One thing I noticed after my first month of publishing is that my sales basically came to a halt. Another thing I noticed is that I very much did not like that. So, I tried to come up with ways to increase sales while not spending any advertising money. I discovered that the keywords I entered upon submitting my book for publication on Amazon could actually get me into better search results (think SEO for Google) and even better categories.
Keywords are still somewhat foreign to me, so I’m going to use the post I found on KBoards that helped me adjust my keywords to explain. Stella Wilkinson was unfortunately unavailable to be a full-on guest blogger, but she gave me the “OK” to post parts of her thread to my blog to help out readers. Her advice has really helped me out, and I hope it helps you out as well. Take a look below.
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,” “romance,” or “science fiction”) because you will never show up. 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.
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 🙂
Stella’s most recent book, Bend it like a Bookworm, was released on September 22nd on Amazon. She can also be found at www.stellawilkinson.com and on Twitter at @fantasyscribble.