SEO for Authors – Part 2

by | Jun 18, 2018

By Dave Chesson

Today, we are pleased to provide you with Part 2 of Dave Chesson’s guest post on SEO for Authors.

The first part of this article can be found here: SEO for Authors — Part 1.

Writing a book is no easy task.

This is particularly true for independent authors. In addition to the writing workload, self-publishers are saddled with the stress of marketing and promotion.

One of the best ways to help ensure your efforts are rewarded is to ensure you’re not overlooking any SEO ideas that can be applied to your books.

Previously, we explored how SEO can benefit your author platform. Today, we’ll cover –

  • How keyword research concepts can inform your book’s topic and contents
  • How you can use tools to carry out SEO research for your books
  • The most effective ways to apply SEO to your books to increase discoverability and sales

Let’s be clear. SEO is no substitute for a well-written book with an attractive cover. However, the marketplace is more competitive than ever before. You owe it to yourself and your work to help as many people as possible discover it.

SEO For Books Basics

At first, the idea of search engine optimization for books may seem strange.

After all, if books are creative works of art, why and how should they be optimized?

Many people buy books by visiting platforms such as Amazon or iBooks. These platforms are in fact search engines, as visitors input keyword queries and receive a results page.

Therefore, optimizing your work in a way which helps it rank higher on the search page leads to more people discovering and buying your book.

Take the below graphic for example.

The graph is representative of the typical percentage of search traffic your book will receive on Amazon from a keyword search. Imagine 1000 people searched for a keyword related to your work. If you were able to rank first for that keyword, you could expect to receive 27% of the traffic for that keyword, or 270 clicks. Dropping down to second would result in 120 clicks, a serious drop off from the first spot. The higher you rank, the faster you cover the cost of publishing your book.

The importance of ranking highly for pertinent keywords is clearly illustrated above. Optimizing your books is one of the best ways to rank higher.

Taking the time to do this is important for two additional reasons, one of which will definitely apply to your own situation. Either –

  1. Similar books to your own are already optimized. By not optimizing your own work, you are placing your book at a serious disadvantage.
  2. Other authors in your book category aren’t yet optimizing properly. By being one of the first to do so, you have a significant competitive advantage.

So what are some of the ways that SEO principles benefit your books, and what are the specific tactics you can use to apply them?

Researching Your Topic And Contents

There are many situations where keyword research can help with the overall topic and contents of your book. These include –

  • When you have a vague idea, but want to narrow it down into something specific enough to be a worthwhile book
  • When you have a solid idea, but you want to gauge external demand levels to assess its viability
  • When you have an overall idea for your book, but want to make sure you aren’t missing out any pertinent sections

So what are the options available for carrying out initial keyword research to inform your topic and contents?


Amazon itself offers a wealth of opportunities for concept and contents research. You should access Amazon through the incognito/private option on your browser to ensure you get the most neutral results possible.

Two main methods for carrying out research on Amazon include –

  1. Using Amazon’s own autocomplete search feature, as seen below. By typing in part of a phrase, Amazon will show popular searches stemming from your initial idea.

  2. Browsing through categories in order to get a feel for what’s selling at the moment

Taking the time to carry out research on Amazon allows you to –

  • Avoid writing a book that already exists.
  • Find popular books that you can improve upon (For example, you notice a particular type of cookbook is selling, despite having an unattractive cover. If you can produce an equally good cookbook, but with a better cover, you have a better book by definition.)
  • Receive inspiration/ideas you wouldn’t have otherwise had. Amazon is full of niche categories which most people wouldn’t necessarily think of on their own.

KDP Rocket

Full disclosure – I am the creator of KDP Rocket. However, I created it because I’m also a frustrated self-published author who wanted a more efficient and effective way of carrying out my book research. Using KDP Rocket allows you to –

  • Find the best and most profitable keywords for your book to target
  • Understand your competition and the ways you can better them
  • Discover the perfect category to help your next book be a bestseller

If you’d like to see KDP Rocket in action, check out the following video.

KDP Rocket: Self Publishing Software to help find Kindle Keywords

Applying Your SEO Findings

We’ve looked at three methods above to carry out SEO research for your book. In addition to informing the general topic and content of your work, you can use your findings in the following tactics to help your book’s discoverability.


It’s amazing how many books have obscure or unclear titles. It might sound deceptively simple, but including a keyword in your book’s title can be a serious road to discoverability if your competitors aren’t doing it.


Your book’s subtitle is another opportunity. This can work in two ways –

  1. Making your book ‘keyword friendly’ while retaining a more creative title
  2. Adding an extra keyword. E.g, Title = Keyword 1, Subtitle = Keyword 2. This allows you to attract two types of searcher with a single book.


