Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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April 3, 2017

Amazon Keywords: The Secret to Doubling Your Sales and Pulling in New Readers!

Penny Sansevieri

As “marketers,” it’s a big part of our job to get more readers, but as you probably have discovered, that’s often a challenge. With so many books and so many titles competing for the same attention, setting yours apart from the pack can be hard.

On the flip side, what if you have a book with limited attention, because your topic isn’t wildly known? How do you drive attention to a book about something that doesn’t have top of mind awareness? The good news is, it’s totally possible. And I’m going to tell you how!

Amazon keywords are a great tool that is often underutilized by authors. By using them correctly, you can draw potential readers to your topic and, in turn, sell more books. And, that’s your main goal as an author. The catch, if you can call it that, to this tool is that you have to know how to use it. The “trick” to this process lies in understanding the needs of your customer.

Consider the steam mop. Ever heard of it? Well if not, you may want to get one. Unless you want to keep cleaning your floors with a regular mop that doesn’t kill germs. Who wants that? And, did you know that you can also clean carpets and rugs with a steam mop?

See what I did there? I got you to go from “What the heck is a steam mop?” to “Well, yeah, I want to keep my floors germ-free!”

The idea here is that you need alignment and that’s where your keywords can take you. Alignment is the idea of bringing two ideas together that may not be obviously related, and then connecting them to sell your idea; in this case, your book.

But first, you need to find out where it hurts, the problem that needs to be solved.

Recently I was doing an Amazon optimization for a book about managing Lyme Disease. Now this is kind of a tough market, because it’s not a big one. There aren’t a ton of Lyme Disease books on Amazon. Reduced competition sounds great, right? In reality, especially Amazon reality, it’s not so great in this case, because any books related to hers have a high sales rank. The bigger the number the lower the number of books sold.

So as I was working on this optimization, it was not as worthwhile to go after “Lyme Disease” as a key word. Instead, I dug deeper into the illness itself and discovered that it’s often shows up as “other” issues—including thyroid problems, arthritis, and other ailments that people often search for. The end result was that I presented the author with a set of keywords that tied the book to those issues. By doing so, we can boost the overall bounce of the book on Amazon and get it in front of readers who may want to consider other options for disease management.

The thing about this strategy, and this is specific to non-fiction, is that you really need to make sure that your book description matches this train of thought. In the Lyme Disease author’s case, I suggested she update the book description to include these other ailments, with the goal of a reader seeing it and saying: “Oh, I hadn’t considered that!”

I followed this same process with a book about teen bullying as it relates to teen suicide. Now there are two things we Americans never like to talk about: death and if we’ve saved enough for retirement. But this author had put her book in the death/suicide category and used these keywords. Needless to say, her book wasn’t doing well. So instead, I suggested that she switch the book to the “teen health” category, which had very few competing titles in it that had great sales ranks. Note: that’s the difference between low numbers in a category or keyword search. If you have low competition and a low sales rank (low means you’re selling a ton of books) that’s golden! Additionally, I shared my thought that she remove all references to “death” and “suicide” from her keywords and instead focus on how parents might be interested in her message. We used new terms like “bullying” and “helping my teen,” which were far more popular.

The key idea here is that your book becomes the end of the road, in terms of their needs. Whether they are looking to be entertained, educated, or enlightened, your book is what they need. However, in order to get them there, you have to meet them much earlier down their path of discovery. Most authors choose keywords, book descriptions, and categories that are too far down the road to reach their readers, that is, too close to the end decision. If you can get to them earlier, you can present your book to them and gain new readers. You’d be surprised how well this works.

And while it’s a tad less obvious, the same is true for boosting visibility of any fiction book. Tying your book to ideas that readers may be interested in – like paranormal elements, specific settings, or other book attributes can help you gain more real estate in those vital search areas.

Understanding Amazon’s Search

So now that we know we need to align ourselves more with the needs of the reader, let’s brush up on how to search. Because Amazon’s search function has also changed.

First, if you’re doing a keyword search on Amazon (to find keywords for your KPD dashboard), I suggest by starting on the Kindle side of the Amazon website. Because not every search is created equal and searching “mystery and suspense” on the main Amazon site instead of digging down into the genre specifically, will net you very different (and largely inaccurate) results. Additionally, searching on the Kindle side of Amazon will give you a much more accurate assessment of keywords. Why? Because so many books are eBook only, that side of Amazon is denser than their print book side.

So first select Kindle Store from the dropdown, leaving the search bar blank, and click the orange search button.


Next, type “Kindle eBooks." Looking at the left side bar, scroll down until you see




Then select whatever genre you’re in. For this test, let’s use “Mystery, Thriller & Suspense.”

Once you’ve clicked that, you’ll see this screen:


Now right under your genre you’ll see more drop downs, I suggest picking one from this list and, if appropriate, pick one that isn’t too packed with books. So that might be Crime Fiction or Suspense. But again make sure that your book fits into this segment of your genre.

Once you’re there just start typing in your keywords into the search bar, as you start to do this Amazon’s intuitive search will begin to drop down suggestions. Not all of these suggestions are going to be ones you’ll use, but they are certainly a good start.

