Improve the Book Metadata that Matters

February 11, 2019
Ingram Staff
Improve the Book Metadata that Matters

But where do you start?

Every publisher should strive for book metadata perfection, but it can be overwhelming to jump into your titles’ data and look for problem spots to fix. Sourcing our in-house experts and decades of knowledge, we have gathered the two most important bits of discoverability metadata that are easily improved and cause the largest impact on title performance: subject categories and keywords.

Subject Categories


When you read the words "subject categories", you should immediately think of BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communications) subject codes; if not, feel free to read up on the BISAC standard from sources like the Book Industry Study Group (BISG)

BISAC categories have long been the standard for subject classification among publishers in the United States, utilized by the vast majority of online and offline retailers to categorize their stock into manageable chunks. For example, are you including just one BISAC for your product listing? It is highly recommended for the retail space to include three BISACs with each title, where the first BISAC serves as your "primary" category followed by two additional ones that accurately fit the content of your book.

After ensuring you have three BISACs, make certain that you are not utilizing "General" BISAC subject categories. Assigned BISAC subject codes such as  


to a title will place them alongside thousands of other books in the marketplace, making discoverability unlikely. Try to use as specific of subjects as possible.

If distributing to Amazon shoppers, keep in mind that the BISACs you select will have a direct impact on the Amazon categories (and even keywords) the book will receive once delivered. Review Amazon's guidelines on BISAC subject codes before assigning a subject that may lead your book to an unwanted Amazon category.


Outside of BISAC subject codes, another important identifier that is growing in the book categorization scene is the Thema code. Specifically designed for international use, Thema codes provide an extensive categorization taxonomy that may be useful for your books if releasing them in international markets.

Rules for clarity in BISAC selection may be applied to Thema selection as well, and a map of BISAC to Thema codes is available for those that would like to adapt their BISAC-complete catalog to the Thema structure without re-categorizing every title.


As more and more consumers move to purchase books online, the importance of a fresh set of keywords is growing in parallel. We see a lot of publishers not even include keywords on their titles — which is a big mistake!

Online retailers will make heavy use of keywords assigned to your books in their search engine algorithms; the higher the quality of your Amazon keywords, the higher the likelihood that your target audience on the platform will find your book. Check below for some keyword tips to help surface your books to the most relevant audience.

  • Assign unique keywords. Improperly assigned keywords, on an Amazon product or otherwise, can hurt more than help. Sending an overabundance of broad keywords alongside your titles can bury them under numerous comparable titles looking to capture the same audience.
We recommend 7-11 market compatible keywords in order of most importance. Any more than 11 keywords runs the risk of keyword stuffing and fewer than seven may put you at a competitive disadvantage.
  • Consider long-tail keywords. Keep in mind that a phrase can be used as one keyword; thus, the keyword 
“most popular India pocket travel guide”

may be a better selection over simply 

“India” or “guide”.

These longer keywords are usually referred to as "long-tail keywords" and are a great way to pack multiple potential search results into one keyword.
  • Use Identifying metrics. When selecting your keywords and long-tail keywords, consider identifying metrics such as:
Search Volume
CPC (Cost per Click)
Select keywords based on the data present. Keyword research tools like Keywords Everywhere can be helpful in identifying these metrics for keyword optimization to ensure that every term packs a punch and positions your title effectively and efficiently.
  • Avoid repetitious keywords. When looking to update keywords and subject categories at the same time, avoid using keywords that feel similar to your titles' subjects. For example, if you have assigned the BISAC subject code
Keywords such as “physical education” or “PE” should not be used. These repetitious keywords are merely repeating search terms that are already being taken into consideration by retailers with the BISAC subject code.

 Weeding out subject-based keywords can be helpful in refining your titles' keywords and getting the most out of what words and phrases you are selecting. Using this tactic will help your keywords and subject categories to work in tandem, giving a solid book discovery boost across the board.

Subject codes and keywords are two of the most prominent drivers for book discoverability; With so many important guidelines to follow for each, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Ingram Content Services developed our BISAC and keyword generation and enhancement service, Smart Metadata, to help calm the storm – to put publisher’s metadata worries at ease and allow them to focus on other important matters of their business.


Improve Discoverability & Maximize Sales with Ingram’s Smart Metadata
Smart Metadata, from Ingram, is a book metadata improvement service that helps you improve your books' discoverability through data-driven analysis and industry expertise.

Learn More.

So why does metadata actually matter? Find all the answers here.

Visit Our Metadata Resources Hub  By Jake Handy,  @jakehandy
As the value of book discoverability metadata in the publishing industry becomes more known, it’s helpful to know exactly where authors and publishers are making the most mistakes. Thousands of new titles pass through Ingram’s metadata channels each and every day and each of these titles have dozens of metadata fields. It should be no question that the owners of all these titles should want to put out the very best metadata they can.

Improve the Book Metadata that Matters
Ingram Staff

Ingram Staff

You May Also Like