Home | Blog | A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide to Amazon SEO
In today’s complex, omnichannel eCommerce environment, the utilization of Amazon is not only a luxury, but it is also a necessity for merchants that seek to build a successful brand.
Today, over 49 percent of consumers turn directly to Amazon for their product searches. As stunning as this statistic is, it is actually a decrease from previous years when Amazon controlled over 55 percent of initial product searches.
Because of the power and credence that the Amazon platform gives to average eCommerce retailers, merchants can cultivate powerful, stable and recognizable brands capable of expanding well outside of their points of origin. This dynamic is evident in the fact that approximately one-fifth of Amazon sellers generate over $1 million annually. It seems that Mr. Bezos isn’t the only one getting rich as a result of Amazon’s existence.
However, sellers don’t get to this point by merely adopting the Amazon marketplace and watching their products fly off the digital shelves. For eCommerce purveyors to attain such impressive heights through Amazon, it is necessary to possess an intimate understanding of the various methods used to stand out from the ocean of other sellers offering a galaxy of different (and often similar) products to consumers.
This is where Amazon marketing knowledge, techniques and tactics come into play. Retailers must continually invest their time, energy and money to dominate their products categories and niches effectively.
The reason why is it so essential to invest so many resources into Amazon marketing is because it is quite different from advertising on (or optimizing existing ads through) Facebook or Google.
On Amazon, consumers aren’t there to idly browser or window shop. No, these shoppers move through Amazon with the intention of making a purchase. They are there to read reviews, compare products, juxtapose prices and click the “Buy Now” button.
These behaviors are what separates Amazon from the majority of a merchant’s omnichannel ecosystem. The high level of consumer purchase intent is what makes the company’s platform an essential tool in the retailer’s toolbox. Therefore, sellers must learn to effectively market their brand and products on the world’s largest eCommerce platform.
To help enhance your brand’s Amazon acumen, we have assembled a comprehensive and in-depth guide for driving sales through the roof using a variety of marketing tips, tactics, tricks and techniques to make Amazon an insanely lucrative channel for your brand.
Ready to learn how to dominate the competition on Amazon? Dive on in and download the knowledge needed for niche domination.
Much like Google and other comparable search engines, Amazon utilizes an algorithm to rank products for various keyword searches, weighing various factors. Also like other search engines, Amazon sellers can optimize their product listings to generate upward mobility for their rankings.
However, what many merchants aren’t privy to is the multitude of useful techniques for developing an effective Amazon SEO strategy that cracks the company’s A9 algorithm.
What is A9?
Amazon A9 is the name for the retail behemoth’s search engine. A9 is actually a subsidiary of Amazon; the company builds, maintains, manages and improves the platform’s search and advertising technologies.
Learning to intimately understand and effectively navigate this algorithm is critical to succeeding on Amazon as getting found is the first essential step in generating a sale.
According to Amazon:
81 percent of clicks are on brands residing on the first page of results
70 percent of its customer never go beyond the first page
35 percent of Amazon customers click on the first product on a results page
The first three items on the platforms SERPs account for 64 percent of clicks
These stats highlight precisely how imperative it is to learn to top the platform’s results pages successfully.
As the competition on Amazon grows year-over-year, becoming cognizant of how the A9 algorithm works and the elements that it takes into consideration lies at the foundation of topping the marketplace’s SERPs and generating incremental sales for your brand, successfully launching new products and building a sustainable business model.
How A9 Works
While Amazon’s a9 algorithm serves the same purpose as those leveraged by other internet search engines (and has many similarities), some key differences make A9 a unique animal in terms of optimization strategies and opportunities.
When performing a search on engines like Google, people perform various kinds of searches driven by different intentions. Many Google searches are informational in nature, with the user seeking to obtain data or knowledge about something. This type of search represents the majority of Google queries.
Other Google searches can be navigational, meaning that the user is trying to get to a specific website or location on the internet.
Finally, users might conduct a transactional search, meaning that they are looking for a product or service with the intention of making a purchase.
What differentiates Amazon’s engine (and its A9 algorithm) from search engines like Google is that nearly all of Amazon’s searches are transactional. Remember, nearly 50 percent of all product searches start on Amazon, meaning that the platform is packed with high-intent users.
Because of this fundamental difference, Amazon’s A9 algorithm is nowhere near as complex as Google’s, and its ranking factors boil down to:
If merchants optimize their product pages to be highly relevant for related queries and increase their performance metrics through the marketing tips explored in this guide, the chances of generating markedly more conversions and ranking on Amazon’s first-page increase exponentially.
