With thousands of self-publishers raking in more than $50,000 as side income through Amazon, it’s no surprise why more aspiring authors want to try their luck at Kindle Direct Publishing.
But finding success on Kindle isn’t as simple as writing and uploading a manuscript. You have hundreds and thousands of books to compete against. How do you expect users to find and purchase yours?
Amazon KDP operates like a search engine. Users enter keywords into the search bar, expecting Amazon to display books relevant to their queries. As such, Amazon keywords for books play a crucial role in boosting the visibility of your Kindle listing on the platform.
The more often your book shows up against a set of keywords, the more impressions it gets, and the higher your chances of making a sale.
Amazon allows you to list seven keywords as part of your book’s backend metadata. The backend metadata tells Amazon’s algorithms what your book is all about. In addition to the keywords field, placing relevant search terms in your book’s title and description further help Amazon in understanding and categorizing your book.
Once you’ve picked a niche, you must research Amazon KDP keywords for your book. Whether you’re writing a long fiction novel or publishing a low-content journal, you need to find efficient keywords that can help your book be found.
Let’s get a better understanding of Amazon book keywords (aka Kindle keywords) - and how to find keywords for your KDP books.
Amazon book keywords are the words users enter into the search bar when searching for books on the Amazon marketplace. These keywords can consist of a single word, a set of long tail keywords, or sometimes even a complete phrase.
A search query with just a single word is called a keyword. Examples of keywords include “horror”, “entrepreneur”, and “humor”.
Long tail keywords are a string of two or more keywords like “nineteenth century romance” and “Israel Palestine conflict”.
Keyword phrases are highly targeted and often form a proper query. Examples include “how to start a retail business” and “rebuilding self-confidence after breakup”.
The keywords you list when uploading your book, along with the title and description help Amazon understand the subject matter of your book. That way, the algorithms are better able to recommend your book to the right target audience.
Here’s why getting your keyword exercise spot on is important:
It helps Amazon index your books. Yes, Amazon is the world’s largest online retail marketplace, but it is also one of the most popular search engines in the world. Just like Google and Bing, Amazon also indexes your book, so that it can be displayed for relevant searches.
It will get you on the sidebar categories. Like Google, Amazon is always trying to enhance customer-experience, which is why it displays subcategories on the sidebar, making it easier for users to explore their options when buying books. Incorporating specific keywords will earn you a spot in the sidebar categories.
Amazon may market the book for you. After all, if your book sells well, Amazon also eats well. It’s a win-win. But for that to happen, you need to help Amazon by using the right keywords for your Kindle listing.
You need to keep keywords under consideration when coming up with a title, description, and backend metadata for your book.
If it is possible to place keywords in the title and subtitle of your book, go for it. Books with keywords in their titles and subtitles tend to rank higher. However, don’t feel the need to force it if it doesn’t make sense. Especially, in the case of fiction books, using keywords in the title can make the latter read awkward, but you can always use the book’s description for the purpose.
Amazon lets you use 4000 characters to describe your book, which is more than enough for you to write a compelling description and fit relevant keywords.
That being said, avoid keywords stuffing. Your description must be well-written and should give readers a glimpse of what your book is about. It should read natural and have a nice flow.
On the backend front, Amazon KDP provides you up to seven keywords boxes to fill in. Each box has a character limit of 50. Self-publishers are advised to get the most out of these keyword boxes. You can enter your keywords in whatever order you please; Amazon’s algorithm will index your book for all combinations of a keyword phrase you enter.
Do not repeat the same keywords in the title and description. Although Amazon won’t penalize you for doing that, it won’t help boost your ranking either - instead, you’ll end up wasting valuable real estate.
While Amazon reserves up to seven search keywords per Kindle listing, it doesn’t mean you can only pick seven. Make a list of at least fifteen keywords and use combinations of them in the title, book description, and backend fields.
It all starts with brainstorming different keyword ideas. Think of the words that best describe your book. Amazon suggests looking at the following for inspiration:
This should give you a nice list of head keywords to start with. You can then expand on them using:
Switch on the incognito mode in your browser and head over to Amazon.com. Select “Kindle Store” from the category and type the head keywords in the search bar. You should see some keyword suggestions pop up thanks to Amazon’s auto-fill feature. These keywords often have high search volume and can be used to expand on your original list of keywords.
