Taming Amazon discussion

Choosing Keywords on Amazon

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message 1: by Jim, JimsGotWeb.com (new)

Jim Liston (jimsgotweb) | 235 comments Mod
Keywords are the search terms your potential buyers use when looking for a book. Amazon keeps its actual algorithm secret but it says that your book’s title and description is already used as search terms so you shouldn’t repeat them. If you’re still writing your book and haven’t determined a title yet, you might consider doing some keyword research first and adding the result in your title.

You’re allowed to use seven keywords or keyword strings for your book. To determine what buyers are searching for you can use Amazon’s database.

You might not realize that much like Google, Amazon has a fantastic keyword tool. You may have typed in a keyword in the Google search bar and seen suggestions come up. Amazon has the same function. Go to the search bar on the Amazon site, navigate to the “Kindle Store,” from the drop-down arrow, and then start typing something. Let’s say your book is about a man whose wife is murdered. If you type in “murder,” Amazon’s look-ahead feature gives you its first suggestion, “Murder Mystery.”

Choose that term to search. Currently there are over 20,000 results. You can filter the results a few ways. We’ll be looking at “Relevance, New and Popular, and Average Customer Reviews.”

Pick the first result filtered by “New and Popular,” and go to the book’s product page. Scrolling down to the “Product Details” I see the “Amazon Best Seller Rank,” for this book is currently #82. Ideally, you want to be listed on the first page of results, so I’ll also look at the last book on the first page. This book’s ranking is #1,280. You can use these numbers to determine where your book will be listed by looking at your current ranking.

Let’s try another term. Typing in “Crime,” Amazon suggests “Crime Thrillers.” This time let’s filter by “Relevance.” Currently the first book in these results is “Blood and Justice (A Private Investigator series of Crime Thrillers).” Let’s look at why this is the #1 book listed for the keywords “Crime Thrillers.”

First, it has the keyword string “Crime Thriller” right in the title, which helps a lot. I also see “Crime Thriller” written in the “Product Description,” and the “Editorial Reviews” section. If you look at some of the other results, you begin to see a pattern. The author rank doesn’t matter much when the “Relevance” filter is used, but having the keyword in the title, description, and elsewhere on the page does.

Let’s try the keyword “Crime Thriller” filtered by “Avg. Customer Review.” The first result has 159 reviews with an average of 5 stars. That’s going to be tough to beat! You might want to look for a different keyword phrase.

Do you see what I’m getting at? You know your book better than anyone, so think about what search terms people who’d enjoy it would use. It may take quite a bit of time, but realize you can change your keywords, so don’t feel like it’s set in stone. I’d suggest letting a couple of weeks go by to see if there are any changes in your sales. If not, then try some different keywords.

Don’t give up on this! When you find the correct set of keywords and keyword phrases for your book you’ll increase its visibility and that means an increase in sales. I’m constantly working on my eBook’s keywords and I’ll be adding more information soon.

message 2: by Cary (new)

Cary Neeper (cary_neeper) | 5 comments Thanks for this, Jim.

message 3: by Jim, JimsGotWeb.com (new)

Jim Liston (jimsgotweb) | 235 comments Mod
I'm glad you've found the information useful.

Has anyone spent much time using the new Google Keyword Planner? I don't like it as much as the old keyword tool, probably because it has so many different features and I haven't spent much time with it.

I hope to spend more time learning to use it soon, and plan to write a post about it here.

message 4: by J. (new)

J. Bennett (jbennett_gwbw) | 47 comments Jim, you are right on the mark with this post. So useful! I had no idea what I was doing when I published my first satirical vampire short story. These are literally three of the keywords I used and the amount of listings in Amazon's Kindle Store before I switched everything up:
-- Vampire (20,865 listings)
-- Paranormal (50,091 listings)
-- Short story humor (5,481 listings)

I read about keywords in the book Let's Get Visible by David Gaughran. Here are three new keywords I am using for the same story:

-- Funny vampire story (55 listings; I'm on first page!)
-- Funny vampires (154 listings)
-- Vampire comedy (258 listings)

Note -- These numbers are a little old, since I documented everything at the beginning of the year when I switched out all my keywords. The point is, changing the keywords put me in more relevant categories and is helping me gain more visibility!

message 5: by Jim, JimsGotWeb.com (new)