Ideally you want your keyword string to match the following criteria:

  • Make sure that you’re only using a keyword string. Do not opt for single keywords because consumers do not search that way. (You wouldn’t Google with just the word “suspense” either.)
  • Don’t assume Amazon’s recommendations (such as those from the above screenshot) are the exact right ones for your book. We’ll go over that in a minute.
  • Once you get Amazon’s suggestions, you’ll want to pop over to those pages and see what kinds of books are on there AND what their sales rank is. Because if you are using a keyword string with a very high sales rank, it means that not a lot of people are actually searching on that particular string.
  • The other thing to be careful of are a lot of free books cluttering the first page of this keyword string search. So let’s say that you look at “suspense mystery books” and when you do that, you’ll see lots of books on free promotion which will always top the list. Do not look at their sales rank because it’s not an accurate depiction of how this string is actually doing. Instead keep going down the list until you find a book that isn’t on a pricing promo.
  • Kindle Unlimited books don’t matter, so don’t worry if the entire search string brings up books that are in Kindle Unlimited, it won’t affect your results.

Ultimately, selecting the right keywords can be a fun challenge. And while it’s not an exact science, I think you’ll find that by following these steps, you’ll be able to get some really strong keywords to give your book a boost. And the good news is that you can constantly refine it. Not seeing a big sweeping change within several weeks of updating your keywords? Take a few minutes to revisit them. In fact, I would recommend giving your Amazon keywords and book description a quick tune up once a quarter or so. Not only does Amazon periodically come up with new categories, but what’s trending changes too. Additionally, you may have new review blurbs that you want to feature, or upcoming book promotions you want to include. So while selecting the perfect keywords is sort of an art form, you can also have some fun digging deeper into your own book to expand your audience. Good luck! I’d love to hear how it goes!



Author MarkketingPenny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert and an Adjunct Professor with NYU. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. She is the author of fourteen books, including How to Sell Books by the Truckload. AME is the first marketing and publicity firm to use Internet promotion to its full impact through online promotion and their signature program called: The Virtual Author Tour™

To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, you can visit her web site at http://www.amarketingexpert.com. To subscribe to her free newsletter, send a blank email to: mailto:subscribe@amarketingexpert.com

Copyright @2016 Penny C. Sansevieri

Top photo credit: MariaGodfrida – Pixabay

26 comments on “Amazon Keywords: The Secret to Doubling Your Sales and Pulling in New Readers!”

  1. This article was very helpful—thank you! I know Keywords are important, but I have problems coming up with words and phrases that I feel reflect my books. 🙂 Wholesome romance doesn't lend itself to many varied expressions—and the genre is huge! It seems we're all using the same words.:-)

    1. Mary thank you so much for your feedback. I know it's tricky --- maybe try to think of book nuances - so for example clean romances are a really good keyword to use, and maybe variables of that, too? Just a thought!

  2. This was timely since I have my first novel coming out this summer. It was kind of interesting and a little terrifying to go through all the key words I could come up with and see what was already published. Lots similar to my Civil War historical romance for teens and young adults and adults about a young volunteer nurse — but I could quickly see mine was different, too. The trick is how to make it clear to my future readers those important differences. Thanks!

  3. This is extremely helpful for me because I write a lot of historical fiction, when searched in the wrong category, brings dismal results. Thank you so much. I will take your advice to heart. I'm printing it out and sitting beside my computer. Thanks again!

  4. This is amazing, Penny. Not least because you distilled what can be a very daunting and confusing project down to a clear, step-by-step process that actually looks doable...rather than making me want to climb back in bed and pull the covers over my head. Thanks so much for this!

  5. Great advice! So many writers don't even realize they can use more than one keyword description, and using various ones will click with different readers and their searches. I'll be sharing your post on FaceBook for my writing clients.

  6. Thanks, Penny! I followed your steps and have updated my keywords for my two indie books. I knew I needed to do that, but had put it off since it's a daunting task to me. Thanks for making it easy to work through and accomplish!

  7. Not only did you share a secret, Penny, but you made it easy for us to use! Thank you.

  8. This is good stuff, Penny! I talk to tons of writers who have no idea that they can use the "theme/mood" subcategory to help get people to their book. I'm with Fae...thanks for making it easy.

  9. Such a practical post! Thank you so much Penny. I've gone looking into my fiction category, and come up with a few surprising ideas! Cheers.

  10. Ohmygosh this helped me! I knew keywords were essential - but also scary and complex. So I set mine, and hoped they were right. You showed, in an easy, unscary, precise way how to find them - and my book has the wrong keywords!

    I'd have freaked about what came up as free, too, so digging deeper, I found a book that I'd be proud to have beside mine - and it's a NY pubbed book, so I must be onto something!

    The BEST blog I've seen on keywords, Penny. Thank you so much!

  11. This post is a gift. Such an important, daunting subject. It couldn't have come at a better time. I've been dreading trying to figure out the Amazon maze and you have shown me the path. Next stop . . . Amazon to buy your book.

  12. I played around with my keywords and categories last night. It's too soon to know if the changes I made will result in more sales, but I feel that my novel is in the right place now. Before, it was buried in a category with too many books that had little in common with each other.

    Thanks, Penny! 🙂

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