Amazon is a huge e-commerce platform that is now the second largest search engine behind Google thanks to the brilliantly simple and convenient user experience. But that simple user experience masks an increasingly complex algorithm, a code that sellers must continuously try to crack to improve their product placement and capture sales.
As with any search engine, there are specific ways to optimize your product listing and improve your Amazon ranking. Amazon differs from other search engines in one very crucial way: it is first and foremost a buying platform.
Amazon Ranking and the Buyer Experience
Think of the last time you went into a store: You walked in because you had an item (or several) in mind that you wished to purchase. You went down the appropriate aisle, chose the product that best suited your needs, and walked up to checkout. The cashier asks, “did you find everything you needed today?” You respond in the affirmative, make your purchase, and leave.
From start to finish, the store did everything it could to simplify and expedite your experience. It labeled each aisle, put the best-selling products at eye-level, and confirmed your satisfaction with the final transaction. You wanted to buy a specific product, and the store wanted to help you to find that product quickly and easily so you will come back again and make more purchases.
This is exactly how Amazon works. If you want a higher Amazon ranking, you need to give Amazon a good reason to put your product in front of the customer, aka move you to the top of the search engine results page (SERP). Understanding this analogy is key to understanding what Amazon (more specifically A9) looks for in your product listing, why keyword stuffing and black hat tactics won’t work, and exactly what steps you can take to improve your Amazon ranking.
This is your guide to helping the store (Amazon) decide to place your products on that eye-level shelf (improve your Amazon ranking) by creating optimized product listings.
Understanding Amazon A9 and the Amazon Algorithm
Am I going to teach you exactly how Amazon’s search engine works? No, partly because Amazon’s algorithm – referred to as A9 – is a tightly guarded and ever-changing secret, and mostly because such in-depth knowledge is unnecessary.
You don’t need to know all the ins and outs of Amazon A9, you just need to understand what it’s trying to do.
Amazon A9 is hyper-focused; it’s not trying to educate, entertain, provide context, or rack up millions of clicks. It wants to put the most relevant, most popular, most purchased products right in front of the customer – think eye level at the store – and it uses keyword relevancy, price, sales velocity, conversion rate, product reviews, seller reviews, return rate, and more to make that happen.
A9 is complex, and it is always changing and evolving. Tricks and hacks that worked a few years ago will not work now.
Amazon Ranking Factors: Which Factors Matter Most?
Amazon is a buying platform; therefore, Amazon’s algorithm is focused on three main factors:
- Conversion Rate
- Customer Satisfaction
As reflected in the store analogy above, all A9 cares about is helping the customer make their purchase. Naturally, this means it prioritizes relevant products with high conversion rates and good customer satisfaction. Think of the popular, name-brand cereal box beaming at eye-level in your grocery store: the store put it there for a reason, and your product listing can get to page 1 if you follow similar strategies.
Improving your Amazon ranking means making product listings relevant to a variety of customer queries, optimizing images and text on your store pages to boost conversion rates, and actively engaging with the customer for reviews and feedback.
Let’s explore each of these in more depth and discuss specific techniques you can use to improve your Amazon Ranking.
How to Improve Product Relevance and Keyword Position
Of the Amazon Ranking Factors, improving product relevance is probably the most within your direct control. When a customer performs a search, Amazon A9 reviews the keywords in your product listing page to decide which products match the query. Again, the focus is more on category than on content, so specific components of the product listing determine and improve relevance.
The goal of optimization is to put keywords where they will have the biggest impact on product relevance. This can no longer be done by cramming every possible keyword into a spammy-looking product title (thank goodness!). Instead, use the list below to optimize and prioritize keyword position in your product listing:
- Product Description
- Backend Search Terms
Per Amazon-suggested best practices, the title of your product listing should contain the following elements:
- Brand name
- What the product does
- Key materials/ingredients
If there’s a secret to crafting titles, it’s knowing how to organize these elements to make your listing relevant across multiple platforms and knowing what Amazon A9 prioritizes. For example, Amazon prefers titles that start with the brand name, and listings that fail to do this are often penalized.
Relevant keywords should be as close to the beginning of the title as possible, especially if your target customer is a mobile browser since desktop titles get cut off on mobile. Your customer is not able to physically pick up your product and examine it, so your title must have enough specific information to tell both them and Amazon A9 this is the product they need. If there is an art to title optimization, it’s finding the right balance of relevant keywords without creating spammy, keyword-stuffed titles.
Although bullet points are not weighted as heavily, they still contribute to relevancy by providing additional space to add keywords that did not make the title. For example, if you sell an item that is compatible with best-selling brand-name products, bullet points are an opportunity to include “compatible with iPhone” to capitalize on those specific keyword phrases. Note that the language of compatibility must be very specific to avoid any brand confusion or potential claims against the listing. If you are unsure about compatibility language, consider working with an Amazon agency to help with listing optimization.
Bullet points can also affect conversion rate by giving the customer a skimmable breakdown of key product features and benefits to help them make their final decision. This and product description are areas where engaging and well-crafted content can influence buying behavior and improve Amazon ranking through sales.
