Keywords for Visibility

By Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraigcapture 1

There’s an adage that states potential customers must see a marketing message seven times before deciding to purchase a product.

I’m someone who has to hear about a promo technique seven times before finally deciding to experiment with it.

Except in the case of Amazon keywords. I’ve read likely a couple of dozen blog posts on Amazon keywords.  Only now have I finally scraped up enough time to work on it.

Amazon, of course,  is a search engine.  There’s metadata involved, there’s SEO involved. We need to make our books visible to potential readers.

When I originally chose my keywords, I went with terms I thought readers may be looking for. My keywords were like this: mystery, cozy mystery, women sleuths, etc.

And sure, readers are looking for these terms.  The only problem is that there was absolutely nothing unique about them. I wasn’t giving the books a boost with these keyword choices. My books are already listed in the mystery and cozy categories, so I’m basically wasting these keywords.  I’m hardly the only author putting mystery down as a keyword.  Thousands of other writers are doing the same thing.

What I wanted to do was to narrow the field and actually make my books show up on pages that cozy readers are searching for.  I took my old keywords and started plugging them into the Amazon search bar to see what came up for results. (This technique is mentioned by Joanna Penn , Penny Sansevieri , and the folks at Standout Books, among others.)

For instance, I typed cozy mystery into the search bar and then went through the alphabet. Cozy mystery a (and viewed what, if anything, came up with the auto-complete).  Then cozy mystery b…and so on.  I discovered, and this shouldn’t be a huge surprise, that apparently quite a few cozy mystery readers were searching for cozy mysteries with cats.  A look at the books on that page showed that many of the books were ranked highly on Amazon, which means they were selling, obviously.

And I thought: well, heck, I have a cat in my Myrtle Clover mysteries.  Pasha is a feral cat who occasionally obtains sidekick status during Myrtle’s exploits.  She’s not soft or cuddly or cute. But she’s a feline!  And my titles weren’t showing up for that search.

I looked at the page and sure enough, plenty of the cozy mysteries on that Amazon page appeared to be doing well.

I logged onto my KDP dashboard, changed keywords for various titles to cozy mysteries with cats and hit publish.

As I’m writing this post, I see that I have a title listed on the second search page, two on the fourth, and one on the fifth.

So, although cozy mysteries is now becoming more crowded field, I’m standing out in a narrow field with a refined search. I’m more visible.

What’s more, I’ve seen an increase in sales resulting from this technique.

Another popular search was cozy mysteries kindle free.  So I applied that to my permafree title.  Another was cozy mystery new releases. So that keyword went onto the book that came out early this month.

We can change keywords at any time.  If we don’t see good results, we can revisit what we’re doing. Obviously, the best way to sell books is to have a professional product: nice cover, good cover copy, plenty of (fair) reviews, and more titles than fewer. But if something as small as tweaking metadata can help…and this didn’t take me but a few minutes…then I’m all for it.

I’ve also seen popular keywords added as subtitles to both fiction and nonfiction books.

A word of caution that we definitely don’t want to keyword stuff  (adding our keywords to our title, subtitle, and book description to an excessive degree…where it appears very forced) or else that could potentially lead to Amazon wanting to pull the title. We wouldn’t want to violate their Terms of Service.

How did you choose your keywords?  Have you ever done a keyword search on Amazon?

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20 thoughts on “Keywords for Visibility

    1. Alex–I hadn’t thought of it that way, but yes…longer search term = more narrowed. And a “keyword” at Amazon is a bit of a misnomer (and I should have stuck this in my post)—keyword strings are fine, y’all. So a key”word” can be cozy mysteries with cats. Each word doesn’t count as a keyword.

  1. Elizabeth – This is why I always learn from you! It’s one thing to know that key words are important ways for readers to find you. It’s another thing to really think about what key words will be the best choices to match readers with your books. As with anything in writing, a lot depends on effective word choice. I really have to start thinking about that!

    1. Margot–And this is where knowing our readers is just so, so important. That’s why it wasn’t a surprise to me that “cozy mysteries with cats” was a popular search term among my readers….I’m on Facebook with my readers and see their cat pictures on their walls.

  2. This is a great idea, but I can see where you might want to have some free time when you sit down to do it. There are definitely people I know who choose cozies because they have pets in them, renovating houses or have recipes in the back. Of course (true story), I recommend your books to people who read cozies and mysteries. In fact, I told Tessa (daughter) she could borrow my books (of yours) or download the free one to sample it. She loves mysteries.

    1. Teresa–You know, it’s one of those things that’s sort of fascinating…and fascinating stuff tends to turn into a time suck for me! So, definitely, either set a timer for yourself and think, “Okay, I’m going to find *1* better keyword than I’ve got. Setting timer for 10 minutes!” or else set aside some extra time when you’ve got some dead time. And thank you for the recommendations! I really appreciate it.

    1. Jack–You will be surprised what people search for! Or maybe ‘murder humor noir,’ since they’ll use a variety of terms (some of which seem odd choices for searches, but what do I know?)

  3. I need to work on my keywords too. It’s an ongoing challenge, actually.

    One thing authors should remember is that how search engines use keywords constantly changes. It’s a good idea to review them every year. (Besides, that’s one way to keep your book in front of the many small audiences who may like it. )

  4. Oh, interesting exercise–one that doesn’t even sound overly daunting… I’ve sort of ignored this keyword thing, too but probably to my detriment.

  5. Supercharge Your Kindle Sales by Nick Stephenson is a great resource on this topic. (I’m not associated with Nick, just a fan.) It will be the best $3.99 you’ll spend today…unless you get ice cream.

  6. Hi Elizabeth – I always used to get floored when I saw ‘keyword’ and saw a string of words. Thanks for this … great approach to checking for keyword terms for your books .. . – cheers Hilary

  7. My friend and I are two of those readers of ‘cozy mysteries with cats’. Which means, there better really be a cat Character in the story! We especially hate it when there is a cat on the cover but no cat character in the story. (It may be the publisher’s fault, sticking a sell-the-book-cat on the cover, but it still reflects on the author to readers.) Keywords there are ‘cat character’… I also write those cozy mysteries with cats, so I will try those keywords, since the cat in my mysteries obviously had to satisfy my reading friend and I and be a real part of the story. That said, I feel I need to add: I liked the books I read by you, cat or no cat. merry day, Sara

    1. Sara–Thanks for this! And you’re absolutely right…keywords also need to ring *true!* We can’t pick them merely for popularity. I’d be just like you and disappointed if I chose a particular theme and it wasn’t part of the story at all.

      Give it a go with your keyword changes and see how it works out. Hope it’s a good change for you! And thanks. :)

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