how to use amazon keywords to sell more books

Penny Sansevieri is the author of several books, including How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon. She’s also the founder of Author Marketing Experts. We interviewed Penny back in Episode 22: Getting Red-Hot Internet Publicity for Your Book, where we talked a lot about how to get online publicity for your books. I wanted to bring her back again to continue our discussion about how to get publicity for your books online, and especially on Amazon, the largest retailer in the world.

In this fantastic interview, we talk about how to use keywords to increase your sales, the importance of gathering a street team, and how to get reviews to help boost your sales.

Amazon Is a Search Engine for Consumers

Amazon is not just a bookstore. It’s a search engine for consumers. There are two important things you can do to boost your ranking within Amazon.

  1. Get a consistent stream of reviews for your book. Reviews are like updates to your website or blog. Google likes to see regular updates to websites when it does its ranking. Amazon is the same way. The more regular reviews you have for your products, the more customers are interacting with your product, and so the higher you will rank, all other things being equal.
  2. Choose the right keywords. A lot of indie authors will pick single keywords when they choose the keywords for their book. It’s better to select longer keyword strings if you can. Studies have shown that longer keyword strings—or longtail keywords—end up being the keywords people use before they buy something. No matter what type of book you’re writing, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, you want to choose the keywords that your audience is most frequently typing in to find the type of book you’re working on.


how to use keywords to reach your audience

Keywords have within them the intent of the reader. The more specific the reader is about what they’re searching for, the more likely their intent is to buy.
– Tom Corson Knowles


How to Find the Keywords Your Audience Is Searching for

Penny recommends doing all the keyword research yourself. What you want to do is:

  1. Go to the Amazon Kindle store.
  2. Enter a search string that relates to your book.
  3. Judge the competitiveness of that keyword string based on the number of results that come up, and the sales rank of those results. The more books that rank for a particular keyword phrase, and the higher the sales rank of the books on the first page of search results, the more competitive a particular keyword phrase is.
  4. After you search the keyword phrases that come naturally to your mind, you can use the Amazon suggested searches that show up as you type. However, there will be times when Amazon’s suggested keyword searches aren’t relevant to the book that you are trying to rank. Be careful of that.

Penny has found it’s better to do this kind of keyword research manually because Amazon is changing all the time and every piece of software she’s tested isn’t as accurate as she would like.


How to Use the Keyword Strings You Find to Improve Your Sales

Penny likes to find 15 keyword strings that she can use to help her audience find her books. Amazon allows you to directly input seven keyword strings into your metadata to help customers find your book.

But there are other places keywords can go that will still help your readers find you. You can also put keywords:


It’s very important that you use the keyword strings you find naturally. You should not engage in any sort of keyword stuffing behavior, because that may get your book pulled from Amazon.

Penny likes to find 15 keyword strings, because you will often find that a particular keyword phrase stops working to attract readers to your book. Having 15 gives you a lot of backup options.

How to Tell If a Keyword Phrase Is Working for You

You can see if a keyword phrase is working for you by whether a particular book rises or falls in sales ranking if you change a keyword phrase. Penny likes to test her keyword phrases one at a time, especially if she’s in a crowded market, like dieting or dating.

To change your keyword strings:

  1. Go into your Author Dashboard.
  2. Select the book that you want to modify.
  3. Go to the keywords field and change the keyword string you want to test.
  4. Monitor your results. Typically, within 48 hours, you’ll be able to tell whether or not a book is rising or falling in the Amazon rankings.

You can also edit your book description to include the keyword you want to test. Amazon scans all the book description pages on its site and picks up on keywords used in them.

Tips for Getting More Sales from Keywords

  • Test your keywords.
  • Look at your keywords every three months. Things change on Amazon quickly and you need to adjust.
  • Check your Author Central page. If you go to the book details section, there are a lot of places you can add keywords organically to improve the discoverability of your books.
  • The information you put in the book details on your Amazon Author Central page will end up on your Amazon book description page, and Amazon’s spiders will pick up the keywords there.

How to Get Reviews for Your Book

Reviews are also critical for getting exposure for your books. The more people are reviewing your book (and reviewing it positively), the higher you can climb in Amazon’s rankings and the more people will trust your book and want to buy it.

