Driving traffic to your Kindle book – keyword research

I’ve already written about keyword research in more general terms in my article Using keyword research to build traffic, so if you want to go back to basics then that might help you. This article is about doing keyword research specifically to help you succeed with your Kindle eBook.

Why are keywords important for Kindle books?

Well, Amazon is a search engine for buyers so, just as you’d choose your keywords with care if you wanted to rank well in Google, then you’ll need to do similarly if you want to rank well in Amazon and, in particular, the Kindle Store. Is there a difference? Obviously much of it is going to be the same for whatever you’re doing — ideally you want to target keywords with high demand and low competition — so I’m not going to go back over those basics here.

As we found when researching for Part 2 of this article, on niche selection, there was no shortage of information on the Internet about how to use keyword research to drive traffic to your Kindle books. But much of that looks like rubbish written by people who don’t seem to know what they’re talking about, or it’s just more hype. A lot of it is about trying to persuade you to buy some badly written MMO recipe to ensure your success.

Therefore, it seems as though there’s a lot of digging to do to cut through the crap, and get to the good stuff about how you really go about it. Even when you find useful articles, there are often conflicting views about using keywords to build traffic to your Kindle books. Let’s have a look at some of the more interesting ones.

Long tail keywords

On the subject of long tail keywords, some writers tell you how to do it while others say long tail isn’t relevant for Amazon.

This is going to be a real shocker for many people. We’ve been taught over the past few years to go after the long-tail keywords and leave the broad keywords to the dumb deep-pocketed corporations who don’t know any better.

While that may be true for search engine rankings, it’s not true for Kindle Marketplace Rankings. In fact, right now it’s as easy to get your ebook ranked high in the Kindle Marketplace for a broad keyword as it was in 1997 to get your website ranked on page one in the search engines.

This won’t be the case for very long but the people who take advantage of it now will reap the rewards for years.
(JamesJJones.com: Kindle publishing)

Could this be true? Certainly long tail keywords have helped with traditional SEO, hence the past popularity of various strategies such as keyword stuffing and EMDs. Regarding the use of long tail keywords for SEO, is the author suggesting that Amazon hasn’t yet reached this stage or that perhaps they’re going down a different path altogether?

In my very limited experience (I published one Kindle book about a week ago), I found what he said to be true. My book quickly rose to #18 on Amazon.co.uk and #17 on Amazon.com for the very broad keyword of “Bangkok”. But not everyone can do this, surely. It’s like all these spammy companies who “guarantee” to get your site on page one of Google. Not everyone can be first. In any case, it’s more likely that much of my book’s early success was as a result of how I promoted it (perhaps more about promotion in a future article) rather than because of my feeble attempt at keyword selection in the rush to take part in the Kindle Challenge.

So, will the long tail develop more relevance in Amazon as the Kindle publishing phenomenon grows? James J Jones seems to suggest it will. And, as he says, get into Kindle publishing early because on Amazon success breeds success. As with any search engine, the higher you rank, the more people click through, and therefore the more potential customers you have. It’s definitely worth being early to market. I’m hoping all the niches are not yet swamped with dreck so I’m still in with a chance of making a few bob.

On which subject, something has to happen before Kindle gets completely choked by people publishing rubbish and succeeding (making money) by gaming the system. Will Amazon just stand by? Perhaps it’ll have to create its own version of Panda to come and eat all the bottom-feeders. Apparently they did do a big “Amazon slap” in the summer of 2011, in which they removed a lot of duplicate and PLR content and closed down many accounts. Given how the Kindle Store looks today, it’s high time they did something like that again. In any case, as Kindle publishing’s popularity grows, it simply must become more difficult to rank well for broad search terms. Will the cream rise to the top or will the turds float?

Might it be a good idea to start targeting the long tail keywords before it’s really necessary? I think so, because things don’t usually change overnight (unless it’s a Google algo) so you might as well start off how you mean to go on in the long term.

Here’s some advice about going beyond just using the broad keywords.

As you have probably guessed by now, keywords are very important on Amazon, too. You can use the keywords you use for SEO but you can also take advantage of the options Amazon offers. For instance, Amazon gives you a bunch of ‘Related Searches’. Check if these keywords are OK for you. Keep going on till you get the keywords that best match your book. Try sticking to keywords found in the ‘Related Keywords’ suggestions because these tend to be the most popular ones. If this piece were an Amazon book rather than an article, some of the other keywords we would have chosen to optimize for are: Kindle Listing Optimization, Kindle Optimization, Kindle self publishing Optimization tips, Make your Kindle Ebook free.
(Webconfs.com: Promoting your Amazon Kindle eBook)

Presumably the benefit of doing your keyword research in this way is because Amazon will suggest keywords and phrases which are already popular on Amazon. After all, what’s the point in choosing what’s popular on Google if you’re selling something on Amazon? On the other hand, if you have a companion website which you use to drive traffic to your book on Amazon, then it would be advantageous to use Google keywords to rank the site well on Google.

