Despite the image, this post isn’t about James Bond or about my book, other than to look at how I decided on my keywords.
One of the joys of being an indie author is being able to pursue our passions and share them with others. And what better way than to write a book about them?
I’m a big James Bond film fan (the books not so much) and when I have some spare time or need a change of scenery I indulge myself writing a series entitled The Ten Best Bond Movies…Ever! — a countdown from ten to one of what I deem to be the best films in the James Bond canon.
Having just released the second in the series (#9, it being a countdown) I immediately strung the first two together as a 2-in-1 box set.
As per previous posts, we should all be looking to pour our old content into fresh containers to find fresh audiences, and box-sets are one of the easiest ways of doing that.
But this post arises from my next challenge — connecting with readers.
We can do that two ways — by marketing and promotion — and by playing the keywords and categories game.
But surprisingly, many of us indies will spend all our time and energy on social media marketing, but just a few seconds on selecting our categories and keywords when we upload our title, and even less time reviewing those options later.
Obviously promotion and marketing helps us connect with prospective readers and drive them to the retailers, but by treating our categories and keywords as a necessary evil — to be completed as quickly as possible and even then only because the retailers insist — is to neglect the many millions of prospective readers who will have already arrived at the store, have not seen our promo and marketing efforts and are, casually or with great deliberation, searching for their next book using the categories lists and the internal search engine of the retailer.
Setting aside an hour when uploading to actually delve into the possibilities that categories and keywords present us can prove very rewarding in getting our titles noticed by these already-at-the-store readers who have no idea our marketing and promotion exists.
Here’s the thing.
There are over 3,000 categories and sub-categories in the Kindle store.
There are literally more keyword possibilities than there are words in the English language, because keywords can be a single word or a combination.
Yet we indies seem inclined to jump into the first and most obvious categories, and dash off the first seven keywords we can think of that are remotely relevant, and then move on.
In doing so we inhibit our reach and risk losing sales.
I’ll come back on categories in a separate post.
Here just to briefly share my experience today in identifying keywords for my new title, to show just how easy it is to miss opportunities by rushing our keyword selection.
(And just a reminder this is by way of example, not self-promo.)
Okay, so the title is The Ten Best Bond Movies…Ever! and it’s a 2-in-1 box set featuring the two Bond films Thunderball and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
The first thing I need to do is exclude the two film titles from my keyword list. They are already in the sub-title so are already covered. Using words from the title and sub-title as keywords is to throw away keyword opportunities. The search engines will already have spotted them. No need to repeat them.
But what if they hadn’t been in the sub-title? Would they have been a good choice? After all, the 2-in-1 book is all about those two films. So it would be a no-brainer, right?
Well, consider this:
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service 14–100
The first number is the popularity rating for the search query. The second, it’s attainability against similar competing terms.
So On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has an attainability value of 100 — very nice — but it’s really not that popular. Not even as popular as Thunderball. Go figure.
A popularity value of 14 or 15 tells me the film titles, despite being key to the book, are not the best keywords to choose.
I added Goldfinger there just for comparison. It’s one of my favourite Bond films, and coming much further up my Ten Best Bond Movies chart than the other two. But it seems when it comes to search queries Goldfinger isn’t such a hot property either!
Well, there’s no accounting for taste!
But back to the point. Keywords.
Had I put James Bond in the title or sub-title I needn’t have bothered with that as a keyword, but it only says Bond in the title, not James Bond.
I did agonise over that when choosing the title for the series in the first place. Putting James in the title would have enhanced discoverability by being picked up by searches for James Bond, but it would have messed with the Best Bond alliteration and made the title a little clumsy.
But if the film titles aren’t great keywords, will James Bond be any better?
That’s a big yes!
James Bond 77–17
A popularity rating of 77 is to die for, and an attainability of 17 is very respectable.
Okay, so one keyword nailed. Six to go.
Surprisingly double-o-seven did not pass muster.
A popularity rating of just 28? I would have expected much more, and had I not been using analytics to help choose I would have gone for 007 as one of my first options.
But keyword optimisation is all about matching exact phrases typed in by the prospective reader.
