You get to choose two categories for your book on Amazon, and seven keywords. Your book’s title, sub-title, blurb, categories, and keywords all go towards producing its metadata – the stuff that Amazon’s search engine uses to make your book discoverable to buyers searching for something to buy. That’s the fabulous thing about getting your metadata as useful as you can. People who search Amazon are looking to purchase. They’re not wanting information like when they use Google. In fact, Amazon’s search engine is not the same as Google.

Amazon’s search engine actually has its own moniker – A9. Not a very romantic name, but it is individual nevertheless. Amazon wants to get a specific sale rather than direct searchers to information as Google does. So A9 works a little differently. You may have noticed a sharp zooming up the rankings when you have a couple of sales of your books after a long slump. This is because with Amazon’s algorithm recent sales will trump overall sales. This is what sends your book to rub shoulders with Wilbur Smith for a couple of days—unless of course sales continue to come in, in which case your rankings will stay consistent. So already we have a distinct difference to the way that Google ranks pages.

Click through rate counts too, especially when they result in sales, so the more people who are shown your book on the SERP (search engine results page), and click through to it and buy it, the better for its rank. With Google the click through rate obviously doesn’t have to result in a sale, so once again we have A9 doing its job a little differently. Verified reviews from readers who bought your book or downloaded it on a free day will also get you more sweeties for your ranking haul than will unverified reviews.

SEO boffins who can help you rank on Google are not going to be very helpful with your book’s landing page with their knowledge, because Amazon frowns on keyword stuffing, so those little tricks of shoving keywords all over the place are not something you want A9 to notice. There are internet marketers (for want of a fruitier word) who have book sub-titles sentences long. Sooner or later they’ll be getting into trouble, so don’t try to do that.

A9 will use all the information that you give it to make your book as discoverable in searches as possible if you use the space you are given wisely. Your most potent keywords for searching are to be found in your book’s title and subtitle. This is much more wonderful for non-fiction books though, as it can look a little odd adding specific keywords to fiction titles. Your blurb is next, so judicious placing of a keyword or two isn’t a sin if it is actually relevant to what you are saying. If it’s a blatant SEO tactic that makes little connection to the actual book, once again, don’t do it. Do be aware though, of the usefulness of all the information that you put on your book’s sales page when it comes to buyers searches, and use what you honestly can.

So finally we come to the keywords themselves. Amazon gives you seven of them, and they can be long-tailed. In other words each of those seven can be a phrase rather than a single word, each separated by a comma. There is a character limit for each one though, so you can generally only add up to three word phrases. Don’t duplicate anything from your title here. Those words are all already available to the search engine. I don’t see any harm in using one of your category sub-headings as a keyword though, if you really want to see your book in a very specific category.

Amazon suggests some useful keyword types such as setting, character types, character roles, plot themes, and story tone. These pretty much cover most plots so are useful to help when you’re thinking out your keyword list. Make sure to get the best use of them as I said before by not adding words that are already in your title, blurb, name and so on.  As always there are also the don’ts. Don’t ever use words like free, bestseller, or famous author’s names and book titles.

Don’t stress too much first time around though, because you can change categories and keywords anytime you like. Happy ranking fellow scribblers.