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How to Get a Book on First Page Amazon (Keywords 101 for Authors)

online business writing

Below is an excerpt from my new book releasing Summer 2020. If you would like to watch a live video I streamed on this same subject, click here.


If you are familiar with online marketing, then you might already know what keywords are and why they matter.

But since many of the authors I work with are experts in their fields, and not necessarily in digital marketing, I like to review this topic so that you can get a better understanding of the landscape you are entering.

By the end of this article, you will understand not just WHAT keywords to choose, but WHY you are choosing them. These small things make all the difference.



When you want to learn something in today's world, the first step is to Google it.

We pull up the Google search bar, type in something related to what we want, and up pops a page full of answers. Sometimes what we want is right at the top. Other times, we have to scroll down a few options to find what we are looking for.

 The way Google organizes these results is all done through a complex computer system called an algorithm.

An algorithm is just like a math formula you would learn in school, except its able to process a tremendous amount of information and produce a huge variety of answers.

Algorithms are machines. They don't work by emotion. You can't sweet-talk them into helping you out. Like any other machine – a car or toaster – they need certain elements in place in order to perform their function well.

As creators, we can control one of the most powerful elements of the algorithm machine: the keywords.

Keywords are terms, individual words, and short phrases that the algorithm uses to connect what people are searching for with what people have made.

If you want people to be able to find your book, then you need to understand what people are looking for. And once you know what people are searching for, then you can type in keywords that will help the algorithm do its job and show your book to exactly the type of people who want to buy it. 

Amazon, like Google, has an algorithm it uses to help people find what they are looking for. The machine they use is continually updating and improving, and this often makes people nervous because people don't like change.

I never worry about these changes and here's why.

I understand the fundamentals behind why people would want to read my books and what people are searching for when they are looking for a book like mine.

Amazon wants to make more money, so they want to show people the kinds of books their customers are most likely to buy. If you stick to this logic, you won't have anything to worry about it either, no matter what changes come down the road.

You will be creating books that have value and choosing keywords that lead the right kind of readers straight to your book.


Types of Keywords

There are two primary types of keywords you need to know to use them well within the Amazon KDP system: short-tail and long-tail keywords.

The easiest way to remember the difference is pretty simple, how long are your keywords.

Shorter ones are short-tail and longer ones are long-tail. However, there is a difference in how each one works and when you should choose one over the other. 

Short-tail keywords are defined as containing three or fewer words. Because of the limited size, these are also called broad, generic, or head keywords. These are the heavy hitters because most people search quickly.

You don't find many people typing in long sentences into Google.

Most internet users won't type in “how old is Oprah Winfrey today?” They type in "Oprah age" or "Oprah Winfrey age."

They boil down what they want to know in as few words as possible, and the algorithms fill in the gaps to give them the best result possible. Because so many people rely on shorter keywords for their searches, that means the competition for each one is very high. 

 We are going to use a tool later that will help you discover the best keywords for your book and genre. In there, I will show you an example of short-tail vs. long-tail so that you can see the different levels of competition and why it’s ideal to have a mix of both.

You want short-tail keywords because they are what people are searching for, and over time as your book gains traction, it will rank higher for the keywords you associated with it.

So if you pick the right short-tail keyword, it can pay off BIG in the long run.

I usually split my keywords into half short-tail and half long-tail, although I always experiment, and I have gone back to change and update my keywords on nearly every book I've published.

My advice is that once you enter your keywords, do not change them for at least the first full year that your book is published.

The algorithms need time to understand what your book is and how certain customers react to your work.

If you're continually updating and changing this core element, it will confuse the systems that are trying to sell your book, and it will fall off the search results.


Let's jump to long-tail keywords. These are valuable for two reasons.

First, they are specific. You can target a particular question or topic or audience with the right long-tail keyword. It allows you to stand out from your competition and sets you apart within the online marketing system.

This leads us to reason two that long-tail keywords are so vital, and that is because they have MUCH less competition than short-tail ones. 

Let's say you want to write a cookbook on vegan recipes because you did some research and discover that that term receives about 500,000 searches every month on Amazon.

That is incredible, but then you also notice that the competition rating is very high.

 There are thousands of books battling for that little 2-word keyword. You take a step back and try to think of how you can differentiate yourself. You will still use the "vegan recipes" keyword for your book because it represents what you are writing about and, over time, could bring in lots of traffic to your book and help people convert because it shows them that this is what they are looking for.