Jim Liston (jimsgotweb) | 235 comments Mod
Great! The trick is, once you're sales have increased you should find different keywords and categories that are more competitive, then you'll be visible to new readers.
Thanks for your post and good luck!

message 6: by Sherry (new)

Sherry Roberts | 18 comments Please clarify where the keywords are placed: they go in your description, right? Amazon used to let you list keywords at the bottom of the page, but that system is gone.

message 7: by Cary (new)

Cary Neeper (cary_neeper) | 5 comments I was going to ask the same question--couldn't find a place to enter keywords. I rewrote the From the Author on my book's page and included relevant keywords that have lots of books. Does that mean it gets lost in the deluge or it there more hope for someone finding it? So far The Webs of Varok comes up as the only "steady state science fiction" and on the 2nd page of "sustainability science fiction." Did I do this right?

message 8: by Cary (new)

Cary Neeper (cary_neeper) | 5 comments Another thought. I notice that Jim added more detail to his search--maybe that's the trick? What do you mean by "categories that are more competitive?" Aren's you less visible in categories with huge numbers of books?

message 9: by Jim, JimsGotWeb.com (new)

Jim Liston (jimsgotweb) | 235 comments Mod
Sherry, I think you're talking about "tags" and you're right, those are gone. You enter keywords on your KDP Dashboard, right after your category choices.

Click on the book you want to edit and go to #3 "Target Your Book to Customers" to enter your keywords.

Here's what Amazon says about keywords:

"Search keywords help readers find your book when they search the Kindle Store. You may enter keywords or short phrases that describe your book and are relevant to its content. The best keywords are those that do not repeat words in the title, category, or description, as these are currently already used to help readers find your book."

You can choose 7 keywords. I suggest doing some research to determine what people that would like your book are using for search terms.

Cary, I was suggesting that after you have a higher ranking, you can get more customers if you're in a larger category. As long as you will still be on the first page of the results.

I hope this is clear, let me know if it isn't.

message 10: by Cary (new)

Cary Neeper (cary_neeper) | 5 comments Yes, thank you very much for all this help, esp. re difference between Amazon's use of tags and keywords. On to the Shelfari jungle.

message 11: by Jenny (new)

Jenny Hayworth (goodreadscomjenhay) | 31 comments Jim wrote: "Sherry, I think you're talking about "tags" and you're right, those are gone. You enter keywords on your KDP Dashboard, right after your category choices.

Click on the book..."

Thanks for this Jim. I went into Amazon books and started typing in keywords to find my book and it only came up for one of them. I then went into KDP and found that all the other keywords were not ones I would use to find my book. I changed them all (except for one where I came up on first page). I am not sure why I have missed this. So thank you very much.

I actually changed categories a few weeks ago and it has made a huge difference. Had a promotion and are still at #1 in kindle for one of my categories so thrilled.

Thanks once again for such a helpful hint.

message 12: by Jim, JimsGotWeb.com (new)

Jim Liston (jimsgotweb) | 235 comments Mod
I'm glad that I could help.

message 13: by J. (new)

J. Bennett (jbennett_gwbw) | 47 comments Jim, is there a way to determine how competitive particular keywords are other than simply the amount of listings they garner from a Kindle store search? I would assume that a large number of listings doesn't necessarily correlate to heavy search volume. Also, are longer keyword phrases better? I am operating on the assumption that the keyword phrase "Funny vampire short story" helps me rank under "vampire", "funny vampire", "vampire short story" and "short story". Do you know if that is that accurate?

message 14: by Jim, JimsGotWeb.com (new)

Jim Liston (jimsgotweb) | 235 comments Mod
I don't think that by using the "long-tail keywords" that you are also listed in the "head keywords." The advantage of using the long-tail is that it's less competitive and usually more effective in bringing targeted marketing.
Here is a great post on Inc.com.
8 Ways to Find the Best Long Tail Keywords.

message 15: by J. (new)

J. Bennett (jbennett_gwbw) | 47 comments Good article. Thanks!

message 16: by Kim (last edited Mar 06, 2014 12:02PM) (new)

Kim Hornsby (authorkimhornsby) | 4 comments Hi Jim: If I go to Kindle store and type murder, then click on Go, is that what you said above? What's the look ahead feature? I'm a bit lost here.

