The Basics of Book Metadata and Keywords

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Book metadata and keywords might seem scary, but they’re really only the words and phrases that you use to describe yourself and your book. Your book metadata will consist of basic things such as your title, author name, author bio, book description, publication date, etc. Keywords are one or more words used to indicate the content of your book. Simply put, metadata and keywords are what make your book appear when a reader goes looking for a specific thing online, whether that thing is a book or not.

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Search engines use metadata as an information retrieval system to connect searchers with content and products more efficiently than ever before. To search engines, all words have a value, and keywords and phrases have even more value still. Your task is to strategically select keywords that best describe your book and place them in the right spots around the web. If your book is about the best hiking spots in Colorado and someone types that into their web browser, they may not have known they were looking for a book specifically, but if you’re using the right keywords and your book is displayed as a resource to that user, you could potentially make a sale just for being in the right place at the right time.


How to Create Good Book Metadata

Creating good book metadata takes an initial time investment but once it’s done, you’ll have a great marketing tool that helps you sell books. You can set it and forget it, until it’s time to update. Creating a list of relevant and targeted keywords and phrases enables you to write a keyword-rich author bio and book description to give the search engines reason to bring attention to your book when users search for those words or phrases in particular.

For this reason, the most vital book metadata you’ll need to craft are:

  • Keywords and key phrases
  • Book description using those keywords
  • Author bio, also using those keywords

Once you create a master document with this data you can use it to disseminate your book information in all kinds of places:

  • Your ISBN record
  • Your IngramSpark title record to be disseminated to retailers worldwide
  • Any online retailer where you’re selling direct
  • Your website author page and book pages
  • Your Amazon Author Central page
  • Your Goodreads profile
  • Social media profile pages
  • Online interviews, guest blog posts, and other promotional appearances

Creating a master document for your book metadata is a huge time saver when you realize how many places this data will be placed. Keep this worksheet handy and refine it over time. Revisit it every few months, to make sure it remains relevant.

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How to Create Good Keywords and Key Phrases

Record words and short phrases you think your readers might enter into a search engine to find you and your book. Eliminate less important and more generic words and phrases from your list.

The more specific the keywords, the more likely the person searching for those specific words will be happy to find your book among the search results.

Enter your keywords and phrases to find books like yours on Amazon, and if those terms do not return books that are like yours, try again with different keywords. Then use the Google Keyword Planner to help you think of other keywords for your book, which is free to use with a gmail account. Google Keyword Planner will show you how popular those keywords are (volume data) and help you find keywords with lower competition. Try to keep the number of repeated keywords to a maximum of three. Work on this task until you have a final list of no more than 10 to 20 words and phrases.

Enter the most important keywords and phrases first. Settle on 10 keywords and list them in descending importance. Return to Google Keyword Search every few months to evaluate new trends, check popularity and volume, and to improve your keywords list. These same top keywords and phrases should appear in your book descriptions wherever possible.

Your Book Description and Author Bio

Considering both your keywords and your title, draft a succinct but keyword-rich description of your book. Make the description informative to users first and search engines second, and remember, it’s better to go narrow than wide, more specific than general. You want your conversion rate to be high. That is, when buyers come to your book sales page they should be compelled to buy—not click off because they were lured in falsely or in too general a way. Your book descriptions should be attention-grabbing, keyword-rich copy that sell your books. Similarly, your author bio, like your book description, should be succinct and keyword-rich. The initial search of your potential reader is your first opportunity to make an impression, so make sure you’re using the right book metadata and keywords to do it.

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Carla King

Carla King is a publishing coach and the founder of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp educational program of books, workshops, and online courses. Her books include the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors, the Consumer’s Guide for Self-Publishers, which reviews the products, tools, and services you use to write, publish, and promote your books, and IngramSpark’s Book Formatting Guide. Carla started self-publishing in 1995 with her travel guide, Cycling the French Riviera, followed by a memoir titled American Borders and a collection called Stories from Elsewhere. She runs the Indie Publishing track at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference and hosts the Author Friendly Podcast. Find the podcast, along with her books, courses, free resources and advice at