Amazon SEO: How Optimization Can Help You Sell More Books


Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts and adjunct professor at NYU, is a bestselling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns.

Amazon is a search engine. And with more than 4,500 books published each day, it’s increasingly important to make your book stand out from the rest of the pack.

Learning how to do this is key, especially if your topic gets less attention because its potential audience is smaller. But it’s doable. Here’s how it works.

Amazon Keywords

If you’re like most authors, you can improve the way Amazon keywords work for you. By taking a little time to follow the strategies in this article, you can draw in more potential readers. And I don’t have to tell you that this is how you sell more books.

The trick for you is going to be learning how to use them to get the most bang for your book. And that entails getting to know your customer’s needs.

Consider the steam mop. Ever heard of it? Well if not, you may want to get one. Unless you like cleaning your floors with a regular mop that doesn’t kill germs. Who wants that? And did you know that you can also clean carpets and rugs with a steam mop?

See what I did there? I got you to go from “What the heck is a steam mop?” to “Well, yeah, I want to keep my floors germ-free!”


The concept above is called alignment—or connecting two otherwise unrelated ideas to sell your book.

However, before you can bring it into practice, you need to figure out your customer’s problem. The one that you’re about to solve.

Earlier this year I was doing an optimization for a book about managing chronic Lyme disease. This is a tough market, because it’s not a big one. The potential audience is much smaller than, for example, the potential audience for people wanting to learn about financial planning. Everyone wants to make and save more money, but not everyone has chronic Lyme disease and an interest in learning how to manage it.

As a result, “Lyme disease” wasn’t an effective Amazon keyword to use.

But upon learning that Lyme disease often presents as other health problems—including thyroid issues, arthritis, and other more commonly searched ailments—I knew I had found our alignment. I was able to present the author with a set of keywords that tied her book to those issues and got it in front of readers looking for alternative disease management options.

The critical takeaway here is that you need to be sure your book description matches this train of thought so that your potential reader sees it and thinks, Oh, this is a new idea. Maybe there’s something to it!

As you do this, your book should become the reader’s end need. It should solve their “problem,” be it entertainment, education, or enlightenment. But your keywords should appear long before readers would naturally get there on their own, meeting them at the start of their search.

Understanding Amazon

I said initially that Amazon is a search engine. But to successfully employ Amazon keywords, you’ll also need to learn how Amazon works.

Amazon spiders book and product pages—this is pretty similar to how Google and other search engines spider your website. Consumer search patterns are important to consider when you’re trying to decide what keywords you’ll use. For example, you wouldn’t just Google “books.” Instead, you’d Google “romance books” or “second-chance romance books.”

Keyword Search

So how do you find Amazon keywords that will work for your book?

First, do a keyword search on Amazon. But use the Kindle side rather than the book side. For one, the Kindle side allows you to dig deeper into your genre. And for two, so many books are ebook only that you’ll get more complete results here.

So to do this, you’ll select “Kindle Store” from the drop-down menu, leave the search bar blank, and click the orange search button.

Screenshot 2017-11-29 14.33.11.png

Then click “Kindle eBooks” under “Kindle Store”


And then select whatever genre you’re in. So for this test, let’s use “Mystery, Thriller & Suspense.”


Once you’re there, you’ll see this screen:


Beneath your genre, you’ll see more options to keep drilling down. Choose one that’s appropriate, and one that’s not overly packed with books (in this case, perhaps “Crime Fiction” or “Suspense”).

Then start typing these keywords into the search bar and see what Amazon’s search pulls up in the drop-down menu.

Not all will be a good fit, but they’ll offer you a good start on your keyword search.


So as you develop your list of keywords, keep the following in mind:

  1. Use keyword strings only, not single keywords. Think about how you’d search Google.
  2. Don’t blindly follow Amazon’s recommendations (like those above).
  3. As you get Amazon’s suggestions, check out each page in a new tab to see what books are there and their sales rank. The lower the number the better (a book with a rank of 10,000 is performing better than one ranked at 100,000).
  4. Ignore books running free promotions, because they don’t offer an accurate picture of how the string is performing.
  5. Kindle Unlimited books won’t skew your results, so definitely look at these books as you go.

Going through this process can be a lot of fun. It’s not an exact science, but you’ll be able to get some really strong keywords to help your book perform better.

Use the first few weeks as a litmus test. If you’re not seeing changes, then take some time to revisit your keywords. It’s a good idea to review them quarterly too. Amazon adds new categories from time to time, so you’ll want to stay on top of that. And what’s trending does change, so you may find something in the news that you can align with.

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