With more than three billion total visits per month, Amazon is the world’s fourth most trafficked website and the largest online shopping destination.
What you may not know is that as of 2018, three times as many buyers search for products to buy on Amazon than Google! This is because of intent. People search Google for a variety of reasons, primarily looking for information. On Amazon, however, people are actively looking for a product to purchase.
Having a product that shows up on the front page for your category is supremely valuable. A product on page one versus one on page five can mean the difference between a few dollars in sales per month and a few million dollars!
Because Amazon (like any other company) is in the business of making money, it’s in their best interest to serve up results that are more likely to generate a conversion. They figure out which products to display for any given search query using their own proprietary algorithm, called A9.
Understanding how this algorithm works is the key to your success, and I’ll be sharing everything you need to know about it here.
The A9 algorithm works by analyzing data, observing traffic patterns and indexing the text from item descriptions to decide what product to show for any given combination of search words. When a buyer types something into the search bar, Amazon’s A9 algorithm performs a two-step process:
- It determines which items are the best match for the query.
- It then uses a scoring system to present the most relevant results.
The end goal for Amazon is to maximize the Revenue Per Customer (RPC). They do this by tracking every imaginable action a customer takes. They monitor not just what people buy, but also everywhere they click, how they browse the selections, and even where they hover their mouse.
Because Amazon has become such a popular selling platform, it’s more competitive than ever to get a product to rank highly. However, armed with the in-depth knowledge and ninja tricks I’m going to provide you about Amazon SEO and how to optimize your Amazon listing, you should be able to improve your visibility very quickly.
In this article, I’ll outline best practices and provide immediately actionable tips you can start following today to improve your rankings.
The strategies fall into the following categories: Title, Product Description & Keywords, Images, Branded Content, Reviews, Sales History & Velocity, Price, Selection, and Other Factors.
But before I begin with the tactical aspects of optimizing your listings, it’s important to know how these factors ultimately work together to determine a product’s rank.
Amazon’s ranking factors fall into three categories:
- Conversion Rate: This is a measure of what percentage of visitors to a product page buy the product. Conversion rates are strongly influenced by image quality, pricing, and customer reviews.
- Relevancy: How relevant is your product to the search terms? Factors that influence this score include title and description.
- Customer Satisfaction & Retention: Amazon’s top priority is keeping their customers satisfied. If a customer has a poor experience with a product or brand, they’re less likely to continue shopping on Amazon. Therefore, your seller feedback and Order Defect Rate percentages will directly influence your rankings.
Now that you’ve got some context let’s dive in…
Your title is the most important factor in Amazon SEO.
Titles indicate to the Amazon algorithm as well as the end user how relevant your product is to what the person is searching for.
Ideally, your title should be approximately 60 to 80 characters long, though you can technically use more. Focus on including the most relevant information at the beginning, like the brand name and product, and then add in details like distinguishing features, size, etc.
Your title should include the following information in this order:
- Product line or model
- Key feature or defining characteristic
- Product type
- Descriptive terms and certifications
- Packaging and quantity (if relevant)
For example, if you’re selling Starbucks coffee, here’s what an optimized title would look like for a typical bag of coffee:
Note: I added the pipes ( | ) for emphasis to break up the sections, so you as the reader would be able to see the different components that make up the title. You wouldn’t structure your actual listing this way.
Depending on whether your listing is showing in organic results on a desktop or mobile device, or if the listing appears as an ad, Amazon will truncate, or cut off, some of the title. For this reason, make sure that your most important keywords are placed at the front of the title, rather than the end.
Organic full-screen results display between 115 and 144 characters. Mobile results tend to display 55-63 characters, and ads limit the display to 30-33 characters. While I encourage you to take up as much real estate as possible in your title, Amazon is starting to crack down on titles that add in extra terminology that may be irrelevant or adds nothing to the user experience.