Here’s how to get more reviews:

  1. Look for books similar to yours.
  2. If you click on the name of someone who has reviewed a book similar to yours, very often you will get contact details for that book reviewer. Look for people who review a lot of books. They will be better at giving you the type of detailed reviews that people respond to.
  3. Think about gathering your superfans together, even at the beginning of your writing career. Build a street team as quickly as possible. A street team is a group of people who will review every book you publish, and promote your book to their social networks.

It doesn’t matter how old your book is. As long as your book is still relevant, you should be gathering reviews for that book. Current reviews keep your book active on Amazon search rankings, and it’s also good psychologically for people to see that the information in your book hasn’t become outdated.

As your book ages, you should lower the price of the ebook; this will encourage more people to buy it and, hopefully, review it.

Don’t underestimate the power of asking your fan base to review your book. People have short attention spans, and asking them for a review reminds them how helpful reviews are. You’re much more likely to get a review if you ask for one.

I’ve found that when I ask for reviews and a fan of mine has already reviewed my work, they are likely to email me and tell me how much my work has improved their life, or tell me a story about how they have implemented the ideas in my book.

Another thing you can do is deeply discount the price of your book for one day and tell your email list about it. Tell them that if they know anyone who might want your book, it’s deeply discounted for a limited time. You should tell your fans that this is an effort to get more reviews, and you should collect the email addresses of as many of your new buyers as possible.

Superfans and Street Teams

Superfans are people who will buy every book that you write. They love what you write, and they will most likely leave a glowing review wherever they can.


Street teams are people who buy your books, review your books, and share your books with their friends.

Super fans get access to you.

Street teams get access to special deals because they’re helping to raise awareness that your book exists. In order to be a part of your street team, the members have to agree to promote your book when it comes out, and when you run special deals and promotions.

The Power of Micro-Influencers

Penny knows a romance author who has 10 people on her email list. But the 10 people on this author’s email list are superfans who share everything that she writes with their online social networks. Because those 10 people are not major influencers connected to huge networks, they have a much higher response rate than people with larger audiences.

Every person in your network is important and special. You never know which connection you make will lead to your breakthrough in discoverability.

How Often You Should Connect with Your Street Team

You should connect with your street team at least once a month to keep them up to date about what’s coming up. You also want to make sure you’re making them part of your book production process.

  • You could ask for their opinion if you’re making a book trailer
  • You could ask for their opinion on book covers.
  • You can ask them to name a character in your book.
  • If you’re writing a nonfiction book, ask them their opinion about the topics you cover in your book. Ask them if the information you cover is relevant to their life.

These are just four examples of how you can include your audience in the production of your book.

When you contact your street team members, make sure you have something valuable to say. Don’t just check in and say hi. They can get that from your social media feeds.

Play with Pricing to Boost Your Sales

The sweet spot for Amazon ebook pricing is between $2.99 and $5.99.

You want to make sure that your book is priced comparably with other books in your category.

If you have three or more books on Amazon, consider making one of them free. Making one of your books free keeps your name on the free charts at Amazon and gives you an audience of people with no barrier to discovering your work.

With three or more books on Amazon, you should always have at least one promo going. This will keep you active in Amazon’s algorithms and positively affect your sales ranking.

The Power of eBook Promos

ebook promos are relatively easy to set up. You sign up for a promo on a site that advertises your book at a reduced price. You choose the book you want to promote and you choose the dates that the book will be offered at a reduced price. You set it up on Amazon and then you’re done.

Reducing the price of one of your books on Amazon gives you the opportunity to find new readers who would not have tried you out otherwise. If they like the book they read, they’re much more likely to buy other books that you’ve written because they know, like, and trust you now.

Choosing promo days around a holiday weekend has been a good strategy for Penny.

Book Promotion Sites – the largest book promotion site in the world.


Not every book promotion site is going to be available on the promotion date you choose. It’s best to try and plan your book promotions in advance. If you’re not in a position to do that, just do a Google search for “book promotion site” and choose a book promotion site that is in your price range. Don’t forget to track your results.

You can also check out our lists of free and paid ebook promotion sites:

Promo sites for free ebooks

Promo sites for paid ebooks $0.99 and up

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Interview

Penny Sansevieri’s Amazon author page

How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon

The New Business Card – a book about how to use your nonfiction book to build your business (soon to be published)

Author Marketing Experts – this site has a ton of information about how to market your book.

Email Penny at: [email protected]