It’s unknown whether Amazon directly takes into account the keywords found in a book description when determining rankings. However, a key aspect of SEO is the intent of the person carrying out the search. If a bookstore browser sees relevant keywords in your book description, they are more likely to feel the book is right for them, moving them closer to the decision to purchase.

7 Kindle Keywords

When you upload a book to the Kindle platform, you are given the chance to choose seven keywords associated with it. Other booksellers have something similar. Unless you’ve carried out keyword research, you’re shooting in the dark here. Don’t waste this scarce opportunity.

Indirect Reviewer Benefits

Ultimately, author SEO is far from technical or impossible. Instead, it all comes down to helping the right people find your books. The type of person that finds your book directly determines the quality of your reviews. Careful SEO therefore benefits your book reviews by –

  • Helping more people discover your work. More discoverability leads to more reviews.
  • Crafting your book to match reader expectations. Keyword research is basically insight into searcher intent. Understanding this intent allows you to satisfy it, therefore earning a positive review.

Also, fairly recently, Amazon changed their review section. You can now read reviews based on specific keywords, as seen in the following image.

The implication of this is that Amazon scan the language used in reviews. Therefore, the language reviewers use is a further indicator of how your book should rank and the keywords it most relates to.

SEO For Books Summary

In today’s post, we’ve explored –

  • How to use Amazon to inform your book’s concept and contents
  • How to apply your keyword research findings to aid your book’s discoverability
  • How applying SEO to your books ultimately leads to more satisfied readers and better reviews

If you’ve had any experience applying SEO to your own books, or have a strong opinion on the topic either way, please feel free to leave a comment.

book cover designDave Chesson runs where he offers guides and advice to self-published indie authors, such as his recent reviews of Playster and Grammarly. He also hosts The Book Marketing Show podcast where he interviews successful authors to share their most effective tactics. His free time is spent reading and making memories with his family.
Photo: BigStockPhoto

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  1. Leslie Tall Manning

    Hi, Dave. Thanks for such a thorough article! I agree with all of your info regarding keywords and solid ways to get a book to stand out.

    But as a 20-year veteran novelist, I find it strange (not specifically good or bad) that a person would look up what topics are popular and THEN write a book. I know that your entire article does not capitalize on this, but it is something that stood out for me. I get story ideas all day long, and maybe once every six months I write one down and it goes into an ideas folder. But I do not let what is popular dictate what I write. I write what comes organically to my mind (and spirit) at the time. I take approx 2 years to see a book from beginning to its end, either getting in the queue for self-pubbing, or going off to my agent for submitting to houses. What I am trying to say is, the first rule a writer should abide by is not what is popular, but what kind of amazing story he or she can put to paper? I feel that the average person today, who may or may not have any talent, will believe they can write whatever is trendy at the time. All writers, whether seasoned or new to the craft, have to understand that it is all a crap shoot. You could write a novel that wins awards but never makes any money. Or you could write a story because an algorithm says it is a hot topic right now and still make no money. Conversely, you could make the best seller’s list with whatever you write. But one never knows ahead of time what will sell. Trends change minute to minute. Sometimes they disappear for a while, and come back again. I just want to tell writers to write what they want to write. Market the hell out of it, for sure, but out the gate, write an amazingly awesome book that people will remember, and one that you feel proud to put into the public eye. Of course you need to avoid writing a book that already exists. But there are less than ten true plots in the modern world, and ideas are done over and over again, with different slants. There is no magic button for the writing part. That is a personal journey for every writer, and one that should not be taken lightly. Take writing classes. Write three to five hours at least four days a week. Listen to mentors. Edit the heck out of your work. Then edit it again. And again. Chances are, when you are done, what was popular at the start of your writing won’t be popular anymore. So who cares? Just write the story. If it is really great, you will find a way to market it and it will find its way into peoples’ lives. : )

    • Dave Chesson

      Hi Leslie,

      Great points, and comments. But it’s not so much about the ‘popularity’ but understanding how your target market (the readers that would love your book) searches for their next book. What words do they use? What do they type into Amazon and then find what they like.

      A great example of this is a fiction writer (can’t use their name since I don’t have permission) who has writer their book. It sort of involves, kids with special powers set in the late 1800’s. So, we did a lot of research to figure out how someone describes that sort of book or adventure. I won’t give away our findings, however, it because VERY evident that certain terms WERE the one’s that readers use for that kind of book. It was very eye opening and also helped the writer to make sure they had certain elements in their cover that would jive with the found target market on Amazon.

      So, it’s not always about researching and then writing something because of that. It’s about understand how your perfect reader would go about find your book :)



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