I’m going to stray from my coffee example to show you an instance of an iPhone charger title that I believe is excessively spammy. Yeah, we know it’s compatible with a bunch of older iPhone models. But do you seriously have to tell us every single one in the title?
Again, as algorithms get more advanced, more focus will be on the user experience. We see this now with platforms like Google and Facebook, so it makes sense that we’re now beginning to see it on Amazon, too.
It should go without saying to avoid the temptation to use keyword stuffing as a technique in your titles. This strategy worked once upon a time, but Amazon has gotten wise to this trick. Plus, it will turn off your potential buyers. An example of keyword stuffing for our coffee example would be:
Starbucks Coffee Ground Coffee Medium Roast Coffee 20-ounce bag of Coffee Best Coffee.
Yes, we get it. This person is selling coffee. Obnoxious, right? It’s hard to believe that strategies like that used to be commonplace!
That being said, you actually do want to stuff your keywords in the backend area of your product listing. More on that later…
If your product has a Manufacturer Part Number, you should include this right after your brand 100% of the time. Amazon shows heavy ranking preference for brands that follow this guideline. Here’s an example from KitchenAid:
It may seem odd to include these clunky part numbers that the majority of consumers probably aren’t even aware of, but for whatever reason, Amazon likes to see listing titles structured this way.
Another technique to enhance the readability of your listing is to use special characters to break up the text into readable chunks. For example, instead of just saying “Starbucks Breakfast Blend Medium Roast Ground Coffee 20 Ounce Bag,” you can edit it to read, “Starbucks | Breakfast Blend – Medium Roast Ground Coffee, 20-Ounce Bag.”
Characters I recommend using are:
- | (pipe to break up brand name and product or model)
- , (comma to list synonyms or separate categories)
- & (ampersand to graphically break up features)
- – (dash to break up words in general)
Takeaway: Put your most relevant keywords first. This technique makes it easier for shoppers to convert organically, and it also signals the Amazon search algorithm that your product is the most relevant for what their customer is seeking.
At this point, you may be wondering what keywords you should try to rank for in your title. The most logical thing to do is to look at what your competitors are doing. Check out the top-ranked items in Amazon’s Best Sellers to see who’s selling the most. Then take a look at their listings to view their complete title, as well as how they’ve structured their descriptions.
For this example, I took a look at the number 3 Best Seller – Death Wish Coffee. I’ll discuss more about this listing and what they’ve done well in later sections.
Optimize product descriptions to increase conversions, relevance, and rank.
The more useful your product description is, the higher you’ll rank and the more conversions you’ll get. Seems pretty obvious, right? So, how do you make sure your description is better than the competition?
It all starts with the bullet points. Use these to provide statements outlining the features and benefits of your product. Think of the feature as a factual statement about the product, while the benefit answers the question of how that feature helps them.
For example, one of the features of Death Wish coffee is that it’s organic. One of the benefits of buying organic coffee is avoiding pesticides and living a healthier lifestyle.
You can also practice bridging features and benefits with a “so that” statement. Here’s what that looks like: “Our coffee is ground so that you can conveniently use it any auto-drip coffee maker.”
Another best practice with bullet points is to add in related keywords that didn’t make it into your title. While the terms “organic” and “coffee” may have both appeared in the title, if they weren’t grouped together as “organic coffee,” you’d want to add that term in your bullet points.
And finally, if your product comes with a warranty, was made in the USA, is compatible with a well-known brand, or has relevant dimensions, these are all points to list in the bullets.
Below the bullet points is the product description. This section is where you get 2,000 characters to briefly tell your story. Again, make sure this has all of your relevant keywords, but keep it readable and resist the urge to try keyword stuffing.
Note: This single paragraph product description is being replaced by enhanced content, which I’ll describe in more depth shortly.
As promised earlier, I’ll show you a place where you actually want to do as much keyword stuffing as possible. It’s on the backend of your listing, and since customers won’t see it and be negatively affected, you can take this opportunity to include as many keywords and variations as you can think of.
