Understanding the Amazon Algorithms: Step by Step

At the start of January I began reading up on the Amazon algorithms and how they are supposed to work. In an attempt to gain an understanding and maybe even increase sales a little. I read a few conflicting stories, but the basics were all the same. Make use to tags, the Amazon search functionality works on the principle as those on Google, trying to predetermine what it is you are looking for and thereby offer multiple suggestions based on this attempted precognition.

So, the first step was to tweak the keywords, right. I read up and they said avoid using the same keyword as your genre, that is already covered, but rather try to go a little off-piste with the words you use. Not so much as to lie, but to be creative, thinking outside the box and into the mind of what people would search for.

I came up with a list of 7 new keywords, using a combination of things that I hoped people might search for.

  • Nightmares
  • Horror
  • British Horror
  • British Fiction
  • Angels and Demons
  • Life After Death
  • End of Days

I know they probably aren’t the strongest , but they were better than what I had, or so I thought.

Sales in January failed to make it even half way towards double figures across all my works. The final two weeks were with the new keywords, which leads me to think that either, what I read was a load of nonsense, or my keywords need some serious readjustment.

I will give these keywords another week or so, just to ensure they are not working, and then I will revisit them again. Tweaking them here and there, keeping them active.

The other thing I remember reading was that the book description carries a lot more weight than I ever realized. A few blogs I read all agreed that you should use at least 500 words, maybe even the full 800 capacity for your description. It should be written from an SEO perspective, using your primary keywords at around 3-5% density. I had never really thought of writing my description from this perspective, but surely it is worth a try.

Not that think I could write a 500 word description for my short story collections, but I am game. When sales are so low, every extra is a big plus, so what do I have to lose. If that doesn’t work then you have to wonder what is going wrong.

I follow the rules, I promote on Social Media, and link groups and pages on Tuesday and Friday / Saturday basis, I engage with people and sites, share and play along with the games that some seem intent on playing. Where other see success, or at least improvement I see stasis. Are my books really the sort of novel that you pick up in the store, read the blurb, consider buying and then replace, picking instead the title next-door?

Maybe my writing isn’t mainstream enough, covering topics people dislike or feel uncomfortable reading? Those are questions for another time. Until then, we shall keep blaming Amazon and their strange system.

8 thoughts on “Understanding the Amazon Algorithms: Step by Step

  1. The problem, Alex, is the sheer volume of books in the horror genre. I have 2 books, 1 does on average 300 ebooks a month, the other I’m lucky if I sell 10 a month. I don’t think algorithms are the issue, I think it’s simply the vast amount of books. I see so many people daily publishing another horror book.

    I certainly won’t bother publishing another in that genre on my own.

    1. That is the other thing. Horror is a popular genre, but the problem at the same time is that there is a lot of people publishing horror books that are (not wanting to sound snobbish here) of a low quality. Present company excluded, and my Facebook horror friends too. You know what I mean. I think horror is a genre where people feel that you don’t need to tell a good story, just throw around the blood and body parts. I am actually involved in a similar discussion (thanks Paul Flewitt) on FB right now. There is plenty of good horror, authors keeping the genre alive and pushing boundaries, but there are a great many forcing the opinions of readers in the other direction.

      You reference point between your two books is a perfect case in point. Both great writing, same author, no pen names, but very different results. We need to remove the preconception that horror is about blood, gore and torture porn, and remind people it it a genre that can tell a damned good story if given the chance.

  2. It’s never easy figuring out Amazon’s algorithms as they seem to change every day. One thing I heard was do as many google searches for your books through the chosen keywords and follow that link to Amazon. You’ll have to wade through pages of items most of the time, but it’s supposed to broaden the scope of their reach. I haven’t tried on more than a couple of times, but I may set a day aside and try it for one of my titles in the next week or so.

  3. I had’t thought about that. Man, my keywords will never lead to my books haha. Methinks a rethink is in order. Perhaps longer keywords would be more efficient where that is concerned.

  4. I think it all comes down to the harsh reality of money and influence. There are the established authors who have been selling for a decade or more, and there are the new ones who by chance manage to secure a publisher with a generous marketing budget and thus propel them into public view. And, as you say, we are left splashing around with books that are poorly written. Be proud of your talent Alex and the rest will follow! : )

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