After some additional research, you see that the keyword "easy Hispanic vegan recipes" is an option. It has far fewer searches (only 5,000 per month, 1/100th of the short-tail keyword), but you see that the competition is also far less as well (there are only five books on the topic).

Ranking for this keyword would be much easier and potentially much more profitable. 

This touches on the subject of finding your niche, something we will talk about in a later chapter. But the idea is simple: it's more profitable to have a large piece of a small pie than it is to fight for a very small piece of an enormous pie. 

To review very quickly, short-tail keywords are usually three words or less, are more generic, and have the potential for very high search volume.

Long-tail keywords are more than three words (I usually cap mine at around 6), are more specific, but have less competition. 


Both Conversion and Traffic

Keywords have the potential to be a source of conversion as well as traffic.

A large part of the reason we choose certain keywords over others is because of the number of eyeballs they are going to get for our book. However, that is only one half of the equation.

We will talk about it again in the section on traffic.

For us, in this section, we want to focus on keywords telling the reader "hey, this is what you are looking for."

Never forget that even though we are selling our books in a digital age, where computers and machines and algorithms determine a number of factors, in the end, we are always speaking and selling directly to another human being.

A person with real questions and difficulties, who has a real problem or desire which led them to seek out an answer.

Which, in turn, brought them to your book. In a moment, the keywords you choose to represent your book can either make or break that reader's perception of it. 


Where do Keywords go?

In our KDP dashboard, there are a number of ways in which you can incorporate keywords into your book’s information. The first and most obvious location is the keyword section. 

As of writing this, Amazon gives you room for eight different keyword slots. There is some debate on whether or not the order matters. Those are details we don't need to worry about so long as you are focusing on entering quality keywords that will help the right kind of readers find your books.

In addition to those spaces in the keyword section, Amazon will also take into account the keywords found in a few other places:

  • Your title
  • Your subtitle
  • Your series title
  • Your author name & contributors
  • And your description.

I have a separate chapter discussing how to create a great description for your book. It's vital that you remember keywords should play a key role in what you write, especially for non-fiction. 

As you grow your author or influencer brand, your name will carry more and more weight as its own search keyword.

Also, if you have the opportunity to co-write a book with one or more established authors, that will help you as those names will themselves be additional fuel for people to find and decide to buy your book. 

Finally, the title, subtitle, and series title all play a role in influencing the keywords Amazon decides to recognize and display for its searching customers. One example I can show you is a project I recently worked on titled Habits That Change Your Life.

Now, this title was primarily an experiment in keywords, so it's an excellent example for me to show you.

First of all, the title itself was a long-tail keyword I discovered had adequate traffic and very low levels of competition. Plus, it was natural enough that it still sounded like a book title, and didn't come across like I was trying to force a keyword to fit.

If a keyword sounds unnatural, like it's not something people would naturally say aloud or in conversation, then it’s better to use it as a search keyword and not place it in your title or subtitle.

If we look at the rest of the title, you can see that I have three additional short-tail keywords in the subtitle: “stop procrastinating,” “inspire creativity,” and “increase your happiness.”

Again, my research led me to find these items.

Over the course of the nearly two dozen titles I have published, many of my books have longer subtitles, so my audience is used to reading more information in that form.

Make sure when looking into your niche, you review what the most successful authors are doing. One of my favorite quotes is "Good artists copy; great artists steal."

There's a good way and a bad way to do this.

The bad way is just to see what someone else is doing and do exactly the same thing, expecting the same results. That strategy will only hurt you.

The smarter way is to find what is working and learn how to adapt it to fit your work, your audience, and your goals. 

Finally, if you notice my book is part of a short series I began titled "One Percent Better." This was a short-tail keyword that I found was doing very well on Google, and I wanted to see if this additional item would help people find my book and convert them into customers for it.

The reason I wanted to show you this specific example, and go into a little more detail about keywords, is that most authors don't go deep. They don't do their homework, and because of that, they limit their potential for success.

In KDP, there is only 1 section labeled keywords. But in reality, there are at least 6 separate sections in which you can use keyword related items to influence your reader's decision to buy your book, and Amazon's decision to show your book to customers. 

These are the kind of details that will set your book apart and set it up for success.


If you enjoyed this excerpt, I encourage you to check out my YouTube channel where I will announce when this book project will be released!