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I remember sitting in a conference several years ago, and listening to a speaker explain that if Facebook is the social graph, and Google is the search graph – then people will soon recognize Amazon as the product graph.

Terminology aside, I’d say the speaker basically got it right. I bet he wasn’t imagining the degree to which Amazon would drift into Google’s swim lane with respect to search and advertising algorithms, but that’s exactly what has happened. At a recent Gartner event, we heard that almost 80% of the entire US population is conducting at least one search on Amazon every month.

Amazon product info has predominantly been accessed through search engines, but the scales are tipping with around 45% of Amazon product searches happening within Amazon’s own website search.

Probably not that surprising, right? Once you land on Amazon, you tend to stay (and search) for a bit… only, unlike a Google search, your propensity to buy while searching on Amazon is higher. With the customer experience central to everything that drives Amazon, it’s no wonder they’ve invested heavily (i.e. their A9 search algorithm) in understanding how people search and find the most relevant results.

If you're selling on Amazon and don't understand what can make the A9 search algorithm work best for you, you might as well throw money out the window while driving down a dirt road in the dark.Click To Tweet

Just like Google taught us the search engine with the most relevant results wins, Amazon is teaching us about search that’s more specifically aimed at people ready to buy (further down the funnel and buyer’s journey altogether). Unlike the nature of many long-tail search strategies on Google, we are dealing with a grab-and-go audience on Amazon – one that is ready to buy with little notice indicated.

When it comes to selling on Amazon, you must participate in a new kind of search engine optimization to help ensure your products are quickly found and purchased. This “Amazon SEO” is, in many ways, a bit more prescriptive than the range of SEO practices that have evolved with Google over the last 20 years.

Amazon SEO Strategy

We divide successful Amazon product listing efforts into seven areas of focus. These efforts unify under a strategy based, simply, on how Amazon talks about sales in its marketplace: “Sales conversion begins with listings that are easy to find and offers that are compelling.”

Know the 7 areas of focus that unify under an Amazon SEO Strategy based, simply, on what Amazon says about its marketplace: sales conversion begins with listings that are easy to find and offers that are compelling.Click To Tweet

We’ll now dive into the top recommendations around the art and science behind easy to find listings and compelling offers on Amazon. Some of these recommendations will prove timeless, but keep the date of this writing (June, 2018) in mind due to the fact that the A9 algorithm continues evolving.

Descriptive and Useful Product Titles

When applicable, based on Amazon’s guidelines, consider using the following descriptors as part of your product title:

  • Product type and brand names
  • Product line or collection details
  • Material and ingredient or key feature information
  • Color and size properties
  • Packaging and quantity information

Most importantly, consider which targeted keywords should also be used as part of your title, AND the order in which they are placed. Most product titles, in accordance with Amazon’s recommendation, should lead with the brand name. Be willing to experiment with that, focusing on which words give your potential customer the greatest understanding of what you’re selling in the shortest amount of time.

To the point above, we are not talking about keyword stuffing – which just looks stupid. Avoid misleading brand or product information, with the expectation it will eventually get flagged and potentially compromise your position.

You’ll find a range of deferring opinions on title lengths and character counts, some that push to use over 200 characters in hopes of including all attributes listed above. More commonly, we’re seeing effective titles in the 120 – 150 character count range. Again, this is something you’ll want to experiment with. Considering you’re mobile titles should come in around 60 characters, and right rail ads at about half of that – it’s no wonder the placement of keywords in your title is a critical factor to rankings and sales.

Keywords

The most important keywords should be fit into product title and/or descriptions while additional words (unseen by customers) should be put into the backend search terms area. Consider using Amazon Keyword tools like Sonar by Sellics or Magnet by Helium 10. Amazon only indexes 250 bytes in backend search fields — consider the use of misspellings in this area, in addition to the order of your keywords by importance.

In customer-facing areas, avoid repetition and misspellings. Punctuation should also be avoided in keywords as it reduces SEO value. Synonyms will be redundant and should only be included in the backend.

