The Importance of Keywords to Ranking Your Book on Amazon

by | Feb 3, 2016

By Dave Chesson (@DaveChesson)

Ranking books on Amazon is a bit of a mystery to some of us. Today, Dave Chesson explains how to get your book to rank higher. I think you’ll find this interesting and helpful.

One thing many self-publishers don’t realize is that Amazon, like Google, uses a search engine to find, and list its books. All you have to do is type in the search box a phrase or sentence, and Amazon will provide you with a list of best options.

One thing that can be a powerful marketing tactic for authors is to ensure their book reaches the top of a search list. If you wrote a book on weight loss, I’m sure you can imagine how great that would be for your sales if your book were the first to show up.

However, what makes Amazon’s search engine chose one book over the others?

Why is it that certain books show up for specific terms but not for others?

It turns out it’s all about the words you use and the method of execution in your sales.

In the following article, I’m not only going to show you how you can optimize your book’s sale page for better rankings but also, some easy steps to help give your book’s sales page a boost.

What Are You Aiming For

Before we get into the five simple changes you can make so as to get your book to the top of a search result on Amazon, you need to know which keywords you want to aim for. Without this, there is no point in optimizing your Amazon sales page. That would be like shooting in the dark.

Therefore, you need to take the appropriate steps to conduct some basic Kindle keyword research and find those words that people are searching for, but aren’t too competitive. There’s no point targeting a keyword phrase that no one cares about or has too much competition. In both cases, your book will never see the light of day.

Now that you have a target keyword for your book let’s go ahead and look at five simple ways to let Amazon’s search engine know that your book deserves to be higher for that search phrase.

  1. Kindle Keywords: Not What You Think

    One of the quickest and best-known ways to let Amazon know you should be considered for a keyword phrase is in the Kindle Keyword selection. These are the seven keyword phrases that Amazon asks for when you go to publish your book.

    7 Kindle Keywords

    Once you’ve told Amazon your seven keywords, they will take your list into consideration and rank you somewhere in the results list for those keywords. It could be on the first page or the 27th page – that all depends on the competitiveness of that particular keyword.

    However, these Kindle Keywords don’t just help you rank better. They can also be important in unlocking special Kindle categories. So, make sure you choose wisely when selecting your seven.

  2. Title: What’s In a Name

    Although there are some super important factors that you should consider when choosing the title for your book, the ability to add targeted keywords in the title can play a large role in where your book ranks.

    The title is the best indication of what your book is about. Therefore, if someone types a keyword phrase into the search box and your title has that exact phrase in it, then there is a good chance they are looking for your book or a book just like it.

    Now, I’m not saying you need to change your title so as to make a keyword fit. I only highlight that keywords should be a part of your decision matrix as you work to craft that perfect book title.

  3. Subtitle: the Second Best Thing

    If you can’t fit a keyword into your title, then don’t fret. There is always the subtitle.
    Here, you can place important keywords, phrases and benefits to help entice the reader to select your book. Just like with a title, you are telling Amazon that your book is about a certain subject.

    However, word to the wise, don’t go overboard here. We’ve all seen the book subtitles that are keyword stuffed, sometimes just listing them inside of parentheses like below:

    Subtitle Keyword Stuffing

    This can be seen as tasteless and obvious to the reader, so I would recommend not following this sort of method of just stuffing keywords into your subtitle.

  4. Description: Optimized and Ready

    The good news about a Kindle book description is that you have 4000 characters in which you can type. This is a prime opportunity to discuss some of your targeted keywords in a natural way without being obnoxious.

    This can also be beneficial to fiction authors too. In the fiction book Terms of Enlistment, Marko Kloos added at the bottom of his description the following:

    The debut novel from Marko Kloos, Terms of Enlistment is a new addition to the great military sci-fi tradition of Robert Heinlein, Joe Haldeman, and John Scalzi.

    It just so happens that now, his book shows up for anyone searching for books like Starship Troopers, Forever War, and Old Mans War which are all books that the above writers have written.

    That’s some great company to be with and has definitely increased the amount of times his book has shown up in the Amazon searches over this past year. It’s also how I found him and read his series since I love all three of those books.