Choosing your book’s title

Many, if not most, writers say that your keywords are important for your title, and suggest how to research them. Inevitably, they recommend the Google Keyword Tool. Hey! It must be true cos everybody says so. I read it on the Internet.

Use keywords in your description AND your title. It’s a common mistake for people new to Kindle publishing to only include your keywords in the provided area by Amazon. It’s important to populate this area with well-researched keywords but if you really want to give your book a boost in the rankings, there is a better way.

The secret is to embed a couple of choice keywords in the title of your book. I usually do this with a dash and treat it almost like a sub-headline. Using our example from above, take a look at the title:

Treat and Beat Acne – The 3 Step Treatment to Clear Skin

A quick visit over to the Google Keyword Tool and doing a search for acne gives me a couple of high-volume keywords that I’d like to use for my title.
(JonWiggens.com: 3 simple ways to get your Kindle book noticed and sold)

Keyword research – identify popular keyword words and phrases that real customers use when searching for a book on a topic of interest. Keyword heavy titles are IN; catchy, weird titles are OUT. (Use the Google Keyword Tool to research keyword search volume).
(Jason McDonald:Book marketing, browsing and SEO: does Amazon Search change everything?)
Jason McDonald

Note how this recommendation is in total disagreement with what James J Jones has to say on the subject.

Don’t use Google’s keyword tool to find Kindle markets

That’s like trying to travel in Australia with a map of America. You can only go the wrong direction. You see… the Google searcher is quite different from the Amazon buyer.

And you know what? Even without seeing more of his Kindle Triangulation product, I’m inclined to agree with Mr Jones and had already come to that conclusion myself.

In conclusion

Yes, I think that a bit of keyword research will help. Despite it being relatively easy to rank for broad keywords even now, it’ll become increasingly difficult as the market expands. It’s not a great idea to use the Google Keywords tool to find good Amazon keywords – it’s a different audience.

But, as with everything on the Internet, things change all the time, so for much of the time you just have to suck it and see. Some people would add, “test, test, test” to that but I would rather move on to the next new thing instead of doing boring tests. (That’s probably why I’m not an Internet millionaire yet.)


5 Responses to “Driving traffic to your Kindle book – keyword research”

  1. Makeit

    Interesting info. Kay can you give some references in regards to Amazon marketplace for product ranking( e.g.Amazon store)and how can one rank high for a product?

  2. Kay

    Hi Kenny

    Sorry, this is all new for me and I’m learning as I go along, and sharing my findings here. My Kindle book is my first attempt at trying to rank well in the Amazon search engine. I’ve learned quite a lot in the process and will post again with updates of how I’m getting on with it all.

    So far, I’ve made about a dozen sales. That’s never going to make me rich but now the book is written, it’s passive income. I need to scale it up wih more books, but these take a bit of time to write as I prefer to create original products rather than spin other people’s work.


  3. Chris

    Nice article. Enjoyed the read, and some of the links. Looking for ideas as I despise keyword research. Google or Amazon.

  4. Jonah

    One thing I’ve noticed about Kindle and book ranking is a bit beyond the keywords. For instance, some books rank for particular keywords – with no sign of the keyword or an LSI! Granted tagging by purchasers helps you in that aspect but I’ve found that properly done off page SEO, very similar to your site, works wonders as well. In fact I’ve ranked a few books over well known authors (granted a handful were in very odd markets).
    In fact, i swear by it, but something else I do is I go out at the end of each Kindle book and ask people to talk about what they liked and didn’t like with others!

  5. Kay

    Thanks for the comments. It’s a year since I wrote the post and I was a complete newbie at Kindle publishing then (one week experience, LOL).

    Things have changed a lot since then – both on Kindle and regarding my own opinions. I still don’t have a full understanding of how downloads (especially via free promotions) and reviews really help to push a book up the Amazon SERPs. I’ve seen books without any reviews at all rank quite well, although that’s unusual.

    I usually don’t just rely on Amazon to promote the book – why would they care about my book when they have countless others to sell? So, I do quite a bit of promotion elsewhere too to raise awareness of the books, mainly on my other sites and in forum sigs.


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