When selecting keywords, keep the buyer’s journey in mind – but remember many customers are already in the decision stage when they’re on Amazon.

Although buyers often have already decided on their purchase, your opportunity to sell related products can be high. Think about including keyword terms that string together your product with others.

Maximized Use of Detailed Images

Amazon allows up to 9 images, and you should consider using the maximum amount offered. As for dimensions, images must be at least 1000×1000 pixels to allow the zoom feature. The main product image must also:

  • Have an all-white background
  • Have 85% or more taken up by the product
  • Make it easy to understand the product — anything misleading or unclear will lead to negative SEO rankings

Additional Amazon product images may include:

  • Product in use
  • Interesting angles
  • Finer details

Don’t limit images to product photography: consider information-rich imagery that might help tell a better story about how your product is used or contextualized with the world around it (i.e. infographics, symbolic directions, dimensional diagrams, etc.).

Create Clear and Useful Bullet Points

Include simplified key features with corresponding benefits as space permits. Common best practices include at least five bullet points, formatted:

  • As sentence fragments with a capital letter at the beginning
  • To maximize as much space as Amazon provides

Important title information should be restated, but not redundant. And no promotional or pricing information should be included as it is subject to change.

Provide Thorough Product Descriptions

Beyond bulleted phrases, this is the area where “compelling” may further come to life. Consider how your product(s) might be described in the context of:

  • The Jobs To Be Done framework that helps connect your buyers through the lens of the “job” they are “hiring” your product to do
  • A story that positions your buyer as the hero and your brand as the helper

Product descriptions are one of the few places where there are strict parameters to protect the buyer. Assume it’s a best practice to use as much space as possible, providing detailed descriptions to help the buyer understand what they are purchasing.

Competitive Pricing

Generally, Amazon is ideal for discount brands due to the importance of competitive pricing. If you’re offering more of a “value brand” with higher pricing in your category, you should be very strategic about the products you choose to put on Amazon (as opposed to everything you sell).

Repricing software like RepricerExpress can be useful to automatically keep prices competitive while maintaining profit margins

Low prices are large contributors to SEO because Amazon is highly consumer-centric:

  • Lowest combined shipping and product price will appear at the top of search results even if the seller has no experience
  • Sometimes profit margins per item may have to go down for volume to go up

Pricing can make or break your product, depending on the competition. So be sure to do your research and price accordingly.

Positive Reviews + Seller History

This is a big one, and is said to be responsible for nearly half of your SEO ranking on Amazon. But be aware of their guidelines — Amazon discourages incentives for ratings.

When my book, Transformative Digital Marketing, was published on Amazon I thought I was so smart when I bought a ton of $5 coffee cards and proudly announced to all employees there was free coffee in exchange for a review. It took only a few minutes for one of our social media pros to pull up Amazon’s terms and call BS on my plan. I have still have coffee cards in the drawer.

If you start receiving negative reviews:

  • Offer to replace or refund faulty products
  • If there’s a problem with shipping, inform the buyer it is an Amazon distribution issue (if you’re doing fulfillment by Amazon)

Of course, you’re aiming for reviews in the 4-5 star range. Automated emails on delivery can encourage people to take action and give positive reviews. And the longer the seller history and volume, the more new products will be immediately favored.

There you have it! Admittedly, some of these sections are rather abbreviated. Beyond A9 search engine rankings is a whole other realm of email marketing on Amazon, product launch strategy, ad management through Amazon’s AMS… the list goes on. If you’re interested in launching your own Amazon effort or upping your game in an existing one, please contact us.

 

Jason Cormier

Jason Cormier

As co-founding Partner of Room 214, Jason is dedicated to helping people and companies grow and innovate. He is a best-selling author of Transformative Digital Marketing, is on HubSpot's Global Partner Advisory Council and serves as a mentor for social entrepreneurs at Watson University. He believes in acting out of love instead of fear, connected leadership and open book management.
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