Assigning the right keywords to your eBook listing can help readers find your eBook. What do I mean by keyword in this situation? It's a word or phrase that you enter into a search box to get results. Ideally the system, be it Google or Bing for general searches, or Amazon and B&N for book searches, matches the keyword search term to its list and gives shoppers the results they are looking for.
For purposes of our discussion you can think of selecting keywords as search engine optimization for books. They are also part of a book's metadata, a larger set of information that describes your book including the title, contributors, categories, etc. (Click here to read our post about categories.)
Not all stores support keywords
Only two of the major eBook retailers support the use of keywords but these are the important two: Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Amazon accepts 7 keywords and B&N accepts 100 characters of text. Kobo and Apple do not support keywords.
By the way, Smashwords and Bookbaby also support the use of keywords but in different ways. Smashwords has no stated limit to the number you can use and in fact has a slick tool that pops up phrases that use the word you type into the search box. They call keywords tags and the tags come from other Smashword authors.
Bookbaby accepts 5 keywords but the only online store they send them to is Amazon. That's pretty odd when you consider that Amazon accepts 7.
Tools to find keywords
The trick to selecting keywords is remembering that it's not about choosing the words that you think describe your book's subject. It's using the words other people use when searching. It would be ideal if Amazon and B&N had tools to help you understand what people search for but they don't. Fortunately Google keeps track of what people search for and they make this information available for free. Simply do a Google search for the term Google AdWords Keyword Tool (paid services like Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery can also be used but they may be overkill for your needs).
Let's use the Google tool on a real-life example. Here are the steps:
1. You don't need an account, simply search for the term Google AdWords Keyword Tool and click the link.
2. Begin by typing in a few 2-3 word phrases related to your book. The example I'll use is from a recent title we did about the author's Cuban travel experience. The initial keyword list included these phrases:
3. Notice that very, very few people are typing these search terms into Google. Fewer than 10 searches for a single term! What we are looking for are words or terms about travel toCubathat get more searches; words that we haven't thought of. A little further down the page I discover other words likeHavana, music and travel get lots of searches.
4. Let's see what happens when we re-phrase the terms, this time thinking in terms of travel,HavanaandCuba. Here are the terms I entered and the results:
Again, you are using Google to help understand how people might be looking for your book on Amazon and B&N. You are also looking for terms that may not be present in your title or subtitle since these are already indexed by the store's search system.
As you can see there is some trial and error in picking terms and you need to think in terms of someone shopping for your book. But the key benefit of this extra work is that it helps you discover words and phrases that you would not have considered on your own.
As I said earlier it's not about how you would search, it's about understanding how the shopper might search.
By the way, this is a service that we perform when we handle distribution of your eBook. Contact us about managing direct distribution of your eBook.
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