Also,I have that new software AK Booster and it's expensive. I have to say that Jim's tips here have done just as much as paying $100 for the search tool to find key words!

message 17: by Jim, JimsGotWeb.com (new)

Jim Liston (jimsgotweb) | 235 comments Mod
Hi Kim,
If you type "murder" in the amazon search box, wait a second or so and you'll see choices pop up. For instance, "murder of crows, murder mystery, murder she wrote," is what I see. These are search terms that people use starting with "murder."

message 18: by J. (new)

J. Bennett (jbennett_gwbw) | 47 comments Kim, I had never heard of AK Booster before, but I got curious and looked it up. Interestingly, a few reviews pop up on Google before the actual company. What has been your experience with this tool? The company's page feels really gimmicky and also seems to focus on a "get rich quick" mentally. I found myself backing away.

message 19: by Amber (new)

Amber Foxx (amberfoxx) | 45 comments I have been testing search terms to see where books similar to mine pop up. If I use "paranormal mystery psychic", books with vampire and horror imagery come up as well as others. A lot of bloody mouths on covers. My books do not even have any murders in them. If I try "fiction metaphysical" a lot of the books are more relevant in some way but not mystery. I invented the search term "literary mystery psychic" and found a whopping 12 books, but I would fit best among them. Question:
Should I use this term for my keywords, or should I try to make it my obscure little category? It's actually the best fit, but it's not a "real" Amazon category.
I still have not done the category thing. Still not sure where to put myself. If I don't choose a mystery category I suspect I will be in the wrong place, but paranormal tends to put me in among books primarily unlike mine. I hesitate to take myself out of one category and move myself to one no one looks for. Of course, being lost in the big "mystery" bin isn't that great and I do need to narrow my category down as well as choose thee right search terms. Suggestions?

message 20: by Jim, JimsGotWeb.com (new)

Jim Liston (jimsgotweb) | 235 comments Mod
Hi Amber, you should notify the Goodreads librarians to have them fix the link to your book, The Calling, on your profile. You have 4 editions and the link to Amazon doesn't work on some of them. Do you need 4 editions?

It doesn't do any good to list search terms that no one uses. I wouldn't be too concerned about fitting exactly in a category. You just wouldn't want your book in the "humor" genre.

message 21: by J. (new)

J. Bennett (jbennett_gwbw) | 47 comments Amber, Amazon allows you to add seven keywords to your book. It might be worth it to use a few less competitive keywords and then to mix in some more popular keywords. You can get a sense of how many people look up a certain term by using the Google keyword tool that I think Jim mentions somewhere in this thread. If no one is looking for a term, then it's not very useful to you as an author even if it is the best fit for your book. Also, you can always change your keywords. If you notice nothing happening, then keep experimenting!

message 22: by Amber (new)

Amber Foxx (amberfoxx) | 45 comments Jim wrote: "Hi Amber, you should notify the Goodreads librarians to have them fix the link to your book, The Calling, on your profile. You have 4 editions and the link to Amazon doesn't work on some of them. D..."

This is the librarians' reply:
Actually, there are 5 editions, and since at least one is a Kobo-specific edition and one is a B&N-specific edition, the Amazon links indeed will not work on all of them.

But all are valid, and none need deletion.

I publish everywhere, not just Amazon.

message 23: by Jim, JimsGotWeb.com (new)

Jim Liston (jimsgotweb) | 235 comments Mod
Interesting, I have a book on B&N and Kobo, but it's through Smashwords and is the same version.

message 24: by Amber (new)

Amber Foxx (amberfoxx) | 45 comments As far as the book d goes, it is identical. I have no idea how Kobo ISBN's give this a new identity.

message 25: by J. (new)

J. Bennett (jbennett_gwbw) | 47 comments I just discovered something interesting related to Amazon keywords. You may notice when you dig deeply into certain categories that there is a separate topic list (different than sub-genres). For instance, when you choose: Kindle ebooks: Science Fiction & Fantasy: Fantasy and scroll down, you'll see categories for (among others): Angels, Devils & Demons, Dragons, Elves & Fae, Ghosts, etc...

How do you get your book to get listed in these topic categories? Answer: Your keywords. Amazon actually includes a list of which keywords will put your book into specific topic category. Here is the link to the list. Have fun!


message 26: by Suzanne (new)

Suzanne Adair | 7 comments Not in two years of working with keywords have I been able to discover the keywords that my potential readers use, and I've tried SO many methods. I've tried Joanna Penn's method. I've also tried what Jim describes. Nothing. My five titles are parked at 500K+ rankings. Nobody sees them, and nobody buys them.

