It used to be that you had to play the game the way big publishing companies said you had to. Send out query letters and manuscripts and hope to land an agent and then a book deal.
Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore. The gatekeepers are still there for traditionally published authors, but not for indie authors! But it’s not a free-for-all, either.
If you want to succeed in the fun (but sometimes frustrating) world of indie publishing, you still need to play by certain rules to get your book(s) in front of the right readers. And selecting the right Kindle keywords is a big part of that. So that’s just what I’m going to cover in this article on how to choose Kindle keywords!
What Are Kindle Keywords?
When I say keyword or keywords in this article, I’m talking about the seven slots you have on your Amazon KDP book detail page. The section looks something like this:
These are the words or phrases readers put into the search bar on Amazon when they want to find their next great read. So if a reader is looking for a specific type of romance book, they might type in “sweet romance western” or something like that.
And if your book is relevant and has some variation of the same keywords on its KDP detail page, it could come up in the search results!
Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, yes and no. The fact is, there’s a fine line to walk when selecting your keywords. Some authors just rush through this part, thinking that the keywords aren’t such a big deal. But they truly are.
Important note: These keywords don’t have to be just one or two words. You can use phrases, too, if they’re more relevant to your book! Keep this in mind as we go along.
Why KDP Keywords Are Important
Selecting the right keywords means the difference between showing up in organic searches and being relegated to the abyss of noise that is the outer reaches of the massive Amazon Kindle store.
The trick is to find keywords that are both highly relevant to your book and not overly competitive. This means finding keywords that shoppers actually use that will help Amazon show your book to them. But they also need to be niche enough that you’re not competing with 100,000 other books for the search results. And, finally, they need to be in a category that actually has decent monthly sales numbers.
The fact is, Amazon loves showing their customers relevant products. The more relevant, the better.
That’s all fine and dandy, but how do you find these elusive keywords or phrases? Well, there are two primary ways.
Your Two Options for Choosing Kindle Keywords
You can find relevant, niche, and profitable keywords in one of two ways. The first takes time because it requires you to hunt down the relevant information on Amazon manually. Expect to set aside a couple of hours (at least) for this task. But, other than the time you spend, it’s completely free.
The second option isn’t free because it involves a tool called Publisher Rocket. It’s only a one-time cost of $97 for lifetime access. For some authors, given the amount of time it saves, the tradeoff might be worth it. (You can see my Publisher Rocket review here.)
So, let’s go through each of these options to show you how to do it. By the end of this article, you’ll know how to pick the best keywords for publishing your book on Amazon KDP.
Step 1: Research a Keyword List
We want to start broad at first and then narrow down our keywords as we go through the process. So the first thing to do is research a list of potential keywords that are relevant to our books. Here’s how to do this keyword research manually and with Publisher Rocket.
Open up an incognito browser and head over to Amazon. Using an incognito browser will keep your previous Amazon searches from skewing the results you get. Once there, use the options on the search bar to bring up the Kindle Store search function.
Next, start typing a word or phrase related to your book. See what comes up as you type this word or phrase. Amazon has a nifty auto-populate function based on customers’ previous searches that should give you several keyword options to consider. Like this:
Next, go through the alphabet, seeing what comes up in the auto-populate area. If I was doing keyword research for a science fiction book, I would start with sci fi a, then sci fi b, then sci fi c, and so on, to see which ones come up with viable Amazon keyword options that people have actually searched for. Here’s an example:
Save the keywords that sound the most relevant to your book, remembering to cast a wide net at this stage. You can either put them in a spreadsheet, or a document, or just write them down.
Do this with as many relevant words or phrases as you can think of.
With Publisher Rocket:
With Rocket, coming up with a list of relevant keywords is as simple as doing a search. Here’s what comes up when I search sci-fi on Rocket:
Much faster. And if you see the search bar on the right (where the arrow is pointing), you’ll see that this is a long list with plenty of keywords.
But now, we need to narrow down and find the best keywords for our book!
Step 2: Investigate Your Keywords
Finding your ideal keywords is a matter of seeing if they actually sell. Some Amazon Kindle keywords get lots of searches every month, but only a few sales. So here’s how to find the best ones that are relevant to your book.
First, do a search for the relevant keyword you want to investigate in the Kindle store. Look at the first three books that come up when you do the search. (Ignore the ones that say “sponsored.”)
Click on each book to bring up the book description page. Scroll down until you see the “Product Details” section. Then look for the Best Sellers Rank. It will look like this:
Once you copy the Best Sellers Rank (just the number), head on over to this free keyword research tool provided by Dave Chesson (the man behind Publisher Rocket). It’s the Kindle Best Seller Calculator, and it will help you see approximately how many copies the books are selling per day. All you do is put the number in and let the calculator do its thing.