Here is an example for better understanding:
If you are writing a book on religion and its role in today’s socio-political changes, you may want to include “religion and the rise of capitalism” or “religion and the global resurgence of violence” to your list of keywords.
You can also use this hack to validate your keyword ideas. We know from the above discussion that keywords that show up as part of Amazon’s auto-complete list are the ones that people are regularly searching for. So let’s say if you were writing a book on self help and had the phrase “self help for depression” on your shortlist, you could probably use it for your book. The keyword shows up in the autosuggestions, which implies it has good search volume.
Amazon KDP also provides a list of subcategories in the sidebar that can help you narrow down your keywords and reach specific target audiences.
The above example lists the sub-categories under the self-help section. If you were going to write a book on “healing after loss”, you may want to include keywords like “death and grief” and “emotional self-help”.
The sub-categories allow you to pitch your book to specific audiences, which helps lessen the competition and boost your chances of making a sale.
Paid tools like Zonguru’s Keywords of Fire (KoF) can help you find the best keywords for Amazon KDP.
Enter the ASINs of the top books in your niche and Zonguru will reverse engineer the high performing keywords of your competitors. You can then use these for your Kindle listing.
So now that you have a list of keywords, how do you pick the ones that are best for you?
Picking keywords for Amazon KDP isn’t as simple as choosing the most popular ones from the list. There are several other factors you need to keep in mind.
The top keywords are also the most competitive. For example, when you search for “self-help books”, Amazon KDP generates 70,000 books in the search results.
You’ll struggle to compete on this keyword with the competition so high. You must narrow down your search and find more specific keywords that are popular but also have less competition.
Empath is a good example of this. It is a perfect complimentary keyword for any self help book, has only 4000 competitors showing up, and also appears to have a healthy search volume.
Some of the competitors ranking on page 1 have less than 100 reviews. This again signifies that there is definitely an opening for you if you want to compete in this niche.
Each book on Amazon KDP has a best seller rank (BSR). The lower the rank, the more a book sells. You want to target keywords that show books with low BSR. This would mean your shortlisted keywords have a good potential to generate sales.
According to an estimate, books that have a BSR within the range of 8,000-10,000 sell around 4-6 copies a day, books with a BSR between 5,000-8,000 sell 6-10 copies a day, and books with a BSR of 2,000-5,000 sell 10-20 copies a day.
There are rules to what you can and cannot use as keywords on Amazon KDP. If you break even one of these rules, you can end up getting penalized.
Here’s what the Kindle Book system can flag:
Finally, you shouldn’t use quotation marks around your keywords. Amazon will not flag you for this, but it will stop your book from being listed for variants of your keywords.
Adding quotation marks around a keyword means that you are looking for an exact match. This shouldn’t be a problem if your book is well known among the masses and people search for it by its title. However, this is not the case for most self-publishers on Kindle, so it’s best to avoid it because it will limit your reach.
Entering keywords on Kindle is fairly simple. When you’re ready to upload your book on Amazon KDP, you’ll be required to enter the title, subtitle, and description for your book. You can enter the keywords in the respective fields.
Further down the page, Amazon will show you seven keyword boxes where you can add more keywords. Each box can have up to 50 characters. It is best to use this space to the maximum limit to boost your visibility on Kindle.
One of the biggest perks of publishing a book on Amazon KDP is that you can always go back and make changes to your book and the metadata.
If you realize your keywords need tweaking, you can easily do it by going to your BookShelf (located in the top menu) and clicking the ellipses right next to your saved or published book. Select “Edit eBook Details” from the dropdown to make changes.
Keywords are a critical part of publishing a book online. As convenient as Amazon self publishing is, you need to be able to break through the clutter—and that’s where keyword research comes in.
You can use keywords to see what topics KDP users are interested in by looking at their search volumes and categories. Using Amazon KDP’s auto suggestions will give you an idea about what users are searching for, but it won’t provide you with a complete picture in terms of a keyword’s competition and earning potential.
This is where paid tools like Zonguru’s Keywords on Fire (KoF) and NicheRater can help. They provide you with a detailed breakdown for any keyword that can help you make better decisions when choosing and finalizing your keywords list.
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