When self-publishing in stores like Amazon, you want to set up your files with the book categories and book keywords that best describe your book. Let’s go over why and how to choose keywords for Amazon KDP and beyond.
What Are Book Categories and Book Keywords?
Categories are general terms that describe your content, such as fiction and non-fiction. They’re the shelf headings that help readers navigate to what they’re looking for.
Keywords are the words and phrases typed in the search bar when looking for a book to buy. Amazon and other store algorithms use keywords to show the books most relevant to the searcher’s query. If one of your keywords is “how to paint a flower manual” and I type it in the search bar, your book should pop up in the search results.
Why Are Categories and Keywords for Books Important?
To clearly grasp the importance of categories and keywords, you must understand the importance of metadata. Metadata are the fields you fill out when publishing to various sites and stores, such as Amazon. It stores information about your book, including your author name, title, subtitle, description, categories, and keywords.
Accurate metadata helps search engines rank your book in the right places. If your book is about how to heal back pain, your metadata fields should accurately showcase that by being in the right categories such as “physical health and fitness” and containing keywords like “heal back pain.” If you left it at “heal pain,” your book may show up for people searching for content on emotional pain and completely miss your target audience.
Optimizing your metadata is all about optimizing your discoverability; Choosing the best categories and keywords is a crucial part of this work.
So, two main reasons for optimizing categories and keywords:
- You can boost your visibility in search results. You want to, first and foremost, reach the right readers with the right category keywords. Then, you want to maximize your visibility by using the most searched keywords for books on stores like Amazon and more.
- You can deliver the promise of what your book is about. If you were to miscategorize your book as romance even though it is horror, a reader can end up disappointed and leave a negative review for not meeting their expectations.
Now, how to pick keywords for Amazon books and beyond? Here are the methods to know below.
First, How to Choose the Right Book Categories
Decide on your categories first, then take care of your keywords. For most publishing platforms and stores, you get between two and ten categories. You want to choose categories that accurately describe your content and, if possible, are easy to rank in. Start by checking this list of book categories on Amazon and pick out the ones that resonate the most with your book.
- Go to Amazon’s search box and type out all the words and phrases that describe your book. Hit submit and get a list of books similar to yours. Go through each book and check their categories to get an idea of how other similar books are categorized.
- With your list of potential categories, check the bestsellers for each category. This gives you an idea of your competition for each category. Some authors try to rank higher in niche categories, which is one tactic you can try out.
- You can use a tool such as Publisher Rocket to generate a list of categories for you. This is, however, a more bougie option priced at $97.
- See this tutorial for more on category research.
Note: On Amazon, you choose three categories when uploading your book. Customer activity influences which three categories your book can be ranked in. Therefore, the categories you add and the three that show up on your book’s detail page may not match.
Researching categories can be time-consuming. If you’d rather use a tool to assist you, try PublishDrive. Its AI generates the most relevant and specific categories for your book. Learn more.
PublishDrive is an online self-publishing platform that helps you publish to Amazon, Apple, Google, and hundreds of other stores.
How to Perform Your Best Book Keyword Search
Finalizing your categories gives you a nice foundation to work off of when choosing your book keywords list. It’s necessary to continue with keyword research since it’s not enough to pick the keywords or language you simply think customers are using. You have to actually find out what kind of language customers – particularly your ideal customers – are using.
For example, those in the self-publishing community often use the terms “indie publishing” or “digital publishing.” But, a new author wouldn’t know this. If we were to target a newbie, we would use a more general term like “self-publishing” or “publishing.”
Let’s go over the main tactics on how to choose keywords for Amazon KDP and beyond. I suggest starting your research on Amazon’s search engine because it’s the #1 hub for digital books.
1. Book search by keywords you’re considering
Take some time to jot down all the relevant keywords, phrases, and language that come up when you think of your book and target audience. Put yourself in your ideal reader’s shoes. Imagine what they’d search for to discover your book. Write your words in the most logical order. For example, people search for “self care books” over “books self care”.
Along with collecting general terms, try to find words and phrases that are as specific as possible. This can help with narrowing down and targeting your most desired audience. When you’re ready, get on Amazon and type in every potential keyword to the search bar. If you get irrelevant results, cross off your potential keyword or revise it. Use a new incognito window in your browser to clear previous browsing history.