If the book seems to be selling well, then you know the keyword is viable. Of course, if the book sales are really high, it may be a little too competitive if you’re just starting out on your self-publishing journey.
Repeat this process with the other two books from the search results, and then do the same thing over again for your most relevant keywords. Make a note of the keywords that you think will work well.
With Publisher Rocket:
Doing this with Rocket is a much quicker and easier prospect. After all, this is one of the main reasons for this Amazon keyword tool!
All you have to do is scroll through and hit the little magnifying glass button next to any keyword that has come up in your search. Rocket will then bring up a bunch of information to help you find the right keyword for your book. These stats include:
- Number of competitors
- Average price
- Average monthly earnings
- Estimated Amazon searches per month
- Competitive score
Here’s an example:
This way, you can locate keywords with enough search volume but not too much competition. You can do this again for each search term idea to quickly find the most relevant ones for your book.
But we’re not done yet! We still need to analyze the competition before we settle on our seven keyword ideas.
Step 3: Analyze the Competition
We want to find the sweet spot for our books by targeting keywords that aren’t too competitive. This often means targeting niche search terms by researching one specific keyword at a time. Let’s dive in!
To do this manually, you’ll want to look at a few specific things while doing your Amazon search for the keywords you think will work well. But instead of looking at just the first three books, you’ll want to look at the first ten that come up on that list. (Again, ignore any that say “sponsored” because those are Amazon Ads.)
Here’s what to look for as you analyze the first ten books for your search term:
- Book Title and Subtitle: If some part of the search term is in the title or subtitle, you can bet the book is well-targeted.
- Cover: Do all the covers look similar? Are they professional? If not, your book could stand out with a well-designed cover.
- Description: Are the book descriptions well-written and formatted? Do they make you want to click? A good book description is a sign that the author knows what they’re doing.
- Reviews: The number and quality of the reviews are both important to look at. If there are a ton of rave reviews, keep it in mind. Likewise, if the book has less than three stars, it could represent an opportunity.
- Age of the Book: You can find the publish date in the book details section. Are all ten books newer? Or are they a mixture of older and newer releases?
- Author Popularity: If all ten books you look at are by big-name authors, it could mean high competition. You ideally want to go up against authors who don’t hit the bestseller charts with every new release.
Take these factors as a whole to see if the keyword is too competitive or not. If all ten books have all of these factors well-covered and the books are selling very well, it could mean there’s a little too much competition if you’re just starting out.
With Publisher Rocket:
You can see at a glance how competitive a given keyword is in Publisher Rocket, but that’s not all. You can also check out the competition analyzer by clicking on one of these little green buttons on the side. Once you do that, Rocket will bring up the top-ranking books for that keyword.
It will include all the information covered above, so you can see all of it in one place without switching between tabs on Amazon.
Step 4: Publishing Your Kindle Ebook
Once you have done your Amazon keyword research and found the seven keywords you think will give you the best shot, it’s time to publish! But here are some tips I’d like to share with you before you hit that last button to send your book out into the world.
Tip 1: Consider Your Subtitle
Think of your subtitle as a powerful piece of Amazon SEO (search engine optimization). In fact, your book title, subtitle, and keywords (along with your book description) all contribute to how your book shows up in Amazon search results.
The nice thing about Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing? You can change everything but your title after publishing. Yes, you can even change your subtitle. But what you don’t want to do is change them too fast. Give your book some time after publishing (at least several months) before you consider changing these items.
That said, if you think you have the wrong keywords or the wrong subtitle on your book now (and it has already been some time since you published), then you might want to change them to see if your book gets any traction.
Tip 2: Try Amazon Advertising
If you do end up purchasing Publisher Rocket, you can also use its AMS Keyword Search function to gather keywords for Amazon PPC (pay-per-click) Ads.
As an Amazon Seller, you’ll have access to the advertising dashboard after a quick setup. Then you can set up ads for your Amazon book. These ads can help get your book in front of readers as they’re shopping. And you only pay for the ad when a potential reader actually clicks on it—you don’t have to pay just to have them served!
Amazon Advertising isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it can be learned, just like anything else. And to help shorten the learning curve, Rocket is a good place to start.
How to Choose Kindle Keywords: The End
Don’t underestimate the importance of the mighty KDP keyword. While choosing the wrong Kindle Keyword probably won’t break your author career, it certainly won’t help. Getting them right is an important part of becoming a successful indie author. They can also help you understand what your ideal readers are looking for, as well as how the Amazon search engine works.
So whether you choose the manual method or the quicker Publisher Rocket method, I hope this article will help you find the right keywords and increase your book sales so you can have the career you always wanted—no matter what that looks like for you.