Updated: Dec 19, 2021
Do you ever feel like your book blends in on Amazon? With over 800,000 eBooks for sale there, how is our story possibly going to stand out? The typical Barnes and Noble stocks about 10,000 titles. And even then, it’s a bookish wonderland! Now, just imagine 80 Barnes and Nobles in one enormous warehouse...
And your book is in there somewhere.
But don’t despair! Let me offer you some hope.
What if I told you that Amazon isn’t a bookstore? It’s actually a search engine. And search engines can be trained to show your book to the right customer the instant they start browsing. Doesn’t that spark some kind of feeling of hope because it’s not completely out of your hands?
I hope so, because I've got a few tips to help you instantly make your books more visible on the world's biggest book selling platform. And even better, these tips won't cost you anything. In fact, the goal is to make more money consistently! Believe me, Amazon wants to make money off with you, so as soon as you befriend the search engine and show it your earning potential, it’ll want to keep this relationship going.
So, let's dive in.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Are those the scariest three words, or what?
They used to terrify me, too. But one day, I decided to look them in the eye and get to know them better. After taking some online trainings that described the intricate process of internet spiders “crawling” across the internet to find the most relevant search matches (this terminology did nothing to lessen my fears of SEO by the way), I finally understood how Search Engine Optimization was crucial to any kind of success online.
Within two months of applying healthy SEO practices to my content, my website was getting hundreds of hits a day. By the time my debut novel released, it became a #1 new release on Amazon, hitting the top 4,000 selling books on the platform and sold in over ten countries. And all this was done without a single paid promotion and a newsletter of under 200 people.
So yeah, that’s possible.
But what is SEO?
Think about it this way: if someone types in “best fairytale retellings”, I want my book to be the very first result that shows up. I don’t want anyone else rivaling my spot as the “best” option for them. So, I’ve got to convince all those creepy-crawling spiders (shudder) that I really am the “best fairytale retelling” out there. It means you’ve optimized your chance at a search engine finding and recognizing you.
So, how do we train that search engine to prioritize our product? By...
Keywords are the ideas that define what your content is about. Think about what someone would type into the search bar if they’re looking for a book just like yours. For example, “fantasy novels”. That’s a keyword (two or more words strung together are called long-tail keywords).
A broad keyword is a search term that covers thousands of results. For example, the term "fantasy novels" is going to cover everything from Harry Potter to Alice in Wonderland. Broad keywords are going to be very competitive, but also frequently searched for. Unfortunately, if you’re not already a bestseller, you’ll have to compete against books Amazon is already making money on. This means your book probably won’t be one of the top six results when people search for those terms. And people rarely scroll beyond those top six results.
That’s where niche keywords come in. An example of a niche keyword would be something like “Chupacabra shifter romance.” That keyword won't have a lot of competition, but will not get a lot of searches either. However, for those few people who do search for that term, you’re going to be one of the top six results. With that kind of visibility, you’ll be able to convince those few readers that you’re exactly what they’ve been looking for.
So, I want you to make a list of 20 keywords that represent your book, finding a variety that fall between broad and niche keywords. Having this list determined is going to help you once we get to training Amazon how to know exactly who you are and where your book belongs.
Finding Good Keywords
One of my absolute favorite tools for finding good keywords is Publisher’s Rocket. It's a fabulous tool that will save you hours of marketing research if you’re an indie pub author. But I’m also a believer in bootstrapping, so I’ve got an alternative for you if you don’t feel like buying the program just yet.
First, go to Amazon and begin typing in a keyword that you think people might use to find a book like yours. As you’re typing, stop halfway through the first word to see if Amazon auto populates any suggested phrases. These will be good options for your keyword list. It won’t tell you how many books you’re competing with, but it will tell you it’s something customers are frequently looking for and willing to buy.
If you want to go a little deeper with this research, Publisher Rocket will show you the metrics of each keyword, including: how many books you’ll compete against, how much money that keyword generates in sales every month, how frequently that keyword is searched for, and more.
Where Do I Use These Keywords?
Once you have your list of 20 keywords, you’re going to sprinkle them into your book description and author bio. Don’t overload your descriptions with too many keywords. That’s called keyword flooding and will hurt your SEO. You only want to sprinkle in 4-5 keywords throughout your entire product description or back cover copywriting.
Here's an example from Ready Player One:
"A world at stake. A quest for the ultimate prize. Are you ready?
In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the OASIS, a vast virtual world where most of humanity spends their days.
When the eccentric creator of the OASIS dies, he leaves behind a series of fiendish puzzles, based on his obsession with the pop culture of decades past. Whoever is first to solve them will inherit his vast fortune—and control of the OASIS itself.
Then Wade cracks the first clue. Suddenly he’s beset by rivals who’ll kill to take this prize. The race is on—and the only way to survive is to win."
See how they sprinkled their keywords throughout the description that will help the algorithm AND the reader know what his story is about? Also, in Ernest Cline’s bio (click here to see the example) there are plenty of keywords as well. Take a look and see if you can pick out what keywords they decided to use.
Now you know how to take the first step towards being more visible on Amazon! If you liked this first step and would like to dive deeper into how to make your book more visible and eye-catching on Amazon, check out the following link:
This $15.00, 6-part online course is all about optimizing your Amazon Product page and is jam-packed with information about how to use the following tools:
Kindle Direct Publishing
The Friends and Foes of Amazon
Everything I teach there is effective for both indie and traditionally published authors, so don’t miss it!
I’m Rachel Huffmire, I’m an author like you, applying these same principles to my own books. I have worked as a bookstore manager, acquisitions editor, the marketing manager for a small publisher, and now, I’m the founder of Author Capital, a coaching group that focuses on the business side of self-publishing! So, if you're ready to take your writing to the career level, click here to learn more about Author Capital's online courses and coaching packages.