Writers in the Storm

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November 5, 2018

Update Your Keywords to Sell More Books over the Holidays

by Penny Sansevieri

Especially around the holidays, take a moment and tweak your keywords/keyword strings in Amazon. Maybe you can’t incorporate any holiday - or Christmas-specific keywords, but tweak the keywords during the holidays and find the strongest ones for your market. Oftentimes searches that include “gifts for…” ramp up in popularity around this time.                                              

Amazon Keyword Strings That Pull in More Buyers

You might be surprised by how often Amazon keywords associated with a particular book are weak, or at least lack the strength for optimal performance. Using keyword strings correctly, you can draw potential readers to your topic and ultimately sell more books.

As with all tools, you must know how to use keyword strings correctly and effectively. And the trick is understanding how you pull in buyers.

Have you heard of frankincense oil? No, this isn’t a Christmas quiz. Frankincense is an essential oil that’s popping up in studies as an effective alternative cancer treatment. Frankincense reportedly actually kills cancer cells. And more than 35 percent of all adults will be diagnosed with cancer at some point. Are you interested in learning more?

See what I did there? I likely got you to go from, “Did she forget the topic of this post?” to, “I need to look this up.”

The concept of bringing together two ideas that aren’t obviously related and then using them to generate sales is known as alignment. Granted, the example I’m using touches on a serious health topic, but use the same concept across the board. This is what your keywords can do for you when you use them properly.

First, you need to figure out the problem that needs to be solved. The problem might not be what you think!

Alignment in Book Marketing

Case study: Lyme disease

I recently performed an Amazon optimization for a book about managing Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a tough market, because it’s not a big one. Despite an increase in Lyme awareness, there aren’t a ton of Lyme disease books on Amazon. Reduced competition might sound great. In reality, especially Amazon reality, reduced competition isn’t all that great. You can tell because all the books related to Lyme disease have a high-numbered sales rank. And the bigger the number, the smaller the number of books sold.

As I built recommendations for this author to improve her Amazon performance, I found it simply wasn’t as worthwhile to use “Lyme disease” as a target keyword. Instead, I dug deeper into the illness itself and discovered that Lyme disease often mimics other issues. The laundry list of other issues includes thyroid problems, arthritis, and other ailments that are more frequent search terms. What is the solution? We presented the author with a set of Amazon keywords tying her book to those issues. Ultimately, adding the more frequently used search terms gets the book in front of readers looking for new ideas for managing their illnesses and symptoms.

Following this practice for just about any nonfiction book, we can boost the overall bounce of the book on Amazon.

This particular strategy is specific to nonfiction. To make your keyword strings effective, it’s critical that your book description also matches this train of thought. In the Lyme disease author’s case, I suggested she update the book description to include these other ailments. The idea readers from a new audience see the book and think, “Oh, I hadn’t considered that!” Ultimately, they purchase the book.

Case study: Teen suicide

There are two things we Americans never like to talk about: Death and money, especially whether we’ve saved enough money for retirement. I followed the same keyword process with a book about teen bullying relating the subject to teen suicide. For obvious reasons, this author put her book in the death/suicide category and used those keywords. Her book wasn’t selling well. My suggestions to turn things around included switching the book to the teen health category, which had few competing titles with 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 suggested that she remove all references to “death” and “suicide” from her Amazon keywords. Instead, we focused on how parents might be interested in her message. New terms like “bullying” and “helping my teen” continue to prove far more popular.

Alignment and Fiction

Follow a similar path for your works of fiction, too. While it’s a tad less obvious, you can achieve alignment by tying your book to ideas that interest your readers, like paranormal elements, specific settings, or complex family relationships they can relate to.

Understanding Amazon’s Search

We’ve learned about alignment. Now it’s time to learn more about Amazon’s search function and how it has changed.

One of the first things you should do is find keywords to use on your Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) dashboard.

Start with a keyword search on the Kindle side of the Amazon website. Not every search is created equal. Searching “mystery and suspense” on the main Amazon site instead of digging down into the Kindle area specifically nets you very different (and largely inaccurate) results. Additionally, searching on the Kindle side of Amazon offers a much more accurate assessment of Amazon keywords. Searching the Kindle side also provides better data, because so many books are available in an e-book-only format.

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

Next, click “Kindle books.”

Next, select your book’s genre. For this test, use “Mystery, Thriller & Suspense.”

When you’re there, you see this screen:

Under your genre, you see more drop-downs. Pick one from this list. If appropriate, pick an option that isn’t too packed with books. In this case, chose Crime Fiction or Suspense. Again, make sure your book fits into this segment of your genre.

When you enter the genre, start typing your keywords strings into the search bar. As you enter keywords, Amazon’s intuitive search begins to drop down suggestions. You won’t want to use every suggestion, but the list gives you a place to start.

Amazon Keyword Guidelines

As you refine your keyword strings, you want them to follow these guidelines:

Use multiple words, called a “keyword string.” Consumers don’t search using single keywords. Think about how you might Google your book. You don’t search with just the word “suspense” there either.

Don’t assume Amazon’s recommendations, such as those from the above screenshot, are the perfect keywords for your book. We’ll go over that in a minute.

  • As you review Amazon’s suggestions, visit those pages to see what kind of books are in the results, AND check their sales rank. If you use a keyword string with a very high sales rank, few people actually search that particular string. Again, the lower the number, the better on Amazon. A book ranking 15,000 performs much better than a book ranking 1,500,000.
  • The other thing to be careful about is when a lot of free books clutter the first page of this keyword string search. When you look at “suspense mystery books,” you see lots of books on free promotion. Free books always top the list. Ignore free books’ ranks, because the free books don’t give you an accurate idea of how this string of Amazon keywords actually performs. Instead, keep going down the list until you find a book that isn’t on a pricing promo.
  • Kindle Unlimited books don’t matter; they don’t affect your results.

I know this is a lot of information to consider, but think of this project as a fun challenge. Strike that—it’s a challenge that can make you more money! Sounds better by the second, right? The best part is, there’s no limit on how often you can update your Amazon keywords.

If you’re still confused, check out my latest edition of How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon.

Additionally, if you’re looking for more great ideas on ramping up your holiday book sales, I have a great book with 50 tips that show you the way. You can get it here.

Have you tried changing Keywords? Did it help your sales?

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Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. To learn more, visit www.amarketingexpert.com

12 comments on “Update Your Keywords to Sell More Books over the Holidays”

  1. It's so funny...I'm the queen of marketing, but when it comes to keywords, for some reason, my eyes glaze over. I need to dig into this again. Thanks, as always Penny, for great info!

  2. What a great idea, Penny! And, as always, thanks for the detailed how-to for a very complicated subject. I'm going to Tweet this in about three seconds, too!

  3. Anyone else have a problem with Amazon not showing the keywords if you drill down too far? On 'Kindle" store it will show the suggestions, but after that level 'kindle ebook' and beyond the auto fill in doesn't work in the search box. What gives?

  4. I'm adding "update keywords" to my marketing to-do list. Thanks for the informative post, and especially for including screen shots of the steps - much needed for this visual learner. Cheers!

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