How To Title Your Book: A Step-by-Step Guide to Keyword Research

Below is a guest post by Mike Fishbein. I consider a book’s title to be the #1 most important variable in its eventual success. And so many authors struggle and debate over the title of their book, trying to be creative and clever,  without realizing it needs to be discoverable. Mike has generously shared his step-by-step system for doing keyword research and giving your book a title that will increase its odds of becoming a bestseller.

Author Bio: Mike Fishbein has self-published over a dozen nonfiction books with three reaching Amazon’s bestseller list. When he’s not writing and marketing books, he’s helping companies with inbound marketing, exercising, or reading personal development books. You can get his free checklist on how to self-publish a successful book on Amazon here.

So you’ve written your book. Congratulations! But how do you make sure that shoppers on Amazon find it want to buy it?

You can increase the likelihood of people finding your book simply by including the terms and words that they are already searching for. By improving your ability to rank on it’s “search engine,” you can get a lot more book sales.

But it’s not enough for readers to find your book. You need to have a title that resonates with them and makes them want to buy. Fortunately, using keyword research as a starting point also helps you to speak the language of your reader.

Writing and marketing a book is important, but doing keyword research and crafting a title that hooks shoppers also plays a big role in the book’s success. In this post, I’ll show step-by-step exactly how I did keyword research and how I used it to craft a title for my Amazon Kindle book that ended up being a #1 bestseller.

1. Brainstorm keywords

Keyword research is done to identify what your target audience is searching for, as it relates to the topic of your book (so that you can use those words on your book page so that your audience can find it when searching).

Step one is to simply brainstorm a list of 10+ keywords that are relevant to your book topic. For this example, my book is about morning routines, being productive, and maximizing energy. Not all the keywords are going to be great ones, so just writing down as many as you can may be a better move.

For me, my initial keywords I thought up were: morning routine, morning ritual, morning procedure, morning productivity, wake up earlier, and successful morning.

2. Browse Amazon for relevant books

The point of this process is to look and see what books are already selling well so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You do this by browsing Amazon and looking at the books that are selling well.

My book was about morning routines, so I wanted to look at other books on that topic. To do this, I simply searched Amazon using the keywords I came up with in step #1.

3. Analyze the successful books

Next, I analyzed the books that came up in the searches are performing well. You can determine which books are selling by looking at the last category in the “Product Details” section of the book’s page, as shown in the image below: “Amazon Best Sellers Rank”.

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If the book is ranking high, it means people are buying it. Any book with a rank below about 60,000 is worth considering. I found a few books that appeared to be doing well. It’s a pretty small niche, so I only found a few.

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The point is to see what kind of language these books are using. On top of keyword searching, analyzing your competition also helps you get ideas and inspiration for cover design inspiration. These books are performing well for a reason, so it’s important that you notice what’s working.

4. Gather a list of new terms to analyze

Now that you’ve researched your competition, it’s time to add to your previous list with new keywords. Use your personal judgment based on the taste for your audience and the relevance to the topics of your book.

Here are some of the new terms I added at this step (most were secondary terms).

Primary Keywords

  • morning routine
  • wake up
  • morning ritual
  • routine
  • morning routines

Secondary Keywords

  • Morning Boosters
  • Supercharge Your Life
  • Wake up Successful
  • Increase Your Energy
  • How to Increase Your Energy
  • How To Wake Up Early
  • Wake Up Early
  • Stop Being Lazy
  • Gain Massive Motivation
  • Organize Your Life
  • Transform Your Life

5. Analyze Keyword Traffic

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I pay for an account with Merchant Words in order to analyze Amazon search volume. You can also use Google’s Keyword Planner. It’s pretty easy, you just enter the term and it shows you many searches it gets per month. This book is sold on Amazon, but I also want to rank on Google too. Plus, if people are searching for these terms on Google, there’s a reasonable probability the results will be similar on Amazon.

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Here were the results for my keywords. I’ve highlighted the high search volume terms in green, medium volume in yellow, and low volume in red. It’s also important to keep in mind relevance and competition.

Primary Keywords:

  • morning routine – 70.5k
  • wake up  – 298.5k
  • morning ritual – n/a
  • routine – 134.5k
  • morning routines – 42.4k

Secondary Keywords:

  • morning boosters – n/a
  • supercharge your life – n/a
  • wake up successful – n/a
  • Increase Your Energy – 1.6k
  • How to Increase Your Energy – <100
  • How To Wake Up Early – <100
  • Wake Up Early – 9.5k
  • Stop Being Lazy – 15k
  • Gain Massive Motivation – n/a
  • Organize Your Life – n/a
  • Transform Your Life – 6k
  • how to organize your life – 35.2k

You can also use the “Keyword Ideas” section of Google Keyword Planner to generate more related keywords that are relevant to your niche. Once you do that, you’ll get a set of new keywords. When I did that, I got more new ideas:

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Here are some of the additional words that were recommended:

  • waking up – 142.5k
  • morning rituals – 500
  • routine – 18.5k  (not very relevant because it can be about any routine)
  • waking up early – 8.5k
  • how to stop being lazy – 4.8k  (this is red because it’s not really relevant to my audience)
  • organizing your life – 6.4k

Note: in a more competitive niche you would want to make all these searches and analyze the books that appear in results to see how relevant and high quality they are so you know if you will have the ability to beat them out.