Now, within the relevance and performance ranking factors, there are direct ranking factors (which explicitly impact a brand’s SEO performance) and indirect ranking factors (which peripherally influence SEO achievements).
Let’s explore those factors to gain a more comprehensive understanding of how A9 weights the elements that guide Amazon’s rankings.
Direct Ranking Factors
Direct rankings factors will naturally have more of an impact on seller rankings than indirect elements, so let’s explore these forceful aspects first.
Sales Performance History
This factor falls under the performance aspect of the A9 algorithm.
Your product’s conversion rate (which is intimately linked with other elements such as price, reviews, etc.) is a substantially significant performance factor that Amazon considers when ranking products. However, sellers don’t have direct access to this kind of information. This omission means that the best solution for attempting to uncover conversion data is to view Seller Central’s Detail Sales Page and Traffic under Business Reports. By observing the Unit Session Percentage in this section – which is equivalent to the number of units purchased per visit – retailers can attain some semblance of what their conversion rate might be.
In addition to conversion rates, if a product’s sales velocity (the relative speed at which it sells) is lackluster, merchants will want to explore the various relevance factors detailed in this guide to help enhance their performance goals.
In addition to pushing a substantial amount of product, sellers will have to abide by Amazon’s seller performance targets which dictate that each seller should strive to attain the following goals:
Order defect rate: < One percent
Pre-fulfillment cancel rate: < Two and a half percent
Late shipment rate: < Four percent
While these targets don’t exactly impact SEO, failing to meet these goals could result in account suspension or the outright removal of selling privileges, which would most certainly negatively impact rankings.
Text Match Relevancy
Naturally, this SEO element falls on the relevancy side of Amazon’s ranking system.
When speaking to this aspect of Amazon SEO, it is important to note that this encompasses all content within a product listing; everything from titles to backend search terms is taken into account.
Text match relevancy is essentially the concept that most people think about when they think of search engine optimization techniques and is critical to elevating a brand’s presence within Amazon’s SERPs.
Text match relevancy is just what it sounds like: The utilization of keywords within a product listing that helps Amazon determine the relevance of each item in comparison to the user query entered.
Consumers search Amazon by entering desired keywords; these are then matched against various aspects of product listings (such as title, description, product copy, etc.) to measure its relevance.
Moreover, while it has not officially been shown to be an influential SEO element on Amazon, many eCommerce marketers have noted that specific products organically rank higher when main keywords are included within the seller name.
Again, this is not a concrete conclusion; so, while it is worth considering, it should be taken with a grain of salt.
It should go without saying that the price of a product is hugely influential over a seller’s conversion rates and sales velocity; therefore, a proper pricing strategy is not only meaningful but significantly consequential in terms of SEO performance.
If a seller prices his or her products competitively (when juxtaposed to other sellers and other websites), it stands to have a positive impact on sales velocity. If a retailer overlooks how their price compares to similar products within a category and sells their merchandise above the “going rate,” then one of two outcomes is likely to manifest:
The seller will generate far fewer sales than comparable products.
Amazon will determine the higher price point to be a deterrent to consumers and will assume that it will naturally sell less and rank it lower as a result.
No matter which scenario comes to pass, overpricing products relative to the marketplace will have a negative impact on search rankings. Retailers that fail to recognize this will effectively sabotage their own business.
To crush the competition on Amazon, it is essential to properly compare what competitors are doing within the Amazon marketplace and on their external websites to generate prices accordingly and competitively.
Finally, if you do list your product for a higher price than comparable items, there needs to be an apparent reason as to why the disparity exists. This justification could be anything from additional features to a wide margin in positive reviews that enables a product to stand out from similar items.
Much like pricing, it should be evident that product availability will have a tremendous impact on Amazon search rankings; particularly if your brand runs out of merchandise.
When retails run out of stock, there is a substantial chance that their product listing will sink or outright disappear. For this reason, it is critical that merchants maintain their inventory levels appropriately. Moreover, be sure to adjust ordering habits based on seasonal trends, holidays and other eCommerce variables.
With Amazon’s direct ranking factors explored, let’s dive into the algorithm’s indirect influences.
Indirect Ranking Factors
While direct ranking factors have an exact effect on a product’s position within Amazon’s SERPs, indirect ranking factors don’t necessarily have any influence over the search results, but they do impact direct ranking factors which do ultimately influence the SERPs.
There is a wide range of indirect factors that can sway Amazon search results (such as those discussed below) as they tend to have consequential effects on factors such as conversion rates and sales velocity.
It is important to note that there is no official confirmation that different fulfillment methods have any sort of control over SERP rankings; however, much like keywords in seller names, many merchants and marketers have noted that the adoption of Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) “seems” to have a positive impact on product rankings.
