Kindle Rankings: Categories vs. Keywords

When someone talks about “book rankings” what do you think of?

Category rankings or keyword rankings?

Surprisingly many authors focus on Category rankings, placing too much emphasis on these numbers while actually missing the bigger picture.

As it turns out, there are benefits to ranking well in a category, but those are only by-products of something much more important.

If you want increased sales, you’ll need to focus on the right one.

In this article, I will teach you about:
  1. What affects Category rankings
  2. What affects Kindle Keyword rankings
  3. What you should do to improve them

Although you might think you understand this section, I assure you, you won’t want to miss this article.  This article was inspired by reading an authority's article that kept mixing the two in their own article.

Bonus: Want to learn how to rank your Kindle book #1 on Amazon with our collection of time-tested tips and tricks? Download my free ebook now!

Kindle Category Rankings and Their Worth

Now, we all know about selecting categories for our books. However, let’s talk about what makes one book rank better than another:

Your book category ranking is solely dependent on your book’s Amazon Best Seller Rank (ABSR) as compared to the other books in that same category. So, if your book is in the Sci-Fi Military category and has a ABSR of 24,004 it will rank better in that category than another Sci-Fi military book that has a ABSR of 24,005.  If 24,004 is the best ABSR for all books in that category, than that book is the #1 bestseller in that category.

So, Kindle category rank is solely dependent on your Amazon Best Seller Rank (ABSR)

Since ABSR is solely dependent on sales and KENP pages read (with factors based on time and intensity over time), the only way to improve your Category rank is to sell more books.

Now, I get the allure of having a good Category rank.  Getting the #1 bestseller status on a niche category can give just about any author a writing high.  But, when does category ranking actually matter?

Best selling author meme

In truth, there are only two instances where I care about my category rankings:

  1. If I can rank #1 in a category and thus get the “Bestseller” mark
  2. If I can rank in the top #20 for a popular category that readers actually care about.

If I can’t do either of these then who cares…Let me explain each below.

The Mark of the #1 Bestseller

If you rank #1 in a category, your book is marked as a bestseller. This rocks because in any search results, your book will have something that makes it stick out and even helps to social proof your book.


I don’t know about you, but if I am looking at potential books to buy, the one marked bestseller will always catch my eye. The way I see it, it’s a bestseller because other people liked it.

So what does this mean?

A best seller mark increases your conversion rate which thus increases sales.

The other reason why I would care about category ranking is because my book is in the top #20 for a popular category.

The only other way a category can help you get more sales is if that category is one that people typically go to to see what books are doing well and thus look for their next read.

I’m a huge Sci Fi military book fan. So occasionally, I will go to that category page and check to see what books are there. But I only go as far as the first page – which only shows the top 20 for that category.

But this isn’t something I do often or for other categories…just the one – I'm kind of a sci-fi nerd…can you tell?

So, the idea is that if you can rank on the first page for a category that people actively seek out (not some niche obscure one), then your book could get more traffic and subsequently, more sales.

However, remember that “popular” also usually means more competitive.  So….yeah.

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But if you can't do either of these?

Only these two situations with categories help authors sell more books and is therefore, the only time I care about Category rankings…that’s it.

So, if you can't get the “bestseller” mark in some category or rank in the top 20 of a popular category, then don't worry about it.  All you need to do is focus on increasing your sales…

Kindle categories only help when you're a best seller or in the top 20 in a popular categoryClick To Tweet

Kindle Keyword Rankings and Their Worth

So, if Category rankings are about how your book ranks compared to other books in the same category, what are Kindle Keyword rankings?

When someone types in a certain search term for Amazon books, the order that the books show up is super important.  This is called Kindle Keyword rankings.

Amazon Keyword search bar

Basically, you work to get your book to rank for a particular search term. If the search term is popular and you rank at the top, then you'll get a significant portion of those clicks which equates to more sales.

But keyword rankings are useless if that target keyword isn't one that people actually type into Amazon. Or it's a term that is too competitive. So, make sure there is a hungry market for that keyword and enough room for your book, or else it's a bust. The importance of keywords is true for fiction authors as well as nonfiction.

How do you figure this out?  Well, you could do some good ole fashion research and check the levels of interests in books as well as their competition.  Or, you could use a tool to help you figure out how popular a keyword is, and how hard the competition is as well.

As many of you know, I'm a big fan of KDP Rocket which helps me with the above…that's because I designed it that way.

How to Rank for a Kindle Keyword

Okay, so let's say that you've found a good keyword…now what?

Once you've identified the right keywords, then you need to work on optimizing your book and Amazon sales page so as to let the Amazon search engine know you are a good fit for that keyword's rankings.

To help you with this, I have a complete ebook on the steps and factors required to ranking better in a book search on Amazon.  You can get it here.

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Look over my shoulder as I show you how to select the best keywords and categories so you’ll make more sales.

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Category vs Keyword Rankings

So which one is better?

Category rankings only work to sell more books if:

a. You can get #1 bestseller mark
b. You can get in the top #20 for a popular category


Keyword rankings only work to sell more books if:

a. You find a keyword that people are actually typing into Amazon
b. Doesn't have too much competition and therefore you can rank for it

But here is the magic sauce that tips the balance if someone NEEDS to pit the two against each other:

If ranking well for kindle keyword means more sales, then that means your overall Amazon Best Seller Rank (ABSR) will improve. Improve your ABSR and you also improve your Category Ranking.

So, your ranking for a particular keyword ultimately increases sales, and thus increases Category Rankings.

Which one do you strive for?

More Keywords and Categories:

If you're interested in more articles like this one, check out our hubs for how to choose the best keywords and categories, as well as our overview of Publisher Rocket.

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17 thoughts on “Kindle Rankings: Categories vs. Keywords

  1. Michelle Moore

    I really needed this! I’ve made a point of bullet pointing the details for ease of future reference and I’m going to check out more on the links above to keep on improving. The streams were definitely crossed for me Dave, thank you! 🙂 Onwards and upwards.

    1. Dave Chesson

      Awesome and glad to hear it 🙂

  2. Michal

    Dave, you are getting stale or I’m getting smarter. This is the first ever post on Kindlepreneur that I read and said: “Yeah, I kind of knew that all.”
    For my ego’s sake I’ll assume I’m getting smarter 😉

    1. Dave Chesson

      haha…this post came about because after reading some articles that were out there, I realized that many authors hadn’t stratified the two and kept crossing the streams. Figured I’d take a moment and go through them both 😉

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