SPQ 019: Why Keyword Tools Don’t Sell Kindle Books

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Why Keywords Tools Don't Sell Kindle Books

The Question…

A reader asks: “You come out against Kindle keyword search programs, but I would have thought that they would enable an author to more accurately find those precious seven keywords that Amazon allows? Surely these programs would offer more accurate results, and therefore more sales, than human opinion and guesswork? There are a number of programs on the market claiming to be able to identify the most effective Kindle keywords. As you suggest using the Google keyword tool, which is designed to help with Google searches, not Amazon searches, I don’t follow your logic on this point.”

Biggest Takeaway…

Steve’s Answer…

Steve’s opinion on this topic is pretty controversial, and a lot of authors and marketers actually disagree with him. He says keywords aren’t all that important for selling books. You want to find a good keyword for your main title and spend a bit of time finding seven keywords to use on Amazon, but keywords aren’t very important otherwise.

He has two major problems with the idea that keywords are really important in selling your Kindle Books:

  1. Some of the people selling keyword research tools are basically snake oil salesmen. They tell you keywords are the secret to “Kindle gold.” Keywords help, but they are a small piece of the puzzle. Good keywords do not necessarily result in more sales.
  2. You’re not building a long-term business if you focus on keywords.

Steve did a test using some of the most popular keywords: make money online, lose weight, and time management. He found that some of the titles with top rankings for those keywords weren’t even selling one book per day.


  • Two books that ranked well for the term “make money online” had Amazon sales rankings of 217,000 and 237,000. This translates to sales of less than one copy per day. One book even had a sales ranking of 502,000, or sales of one or two books per week.
  • One book ranking well for “lose weight” had an Amazon sales rank of 11,000, which means it’s selling about 10 copies per day, but two other books had sales rankings of 202,000 and 216,000.
  • Books ranking well for “time management” had sales rankings around 17,000, 46,000 and 65,000.

If you focus on the results of keyword tools, you’re not focused on creating high-quality, unique content. All authors should be building their audiences, talking to readers, identifying pain points, and creating original content.

When Steve focused on creating unique content, he started making more sales. One of the most important things to do is build an email list of people who want to buy your books. You can’t do this if you are focused on keywords.

Steve believes keywords are the reverse of the 80/20 rule. Keywords are a 20 percent activity; you need to spend a little bit of time on them, but they’re not going to produce most of your results.

What do you think about using keywords on Amazon? Leave a comment on this episode to share your opinion.

Resources and Links

SPQ019: Let Steve know you think about using keywords on Amazon’s Kindle platform

  • Thomas Lau

    Hi Steve,

    I couldn’t agree more with your post.

    In my opinion, the keywords does nothing more than just:

    1) Gives you an idea what the demand is like for your topic during your research, and

    2) Increases the chances of your book appearing in the search results.

  • Thanks for the comment Thomas (by the way, I just answered yours today … Episode 20). You definitely want to pick good words, but it’s not as important as people make it out to be.

  • Leo Landaverde

    Hi Steve,

    I agree with you 100%. I had an epiphany while listening to this podcast on the 20%. I have been obsessing with keywords for the first book I am writing. Thanks for helping me get back to what matters, which is content. Back to writing. Cheers.

    • It’s definitely dangerous to stress out about keywords. I do think some proper research is important, but people freak out way to much about them…. glad you’re getting back to writing. 🙂

  • Samuel Ackerson

    Hi Steve,

    What do you think about this website: http://www.kBookPromotions.com ? I saw that they have really awesome niche finder tool for Amazon and also they’re providing many other tools that are really useful for Kindle book promotions (free)…

    I’m thinking to invest money, but would like to hear your opinion.

    Thank you for taking your time to answer my question.


    • Not sure. I glanced at the site and didn’t see anything that looked promising. Kind of turned off by the “review exchange” section. It could be good, but not going to test it myself.

      • Samuel Ackerson

        Hey Steve,

        Thank you for your reply. I’m using it for about 10 days and I have to say what they are offering is more than great. They’ve helped me on many ways like niche research (I like profitability and competition metric), html description creator, website submission, FB and TW promotion etc etc. I think this is a must for any Kindle publisher.


        • Oh okay. If it works for you, then continue using it.

  • vito g

    Hi Steve

    Thanks for the breakdown. I’m wondering if i confused something. Bill Nye released a book with the same first word in its title “undeniable” which i’d hoped to put in my title (though i’ll be selling in different categories than his book – His is more “Religion” mine is in “Philosophy”)

    But (not sure if true) Amazon search ranks books by sales and not keywords, is it true then that though the rest of my title is different than Bills, that his book will still pop above my one given his sales are higher? (unless the customer searching for my book types in my exact title)

    If so is it advisable for me to remove “undeniable” as the first word in my books title? As most people searching don’t always recall or can type in the full title of a book

    Many thanks for your help, cant seem to find answer to this one
    Cheers, Vito

  • I completely agree that Keywords should not a sole motivator to an author’s work. You shouldn’t change your story or focus on keywords to the point that your book suffers.

    But I believe that keyword research should be considered when looking at a title or subtitle and even particular chapters that should be covered. Not in the way for finding the “golden ticket” like the snake handlers claim but as a way of saying “Hey Google and Amazon, what are phrases/pain points/questions people are asking daily.” A lot of people go on Facebook groups and ask for people’s opinions on what title is best. Keyword research should be a ‘piece’ (and I stress piece) of the selection process.

    Case in point: I wrote a book on resumes. After doing some research I found that a significant amount of people were typing in: Resume, CV, Curriculum Vitae, Cover Page, Resume Samples, Cover Letter Samples, etc.

    I had completely forgotten that people who have to write a resume, also have to write a cover letter as well. Writing a book on resumes was only half of what people were looking for. I then added a second half to my book on Cover Letters. I won’t claim that I made millions because of it. But I will say that I got more traffic because of the inclusion of Cover Letters.

    So, in sum, I completely agree that tools don’t give the magic ticket and people who gain real success over just keywords are basically lottery winners. It happens but not usually. I just use Keyword tools to help find pain points, article ideas and even more niche areas to reach.

  • My favorite part is about the 80/20 rule, controversial -maybe- but have never thought about it this way. Thanks Steve!
    What interests me most about keywords is the “validation” phase of a book. A lot of people don’t validate their books/subject, and I think it is a mandatory phase. If you don’t want to do direct validation, then you can do “indirect” validation by using the keywords and various keyword planners. But like Steve says: 80/20, so concnetrate on your list (80) but do your keyword homework too (20).

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