Amazon SEO-Because Amazon is a Search Engine Too!

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While Amazon is primarily known as the the largest online retailer, most people don’t know they have created their own search engine that delivers the best product suggestions to their visitors just like Google.

And now it’s becoming easier to start your own Amazon-related business. There are several Amazon programs for budding entrepreneurs to choose from such as Amazon Associate, Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA), their book selling platform Kindle Direct Publisher (KDP) and most recently Merch by Amazon, a print on demand (POD) t-shirt program.

What makes Amazon better than Google is that, unlike Google, people who go to Amazon are BUYERS! They aren’t there to do research or lookup some fact. They have a product in mind and are ready to purchase.

It’s pretty apparent that whoever ranked #1 for a keyword phrase in Amazon gets the click and likely the actual sale.

While it’s obvious how powerful Amazon SEO can be in increasing one’s business, Amazon and its algorithm are relatively unknown.

So, to help you get your product listings to the top of the Amazon’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERP), let me introduce you to Amazon’s product search engine A9, and Amazon’s algorithm variables.

The Amazon Algorithm

A subsidiary company of Amazon started in 2003, A9 was tasked with the sole responsibility of creating a better user experience by placing the right products in front of the right customers. Besides SERP’s, A9 is responsible for Amazon’s advertising platform and technologies.

Similar to Google, A9 works to find the right products, rather than pages, using on-page and off-page data in order to build their own SERPs.

Unlike Google, Amazon’s doesn’t send traffic to other sites, but looks to find the correct product that will provide the best sales conversion. This is why you cannot simply apply the same optimization strategies as you might for Google, Yahoo or Bing.

Let’s discuss the 5 major variables and best practices that A9 uses when creating SERP’s and ranking.

1. Recent Sales

A9 doesn’t care about sales history overall for a particular product; only how many sales occurred recently.

Because of this, a product can jump above another product by having a lot of sales in a short period of time. It is important to note, that to maintain it’s ranking, the product needs to consistently make sales.

You can see how this variable would be useful during holidays such as Halloween in Octoberwhen people are more likely to buy Halloween-themed candy in October, but will want Valentine-themed candy in February.

Now, that may seem like a tall order and something we optimizers can’t affect too much; however, there are other factors that can help our products get to the top that we can optimize for.

2. Verified Reviews

The number of verified reviews and their overall rating is one of the most powerful variables in Amazon page rankings. A verified review is a review in where someone bought the product and left a review. An unverified review is where Amazon can’t confirm the reviewer buying it, but they left a review anyway. Clearly the verified review carries more weight in Amazon’s eyes because a verified review is genuine and from an actual customer, and a good indication of whether or not customers like a particular product.

If A9 continues to place a product high in the SERPs based on just sales numbers, but customers aren’t leaving reviews or are leaving negative comments, Amazon will lower that product’s rankings and bring a similar product up in the rankings. Sales are a top priority for Amazon, but they also place a large emphasis on the customer experience as well.

Amazon recently dealt a heavy blow to the FBA community by disallowing a seller from giving or discounting their product for an “honest” review. This was especially important for new sellers who had no sales and no reviews, because those giveaways and discounts “jump started” these new sellers organic rankings. While I think Amazon made the correct decision eliminating a “sponsored” review, this change is going to heavily increase the use of PPC and will likely raise bid rates as more sellers compete for limited ad space to get their “new” product seen.

Reviews are super important in order to get ranking,

3. CTR Versus CTS

Just like Google, having a high Click Through Rate (CTR) is an indication that someone found what they were looking for. If a product ranks #1 in Amazon but the product under it has a higher CTR for a specific search term, then it is numerically obvious that people believe they are looking for #2 instead of #1.

However, A9 takes it a step further; it doesn’t just rely on the click through rate, but also calculates the overall click to sales (CTS). Using the example above, even if product #1 has a lower CTR, if it has a higher CTS, then it will continue to trump the #2 product in the rankings.

4. Sales Page Content

Every search engine needs words in order to understand what a page’s content is about. Amazon is no different and so most of these same SEO tactics apply for Amazon, to include headers, text ratio, keyword density, etc.

However, Amazon product listings do not have as much control on a product page as we do on our blogs. Therefore, where you can place content and how you structure it for Amazon is even more important than for Google.

For Amazon product listings, there are several areas in which we can place our keywords to include:

Page title
Subtitle (Publishing only)
Bullet Points
Product description
Editorial review (Publishing only)
Product picture file name
Name of author, editor, etc (Publishing only…Also, don’t recommend keyword stuffing here)
Amazon’s ‘special’ keywords.

Note: these vary somewhat, Merch listings may not include all theses fields yet.

5. Amazon ‘Special’ Keywords

These keywords are only internal to Amazon. They are not meta tags, they won’t show up in a page’s HTML — meaning Google/Yahoo/Bing can’t see them.

Amazon’s guidelines:

There are five fields that accept 50 characters each.
You do not need to repeat any words
Unecessary characters will be ignored (e.g., commas, quotes, quotation marks)
Including multiple variations of the same word is unnecessary (e.g., Car-Cars)
Including common misspellings is unnecessary
Order of the search terms may matter
Do include synonyms or spelling variations (e.g. include sun screen and sunscreen)

Amazon isn’t very clear, and many people will have done something like this:

Search Term 1 -Sunblock
Search Term 2 -Sunscreen
Search Term 3 -Sun block
Search Term 4 -Sun screen
Search Term 5 -Mineral Sunscreen

But if you read the rules above, this is far better.

Search Term 1 -brush on block mineral powder sunscreen sunblock
Search Term 2 -sun screen protection spf 30 suntan lotion tan kid
Search Term 3 -baby spray face child family natural skin sport
Search Term 4 -cream boat women men infant spf30 travel small
Search Term 5 -solar defense uv facial sensitive babies

No word is repeated, there are no variations of the same word and as many characters as possible are used to maximize keyword phrases.

The search terms fields do influence ranking on Amazon. An often used tip is to use this field for alternative uses. I sell an adjustable table, I can add the term “adjustable laptop stand”. Now I can get my product in front of those people as well as an alternative they might not have been searching for.

Conclusion

Ranking higher in a keyword SERP on Amazon equates to more sales, not just clicks.

A lot of newbies in the Amazon business world don’t truly understand A9 and the differences between what we traditionally do for SEO with Google ranking content, and Amazon ranking to generate sales.
Google SEO changes constantly as they figure out new ways to prevent people from gaming the system. Amazon has done the same recently with their policy changes concerning reviews. Heed their advice, follow their guidelines, it’s their ballfields, their rules. New product listings require Amazon PPC and social media to drive traffic to your listings to get eyeballs on your products until you start ranking.

If you have any products listed on Amazon, try some of these simple tweaks. Remember: Amazon is a search engine too!

If you need any help with product listings, consultation or Amazon PPC management, get in touch.

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