All five books have decent ratings. Four books have won awards. If I have a price-discount promo through a group like eReader News Today, my books get snapped right up, which shows that people find the books appealing when they're visible. But the sales stop as soon as the visibility stops. By two weeks after the promo, they're back at 500K again.

It has to be the keywords.

On 20 - 21 June, I'm doing a 99-cent promo for Regulated for Murder. Here are my latest seven keywords for the book, based on the drill-down method a couple months ago. Please offer suggestions for changes.

military historical fiction
war of independence
espionage historical fiction
north carolina
united states
british detective

Thank you.

Suzanne Adair

message 27: by Jim, JimsGotWeb.com (new)

Jim Liston (jimsgotweb) | 235 comments Mod
Hi Suzanne,
Looking at your book page on Amazon, I see that your book is only in one top-level category, "Kindle eBooks > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense >. I would suggest you add another top-level category. I'm not familiar with your book, but off the top of my head, I'd suggest, "Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction >

That would increase the visibility of your book by having it in front of new readers.

I hope this helps.

message 28: by Suzanne (new)

Suzanne Adair | 7 comments Thanks for your feedback, Jim.

How did you find my book in the top-level category "Kindle eBooks > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense"? That search category isn't currently appearing on the book's sale page. The only time I see those search categories on my book page is when I do a promo, and the book's visibility gets better than 100K.

Also, please explain how to add a search category like "Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction". You're talking about search categories. Those aren't the same as the categories that we can add from the dashboard. I don't see a way to steer what search categories appear. I've tried manipulating keywords, but that only works if my books are visible to begin with.

Suzanne Adair

message 29: by Gwen (new)

Gwen (gwenellery) | 19 comments As you guys may know, you can now plug in specific genre-related key words in your KDP dashboard area that will help put your book directly into certain sub-categories and thematic categories without having to ask KDP to put your in there (They seem to have a new 4-category limit last I asked). This will make more sense if you follow these links:


Science Fiction & Fantasy


Teen & Young Adult

Mystery, Thriller, & Suspense

Comics & Graphic Novels

Literature & Fiction


Religion & Spirituality

Business & Money

message 30: by Jim, JimsGotWeb.com (new)

Jim Liston (jimsgotweb) | 235 comments Mod
Thanks, Gwen!

message 31: by I-Lanaa (last edited Sep 02, 2014 11:40AM) (new)

I-Lanaa Twine | 3 comments Hey Jim :)
My name is I-Lanaa Twine and I am a newly self-published author who needs HELP! Lol. I published my debut YA/Fantasy novel on the 29th of August and I seem to be having some problems with keywords/categories. 1) The categories I have chosen are Fiction-> Fantasy-> Paranmoral and Fiction-> Fantasy-> Action and Adventure which are very accurate depictions of my book, but I write for Young Adults. The current keywords I have chosen (and herein may lay the problem) are:
1) Teen Alien Adventure
2) YA Interracial Romance
3) Teen Love and Romance
4) Teen Alien magic
5) YA Paranormal Romance
6) YA Paranormal Fantasy
7) YA Sci Fi Fantasy
I too followed the link Gwen posted above and it shows that in order to be put in the Teen/YA categories many of the keywords I chose must be present. So, I was hopeful that I would be entered in the correct categories, but unfortunately I am not. I'm not sure if it's because there is no YA category and if I should be selecting Juvenile Fiction (although this is definitely a book for 14 and up.) I'm not sure if I should being selecting the unclassifiable option and email Amazon directly. Or perhaps the keywords and categories I selected were incorrect. But the current pools of books I am swimming in are ill-fitting and way too large. For example one is: Books-> Lit&Fic-> Genre Fic-> Action and Adven and that has 183,189 other titles!! Not to mention this is an e-book, and those are all adult novels. (*Taking deep breaths*) I'm not sure what to do or where I went wrong. The categories that would be most fitting for my book would be:
1) Kin store-> Kin e-book-> Teen & YA-> Lit&Fic-> Act & Adven (4,817)
2) Kin store-> Kin e-book-> Teen & YA-> Roman-> Paran Fant (3,834)
3) Kin store-> Kin e-book-> Teen & YA-> Sci Fi Fant-> Sci fi-> Action & Adven (765)
4) Kin store-> Kin e-book-> Teen & YA-> Sci Fi Fant-> Paran & Urban (3,873)

