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Amazon Keyword Checklist

Updated: Jun 7

Following a recent change made by Amazon, many publishers are seeing their keywords being rejected and are concerned about the potential ramifications on sales. Use this checklist to ensure your keywords continue being effective and meet the specific requirements of major retailers.

1. What are keywords?

Keywords aid search and discovery as they help consumers find a product they are seeking. While retailers rank and prioritize their search results differently there are some aspects within publishers’ control that can help their readerships to find a product (and subsequently boost their sales). In particular, keywords should:

  • Augment and enhance a publisher’s core metadata;

  • Support BISAC / Thema subject classification codes, audience codes, age and grade levels, etc.;

  • Be nouns and/or verbs;

  • Be objective; and above all:

  • Accurately represent the product itself!

2. Selecting effective keywords

Choosing keywords should be a careful selection process, with natural language (words and phrases) being preferred. You may find suitable keywords in the index of the book, via author questionnaires, table of contents, or by speaking with colleagues who may know the product’s content better than you; but before selecting any keywords for inclusion in your ONIX feed, also you may also consider including:

  • Bestseller information

  • Award nominations

  • The target reader and/or audience

  • Person or character names, including fictional characters

  • Setting (place) and tone (i.e. the feeling you get when you read/listen to the book).

3. Be objective

The title, author, subject classification codes, etc. of your product are automatically indexed by retailers, so don’t use up your keyword character limit by repeating terms that already exist in your title data or using variations of words already present (e.g. “liberal” and “liberalism”). Current guidance from EDItEUR recommends using 5-10 relevant keywords in your ONIX feeds, with an emphasis on less being more.

4. Focus on your readers

Keep your readership in mind, by continuing to maintain and update your keywords on a semi-regular basis (to ensure they’re current and reflective of what’s happening in the world) – for both your frontlist and backlist titles. Tools such as Google Trends, the Google Ads API,, etc. can suggest keywords and help you to see which keywords are trending.

In addition, modern publishing systems will be able to streamline your workflows. In BiblioSuite, you can specify a limit for the number of keywords you use within your ONIX feeds. We recommend capping the number at 10-15 keywords, but this may vary depending on your data recipients’ requirements. Biblio users can also take advantage of our Discoverability Dashboards to enter and maintain keywords, and visualize the information being sent to data recipients.

To learn more, watch The Meaning and Relativity of Keywords webinar here. Jake Furbush from Harvard University Press and Tricia McCraney from Virtusales reviewed the meaning and value of keywords, looking at how to select keywords and measure their effectiveness, along with the mechanics of sending them to retailers, including some top tips for handling specific requirements for various retailers.

Alternatively, get in touch with us to arrange a conversation with Tricia or one of our consultants about how Virtusales and BiblioSuite can help you manage keywords more effectively.

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