For the uninitiated (read: complete newbies), FBA is a service provided by Amazon in which the company manages all the product storage and shipping tasks that would usually be left for the seller to handle. While this time-and-headache saving service does come at a price, it also includes a variety of useful features that enable merchants to scale businesses at a rapid pace.
That said, the decision to utilize Amazon’s FBA services is entirely dependent on the type of business a retailer runs and the structure of their organization. All reports of SEO boosts coming from the usage of FBA are purely anecdotal and cannot be proven as fact.
No matter if you are a selling veteran or an Amazon newbie, you are probably at least somewhat aware of how important reviews are to enhancing sales. As is stands, 91 percent of shoppers read reviews while upwards of 84 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation from a close friend. Given the weight that people (rightly) put into online reviews, it is clear as to why these assessments impact conversions, thereby influencing direct ranking factors.
This influence is quite evident within Amazon’s SERPs as there seems to be a direct correlation between a product’s ranking and the number of reviews it has garnered. However, it is important to note that quantity is not the only element to be considered. Products that rank towards the top of SERPs for broad keywords tend to feature more reviews and better reviews than those further down the page.
From this, it seems reasonable to deduce that touting a more significant number of reviews (and good ones at that) has a substantial impact on click-through rates and sales, which in turn influences the overall ranking for a given product.
However, a quick word to the wise: Much like on Google, it is not worth the effort to attempt to cheat the algorithm. Amazon is continually cracking down on fake reviews and bad reviewing practices such as trading reviews for deals.
If merchants are caught soliciting reviews from consumers in exchange for money, deals, products, etc. there is an excellent chance that Amazon will suspend their account.
Retailers seeking to generate an increased number of honest reviews should aim to establish an email follow-up sequence using a tool like Feedback Genius. Using this method, merchants can automate email communications that kindly ask customers for reviews after purchasing a product.
However, sellers also need to know how to handle negative reviews. For these situations, it is paramount for eCommerce purveyors to address consumer issues effectively and expediently.
Steller product images are a necessity for attaining dominant SEO performance on Amazon. Numerous studies have revealed that high-quality photos produce consistently higher conversion rates.
“Images should be 1,000 pixels or larger in either height or width. This minimum size requirement enables the zoom function on the website. Zoom has been proven to enhance sales. The smallest your file can be is 500 pixels on its longest side.”
As we’ve mentioned before, higher sales impact direct ranking factors. So, posting large, high-quality, zoomable images can result in a boost in both revenues and rankings.
Enhanced Brand Content and A+ Enhanced Marketing Content
Since Amazon is such a crowded and ambitious eCommerce destination, retailers are continually searching for ways to gain a competitive edge. Fortunately, Amazon has given sellers a variety of avenues to do so.
That said, there are some critical differences between the two features.
A+ Enhanced Marketing Content is an option provided only to Vendor Central merchants, meaning that it is largely reserved for manufacturers and distributors. With A+ EMC, retailers can gain a leg up over merchants who sell comparable products. In fact, Amazon itself has reported that research indicates that the use of A+ EMC can boost sales by three to 10 percent.
A+ EMC allows manufacturers to utilize additional images, information-rich copy and charts depicting important data sets to help show consumers the unique selling points of a specific product.
The implementation of supplementary images and info gives these sellers an added SEO advantage through their increased ability to sell. It should be rather apparent that A+ EMC is a fantastic tool for helping product listings stand out.
For manufacturers or distributors that wish to adopt this feature, reach out to Amazon and submit a request for approval. Once approved, merchants have the option of creating their own A+ EMC page or allowing Amazon to handle it for them.
Through the self-service option, retailers elect which pricing level they would like (basic, silver, gold or platinum all provide various “modules”) and build their listings themselves. Here, sellers can choose their own content layout from 12 different modules, many of which feature customizable components.
Alternatively, if a merchant opts to allow Amazon to handle the process, the seller will provide Amazon with the information and images, and the company will create a module appropriate for the product.
As for Enhanced Brand Content, this is essentially the same thing, but for retailers that use Seller Central. EBC pages are available to organizations that are authorized and registered with Amazon’s Brand Registry.
Much like A+ EMC, Enhanced Brand Content allows brand merchants to employ additional images and copy to make products stand out and persuade consumers.
As far as modules are concerned, EBC only offers retailers five different template layouts; however, unlike A+ EMC, enhanced brand content is free to implement. This complimentary component means that Seller Central retailers have no reason for not leveraging this crucial product page element.
