You probably already know that you can select up to two categories and up to seven keywords when publishing your book on Amazon’s KDP. But what you might not know is how to best utilise them to make your book more visible and stand out among the masses of other books in your genre.
What you need to understand that there are two ways for potential readers to find your book. They can either drill down by category and select a book that way, or they’ll input a search word or phrase into the search bar. We’ll look at keywords first.
Amazon says you can have up to seven keywords. Any words you want, with some exceptions (read their guidelines here). Where do you start? Well, let’s use one of my books as example. It’s a Science Fiction book that has aliens, romance and diplomats trying to forge peace (real exciting stuff). So my first attempt at coming up with keywords looked a little like this:
science fiction, romance, aliens, diplomacy, spaceship, intergalactic peace, comedy
To the point but not very great. Why? Because if you input any of these keywords into the search bar on Amazon you’ll get back a buttload of results and my book will probably be found on page 182 and no one is going to click that far into the results. When people search for books this way they tend not to go further than page three. So what we want to do is somehow get my book to come up within the first three pages of search results. The only way I can do that is to use my keywords. I could try using different keywords or I could do what we informally refer to as keywords stuffing.
Keyword Stuffing (and gravy)
Keyword stuffing is treating each keyword (what’s in between the commas) as a keyword phrase–one search string. That way I can include way more search terms that potential readers might input. There is, however, a total character limit.
With that in mind I went back and tried again and added even more:
science fiction romance, aliens diplomacy intergalactic peace, spaceship outer space, comedy short story, love story novella, human first contact alien, military war space opera
Getting better but we can do so much more than this. So how can we refine it? The best option is to approach it just like a potential reader would. Go to Amazon and start typing (not copying and pasting) your keywords into the search bar. You’ll see that Amazon will start giving you options and these are the most popular searches that people use so you want to pay them attention. Science fiction romance is quite popular but it might be too popular. What you want to do is find ones that give results of between a few hundred and 10,000 (5,000 tops ideally) and include those keyword phrases. Remember you’re doing well if you can show up in the first three pages of any search result. If it doesn’t mean you can’t use science fiction romance though, it just means you should add more to that keyword phrase, like:
futuristic romance series
Another method is to include all of the different words that mean the same thing, for example:
science fiction sci fi sci-fi scientific
At the end there I have scientific. I could have said scientific fiction but because I already have fiction earlier in the phrase I don’t need to include it again. Let’s look at what I now have for my keyword phrases based on all of the above:
science fiction sci fi sci-fi romance romantic scientific, alien diplomacy intergalactic peace war, spaceship spacecraft outer space, humor humour comedic comedy short story fiction read, interspecies love story novella, sci fi human first contact alien, military space opera science fiction
But that’s not all. Now we have to talk about Categories, which as you’ll remember we can only select two of. However, we can use more keywords to get into more than just those two categories.
On the main Kindle site, you’ll see they have categories listed on the left-hand side of the page (down a bit under New Releases). Select the main genre you want and click on it. You’ll then see lots of sub-genres (or niches) nested under the main genre. Some of these might drill down even further and if that is the case for your book then do that.
Example 1: Science Fiction>Genetic engineering
Example 2: Romance>Science Fiction
In another tab open your KDP dashboard and click to edit your book. Go to the categories and select one for your book.
Don’t be alarmed if you don’t find the exact same sub-genre that you did on the Kindle site, some of these require special keywords to get into but we’ll cover those later. In the meantime in this example I can either select the higher level Science Fiction or drill down further and specifically select: Science Fiction>Action & Adventure. Either way as long as you pick something Science Fiction with the help of keywords you can also have your book included in other sub-genres of Science Fiction. Example:
Science Fiction>Action & Adventure
In the keywords include the following keyword phrase:
science fiction action adventure
My book is also about genetic engineering. So I can try:
science fiction action adventure genetic engineering
And I’ll keep doing this for every science fiction sub-genre that is relevant to my book. Then I’ll do the same with the romance category as well.
Since my book is a novella I can also have it put into the Short Reads categories. To do that I can either give up one of my main categories: science fiction or romance, or I can just use the keywords. You’ve probably guessed the keywords as I’ve already used them in an above example: short story fiction quick read
When you were drilling down in categories (especially in romance) on the Kindle page you might have noticed there were more sub-genres there than in your dashboard.
That is because they require special keywords to be used. These might be character type specific (the main character is a doctor) or story specific (second chance romance). To find out how to get into them, click on this link: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A200PDGPEIQX41
So now my keywords might look something like this:
science fiction romance series strong female woman lead character protagonist genetic engineering spaceships aliens genes human nonhuman alien aliens psychics empire books sci fi scifi exploration starship space travel opera romantic comedy humour humor marriage first time interspecies second chance chances romance love action adventure *
Ninja Keywords (blurbs and such)
You might have heard that Amazon is perhaps the second best search engine on the internet and wondered what exactly is meant by that. Well it means that Amazon searches all of its content just like Google. So when potential readers input their search words, Amazon isn’t just using the keywords to find books for them. They’re looking for those words in the title of the book, the subtitle, the series name, the blurb and even the author’s name. So you should consider these things just as carefully as you do your keywords. I’m not telling you to stuff your book title like this:
Taken by the Alien Space Commander – a science fiction love story (BBW science fiction romance romantic sci fi genetic engineering first contact space opera) (The Taken by an Alien Series) by Holly Comequickly**
That’s a bit over the top and Amazon has rules against that kind of thing. Basically the title you input into your dashboard has to be the same title on the book’s cover. So if your book cover says all that, then by all means include it but you’re probably going to get ignored by a lot of potential readers as it screams amateur!
Be more subtle. You’ll notice in Romance authors might include a short tagline along the lines of: BBW Shifter Romance. This is way more informative to the potential reader and not over the top.
Also, you have your whole blurb to work with. Below is my Blurb for His Only Hope. I’ve bolded specific keywords to make it easier for you to find them:
Aliens, a backwater planet, useless tech, an epic journey and…love?
Cord, a former soldier who lost his young family, is hired to ensure a scientist’s sister is transported safely to the Ashula Mountains. Easy money, right? Not when a self-proclaimed governor, the natives and Cord’s old friend are all against him. Add to that his personal demons, alcoholism and an unwanted attraction to an alien…Cord has his hands full.
Hope, however, has a destiny. One that will save everyone from a never-ending winter—but only if she succeeds. Unfortunately for her, the only one who can help is a hairy and uncouth alien male.
There’s never a dull moment in this new frontier where winter is never-ending and tech doesn’t work, but one question remains. Will Cord accept the second chance at love he’s offered or will Hope slip through his fingers in this touching Science Fiction Romance?
Sci fi relevant keywords: Alien(s), soldier, science fiction
Romance relevant keywords: love, second chance, romance
There are a lot more keywords I can include in the above, but this example gives you a good idea of what you can do.
FYI: Your Amazon searches might be influenced by your past viewing history so you should log out and empty your cache or use a different browser when conducting your keyword research.
* Something else to consider: each comma marks the end of a search string, right? What if you didn’t use commas? Would that mean every single keyword is then fair game for Amazon’s search engine? Wouldn’t that also mean you wouldn’t have to duplicate words? What do you think?
** No, this is not one of my pen names >.<