When you list your product, there are multiple tabs where you fill in all of your information and details, including Vital Info, Offer, Description, etc. There is also a tab called Keywords that looks like this:
While I’ve never noticed a bump by filling in Intended Use and Other Attributes, I did see a spike in sales when I started filling in Search Terms. This field used to be the wild, wild west, but Amazon recently limited the number of characters you can enter here. Still, you can list another dozen or more keywords that will help the visibility of your listings.
When filling out this field, avoid repeating the words you’ve already used in the title, including brand name. Here’s a list of best practices directly from Amazon:
- Stay under their new limit of 250 bytes. If you go over this limit, they won’t include any of your keywords.
- Include synonyms that searchers may be using. If you sell t-shirts, include tee shirt, top, blouse, etc.
- Include spelling variations, but not misspellings. For example, gray and grey. Misspellings used to work, but the algorithm has gotten more advanced, so it considers misspellings to be redundant.
- Include abbreviations. For example, if you’re selling a product that’s compatible with the ketogenic diet, use keto. Or, if you’re listing an accounts payable software program, make sure to include the abbreviation AP.
- Avoid repeating words already in the title, like the brand name. You don’t need to put Starbucks in this field if your title already has Starbucks Coffee in it.
- Don’t include other brand names. This is a big no-no, and violating this rule can get you banned. If you sell Starbucks coffee, resist the urge to put Dunkin Donuts in your search keywords field.
- Don’t include ASINs or UPCs. This isn’t necessary, and it’s a waste of space.
- Choose either singular or plural, but not both. Again, the algorithm will pick up that they’re the same thing, so you don’t need to add both.
- Avoid temporary statements like “on sale,” “just reduced,” or “new.” People aren’t searching for these, and it can also be perceived as spammy.
- Avoid subjective terms like best, cheap, awesome, amazing, cute, etc. Amazon doesn’t like qualitative terms. Stick with the facts.
- Separate each keyword with a space. No commas needed. You’re limited on space, so don’t use something Amazon doesn’t even require.
- Don’t waste space adding keywords in other languages. The Amazon algorithm already translates into Spanish.
Here’s a ninja keyword trick…
Similar to Google, Amazon has an advanced autofill feature in their search bar that will show you the most popular related search terms for your keyword.
For example, if I type in coffee, here’s what I see:
It looks like coffee grinder is a top result. To better rank for my product on Amazon, I’d figure out a way to add coffee grinder in either my description of bullet point. Maybe I’d say something like, “Ground coffee means not having to use a coffee grinder.”
You can even take this one step further by typing in “coffee a” and seeing all the search terms that have coffee and words starting with the letter A. Do this for each letter of the alphabet, and you’ll have a complete guide to all of your relevant keywords.
A Picture Tells a Thousand Words.
Even more than the words in your listing, the images are what’s going to sell your product. Amazon keeps a close eye on the quality of your images and how well you follow their rules.
Images should be square and at at least 1000×1000 pixels. The main image must be on either a white or transparent background. High-resolution images will have an automatic zoom feature, which allows buyers to see the product up close. Zooming in has had a dramatic increase in conversions, so make sure your images are high resolution enough to allow for zooming.
I recommend also adding lifestyle images as well as a product video in the Image section of your listing. However, there is no direct correlation between the sales rank and the number of images. Still, if you’re neck and neck with a competitor, err on the side of providing more pictures and content.
A+ Content / Enhanced Brand Content Add Professionalism.
It used to be that you could only add pages with custom layouts (called A+ pages) if you had a Vendor Central account. (Vendor Central accounts are usually given to higher volume manufacturers who sell direct to Amazon). Starting in late 2016, however, Amazon opened up a program called Enhanced Brand Content, which allows sellers to create beautiful pages with pre-designed Amazon layouts.
Reviews provide social proof and encourage clicks.
