A beginner's guide to Amazon KDP keyword research

  • Amazon Kindle keywords are what people normally type in search to find books they'd like to read.
  • Using the right keywords ensures your book appears in front of the right audience for the right search terms.
  • You can find how people search for free using Amazon and Google. There are more advanced tools which can show you more advanced information, such as search volume. 

Are you a budding writer keen to start selling books online? The only thing standing in your way is a publisher. Lucky for you, nowadays you can just bypass that hurdle! Authors and intrepid booksellers can self-publish pretty easily using Amazon KDP.

It’s easy to get that book out, but harder to get eyes on it, which is why every Amazon KDP author needs a guide to finding the right keywords to put up ads for!

This guide covers all the free ways you can do keywords research (we also feature more advanced paid tools too!) and the latest best practice.

What is Amazon KDP?

Before we can dive into keyword research, what is Amazon KDP? It stands for Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, and to put it simply its Amazon’s self-publishing platform.

Amazon’s KDP is one of the tools authors can use to self-publish their book online. Publishing through KDP makes an eBook available on Amazon to Kindle readers. Authors can sell ebooks, paperbacks and even hardcovers! All physical copies are produce on demand.

Another perk besides just ease and speed of publishing, is that you can earn up to 70% royalties per sale depending on the region.

To create a "Title" (what Amazon calls your book project), you'll need:

  • The final manuscript which will allow you start creating your book.
  • Your book cover file(s). You can publish only as an ebook, paperback or hardback... or all three at the same time!
  • The book description and to pick the categories which are relevant to your book.
  • Choose the right keywords so people searching for books like yours can find it!
  • ISBNs are free and included with Amazon KDP. But you can still buy one yourself if you want (how it comes with a few caveats)

How long does it take to successfully self-publish on Amazon?

Books are normally reviewed and published within the day, but it may take up to 72 hours. Your book will then appear on Amazon Books and Kindle and potential readers will be able to find it!

What are Amazon Kindle keywords?

Keywords are what potential readers type in Amazon's search when looking for a book. It's the keyword phrases which have the potential to surface your book in the search results.

The better and more relevant the keywords, the higher the chance your book will appear in front of the right reader (and higher up at that!).

Why? Because readers search for what they want to buy, and the top 3-4 results have the strongest chance of selling, as we'll see below.

How to know if the keywords you pick are actually good?

As mentioned, relevancy is key but there are a couple of other important aspects to it. Ideally, when choosing book keywords you'd want them to be:

  1. Phrases people actually use to search for books.
  2. Keywords which surface your book in front of people willing to buy your book.
  3. Carefully picked because some keywords are low competition.

Example keywords for fiction books:

If you're writing a fictional book you can use the following keyword ideas:

  • Character type and/or role (strong female, single dad)
  • Plot and theme (young adult, adventure)
  • The tone of the story (feel-good, profound)
  • Setting (time, place)
  • Genre or genre flavour (epic love story, wholesome)

Example keywords for non-fiction books:

When writing non-fiction you can focus on keywords which give a flavour of what the book is about. You can ask yourself the following questions and the answers is what you can use as keywords:

  • What is your target audience?
  • What would the reader gain after reading your book?
  • What are the main highlights and key insights?

Amazon has a pretty comprehensive list of types of keywords to avoid. Some of the advice is quite obvious but here are some things worth remembering:

  • Make sure there are no spelling or grammar mistakes.
  • Avoid using subjective works like "best novel ever".
  • Avoid anything that can be viewed as misrepresentative.
  • Common, broad descriptive words (book, novel, ebook).
  • Don't use time-sensitive keywords like "on sale", "new" or "available now".
  • Don't use Amazon's own brand names like "Kindle", "Kindle Unlimited" or "Kindle Select".

If you want to delve into this, you can go through Amazon's terms and conditions.

How to find the best keywords for Amazon KDP?

Choosing the right keywords can take some time, but carefully carried out keyword research will help your book be more discoverable. Once you have started creating your "Title", you'll quickly get to this screen:

Looks like a simple form but picking the right keywords would mean your book will appear in front of the right audience, looking for books in your genre and category.

Thinking off the top of your head isn’t going to cut it, you need to collect keyword data and do some analysis.

Good keyword research can help you pick a better title, description and category for Amazon:

Find what people actually type into Amazon for free

This is the most basic, but free and powerful, way of finding potential keywords for your book listing.

Amazon search autocompletes your search as you type which can give you some ideas as to what could be popular search terms. You've probably seen it on Google and Bing too as both have this autofill function:

You can experiment with typing different keywords, and you can expand the list by starting new words with every letter from the alphabet! You may want to do this while logged out (or in Incognito mode) so that your past search and order history doesn't impact the results you see.

Amazon's own recommendations for choosing the best keywords include the following advice:

  • Think like a potential reader and try to anticipate how people search.
  • Combine keywords in the most logical order.
  • Watch your keyword length and don't include more than seven keywords.

Make a note of the keywords you see - they can be your 'seed' keywords which can serve as basis to help find more relevant phrases.

See what people search for on Google

Another free way to do keyword research. You can carry out the exact same type of search, but this time on Google. The autocomplete is likely to show an even larger breadth of relevant keywords:

The results would also show other "Related Searches" and "People Also Ask" questions which further help you decide what keywords to use.

Related Searches
People Also Ask

Feeling like you need more information and wondering which tool is used for Amazon keyword research? Keep reading. There's more to it then just the phrases.

