Keywords help your potential readers find you. You can have a great book cover, great product description, great face for your author bio, but if you don’t have the right keywords…how is anyone going to find it?
Amazon has some pretty well-kept secrets, and the science to their search system – a9 – is our least favorite one. Because a9 is a constantly maturing, unpredictable algorithm, it’s hard to pinpoint at any one time what it’s “thinking.” Kind of like that person you just started seeing, a9’s prone to playing games, and frequently changing the rules.
It’s all about the sale
Amazon’s search system is vastly different than an internet search engine like Google. Think of the last search you did on Google — and if it’s too shameful, think of the one before that — were you looking for information? For a service? Did you end up buying anything?
Now think of your last search on Amazon. You probably weren’t looking for information: you were ready to buy. Did you purchase? Was it pretty easy to find what you were looking for?
Amazon knows its searchers are almost-buyers. They want to help those buyers find the right products, so that Amazon can land the sale. Think of a9 as like a digital Walmart greeter, ready to point you to the right aisle. And as an author, all you’ve got to keep in mind is the question… How can I help Amazon in helping the reader find my book?
Keywords help to categorize your book so it is more easily found.
Where do I start?
Your keywords can reference your book, its content, or even its themes. A great place to start can be…
1. Setting – Key West, Appalachian Trail, Santa Monica
2. Character types – single mom, actress, chef
3. Character roles – female protagonist
4. Themes – rags to riches, comedy
5. Tone – dark, optimistic
Advertise your uniqueness
Choosing the same 5 keywords or phrases as everyone else can defeat the purpose, because the typical search gives back 20 results, so lesser-known books won’t be found. A good rule of thumb is to dedicate a portion of your keywords to what makes your book unique.
For example, a lot of books are about vampires, but is your setting somewhere special? Your character types? A book about teen vampires hiking the Appalachian Trail would be pretty easy to find with the keywords “vampire” and “Appalachian Trail,” but not so much if you chose “vampire” and “teen.”
In this way, we’re mixing the popular “vampire” with the unique “Appalachian Trail,” and this is the golden key.
What are the rules?
Your keywords (or phrases) are limited to 25 characters, including spaces.
Make the most of them by avoiding repetition.
If your book is titled Come on, Get happy, and your BISAC code is SELF-HELP / Personal Growth / General, then including “happy” or “self-help” would be a waste of space.
A9 utilizes common synonyms, so don’t use similar keywords
For example, “1/one,” “house/home,” “freedom/liberty”
Just like in school, you can get suspended.
Don’t reference sales rank (“best-selling”), promotions (“free”), or reference anything that’s unrelated to the book’s content.
It might be tempting to put up a bunch of random keywords that could attract different book audiences (spy, children, vampire, cooking, Hollywood), but if your book’s about getting happy, those aren’t going to fly.
Remember that your book is unique in its own way.
Just like you thought of a plot that would be popular and something that hadn’t been done before, that’s how keywords are. Milk what makes your book great, and your keywords will come to you.
If you’re interested in our Marketing Essentials service, click here. We offer keyword and BISAC code selection, as well as written materials.
Content is King. Promotion is Queen. — Bob Mayer