Edited to add a summary at the bottom!
I have decided to write a dedicated thread to Keywords (just on Amazon in this post) because I am seeing this coming up so often and being answered again and again but maybe not fully enough to allay all questions. I would like to say that this is not set in stone and I don't have any data to back it up except for reading posts that other people have made on the subject and from my own personal experience of frequently playing with keywords to get it right.
While I think that covers and blurbs generate sales, your keywords generate people looking at the book in the first place.
Firstly I would say that one word keywords are essentially useless. If LOVE is one of my keywords, then they are too broad to get much return. If I type LOVE into Amazon search will my romance novel appear on the first page? Will it even appear on the first 100 pages? No.
It will get me nowhere at all!
Using such generic terms will not help people find your book.
I used to have: Teen Romance, young adult love, high school boys, stuff like that
. But even though all those terms are relevant to me, they also got lost in the "noise" of all the other authors with the same thing. You need to rise above the noise, but still put in keywords that people might use to search.
The key is to find keywords that are popular but not too popular. But remember, it isn't how many people search for those keywords, it is how many hits
those keywords produce. If it is millions then your books will be lost. But
you want to find the keywords that millions of people are searching for and yet are not being over-used.
I absolutely know that sounds difficult but it isn't. What I mean is - if you search for Love
in books you will get millions of hits, but if you search for Werewolf Love
, you will get a much more specific list of products, if you narrow it again and search for Werewolf and Mermaid Love
, then you should get quite a small list of hits as I can't imagine there are millions of books in that niche (if any!). So you would, in an ideal world, basically want something between search two and search three
. See how I'm trying to narrow down a search to something that is a popular search but does not create a huge list of relevant products? You want your product to be the one that comes up at least on the first page of products that are relevant to the search.
For my book Halloween Magic & Mayhem
, I have used Paranormal Romance
, but then specified further using: Paranormal Romance Witch Werewolf,
so if people want a book that covers witches and werewolves in love then I'm up there. Then I cheated and put: paranormal romance witch werewolf zombies ghost shifter love.
I basically used what we call on here "keyword stuffing"
to cover my bases. The romance is between a witch and a werewolf but there are zombies and ghosts in the story and the werewolf is a shifter. So I show up even if they are searching for a slightly different term. If they are searching for a zombie romance
I show up. They will quickly see that I am not a zombie romance, but they might be intrigued anyway as the book is a romance and there are zombies in it. Do you see what I am doing? I use repetition to ensure that I get close to the exact search term they might put in AND I keyword stuff to make sure that I at least have a combination of the words they put in.
People usually search for terms not for one word, so put terms in. If your book is about a human and an alien falling in love then try something like: Paranormal love story book, alien romance sci-fi love, paranormal science fiction romance, fantasy ebook alien romantic fiction, non-human romance relationship alien lover.
See how I am using lots of different search terms for basically the same words? That's because you want to capture that market, you want to appear when people specify what they are looking for.
If you were searching for a book like yours what would you type into Amazon?
Now try it and see how many results you get. You don't want to pick words on their own in a saturated genre (like love and romance or science fiction) because you will never show up, but equally you don't want to waste time with keywords that no-one is searching for. So it is a balancing act.
You need to take ten minutes and do some searches, you want to find terms that produce under 10,000 hits but more than just a few hundred. You
need to decide what this figure should be, based on how niche your genre is.
Now, you don't need to have the exact phrases
that people are searching for, as keywords work together, and you get seven of them. But you do want to have ALL the necessary keywords if at all possible. The whole point of keyword stuffing is so that whatever phrase they type in, as long as you have the relevant keywords, then you should show up. The more spot on you are with what people search for, the more likely you will come up on that first page of results. So no, it doesn't need to be the exact wording, but I do think it helps! Basically, I think that you want to have the exact words but in any old order in your keywords. So make sure all relevant words are in there and get stuffing!
They also serve one more purpose, which is to get you in the right "categories". So when you are done with keywords relevant to search terms, then you should also have a quick think about keywords that are category specific. For example, if you want to appear in the category "Short Stories>Alien Landings>England" then you want to put that phrase in as a keyword. The best way to locate these is to do a search for a popular book that is similar to yours and see what categories they have gotten into. You will be surprised by some of the categories but a lot of people search that way, so it is a good idea to pay attention.
Amazon will actually help you with this. There are pages in their help with guides, for example I might use this one:
I can not recommend strongly enough that you at least go and have a look at some of the search terms that they suggest for your own category!
Okay, now I'm going to drill it down even further. Those of you that are already running for the hills - stop at this point and just do the bits above. Because those are the basics of how keywords seem to work on Amazon.
Now… If you have more than one book in a series, you can use tighter more specific keywords for your second book (which will of course lead people back to your first book). For your second book you can use some more unusual terms, and find smaller categories. You want words that people search for that are relevant to your book, but perhaps are not so popular.
For instance, going back to my Magic & Mayhem series, I will stuff book one with all the more common terms about witches and love, and use phrases like Coming of Age first kiss love teen romance
, stuff like that. But I will stuff Book Two with keywords I couldn't fit in for book one that are more specific, like: Magic witches witchcraft Wicca pagan worship ceremony nature-worship moon goddess sorcery wizards wand occult
(all those are just one keyword). This is to direct the more niche market to my books and also to get me into some of the very small categories that I might even hit a number one spot in, which is fantastic because it really increases visibility for the whole series.
Phew, thanks for following so far and I hope some of this helps. I'm sorry it has turned into such a monster post!
Please, if anyone has anything to add, then I'm still keen to drill down even more! But as far as I know, that is how Amazon keywords work.
Do you see how vitally important they can be? They shouldn't be generic and ignored! They work on a lot of levels for you. I only learned this very recently so I'm still updating a lot of my books, and playing with combinations, and doing new searches I think of or discovering new categories I want to be in, but I see an instant upswing when I get it right
I've decided to add a summary of the above because a) this thread is really long and some of the latest information is buried in it, and b) because I'm still getting loads of PM's asking me to check keywords and a lot of people have still missed some of the crucial points.
So, to summarise:
- Do NOT use one-word keywords, it will be a waste.
- Avoid really generic terms, they will get lost way down the listings.
- You don't just get seven keywords. You get 400 characters (including spaces) and you can create up to seven "keyword strings" using those characters.
- Start by trying to hit extra categories. Find the ones you want to be in from other books in your genre and add those categories to your keywords
- Do keywords searches on Amazon looking for phrases relevant to your book that get a lot of results but not a ridiculous amount, so you will show up on at least the first couple of pages.
- The jury is still out on whether you even need commas or if you can just have one long string of keywords. Personally I like commas.
- Does repeating certain words in different strings help? I don't know, the majority seem to think it is a waste of words and you should only use each one once in the entire keyword section. That is probably true and so I recommend using variations instead, e.g. Romantic and Romance
- Later books in the series can get really specific on keywords and hit very niche categories, which all helps, so use variety for a series rather than sticking to the same
- If you aren't showing up in at least five categories then change them, and the same if you are not showing up on page one when you search for terms you have deliberately used
- And keep checking searches for yourself and keep experimenting! But don't forget that Amazon remembers what you've looked for before and that will skew the data...
- oh, and good luck