The next section will show you how to find keyword search volumes (how often people use these keywords).

Ahrefs & Google Keyword Planner

Once you have a list of the main "seed" keywords you found using autocomplete, you can further expand the list and find more information (such as search volume) using these two tools.

Google Keyword Planner can help you find more relevant keywords and find the avg. monthly searches (it may even help you determine seasonality which can help you understand when you can expect more sales!)

Search volume data is the most fundamental metric to look at, because it tells you the most popular search queries readers are typing into Google.

Ahrefs is also very good, because you can limit your search to only on Amazon, and see search volume on Amazon specifically. This cuts out a lot of unnecessary data from Google.

Reverse ASIN lookup tools

Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) is a ten-digit alphanumeric code that identifies products on Amazon.

For more detailed keyword harvesting, we highly recommend using Reverse ASIN Lookup Tools. Our favourite tool to use is Cerebro by Helium10, because it really shows a vast amount of data. Another good too lis JungleScout’s Keyword Scout.

Reverse ASIN lookup is infinitely useful, because it gets you keywords from the best source possible - your competitors.

Here’s how to use a reverse ASIN lookup to find keywords:

  1. Enter some seed keywords into Amazon that are related to your book.
  2. Make a list of the top competitors ASINs that show up.
  3. You can do this faster using web scraping tools.
  4. Enter 8-10 of these competitor ASINs into Cerebro
  5. Set some filters to refine your search, for example - minimum search volume: 100 and maximum word count: 6.
  6. Export all the data into an Excel and sort by Search Volume.
  7. Refine the raw keywords by relevancy to shorten the list.

Helium10 really offers the most robust keyword research tools there are when it comes to Amazon. Besides Cerebro which is a reverse ASIN lookup, you can also use Magnet, which extrapolates more keywords from your seed keywords.

For example, we entered “true crime serial killer” as our seed keyword into Magnet and got over 2000 results as shown below.

On the Helium10 free trial you can only use Cerebro twice a day. We recommend signing up for the Platinum Plan which costs $99/month because you get unlimited uses of Cerebro and Magnet with it.

Amazon advertising console

Another robust option is actually using Amazon Advertising itself! Amazon’s automatic advertising campaigns can pull in tons of keyword and keyword data in just a month. Set a decent budget for it, and let Amazon do the work.

By the end of the month, you’ll have at least 100 keywords, and the perfect metrics to judge them by. You can export all your keyword data, and filter using 3 key metrics- Click-through rate (CTR), Conversion Rate (CVR), and Advertising Cost of Sale (ACoS).  We’re looking for high CTR and CVR, and low ACoS.

Using those three filters you’ll find the absolute best keywords you should be running ads for.

You may be thinking… If Amazon’s so great, why not keep those automatic campaigns running? Why bother with a manual campaign? The truth is automatic campaigns can start cutting into your wallet really, really fast.

Amazon bids very aggressively, so it’s important to shift over to a manual campaign with your best keywords so you can manage your ad budget.

Running an ad campaign for a short period of time can help you find the best keywords. Later if you decide to put some money behind the promotion of your book, you can come back and use what you've learnt!

We'd recommend Amazon KDP authors to use a dedicated Amazon PPC (pay-per-click) software, such as SellerMetrics. The tool can help research, inform bidding and help you run more profitable Amazon advertising campaigns.

How to refine, add and update keywords

If you have already published your book and want to make sure it's targeting the right keywords, you can refine your keyword list.

Obviously, finding keywords using the aforementioned tools will get you tons of results.Now you need to refine that list down to just highly relevant keywords. For that, you need to understand how keyword relevancy works.

Here’s a typical example of what we mean by keyword relevancy for a product called the Yoga Wheel:

Keywords Relevancy Comment
yoga equipment 50% Quite a general term that covers lots of different yoga products.
yoga wheel 90% This is the precise name of the product, it's very relevant.
10 inch yoga wheel 100% It's the name of the product AND matches the variation.

You can follow this same principle pretty easily for books too. For example, you’ve written a non-fiction book about serial killers. Let’s look at the keyword relevancy table for this hypothetical book:

Keywords Relevancy Comment
crime 50% A very general genre term that can cover many types of crime-related books.
true crime 90% A much more specific term that applies to a specific kind of book.
true crime serial killer 100% Highly specific to your book in particular AND the most relevant.

The list you end up with can be used to fill out that initial form we showed at the beginning of this guide. To edit your existing Kindle book you can follow these steps:

  1. Sign in to: https://kdp.amazon.com.
  2. Go to your Bookshelf and click the ellipsis button ("…") under the KINDLE EBOOK ACTIONS, PAPERBACK ACTIONS or HARDCOVER ACTIONS menu next to your book.
  3. Select "Edit eBook Details", "Edit Paperback Details" or "Edit Hardcover Details".
  4. Under the "Keywords" section, make the edits you want.
  5. Go to the bottom of the page and click Save and Continue.
  6. Once you reach the book Pricing page, click the Publish button at the bottom of the page.

Now you'll have a much better chance at appearing in front a better audience! Plus, you've probably learned more about how people search for your type of books! Who knows, maybe this will help you understand how to promote your book better.

How long does it take for new keywords to appear?

Once you've added and update your keywords, it can take up to 48 hours - same as other updates made to the author name, title, description, publisher, and ISBN.

Advice from a published writer
This article is always evolving and being updated regularly by our expert writers. Information featured in it has been fact-checked and verified.
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