Amazon advertising options – which fall under the Amazon Marketing Services umbrella – are an incredibly popular means for merchants to promote various products, thereby increasing sales and product rankings. In fact, Amazon’s PPC services have become such a monumental force for retailers that the company is now the third largest digital ad platform, right behind Google and Facebook.
Amazon provides sellers with several advertising options (Jump to Different Types of Amazon Ads), each giving merchants the potential to boost their bottom line. Moreover, using Amazon sponsored ads enables retailers to generate reports which detail what people are searching and how many folks bought from a brand, thereby strengthening an advertiser’s keyword list to include definitive terms that drive sales.
Since the employment of Amazon PPC advertising can draw in more consumers and lead to more purchases, retailers stand a significant chance of increasing their rankings through this methodology; particularly when one considers the scope of sponsored ads. Since these promotions can surface for more than just exact keywords, this means that the search range is more comprehensive than mere SEO strategies.
Moreover, advertising on Amazon provides merchants with heightened visibility, thereby increasing the chances of a positive ROI. This dynamic essentially means that the impact of PPC advertising can be measured almost instantly.
However, unlike many of the other SEO tactics outlined, advertising on Amazon requires a monetary investment.
It is also important to note that retailers need not limit themselves to Amazon PPC as leveraging other services like Facebook or Google ads can also be lucrative. Do keep in mind, however, that when advertising on Amazon, merchants are getting products in front of consumers who are likely ready to buy; the same may not be true when leveraging other ad platforms.
Promotions are an incredibly popular strategy among new Amazon seller or even those launching a new product. By running promotions such as giveaways, lightning deals, or deep discounts, sellers stand to dramatically increase a product’s traffic, sales, reviews and rankings shortly after the item goes live.
Promotions are therefore an essential strategy for competing with more established merchants and products; however, be wary when running a promotion as Amazon has been known to penalize products that grow too quickly as it is a red flag that could be indicative of inauthentic reviews or shady promotional practices. Therefore, it is essential to control the growth of a product within the marketplace.
To learn more about running a by-the-books promotion on Amazon, check out the help content in Seller Central.
Important Parts of Product Listings
Product listings are at the core of an Amazon SEO strategy. To effectively rise through the marketplace’s SERPs, sellers must optimize product pages to incorporate proper keyword usage, descriptive elements and backend components.
Below are the most crucial aspects to product listings, ranked in order of importance.
Product titles are likely the most vital element in Amazon SEO when speaking to the A9 algorithm’s relevancy concerns. Given the weight associated with product titles, merchants should aim to optimize these headlines by including the most relevant keywords possible.
As with traditional SEO strategies, it is necessary to avoid keyword stuffing as this will ultimately damage a product’s search rankings, just as it would harm a webpage in Google’s SERPs.
Moreover, even if keyword stuffing didn’t negatively impact a product’s ranking (which it does), it would still make the title appear unnatural, spammy and all-around untrustworthy to consumers, ultimately hurting click-through rates and sales.
While there is much debate over the allotted character limit that Amazon enables merchants to utilize, a general rule of thumb is that 80 – 250 characters should avoid suppression. However, this does vary by category, so it is best to reference Amazon’s category-specific instructions for further details.
Moreover, titles on specific Amazon ads and its mobile application will be reduced to between 30 and 63 characters. For this reason, merchants should follow a clear format that puts the most pertinent information first.
A common, SEO-rich title formula that merchants can apply to their listings is:
This formula tends to naturally incorporate the most important keywords and information, thereby optimizing the title no matter where it is displayed. This format is vital as the A9 algorithm correlates higher relevance with keywords that appear earlier in the title. For the features portion of the description, retailers might list elements such as:
In addition to these guidelines, retailers will also want to ensure that they:
Capitalize the first letter of each word
Spell out measurement words like ounce, inch and pound
List all numbers as numerals instead of words (e.g., use three instead of 3)
As far as some Amazon title “do nots” are concerned, sellers should apply the following rules as well:
Ampersands (&) should not be used, unless part of the brand name
If the size is an inconsequential detail, leave it out of the product’s the title
If the product does not come in a variety of colors (two or more), be sure to exclude the color as this information is irrelevant.
Other elements that merchants will want to exclude from product titles include the item’s price or quantity, seller information, promotional messages (“Sale!” or “Discount!”), symbols, subjective claims, suggestive commentary (“Best Seller!”) and all capital letters.
Featured Bullet Points
Widely regarded as the second most influential factor for surfacing a product that relates to a given query, a product’s featured bullet points are a prime component in the overall health of an Amazon seller’s SEO strategy. This section is limited to 250 characters, so be sure to sure the space wisely.
The reason why this section is weighted so heavily is that bullet points are quick and easy to read; therefore, most consumers will scan this area to determine if a product fits their wants/needs.
