The Amazon.com marketplace is an incredibly valuable tool for millions of small businesses in the US and around the world, offering a convenient and extremely popular interface for ecommerce. That is, of course, if customers can find you. Visibility is a big aspect of Amazon.com sales, and understanding the logic behind the Amazon.com search engine can be the boost you need to put your products front and center.
A9 is a subsidiary of Amazon, Inc (“Amazon”) that is dedicated to managing Amazon's search engine, using data like customer traffic patterns, buying history, search queries and an index of the text that appears on the millions of product pages. With this data, A9 is able to create advanced algorithms designed to predict what a customer is most likely to buy based on their search query.
While it would be nice if we had access to the finer details, A9 does not publish its search engine algorithms in order to keep Amazon's functions proprietary. This isn't to say, however, that interested marketers are completely in the dark. There are things we do know based on experience, testing, and the bits and pieces of information Amazon does share with sellers. We know that recent sales and conversion history are heavily weighted, giving well established products with a solid sales history an advantage. The challenge is then how to increase sales and conversion history for new products when they are already at a disadvantage in search ranking? It may sound like an impossible cycle for new sellers frustrated with low search rankings and sales, but with a solid SEO strategy in place it can be done.
For those without sales, never fear: there are other factors that influence search rank outside of purchase history. For example, we’ve seen product reviews, pricing, seller account health, and fulfillment method have an impact on search results. If your product is new, focusing on these aspects of your listing will help you compete with the more established products. Sales are still a major factor however, so it’s important to include strategies to jumpstart your sales.
Be warned that Amazon has little tolerance for fraudulent tactics designed to overcome its ranking practices; as of a February 2, 2016 update, Amazon now includes a statement that prohibits the manipulation of the search and browse experience on its list of prohibited seller activities.
So what are the legitimate, or white hat, SEO techniques sellers can use to influence their search rank? There are several that, when used together, will increase your chances of having your product noticed by Amazon’s search engine. Below is a brief outline, over the next few months I’ll go into each one in more depth.
The copy you use to describe your product is more important than you may think it is. Without a solid base of information to pull from, Amazon can't begin to categorize your products or rank them in search results. Simply putting up a picture and moving along isn't enough; you need to take time to craft valuable product descriptions, bullets, titles, and backend search terms. Amazon indexes each of these for keywords that can be matched up to search queries. Good copy will also increase your conversion rate, turning browsers into buyers.
What customers think about your products is paramount. Complaints and positive feedback are both read, absorbed, and considered by shoppers as well as Amazon’s search engine, which is why a product with no reviews or all bad reviews is likely to be overlooked completely. Amazon is cracking down fraudulent reviews so it’s important to understand how to legally gather legitimate customer reviews for your new product.
Sponsored Product Ads
Launched just a couple years ago, Sponsored Product ads are here to stay. Much like sponsored social media posts, sellers willing to pay a little extra can have their products featured on the front page of results. When organic results aren't giving you the boost you need, a carefully managed Sponsored Product campaign can be a great way to increase visibility and sales when you're just getting started.
Amazon takes fulfillment very seriously, especially when it comes to their own fulfillment practices. Their Fulfillment by Amazon, or FBA, platform is considered the gold standard, offering fast access for paying prime members. While there are pros and cons to using Amazon versus fulfilling your orders by yourself, sellers looking to attract more buyers may see an uptick in sales and better placement in search when transitioning to FBA. There are other costs and factors to consider, of course, so be sure to evaluate your options before taking the plunge with FBA.
Seller Account Health
If you're not selling up to Amazon's standards, they won't be sharing your products with anyone. In order to make sure you're in good standing, understanding seller performance metrics is a great way to make sure your account is always in good health.
Pricing in online shopping, especially large seller marketplaces, is always a challenging position. You obviously want to make a profit, but Amazon wants to offer customers the best deal, and that often means lower prices than you'd prefer. This doesn't necessarily mean you need to race to the bottom, but competitive pricing will work in your favor. There's a fine balance when selling on Amazon between pricing and profitability, so think carefully before posting a price. Consider using short term promotional pricing to jumpstart your sales then reverting back to your standard, more profitable pricing once sales have picked up.
When you want to ensure success on Amazon, using the right combination of SEO tactics can make all the difference. Employing the right keywords, writing compelling product descriptions, and ensuring your products are seen can jump start sales, giving you everything you need to conquer the choppy waters of the Amazon marketplace.
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