  5. Keyword to Sales Conversion: The Holy Grail

    Let’s face it, Amazon is all about presenting the right product for the customer – which is good. So, what makes a product the “right” product? Simply, it’s the product that makes the most sales.

    Amazon wants to maximize their sales. Therefore, if someone types in a keyword, finds your book, and buys it, then that customer has just sent the strongest signal to Amazon that your book belongs in that Kindle keyword ranking. If it happens enough, you’ll surely be placed #1.

    One way to influence this is that if you have someone who wants to buy your book, instead of just sending them the link, you can tell them what keyword phrase to type into the search box and have them find it through that. That way, when they go to buy it, they will send a strong signal to Amazon.


Keywords aren’t a ‘magic bullet’ and are usually not the difference makers between success and failure in ebook marketing. However, as you can see, the optimization of your Amazon sales page to a specific keyword can absolutely help. Simple changes to a stagnant book, can breathe new life. It only takes a little bit of time.

Given the right set of keywords, you can get your book in front of more potential customers and hopefully get more sales. Worse case scenario is that you did some research, made some changes and nothing happened.

So, have you checked out any potential keyword opportunities and optimized your Amazon sales page?

David Chesson headshot x125Dave Chesson is the author behind, a website devoted to teaching advanced self-publishing marketing methods. If you would like to know more about Kindle keywords, or Amazon search engine rankings, then check out his free book on Amazon Kindle Rankings on his website.


tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Jennifer Yates

    I’m currently enrolled in Self Publishing School and working on a book. This is probably a dumb question, but I published my first book with WestBow Press with very little success. It’s available on Amazon, but I knew nothing about keywords. Is it possible to add keywords on my first book, even though I didn’t publish it through Amazon?

    • Dave Chesson

      Hi Jennifer. To change your 7 Kindle keywords, you’ll need access to the KDP account that the book was published under – which I’m sure they won’t allow you to do. Your best bet is to contact them and ask them to update them.

  2. Ivan Palii

    Great post, Dave. Thanks for a lot. I’ve also tried to describe the best tactics for Amazon SEO and axioms of A9 algorithm here –
    Can you share your opinion about these steps for getting TOP?

  3. Brian Robben

    I changed my keywords for a book and saw an immediate spike in sales over the next few weeks or months. Since I didn’t change anything else, I assume the keywords were the reason for this! Loved this article.

    • Dave Chesson

      Hey Brian, that’s awesome to hear. Increasing your searchability on Amazon always helps and choosing Keywords that people actually type in that doesn’t have a billion competitors always helps.

  4. Ralph Loder

    Using the names of famous authors (#4) to game Amazon’s search engine is unethical. Indeed Amazon’s own guidelines for using keywords state: Do not include, “Anything misrepresentative, such as the name of an author that is not associated with your book.”

    • Stephen Merlino

      I too was surprised at this advice. Won’t Amazon pull a book that breaks that covenant?

    • Dave

      The use of an author’s name as one of your 7 keyword selections is prohibited, but not in the description. Here are the rules for both as it pertains to this article:

      We prohibit including any of the items below in your description:
      • Pornographic, obscene, or offensive content.
      • Phone numbers, physical mail addresses, email addresses, or website URLs.
      • Availability, price, alternative ordering information (such as links to other websites for placing orders)
      • Reviews, quotes or testimonials.
      • Solicitations for customer reviews.
      • Advertisements, watermarks on images or videos, or promotional material.
      • Time-sensitive information (e.g., dates of promotional tours, seminars, lectures, etc.).

      However, it would not be O.K. in one of Amazon’s 7 search keywords:

      Examples of items that are prohibited as search keywords include but are not limited to:
      • Reference to other authors
      • Reference to books by other authors
      • Reference to sales rank (e.g., “bestselling”)
      • Reference to advertisements or promotions (e.g., “free”)
      • Reference to anything that is unrelated to your book’s content

  5. Michael N. Marcus

    The choice of the right keywords put my newest book in the #39 position, with no promotion and maybe one sale (to me). I am making corrections and don’t want anyone to buy the book yet, but I am positioned well for when I want to start selling.