Dashing off a long keyword string like “James Bond 007 movies Sean Connery George Lazenby On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Thunderball sex nudity get rich quick” might have worked in the early days of the internet, but search engines are wise to such tricks now and that kind of keyword spamming will get us precisely nowhere.
One consequence of this is that we indies really need to ponder carefully the exact words we choose. It matters. A lot.
James Bond films 50–28
James Bond movies — no results
Which is kinda bizarre when you consider
Movie reviews 65–21
Film reviews 55–27
Clearly more people use movie than film when looking for reviews generally, but when it comes to James Bond specifically they prefer film to movie!
By the way,
Movie guide 18–22
Film guide 18–23
These sort of anomalies are why keyword analysis is worth spending some time on.
Here’s another example that cropped up from my searches today for this book.
Best films — no results
Best movies 74–13
Needless to say with a popularity rating of 74 and a tolerable attainability rating I opted for Best Movies as one of my keywords, although again it was not a search phrase I would ever have considered on my own.
And then there’s this little gem:
Going to the movies 55–100
I would not in a million years have picked that as a likely search phrase, but with a 100 attainability and a respectable 55 popularity it’s now one of the keywords for this book.
And no, going to the cinema and going to the theater would get us nowhere. It has to be going to the movies.
I did also check going to the theatre (British-English spelling) and the same abysmal fail. More on trans-Atlantic spellings below.
Would throwing in the stars of the Bond films help? Not much, it seems.
My first thought was that Sean Connery and Daniel Craig, as the best-known Bond and the most recent Bond, might be good bets.
I changed my mind when these results came up.
Sean Connery 16–100
Roger Moore 17–100
Daniel Craig 17–28
George Lazenby — no results
In fact Ian Fleming is a better keyword bet than the stars of the films.
Ian Fleming 38–16
Spy movies? Spy films? Again, one word can make a difference.
Spy movies 20–12
Spy films — no results
Okay, so my book is about the films, but I’m trying to appeal to readers, so how about some standard book keywords? These two came up, and again, it’s worth noting what a difference a word can make.
Best spy thrillers 60–13
Spy thrillers 62–6
“Spy thrillers” may be very slightly more popular than “best spy thrillers”, but “best spy thrillers” has better attainability.
I could go on and on, but you get the picture.
I’ll end by returning to the matter of trans-Atlantic spellings, because these can be critical, and our choices may make or break our chances of crossing the pond.
As it happens all my choices and title words for this particular book are neutral. That is, they don’t have different spellings either side of the Atlantic. That was coincidental, but I do consider each title and sub-title carefully for trans-Atlantic conflict, along with each keyword.
For colour/color it seems the American spelling is more popular than the British spelling, yet for humour/humor the other way around.
But what’s important is that these are two different keywords, and if we are trying to sell our comedy title or adult colouring/coloring book in the US and the UK we’d best use both words in our keyword selection.
Sticking with humor/humour, we might also consider:
Comedy is no doubt more popular precisely because the results are not being split by US/UK English. But clearly if we can use all three words as separate keywords we are in with a good chance.
The savvy indie will of course have worked “comedy” into the sub-title, getting that SEO hook while saving a precious keyword space for another word or phrase.
Okay, time to wrap this up.
I’ll leave you to guess which of the other keywords made it through for this particular book. Suffice here to say several of them now being added would never have been in the running had I not did some analytic research first.
Which brings us to the big question. How?
Pronoun, step forward and take a bow.
Loading a title to the five major retailers through Pronoun costs us nothing and we get to use their wonderful analytics tools, a little of which you’ve seen in action above.
Yes, there are other keyword analysers available, but Pronoun is specifically geared to searches on Amazon, rather than more general Google searches, which makes it invaluable.
The great thing is that, having run a title through Pronoun, we can then use those optimised keywords when we upload elsewhere — to D2D, StreetLib, Smashwords, PublishDrive, etc.
Better still, while Pronoun of course hope we will use them to upload all our titles, they are also happy for us to use their analytics tools to test-run titles we won’t be uploading through Pronoun.
There are lots of other analytics tools in the Pronoun dashboard — delving into over 3,000 categories on Amazon as but one example — such as to make Pronoun an essential tool in our indie toolkit.
I’ll be taking a closer look at Pronoun’s categories tool shortly, followed by an overview of everything Pronoun has to offer.