How to Rank Your Books on Amazon – A Guide to Amazon SEO for Publishers

How to Rank Your Books on Amazon – A Guide to Amazon SEO for Publishers

Amazon.com – the great eCommerce giant that owns the worlds largest product search engine

There’s more people searching for products to buy on Amazon than on Google and, what’s more – they have a whopping 65% share in the eBook market (as estimated by Forbes).

Hence, understanding the inner workings behind this powerful search engine will give you an edge and greatly increase your chances of success. You will know exactly which key elements to focus on to improve your rankings, increase exposure and sales.

Amazon’s Search Engine – An Overview

As you may already know, search engines like Google, Youtube and Amazon use algorithms make sense of a vast amount of information, whether that’s sorting websites (Google), videos (Youtube) or products (Amazon).

For Amazon specifically, the purpose of the search engine is to let the customer find exactly the product she is looking for (i.e. the most relevant and highest quality product). By doing this, Amazon maximizes the possibility of a sale. With ‘high quality’ in this context, I also mean ‘well performing’ – with a high conversion and high customer satisfaction rate.

The better the algorithm is at doing this, the higher the chance of a sale, the happier everyone is. All the metrics that are tracked (and amazon is notorious for tracking EVERYTHING, right down to where your mouse hovers!) and used to achieve the aforementioned goals.

Although the algorithm has not been made public, the main building blocks, the main elements that make it up have been figured out. Also, do note that the algorithm is tweaked fairly often but the main elements are quite unlikely to undergo major changes since the algorithm is working very well.

Okay, so far so good?

Next, it’s important to know how book discovery happens on amazon. The 2 primary ways that customers find books are:

1) by searching for it via amazon’s search function

and 2) by finding it on bestseller lists

Both of these complement one another – the higher your listing ranks in search results, the higher you rise in bestseller lists and the more exposure you will gain through bestseller lists. It’s very much like a cycle. The great cycle of amazon…

What could be considered “secondary” channels to product discovery and sales include:

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought

Email marketing products that are relevant to customer’s previous searches

…and a few others.

Even though you don’t have much direct control over these last ones, it’s helpful to know that they also play a role in the system.

Now that that’s covered, let’s dive deeper…

The Underlying Elements of Amazon’s Search Engine

Element 1: Keyword Relevance

Keyword optimisation is one of the most critical elements for your book to rank on amazon. Basically, what you’re doing by “keyword optimising” your book is allowing potential customers, people who are already searching for books in your niche, to find your book more easily.

The keywords that amazon’s algorithm assigns the most “weight” (importance) are those that are in the title & subtitleauthor name and publisher name. After that come the metadata keywords (7 keywords amazon let’s you enter when uploading book) and keywords in your description, approximately in this order.

Since a keyword in your title or subtitle will have much more weight than a keyword in your description, it’s a really good idea to include one of your main keywords that you aim to rank for in your title. And perhaps a secondary keyword in your subtitle.

Even though yes – putting keywords in author/contributor areas will help you rank, I advise against it because you run a high risk of getting the amazon slap (your book taken down).

Also – don’t get carried away and start spamming the title with an endless list of keywords. By doing that, again – you risk getting penalised by amazon.

Source keywords

If I search for “yoga for beginners”, find your book and purchase your book about yoga for beginners, that tells the algorithm that your book is relevant for that specific term. If enough people do this, then this gives the algorithm even more indication of your book’s relevance to that keyword, which will make your book rank higher for that term.

That is called a “source keyword”, in this specific case it would be “yoga for beginners”.

We can see how this works by having a look at the url. Each time you click on one of the listings that the your search offered you, Amazon generates a specific url. Like this:

For more in-depth information on keyword relevance and ranking, download our free report 7 Pillars of Self-Publishing Bestselling Books.

Element 2: Reviews

Not only do reviews serve as social proof, showing customers that your book is really as good as you say it is, but the algorithm also assigns a lot of importance to them. Put simply, if you have many 5 star reviews the algorithm thinks that your book is awesome, understands that customers are satisfied with it and thus it will show your book even higher for relevant search terms. Simple enough.

The 2 factors that are take into account are:

  • Rating – how-many-star reviews your book gets
  • Quantity – how many reviews your book has

For this reason, spending time reaching out to potential reviewers and sending out free review copies is usually a good investment. And don’t miss out – remember to ask for a review at the end of your book.Pick the low hanging fruit ?

Element 3: Sales Rank & Conversion rates

Past sales and current sales rank also play a big part in ranking your book listing. If you have a good “conversion rate”, i.e. a relatively high percentage of customers who land on your book’s page purchase your book, quite naturally, it will send more people to your book by ranking you higher!

Here’s another reason to be publishing only high quality, high value content.

Time on Page & Page Bounce Rates

Another of the meticulously tracked metrics are bounce rates (people “bouncing” from the site, leaving it) and time on your book’s page. If customers are spending a lot of time on your listing that tells amazon that your book is generating interest. And that it is goood! They want people to hang about longer on their site. This is another sign that tells the algorithm that your product is good and this will add positively to your book’s overall ranking.

Conversely, if your page has a high bounce rate, that will have a negative impact, the algorithm will lower your book’s ranking. A high bounce rate tells the algorithm that people are leaving because it’s either boring, misleading or something along those lines – turning people off and away from the site. Since the last thing that Amazon wants is customers leaving the site faster than usual and/or having a bad experience, this will have a negative impact on your book’s overall ranking.

The Key Takeaways

In summary:

  • Use the most important keywords that you want to rank for in your title, subtitle and also don’t forget to use keyword “areas” like metadata keywords and the description.
  • Reviews are another important “pillar” in amazon’s algorithm. Quantity and number of stars is what is taken into account, so spend time using strategies that will get you many good reviews. A simple but effective one is simply to ask for leave a short text, asking for a review, if the reader enjoyed your book.
  • Create and publish only high quality, high value content, to increase your book’s stats (conversion rates, time on page, decrease bounce rate etc.) and thus rank higher.

Now that you have this knowledge, you can put it into practice by adapting your strategy to be more in synch with amazon’s algorithm.

Good luck, rank high! 🙂 

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