There are approximately 1.2 billion* blog posts available at this exact moment about how to use Amazon keywords. They are all full of helpful information that can be a great starting place for your keywords.
Unfortunately, I think they focus on the wrong area and don't serve authors as well as we hope.
The goal for most keyword selection is to get on the various best sellers list. Like these:
And these lists are great. They make us feel good as authors, give us goals to shoot for and make it feel like our books count. But when it comes to marketing, they don't count for much. I'll give you the fact that it looks impressive to a reader if you are checking out a book and see that it's hit lots of lists. It gives your book more social proof that it is worth reading. But that only helps once a reader has found your book. For discovery, these lists are not helping you.
Here's why. When was the last time you searched one of these lists when looking for a new book? And if you have searched these lists, how many pages are you scanning? I don't know any readers who are going searching on a very drilled down list and then flipping to page five to find their next book to read.
That doesn't mean keywords are useless. It just means we need to stop focusing on these lists. Instead, we need to use keywords the way readers use them. Amazon is a huge search engine that rivals Google. Readers type in what they are looking for in the search box and you want your book to be among the top results.
So instead of focusing on the words and phrases that will get you on a list, use the terms that readers are using to search for books. How do you know which phrases those are? Use the Amazon search bar.
I literally sat down one day and started typing in words. I started with YA and looked to see what other words are commonly searched for with YA. Same thing with Teen and Dystopian, since those are my big categories. After that, I simply matched up the phrases that were most searched for with the ones that best matched my book. It's really that easy.**
And it works. After making this simple change to my keywords, I watched my daily sales slowly double and then triple. Wow, that sounds like a late night infomercial, except this doesn't come with a bonus set of kitchen knives.
The best part of this technique is that it isn't about gaming the system or tricking readers into buying something they don't want. It's all about helping readers find the books they already know they want to read. And that's really the essence of marketing.
Keep in mind this isn't a magic wand for book sales. Before you implement these changes make sure your book looks great for when readers do find you. That means an eye-catching cover, a compelling description, meaningful editorial reviews and a professional bio. If you want readers to take your book seriously, you have to take it seriously as well.
So go ahead, experiment and see what happens. If it doesn't work for you, you can always change it back. But if it does work, you'll find yourself with a lot more happy readers.
*I absolutely made this number up, but you get the idea
**A note on traditionally published authors. You probably don't have access to your back end SEO, but that doesn't mean you can't put this in place. It never hurts to ask your publisher/editor what keywords they are using. They've probably already got the best phrases in place (they are professionals), but it doesn't hurt to check. You both have the same goal of getting your book in the hands of more readers so it's a win-win for everyone.