Now we have some solid inspiration, so let’s…

6. Brainstorm 3-5 titles and 3-5 subtitles

Now it’s time to use the data that you’ve collected and come up with some title ideas for your book. Make sure not to rip someone off, your book title should be original.

First, do a brain dump and write out as many titles as you can. Once you have a list of over ten for each, go back and pick your 3-5 favorite titles and subtitles.

Make sure to find a balance between search friendly and engaging. A great title accomplishes two things. You want it to include keywords that people are already searching for, but you also want your title to catch people’s attention and make them want to buy. Loading it with keywords does not help if the title doesn’t engage the reader. For example, a title like “Morning routine ritual wake up” has a bunch of great keywords, but it would make a horrible title because it doesn’t make sense.

Your title has to hook in the reader. It has to make them think, “oh my god, I NEED to read this and I need to read it now.”

Your title needs to grab their attention. You can do this by adding controversy, humor, benefits, surprise, or novel ideas. You also want to make sure your title includes benefits for the readers. What are they going to learn? What end result are you selling them?

Lastly, you have to make them care. Why would they pick your book over someone else’s? What’s so special about this book? To hit on this point, think about what people care about: ease, comfort, speed, saving money, pain avoidance, etc.

Now with this in mind, keep your prioritized keyword list on hand so you can check them off when it’s used in a title/subtitle. Then, you can use the terms you don’t use in your Amazon book description, giving you more opportunity to appear in search results. Here’s mine:

  • morning routine
  • wake up
  • Wake up early
  • How to wake up early
  • morning routines
  • waking up
  • waking up early
  • how to wake yourself up
  • how to wake up
  • my morning routine
  • morning ritual
  • morning rituals

I’m pretty set on using the morning routine keyword in the title because of the volume and relevance and it’s still aesthetically pleasing. I came up with a few variations.

Here are some of the titles I came up with:

  • Morning Routine Success Plan
  • Morning Routine Blueprint
  • Morning Routine Master Plan
  • The Morning Routine Blueprint
  • The Morning Routine Master Plan

Next, I repeated the same process with subtitles:

  • How to Wake Up Early and Increase Your Energy Everyday
  • The Secrets to Waking Up Energized and Motivated Everyday
  • Lifehacks to Wake Up Early, Energized and Motivated Everyday  
  • How to Wake Up Energized and Motivated Everyday
  • How to Wake Up Early, Energized and Motivated Everyday
  • How to Create Your Most Productive Morning
  • How to Wake Up Early and Get More Done Before 8AM

The next step is to create a finalized list of about three to five combinations that you love.

  • Morning Routine Success Plan: How to Wake Up Energized and Motivated Everyday
  • The Morning Routine Master Plan: How to Wake Up Early and Get More Done Before 8AM
  • The Morning Routine Blueprint: How to Wake Up Early, Energized and Motivated Everyday  
  • Morning Routine Success Plan: How to Wake Up Early and Get More Done Before 8AM
  • The Morning Routine Master Plan: How to Wake Up Early, Energized and Motivated Everyday

7. Split test using Mechanical Turk or Pick Fu

Now that you’ve got your ideas, it’s time to let the data decide for you. You may have your opinion or preference, but ultimately the only opinion or preference that matters for selling books is your readers! I’ve used Mechanical Turk and Pick Fu to get feedback from readers in my target audience. Both sites are simple to use and not too expensive. These sites allow you to set up a survey comparing your title and then they source readers for you to complete it.

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Based on your results, you should have an idea of what readers’ preferences are. If you don’t, you can perform more polls based on what worked.

Here were my two clear winners:

  • The Morning Routine Blueprint: How to Wake Up Early, Energized and Motivated Everyday
  • Morning Routine Success Plan: How to Wake Up Energized and Motivated Everyday

I could have tested these two further, but I chose the first one because it was well perceived.

Finally, Publish and Market Your Book

Here’s how the book did during the launch:

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#2 in entrepreneurship category isn’t so bad! Especially since I’m pretty sure Lewis Howes went on several national TV shows and podcasts to promote his book and I went on…zero. It ranked #1 in other categories, so I’m not complaining! 🙂

This book continues to rank high and sell well. There are many factors that contribute to a successful book, but I know writing a great title helped. By doing keyword research to see what people are searching for, analyzing top performing books in the space, crafting some ideas that are attractive to readers, and then split testing them, I was able to take a lot of the guesswork out of the process and increase the chances of writing a title that my readers will find and love. Now, I expect to get more traffic to my book through search results on Amazon because it contains keywords that people are searching for, and to convert more of those visitors into readers because I have data to show that it resonates.

You can get Mike’s free checklist on how to self-publish a successful book on Amazon here.