If you see two similar-looking products and one has nine reviews while the other has 1,628 you’re more likely to click on the latter. Similarly, if one product has a 4.8-star rating and the other has a 3-star rating, you’re going to gravitate toward the one with the higher level of satisfaction.
Bottom line: The more reviews you have, especially positive ones, the higher your chances of getting on page one of Amazon’s search results.
Because reviews play such an important role in conversion, Amazon has been cracking down on fake review services as well as the strategy of trading a review for a free or heavily discounted product. The key is to get legitimate reviews from actual buyers.
If you’re selling directly to your customers through Amazon, you can include postcards and letters in your package and on the packing slip asking the buyer to leave a positive review or to contact you if there’s something they didn’t like about the product.
If you’re using Amazon FBA, you’ll have to use something like our Overgrowth Email Autoresponder to solicit reviews via email. This service is automated, so you can watch the reviews roll in once you’ve set up the back end. Alternatively, you can manually email a buyer after the item has been delivered and ask for a review.
Sales Velocity is the top determinant of your rank.
The most immediate way to get your products ranked at the top of the Amazon search engine is through a solid sales history, also called Sales Velocity or Sales Rank. Basically, the more you sell, the higher your ranking will be.
If this sounds like an impossible chicken/egg scenario, it is. You may be wondering how on earth you can sell more products to get ranked higher when products with already high rankings are the ones most likely to get the sale.
Fear not, there are ways to boost your sales and therefore your rankings relatively quickly.
There are two methods to drive sales to your listings:
- Keyword advertising on the Amazon platform
- Drive traffic externally through advertising on Google, Social Media, and owned media channels like your blog and email
Amazon PPC advertising is still relatively inexpensive. It works similarly to other keyword advertising platforms like Google. Within Amazon, you can try three different types of ads:
- Sponsored Products: These are keyword targeted, cost per click ads. They appear on either the right side or bottom of search results pages, as well as on product detail pages. These tend to be the lowest cost.
- Headline Search Ads: As the name suggests, they appear at the top of the first page of search results. If you’re looking to get maximum visibility, this is the best way to do it. Keep in mind that this type of ad is the most expensive.
- Product Display Ads: These ads allow you to target certain products or interests. For example, if you’re selling coffee, you may choose to advertise your product on pages that sell coffeemakers, coffee cups, coffee filters, etc.
Driving traffic from outside channels requires more effort and usually will cost you more, as clicks from Facebook and Google are more expensive than clicks on the native Amazon platform. However, this is still a viable option, especially when paired with other techniques like blog content and email marketing.
Here are some ideas you can use to get traffic on your Amazon product listing:
- Create an ad on Facebook or Google to your Amazon product
- Send an email to your list directing them to Amazon
- Drive traffic to a blog post or pre-sell page about your Amazon product
- Offer coupon codes that can be used on Amazon
If you’re buying media on a platform outside of Amazon, I’ve got another ninja trick for you. It’s a white hat way of manipulating a variable called Source Keyword.
Here’s a bit of background on how this works: You already know that Amazon tracks all of a buyer’s activity leading up to a sale, and they use that information to rank products. One of the most important things they track is the actual keywords a buyer enters into the search bar that lead to the sale.
Let’s go back to our coffee example. If I’m selling Death Wish Coffee, and I want to rank for the term “organic coffee,” here’s what I do:
- Type Organic Coffee into the search bar
- Keep scrolling until I find my product
- Click on the link. This is what the link looks like: https://www.amazon.com/Death-Wish-Coffee-Strongest-Certified/dp/B006CQ1ZHI/ref=sr_1_14_s_it?s=grocery&ie=UTF8&qid=1517444398&sr=1-14&keywords=organic+coffee
It’s an ugly link, but if you look at the end of the URL, you can see my search term, and you better believe that Amazon is tracking that.
- Take that URL and put it into a URL shortening service like bit.ly.
- Start driving traffic to the shortened link.