I am completely lost. Please help :)
Frustrated Author
(A.K.A I-Lanaa)
Title: On The Run (The Moriya Chronicles: Book 1)

message 32: by Jim, JimsGotWeb.com (new)

Jim Liston (jimsgotweb) | 235 comments Mod
Hi Lanaa, I think you should go the "unclassifiable" route and notify CS of the genres you want to be in. I think you will find it is a lot faster.
I know you're supposed to be able to use the correct keywords and have your categories selected, but I've never had any luck with that.
Just notify customer service and they'll get it done right away.
Good luck!

message 33: by I-Lanaa (new)

I-Lanaa Twine | 3 comments Thanks Jim :o) I've emailed Customer Service and I will come back and update you on how that goes. Wish me luck lol.

message 34: by I-Lanaa (new)

I-Lanaa Twine | 3 comments Jim wrote: "Hi Lanaa, I think you should go the "unclassifiable" route and notify CS of the genres you want to be in. I think you will find it is a lot faster.
I know you're supposed to be able to use the corr..."

Just checking in to let you know everything went great :) They got back to me in less than a day! Thanks for all the help, it was greatly appreciated!


message 35: by Jim, JimsGotWeb.com (new)

Jim Liston (jimsgotweb) | 235 comments Mod
Thanks for letting us know.

message 36: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer (jenniferlynch) | 4 comments Hi Jim, my book on angels - We Hear You Angels is currently number 1 - in amazon free books in angels.
So yes, I am happy, no complaining but when you type in angels as a keyword in kindle, it simply is not there although angel and angels are in my keywords. I note what you say about using words that are not in the title but most people who want to read about angels would put angels! I have written to amazon as I have sold many free books but sales have been poor for paid and I am now thinking, maybe my search terms weren't so good. Advice needed please. Jennifer Lynch

message 37: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer (jenniferlynch) | 4 comments I hope I haven't broken any rules, if so apologies, it was not intended.

message 38: by Jim, JimsGotWeb.com (new)

Jim Liston (jimsgotweb) | 235 comments Mod
Hi Jennifer, no you haven't broken any rules. I've just returned from an extended vacation and have been away from my computer for a while. But, now I'm back!

I've looked at the keyword "angels" on Amazon and there are 27,000 books you're competing with so it will be hard to reach a ranking with it. I'd suggest concentrating on getting more reviews as that will help with the "Relevance" search.

What other keywords are you using? Have you researched them on Google?

message 39: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer (jenniferlynch) | 4 comments Ah ok thanks, that's helpful. I hope you enjoyed your time out.

Best Wishes, Jennifer.

message 40: by J.D. (new)

J.D. Carabella (jdcarabella) | 1 comments This has been quiet for a while, but Hi - I'm a new self published author and wanted to ask a question about keywords. The above posts have been interesting.

When doing searches to find keywords I see things like 'romance books for women' - are 'books' and 'for' worth putting into the keywords? Will your book show up if you've just got 'romance' and 'women' in the keywords?

message 41: by Jim, JimsGotWeb.com (new)

Jim Liston (jimsgotweb) | 235 comments Mod
The long tail keywords like "romance books for women" are searches that are used on Google. Have you tired doing research to find out the amount of searches for your keywords? Visit: https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPla...

message 42: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn McBride (carolynmcbride) | 1 comments Just an observation here, but I think an author in the U.K sees their dashboard differently than a Canadian author does. I know a customer in the U.S sees different categories & genres than a Brit will.
As if listing our work wasn't already confusing.

message 43: by Harald (last edited Nov 08, 2016 06:47PM) (new)

Harald | 1 comments First post here! (between watching election results)... Preparing to launch the first book of my 17th century, historical fiction series. Been playing with my 7 keyword choices while studying my "comparables" (books similar to mine). And thinking about the excellent post at top (Message 1). Here's what I'm wondering about:

1. If one of my 2 Browse Category selections is: Fiction > Historical, then I don't need to use "historical fiction" as one of my keywords, right? I ask because the sales rank breadcrumbs of similar books include "historical fiction." Like this:
Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Historical Fiction > United States. ***So is "Historical Fiction" covered by the Browse Category?

2. Another keyword phrase I'm seeing a lot is "Genre Fiction." Like this: Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Sagas. But is "Genre Fiction" a true keyword choice? Seems odd, but I don't know where else it would come from (there is no Fiction > Genre Fiction browse option).

Thanks for any inputs!


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