    An esoteric, specialized or obscure key word can be a competitive advantage.

    A very popular term can sink you to the bottom of the list.

  6. Nova Moriarty

    This is brilliant, and it’s good to know about number five. It sounds like gold in the age of mobile link sharing.

    I have a question about titles and subtitles. Does the same logic apply to fiction novel titles? If not, is it advisable to create a subtitle on the product page strictly for SEO purposes?

    • Dave Chesson

      Thanks Nova! Here’ s a super awesome article written by the uber talented Derek Doepker on exactly that:

      In that article Derek weaves a great tapestry on all the different components required to form a good Title/Subtitle including a discussion on keyword optimization purposes. Depending on your situation/strategy it can help. However, if it were me doing my fiction…not sure….I’d have to validate whether or not the Keyword is worth it. If it has low competition AND high enough traffic, then sure….it would help get my book in front of more potential readers. But if not, then I wouldn’t worry about it.

      I discuss that “validation” technique on my post here:

  7. Jason Matthews

    Just a heads up about #4, even though Amazon recommends keywords in the book’s description, they don’t index those words. Amazon won’t find sentences copied and pasted from the description with its search engine. Google will, but Amazon doesn’t. Try some experimenting to see. For example, this is the 2nd sentence in one of my book’s description at Amazon: Imagine having probing cameras that could focus to any star or planet looking for life. Amazon won’t find the book, The Little Universe, via its own search engine. However Google will find the Amazon book from that same search.
    Another item to add to the keyword list is text within the book itself, either in the Kindle sample section or in the print versions if you have Look Inside enabled. Those words do get indexed and found by Amazon’s search engine.

  8. Michael W. Perry

    Great advice, particularly about the importance of titles and subtitles. I’d add this:

    Do your best to make the title short and easily remembered. Some sales spread by word of mouth. An easily remembered title is one easy to pass on. For the title, I rank catchy over descriptive. “Hospital Gowns and Other Embarrassments” is catchy and calls to mind what people feel about those revealing hospital gowns. Not incidentally, it brings in two important key words, “Hospital” and “Embarrassment.” That said, it doesn’t tell what the book is about.
    Make your subtitle clear and descriptive of the content without being wordy. For that title above, the subtitle was “A Teen Girl’s Guide to Hospitals.” Together, the two are a perfect description of the content. It’s advice to hospitalized teen girls on how to avoid embarrassment. Remember that, as your book winds its way through various distribution and retail databases, sometimes the only thing that survives are that title and subtitle. They matter.
    Spend much time getting that cover right too. For online sales, it’s the most obvious part of your book people will see before they buy. For that book above, it’s a serious looking girl in a hospital gown looking up at the camera. Given the title and subtitle, the cover absolutely had to feature a girl in a hospital gown.

    That matters because many book covers, while demonstrating much effort in their creation, seem to bear little relationship to the book itself. They may be pretty and striking, but say little about the book. Get that cover, title, subtitle and book content in synch. They should all reinforce the same message. Getting them to work together will suggest to readers that what you’ve written also hangs together.

    For cover images I prefer searching through online stock photos services for just the right one. Your choices are likely to number in the hundreds, so you can almost always find one that is just right. And since they’re taken by professionals, they’re typically well-composed and color-balanced. While many of today’s covers seem complex, I prefer to keep mine simple. Just that image with the title/subtitle and author carefully placed. The less I have to do, the less risk I will get something wrong.
    I also find a back cover photo that fits with the image on the front and do my best to have the same background color (white in the case of Hospital Gowns) wrap from the front cover to the spine to the back cover. That avoids problems in printing if the spine doesn’t quite line up properly. That is particularly critical if you’re publishing print on demand with either Createspace or Ingram. With both, spine alignment can be a problem. For instance, a black spine background leaking over onto a light front cover background looks cheap.

    Good luck!

    –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books

    • Dave

      Great info Michael!

  9. Josh

    Good article! And I had never even considered number 4, like.. ever. Or sending people the keyword to search for. smacks head

    • Dave Chesson

      Thanks Josh. Yeah, #4 is an effective way for fiction authors as well ;)



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