Now, whenever someone buys your product after clicking on that URL, you’ve tricked Amazon into thinking that the visitor performed a targeted search for your keyword. You’ll start to see your relevance, and therefore your ranking, for the term organic coffee rise dramatically.
Amazon knows that buyers are more likely to convert when they can get a product at a lower price. Therefore, lower-priced products tend to rank better than higher priced, comparable products.
Taking this one step further, if you are one of several sellers offering the same ASIN (for example, you’re one of 11 companies selling the same exact brand of coffee on the same product page), you’re going to want to be in the Buy Box, which is the area of the page that has the Add to Cart button. There are multiple factors that determine which seller gets the buy box, and it rotates. However, the offer with the lowest price and highest customer satisfaction rate tends to get the buy box at least 90% of the time.
If you have a product that’s available in multiple colors or sizes, it may be tempting to create a separate listing for each one of these variations.
Avoid this temptation! Here’s why:
In my coffee example, let’s say I’m selling a brand of coffee that has a regular and decaf option, and I also offer it in multiple container sizes. It’s best to group all of those options on the same page using Amazon’s parent-child product functionality.
|All Variations on One Page||Each Variation on Its Own Page|
|All reviews aggregated so it looks like the product has more reviews||Reviews are distributed among all the variations, preventing critical mass|
|Customers can browse all options in one place, better user experience||Customers have to visit multiple pages to see different options, inconvenient user experience
|Increased conversion rate because you get credit for any variation that gets purchased||Decreased conversion rates because customer will leave page to seek the variation
Amazon has shown a preference for products with multiple options on a single listing
|Amazon may demote products that have multiple pages when it’s not necessary|
There are other miscellaneous factors that don’t warrant a long discussion but are proven to help with your ranking, so I recommend following these tips and optimizing for as many as you can.
- Fill out all the fields in the backend product description. The more information you provide to Amazon, the better your listing will do. And it’s free, so why not?
- Include product specifications/information: You have the option at the back end of your listing to provide a series of product specifications. These will populate a section of the page called Product Specifiations or Product Information, depending on the category. Not only do these make it easier for users to navigate the essential details of a product, but they’re also helpful for when Amazon shows side by side product comparisons.
Here’s what this section looks like:
This section replaces the old school style paragraph that used to appear just below the bullet points, so now you can create a full-fledged product page with specs, comparison charts, banners, and more.
Here’s an example from Death Wish Coffee:
- Seller names that contain keywords that are the same as the product tend to perform better. For example, if you’re selling multiple brands of coffee, you’ll see a small boost if your store name is something like Coffee Lovers.
- Choose the right category: Amazon gives preference to sellers who select the most relevant category for their product. Depending on your exact item, you can pick a category and one or more subcategories. If you’ve ever seen something that looks oddly placed, for example, an iPhone in kitchen appliances, it’s often an irreputable seller with something to hide. Amazon knows this, so if you’ve miscategorized your item, even inadvertently, your ranking will suffer.
- FBA vs Merchant Fulfilled: Amazon prefers listings that they fulfill (FBA) because they have more control over the process. If you’re fulfilling items yourself, consider switching to FBA to optimize your Amazon listings.
- Answered Questions: Amazon claims that they don’t directly track this metric, but it does appear to be correlated with overall rankings. It’s also a best practice to monitor the questions people are asking and jump in with a response whenever you can. These questions can also spark ideas on how to optimize your content (so the questions are answered before people have to ask), and they should also influence the keywords you choose to use.
- Order processing speed: One of the seller metrics Amazon tracks is order processing speed. If you consistently fulfill orders quickly, or you sell through FBA, you’ll rank higher.
Amazon’s user base is a veritable gold mine, and this platform isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. You’d be surprised how lazy your competitors are, especially since Amazon makes it so easy to get started selling a product. Put in a little extra effort, follow these tips, and you’ll see your rankings soar in no time!