Again, product description does not have as much impact on relevancy, but it can influence buying behavior. This section is an opportunity to tell your brand story and give customers more information about your product. Since you have more leeway with product description, any remaining SEO keywords that did not make the title or bullet points should be included here.
Product description is also an opportunity to insert a clear and specific call to action. Make sure you include a strong CTA at the end.
This is where you can include additional technical and physical details of your product, such as dimensions and weight. Although this does not directly affect relevancy, it shows Amazon your listing is thorough and provides value to the customer. Remember: Amazon cares about customer satisfaction, so the more useful your listing is for the customer, the better.
Backend Search Terms
This is the only “hidden” section we’ve discussed so far, so it’s an opportunity to tell Amazon’s algorithm exactly which keyword the listing is targeting. Here are a few recommendations to follow when filling in backend keywords:
- Don’t repeat any words
- Avoid quotation marks, commas, and other special characters (your character count is limited)
- Do include spelling variations and synonyms
Conversion Rates Make or Break SERP Ranking
As we’ve already established, Amazon wants to sell products. This is why conversion rates matter so much to Amazon A9: Products with a high conversion rate have a better chance of being purchased by the consumer.
Unlike relevancy, conversion rates operate in a feedback loop with Amazon rankings. The higher a product’s conversion rate, the more likely it is to move up the Search Engine Ranking Page (SERP). The higher the product appears on SERP, the more likely it is to convert. The process works in reverse: products with declining conversion rates will see a corresponding decline in SERP Ranking.
Factors That Affect Conversion Rate
While you may not have as much direct control over conversion rate as you do over relevancy, the following elements have a significant impact on product performance:
- Customer reviews
- Image quality
We will talk more about customer reviews when we discuss customer satisfaction. As for the other factors, we know from our Sponsored Display Ads research that high quality images that the customer can zoom in on lead to higher conversion rates and making sure your product is competitively priced is a given.
Actions to Improve Conversion Rate
You can’t make your customer buy your product any more than you can force the proverbial horse to drink, but that shouldn’t stop you from leading them there anyway.
The more customers you can lead to your product page, the more opportunities to make a sale. You can use Amazon PPC to drive internal traffic drive to your listing and ads on social media or Google AdWords to drive external traffic.
Of course, it doesn’t matter how much traffic you drive to the product page if it’s not primed to convert. So, how do you prime your product listing and Amazon store to convert shoppers?
- Cater to skimmability – Provide shoppers with key information in a way that is easy to see at a glance. Examples include sizing guides in the media gallery and formatting the bullet points section like we demonstrate right here: a key callout, a dash, and then more information for those who want to learn more.
- Appeal to features & benefits – Features are what a product does. Benefits are how those features make the shopper’s life more enjoyable. Features appeal to logic. Benefits appeal to emotion. The most effective product listings appeal to both. Use images and videos showing a product in use in a natural setting and telling a story in the text.
Another crucial way to boost sales and improve conversion rate is to monitor page data and performance so you can determine if and when it’s time to make changes. If, for example, you’ve checked the Traffic under your Seller Central Detail Sales Page and seen that plenty of customers arrive at your page but few are buying, it might be an indication you need to go back and rework those titles, bullet points, and product descriptions.
Customer Satisfaction: Everyone’s a Winner!
At the end of the day, customer satisfaction benefits everyone. Happy customers who enjoy the products likely come back to buy more products. The satisfied customer gets what they want, Amazon gets repeat business, and you get the sale.
Amazon wants happy customers. It uses product reviews and rankings to determine which products have higher customer satisfaction. Customers want to be happy with their purchase, so they also use reviews and rankings to sort product options and make a final decision.
The Power of Product Reviews
An abundance of excellent product reviews can do as much to improve your Amazon ranking as any other factor. Great reviews drive conversion, which improves ranking, and shows Amazon your product makes customers happy, which improves your ranking. Terrible reviews do the opposite.
While the obvious goal is to get tons of great reviews, the first step of that process is having a strategy to acquire reviews in the first place. You cannot get good reviews if you don’t have a way to get reviews in the first place, and you cannot get better reviews if you don’t have any to work with yet.
As mentioned in the blog post, Amazon Success Requires Strong Foundations, brands are often so focused on making the sale they forget that there are touchpoint opportunities beyond the point of sale. Include a review CTA in your packaging or request a product review in your automated follow up. Not having reviews hurts you in two ways: If you don’t have reviews, you don’t know what you might need to fix about your product and Amazon does not know if customers like your product.
Fake Reviews are Old News
Don’t even think about trying to fill your listing with fake reviews. As with many of the other outdated Amazon ranking tactics we’ve covered, fake reviews do more harm than good.
Just like keyword stuffing, Amazon is cracking down on this practice. Customers don’t like it, and Amazon cares what customers think. Even if you get less than stellar reviews at the beginning, having honest and unbiased reviews is a crucial piece of the Amazon ranking puzzle.
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