Utilize the drop-down search function during this process. Do check out the suggestions that appear in the drop-down. It looks like this:
The drop-down function is great because it shows you other related words and phrases people search for. Make a list of these during your search. You’ll see which keywords result in the books most similar to yours – those keywords are the ones you want to keep.
If you’re having trouble coming up with keywords, think about the different aspects of your book: setting (Manhattan), character types (single mom, entrepreneur), character roles (queen energy), plot themes (empowerment), and tone of voice (feel-good, funny).
2. Look to your categories
With your list of book categories in hand, look for keywords that will get you into your categories. Browse through Amazon’s categories and see if there are any potential ones you can use. For example, the keyword “conspiracy thriller” can be used to enter that sub-category on Amazon.
You can also use Amazon’s search bar to check for category lists, as mentioned earlier. Go through each of your relevant categories on Amazon’s lists and look for top-ranking books to see which keywords they use.
3. Use various tools
Just like with category research, you can conduct keyword research on tools like Publisher Rocket. Some other tools include Google keyword planner, keyword.io, SEMrush, Moz, and Ahrefs. If you use any of these tools, just remember to filter the keywords they give you based on volume and difficulty level. You want to go for keywords with high search volume and low difficulty level.
In my opinion, the best KDP keyword research tool is free and easy to use. You can try out Moz Keyword Explorer and get ten free queries per month. You can also start off with PublishDrive’s AI categorization tool to jumpstart your keyword search. It’s free to create an account and upload your book for a list of AI-suggested categories:
Keywords and other things to avoid
Here are some of the keywords to avoid:
- Information already mentioned in your book’s metadata, like title and subtitle
- Words already mentioned in categories
- Subjective claims such as “best book ever”
- Time-sensitive language like “new” or “available now”
- Super general words like “book”
- Information meant to advertise or mislead, such as using another author’s name
- Brand names you do not own
- Quotation marks
All in all, only use relevant keywords and don’t fluff up your keywords with misleading words.
How to Implement Your List of Keywords for Books
Now that you’ve got your list of keywords, it’s time to implement them into your metadata. This is the most essential part of your keyword journey!
1. Add and update keywords on KDP
First off, how many keywords does Amazon allow? Up to seven keywords or phrases. To add them, go to your Bookshelf under your KDP dashboard and click the ellipsis button “...” next to your book. Then click Edit Details. Under the Keywords section, simply add or edit your keywords. Hit Save and Continue.
However! If you’re publishing wide, you want to keep your keywords consistent across all stores beyond Amazon. You can do that by going on each store platform to update your keywords. Or, better yet, you can use an all-in-one self-publishing platform like PublishDrive to take care of it all in one click. Here’s how –
2. Add and update keywords on PublishDrive
With PublishDrive, you can upload your book files, fill out the metadata, and distribute it to hundreds of stores at once. Like Amazon, you can enter up to seven keywords. This will add or update your keywords across all the stores you decide to publish in.
3. Sprinkle keywords everywhere
When it comes to different strategies on how to boost book sales on Amazon and more stores, metadata is one of the first things you can take care of. When people search by description, you want the search algorithms to match the info stored in your metadata. Sprinkle your keywords everywhere you can.
Here are the best practices:
- Add your keywords into your metadata fields, such as book title, subtitle, book description, and editorial reviews.
- Your book description is a terrific space to optimize with your keywords, as you have more space to play with. Just don’t overstuff your keywords. That’ll make you sound robotic. You want to be human-focused no matter what. Check these book description examples.
- Stuffing means repeating words or phrases. Don’t do this, as stores like Amazon can actually penalize you for it.
- Amazon treats your title, subtitle, and genre names as keywords – be mindful of those.
- Always double-check your metadata with store guidelines. Here are KDP’s guidelines.
- Do note that you can revise your keywords and descriptions whenever you’d like.
- Sprinkle keywords on your author sites: professional website, blog page, Goodreads page, Amazon’s author page, and wherever else. Social media pages work too.
That’s it. I hope this guide was useful and I wish you all the luck!