Jun 08, 2019 - 11:45 AM
This is really interesting and makes sense. From a search perspective, Google has figured these things out, but Amazon and other retailers haven't as well.
I'm sure Amazon has figured out stuffing the book descriptions is bad, but they may not have considered how the subtitles affect their internal searches & could be gamed.
I do see the book you mentioned doing well for several of the terms in the subtitle and would likely be terms the book never would have shown up for if it were not for the subtitle.
For a little background - I worked with a major online bookstore that competes with Amazon. We had somewhere around 15 million book titles on the site, but only 2 books like this caught my attention.
Google marked them as possibly hacked content due to the keyword stuffing in the subtitle. So Google's algorithm determined it was not natural - so unnatural that they thought our site was hacked.
Clearly it is working for some books. Of course, you could just publish a book with a title that is on-point and use the subtitle to reinforce it. For example, I see this one showing up high on Amazon:
"Build a Drone: A Step-by-Step Guide to Designing, Constructing, and Flying Your Very Own Drone"
Not only did they name the title after a common search phrase (How to build a drone), but they included variation and repetition while helping the user understand what the book is about in a very natural way.
As retailers evolve their internal search, the drone example would work better. The Awkward Thoughts book has keywords that are all over the place and dilute the value of each word.
The drone book reinforces the primary topic: building drones. However, if you are going for words that are obscure or very rarely used in book titles, then the subtitle stuffing method may continue to work.
If your book has a large following and will get lots of contextual links across the web, lots of on-topic reviews, or become the most popular in a category, then sites like Amazon will still figure out how to rank them highly (I often see books ranking without the word in the title or subtitle).
But if you don't have a following, don't have any credibility and are writing on topics for which there are no categories and have very few reviews, then stuffing the subtitle may sell may actually work, as long as you don't cross the line where users will report the book or staff may notice you've gone too far.