In this section, merchants will want to highlight the top five features, benefits and selling points of the product. These elements should be listed while incorporating the most relevant keywords into the bullet points in the most natural way possible; this will add substantial value to a page’s SEO “juice.” It is essential to try to be as specific as possible with a product’s attributes to paint an enticing and accurate picture for consumers.
Additionally, retailers will want to try and include pertinent information that shoppers frequently seek out such as dimensions, ingredients, warranty information, and similar features.
It is wise to research a product’s competition to gain a broader understanding of the information retailers are including in their listings to ensure that rivals and not producing more thorough and persuasive bullet points.
Outside of these vital aspects, retailers should take care to ensure that their bulleted lists also adhere to the following guidelines:
Start each bullet point with a capital letter
Instead of writing in complete sentences, use fragments
Do not include ending punctuation
Write all numbers as numerals as opposed to words
Separate phrases in a single bullet with a semicolon
Spell out measurements, such as quart, feet and inches
Moreover, merchants are advised to be mindful of the following “do nots”:
Don’t enter any company information (this is for product features only!)
Don’t include any promotional or pricing information
Don’t include any shipping information
Since bullet points are so crucial to Amazon SEO, it is essential for sellers to not treat this as an afterthought. A significant number of brands opt to stuff regurgitated words and phrases from the title in this section. Using this time-saving strategy is a critical error as a product page’s bullet points can genuinely make or break its ability to surface high up in the SERPs.
Product descriptions are the third most important element on a product page in terms of SEO value. After a consumer is reeled in by a title and scans the bullet points, they will almost inevitably move to the product description for further details; hence its weight and value.
With product descriptions, retailers have 2,000 characters to work with; while this may seem like a lot, it goes quick, so be careful. As with the title and bullet points, it is necessary to naturally weave in influential keywords to ensure the section reaches its SEO potential.
Some elements that you don’t want to list in product descriptions include:
Details about another product you sell
Promotional language (“Sale” or “Free Shipping”)
For this section, spend some time making sure that the copy is readable, natural and persuasive. For this portion of the product page, it is wise to follow landing page best practices as these embody similar tenets.
Be sure to break up your product description into several easy-to-read paragraphs; try using light HTML to split up paragraphs and bold certain vital words or phrases.
Finally, ensure that you read all the requirements before crafting your product’s description. If the product you are selling is in the more competitive and strictly regulated categories (such as health supplements), Amazon has outlined stipulations on what a merchant can and cannot write; take these into account beforehand to save yourself the headache of re-doing your description.
Backend Search Terms
Backend search terms are pretty much just what you would think they are: These are invisible keywords entered on the backend that help amplify product discoverability but are never seen by consumers. Backend search terms are essentially hidden keywords that are only employed in the Seller account’s backend section but help to push listings up in the SERPs.
For those that are familiar with search engine SEO practices and elements, backend search terms can be thought of like meta tags as these inform Google about a web page’s contents, thereby helping the algorithm to establish when to surface a page in relation to a given user query.
In mid-2017, Amazon reduced the character limit for this section to “less than 250 bytes,” which equates to roughly 250 characters. If merchants exceed the allotted character amount, a warning will appear. Also, do be aware that commas are no longer ignored in the character count.
For this section, the order of keywords does not matter. If you’ve implemented a keyword strategy for traditional PPC campaigns, think of these words as akin to phrase match.
Retailers can enter in their search terms in several ways. Firstly, sellers can manually enter them via Seller Central by navigating to:
Alternatively, merchants can bulk upload search terms via .XML or .CSV files. However, given the recently implemented 250-byte limitation, this is likely unnecessary and will probably exceed the limit.
Furthermore, merchants are wise to get the most out of their backend search terms by:
Including alternative spellings
Adding in related search terms
Thinking up creative, out of the box queries
Retailers should also adhere to the following “do not” guidelines for best results:
Don’t repeat words
Avoid quotation marks as these tend to limit your overall character count
Don’t utilize excessive variations of the same word as this can prove to be redundant and will eat up the character count.
Employ an effective title formula to ensure the most important keywords and product information is included, no matter where the title is displayed (i.e., desktop site, mobile app, right rail). A good format to use is [Brand Name] – [Product Type] – [Feature #1] – [Feature #2] – [Size, etc].
Use bullet points to discuss not only your product’s most pertinent features but also its most significant benefits. Also, be sure to work relevant keywords into this section in a natural way.
Employ Enhanced Brand Content as it provides brands with a free means to include more information and images, thereby increasing the chances of earning more sales and influencing direct ranking.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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