that if you want your book to appear in category XYZ, you should include the keyword(s) ABC in your submission form.

Very nice of them isn’t it? And it cannot get any easier than that. Here is the full listing from Amazon.

Categories with Keyword Requirements

Note that this listing is mainly useful for fiction books.

• Go to the category where you want to list your book. Now look through the competing books on the same subject. Take one and scroll down to the bottom of the page. Now you see the categories where this book is attached to. Either through its title OR its keywords.

Make a note of these categories. Now you can use one of these categories as a category for your own book OR you can use certain terms as a keyword. For example: I have selected two categories for my book. Now I see a competing book that is listed in the category

Business & Money > Skills > Business Writing

which is not one of the categories that I have selected for my book. Now I could decide to use ‘Business Writing’ as a keyword.

Check it out with the Amazon predictive search if it is a good keyword.
When you have your keywords, check with the free Google planner tool the search volume on Google.

Want to now more about marketing your eBook? Get my 158 page book “How to Make Money with eBooks“.


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2 Responses to How to Select Keywords for Your eBook on Amazon

  1. Liane says:

    Great info! What I’d like to know is: Do you have to use the words from the categories as key words also? If the main category is romance, for example, should you use “romance” as a keyword as well? I asked this on a KDP thread but got no response.

  2. Timo Hofstee says:

    Well, it depends. If you already have ‘Romance’ in your title, and you have put your book in the category Romance, it’s a bit overkill to put Romance also as a keyword. Now if you cannot think up more than 6 keywords, you could use Romance as the 7th.

    But for keywords you should think about your potential customer. Would a customer type in just ‘Romance’ to find a book. I don’t think so because

    1.It’s way too large as a search term
    2.He will get a couple of thousand results. (I just tried and got the maximum of 400 pages)

    So ask yourself the question: What is specific about my Romance book? And if people type THAT keyword, I want my book to pop up.

    I agree, that this is much more difficult for fiction books than for non-fiction books.

    You also could have a look at the categories where similar books are rated in. For example, when I type just romance as keyword and I click on the first book and scroll down to the bottom of the page, I see that this book is also attached to the category “Romantic Comedy”. So if your book is in that category (but you have used 2 other categories when you submitted your book) you could use “Romantic Comedy” as a keyword.

    Hope his helps


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