An often overlooked part of marketing your book is choosing categories and keywords. We’ll focus on the importance of exploring the best categories to maximize Amazon ranking and the best keywords to maximize visibility for your book. Finally, you’ll learn how to choose and apply them to your book to maximize book sales.
When you self-publish your book on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), you are instructed to choose two categories. Your choices are limited to the BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communications) categories. The BISAC categories are useful to help shelve books in the correct section in brick-and-mortar bookstores. While important, online shopping for books is no longer limited to bookshelves and finite space.
Amazon is different. Its sole goal is to provide readers with exactly what they want, even if they don’t know exactly how to search for it. Search algorithms allow for deeper exploration into a variety of books. So additional categories on Amazon, beyond BISAC, open up possibilities for authors and their potential readers.
Ranking high on Amazon requires, among other things, choosing the best categories and keywords for your book. Your goal is to be number one in one or more categories to get the Amazon Bestseller tag. The key is to find the most niched-down possibility in a relevant category. Once in the bestseller spot, or at least in the top five, sales increase due to increased visibility over and over again.
To help with that, you have more category choices in your arsenal. In addition to the two categories you choose when registering your book on KDP, you can request eight more categories.
But how do you find the best categories for your book? We’ll start with the manual approach to discover the range of possibilities. It’s free and worthwhile but a bit time-consuming.
First, since Amazon remembers everything you search, use an incognito window in your browser so you don’t skew your search results by going to File>New Incognito Window in your browser.
Once on Amazon, select the Kindle Store from the search bar and type in books.
Look to the left navigation bar for different ebook categories. Click on a category to reveal its subcategories and the search results listing of books in that subcategory.
For instance, if we choose Romance, it then reveals a new list of romance subcategories. We can click on Historical Romance to reveal the subcategories of Historical Romance. Once we click on American Historical Romance, we get to the final layer of subcategories in the Romance>Historical Romance>American Historical Romance category. As a matter of common sense, Romance is an extremely competitive category with lots of readers and lots of books. Your new book will get lost by only positioning it in the general Romance category.
If your book isn’t in the Romance category, search for books in your general category and explore your specific subcategory options.
Once you reach the terminal point in your book’s subcategory, you’ll naturally find books listed in the results. You’ll find the top books in the subcategory, along with other Sponsored books. Click on one of the top books in the results to reveal the product page. Scroll down to look in the Product Details section for a listing of categories and ranking in each. Once there, click on one of the categories for a listing of the bestselling books in that category.
For instance, by clicking on the book The Scholar by Tess Thompson, you will find these categories:
Clicking on any of these categories will reveal the 100 paid and free bestselling books in the category. Repeating this with other books gives you a sense of the other possible categories that relate to your book.
The next step is to compile a list of possible categories with a preference for the deepest subcategory.
Doing this exercise will give you a list of possible categories, but not how competitive they are. The level of competition in each category determines how easy or hard it is to rank in each. As previously mentioned, being number one in a category has big implications for your book’s visibility and sales.
How do you choose from your list? For that, I turn to Publisher Rocket. Publisher Rocket is a paid program designed specifically for authors on Amazon. It’s an author’s best friend when it comes to helping choose the best categories and keywords. It provides a competition score, monthly search numbers, and sales figures to help you with the decision. Since this isn’t a Publisher Rocket infomercial, I’ll let you see for yourself. Here is my affiliate link to Publisher Rocket if you want to find out more.
Once you discover the best categories for your book, simply email Amazon from your Bookshelf on KDP and request up to 8 additional categories. Use the most relevant and niched-down subcategory for the greatest results.
Now that you’ve selected your categories, the next step is to find the best keywords for your book. While book ranking is determined by categories, keywords are the sales tools to enhance discoverability.
Keywords are the search terms someone would use to find your book. When you set up your book, you’ll enter 7 keyword phrases—the more specific and targeted, the better.
Keywords are more than just a general topic or genre of your book. By using a general term like lose weight, the competition is likely high, and your book will show up lower in the results. A better keyword phrase is lose weight without dieting or lose weight in 2 weeks without dieting. You might think you don’t want to lose out if you are too specific, but with the level of competition, you want to find the right readers for your book; and you want the right readers to find you.
Amazon allows you up to 50 characters per keyword phrase. It’s important to use each one to your advantage. Amazon will use the singular and plural forms of words. There’s no need to use quotation marks or other punctuation, so Amazon can work its magic and use the various combinations in your keyword phrase to your advantage.
Amazon will already use your title, subtitle, and description in their search algorithm, so you don’t need to repeat them. For nonfiction books, this makes choosing a title and subtitle especially important. Further, it illustrates the importance of writing your book in a niche more than in a general way.
You can use variations of the words and other keyword phrases. For example, you can use lose weight in 2 weeks and lose weight in a month. Other examples could be weight loss using the Keto diet or Keto weight loss programs.
Amazon does have some rules of what you can’t use. You can’t use other authors’ names, use the phrase Kindle Unlimited, and the keywords have to relate to your book. You can’t write a book about weight loss and have a keyword about model airplanes. It sounds intuitive, right?
In some categories, Amazon will provide more insight into possible directions for keywords. Back to our Romance book, you can use the type of hero or romantic themes.
On Amazon, use the search bar and select Kindle Store. Begin typing in a possible keyword phrase. As you do, Amazon will start suggesting other phrases that have been used before. As a reader, Amazon wants to deliver you the best results, so you buy a book—or two or three. So, as an author, you have insight into what readers are searching for. If you are using an incognito window, Amazon may hold off on recommendations until you’ve selected a book before revealing other suggestions.
For instance, if you wrote a weight loss book and want to see what others are searching for, begin typing weight loss. Here are suggestions based on what others have queried. As crazy as it sounds, the results will shift after typing the entire phrase lose weight or even lose weight and adding a space after it. It will keep updating with new possibilities with each letter or word you type. Amazon is in the business of helping readers find exactly what they want. This tool helps you connect with their insights.
Continue with other possibilities and view the search results to make sure your book fits into that query. Think of synonyms for each concept to vary your selection. For nonfiction, vary the what (lose weight, diet, slim down), the how (healthy, fast, Keto), and who (busy mom, over 50, vegan) to find different combinations.
The good news is that you can change your keywords at any time on KDP. Vary your keywords to find the combination that yields the best results. From your KDP bookshelf, click on the three dots to the right of your book and select Edit Ebook Details or Edit Print Book Details, depending on the version you select. Click Save and Continue at the bottom of the page and then Publish on the final page to submit the changes.
While you can discover the keywords and categories manually, Publisher Rocket is a dynamic tool designed specifically for authors to find relevant, effective keywords and categories to save time for writing the next book. You’ll find sales figures in your category and a whole lot more. Visit my affiliate link to Publisher Rocket to find out more.
Whether you choose to find categories and keywords manually or with an optimizer, take advantage of the tools available to position you for success and drive readers to buy your book.