Amazon really is a fantastic marketplace for almost any online seller looking to sell more and grow their business. The problem is, it’s also an incredibly competitive one.
Now depending on what it is you sell, you could be competing against hundreds of thousands of other sellers for that coveted top spot on Amazon’s search results page.
But how exactly do you go up against the competition and successfully secure the number one search position on Amazon? More specifically, how do you get seen by buyers looking for something that you sell?
Throughout this article I will walk you through the steps involved in optimising your listings for Amazon SEO, in order to rank on the first page, increase your visibility and ultimately sell more products.
The truth behind ranking #1 on Amazon
There are fundamentally two key things you need to understand in order to rank well on Amazon:
- How your potential customers are searching for products that you sell
- How Amazon’s search engine – A9 – works, and how it ranks search results
Before anything else, it’s worth noting that as many as 52% of all product searches are performed on Amazon. Believe it or not, that’s even more than on Google.
With that in mind, if you’re not doing all you can to increase the visibility of your products on the Amazon marketplace, you could be missing out on a huge opportunity for sales.
So, how do you go about increasing the visibility of your Amazon listings in relevant search results?
Well to start with, you need to think about Amazon keywords.
Keywords are the search terms and queries that consumers use to look for a product that you sell. Being able to identify these keywords and use them to optimise your listings (i.e. effectively using them in your product title and item description) is the key to getting found on Amazon.
How to identify the keywords your customers are searching for on Amazon
While you should always start by brainstorming the search terms that you and your team would use to search for products that you sell, you should also take the time to conduct thorough Amazon keyword research.
Let’s assume you sell candles.
As you can see, a simple search for “candle” on Amazon.co.uk has over 200,000 search results. Now besides the fact that this is an extremely competitive search term, making it incredibly unlikely that you would organically appear on that first page, it is much more likely that a potential customer will be a bit more specific in their search query.
You’ll notice from the example above that the titles include information such as brand, size, colour, scent and even material. This immediately gives you an idea of the sorts of item specifics a user might be searching for.
Now seeing as Amazon will only display listings that include the keywords used in the user’s search query, it’s pretty important that you are actually using these keywords in your listings.
While you will hopefully have brainstormed some relevant Amazon search terms, it doesn’t hurt to also take a look at your competitor’s listings for further inspiration.
From here, you can then begin to assess overall search volumes for these keywords, using tools such as Google Keyword Planner, Hubspot’s Keyword Tool, LSIGraph etc.
Expert Tip: "Do thorough keyword research! There are a bunch of free tools – Google Keyword Planner, ubersuggest, LSIGraph and many more. You want to make sure that you are including keywords that people are actually searching for in your listings. When prioritising which keywords matter the most, it’s a balance between volume and relevancy.
If you are running Pay Per Click ads, your search term report is a gold mine of actual customer search queries. It’s a great way to identify keywords and niches that you had no idea were interested in your product! And the best part is that you can see the keywords that actually lead to purchases". Greg Mercer, Founder of Jungle Scout
Understanding Amazon keyword placement
Once you’ve identified the Amazon search terms people are using to search for a product you sell, you need to consider keyword placement – where exactly you need to include these keywords in your listings.
Let’s be honest, keyword spamming is not the answer and won’t get you ranked on page one of Amazon. Strategically positioning your keywords, however, could be the secret to increasing the visibility of your Amazon listings.
When creating an Amazon listing, there are multiple opportunities for you to use these keywords - four to be precise:
1. Product title
Your product's title is perhaps the most important part of your listing, not only because it holds the most weight when it comes to Amazon matching your product to the user's search query, but also because it influences how many of these user's actually click on it and view your listing.
This is extremely relevant for the simple reason that you shouldn't be writing your title with the Amazon search engine in mind, instead you should be thinking about the customer and more specifically how you can convey the information they care about, in a format that they will likely click on (read: no "keyword stuffing").
Expert Tip: "The first 5 words in your product title are the most important. They are closest to the product image that displays on the search results page and will catch the viewer’s eye first after they are done viewing the primary image.
When people search for a product on Amazon, the search results are displayed in such a way that it is usually 5-10 words that are displayed on the results page, while the rest of the title may get cut off. You’re more likely to get skimmers click through to your product detail page when your first 5 words really capture their attention and let them know that you have exactly what they’re looking for.
It is also suggested that title words are more heavily weighted than say the words used in your product description, so you want to make sure your title is super descriptive, but also very targeted and relevant". Kathleen Kobel, Kobel Consulting
It should come as no surprise that the keywords used in your product title have a greater influence on your Amazon search ranking. Makes sense right? It's the first thing the customer sees and as such, it should be incredibly relevant to what the user has specifically searched for.
2. Key product features (bullet points)
Key product features are the bullet points displayed on the product detail page. Let’s face it, trying to include all of the relevant information into a 250 character limit, all the while trying to persuade potential buyer’s to purchase your product, isn’t always doable.
This is exactly why you should be taking advantage of these bullet points to convey additional information and make use of some of the longer-tail keywords you may have identified during your keyword research process. You do in fact have 1,000 characters available to use for this section and you should be aiming to use these across at least five bullet points.
3. Product description
The product description is the perfect place to take advantage of the remaining long-tail keywords that you identified during your research.
Although you should include the key information within the key product features, you should also use this section to elaborate on these points and provide further relevant information. Keep in mind that the best Amazon product descriptions are those that tell a story about the product and really convince the buyer as to the reasons why they need to purchase, rather than just listing the product's features - after all, this is what the bullet points are for.
4. Backend search terms in Amazon Seller Central
This is where Amazon listing optimisation gets a little bit more complex. As an Amazon seller you also have the option to provide the marketplace with additional information about your listing(s) that isn't visible to the customer.
These backend keywords serve a similar purpose to the use of meta tags on webpages, in that it helps the Amazon algorithm to understand the relevancy of your listing against a user’s search query.
Keep in mind that this isn’t an opportunity for you to spam it with unrelated keywords, in the hopes that you will appear higher in the search engine. Abusing the system won’t work and will do more harm than good.
Expert Tip: "Amazon changed their character limit for adding backend keywords to your product listings. The character limit used to be a whopping 5,000, meaning that you had free reign to add a TON of keywords to potentially rank your products on Amazon. Now the keyword limit has dropped to just 250 characters, which is usually around 35 words. This means that you’ve really got to pick and choose the keywords you want in your backend of product listings.
Amazon won’t index anything past your 250 characters and usually punishes sellers that exceed the allowed character limit. Their exact warning states “Whole entry will be rejected upon exceeding the limit".
Make sure you cut down your keywords if you haven’t already. Stay one step ahead of your competitors and keep informed about Amazon’s constantly changing rules and regulations". Kathleen Kobel, Kobel Consulting
Understanding Amazon's Ranking Algorithm - A9
If you want to rank on page 1 of Amazon, you need to know how Amazon’s search algorithm works.
Here’s the thing. When it comes to SEO, you need to remember that no two search engines are the same. This means that the Amazon’s search engine algorithm – A9 – will be different to that of both eBay and Google.
One key example of this is how Amazon returns relevant search results. While relevancy is of course key for any search engine, Amazon places a high importance on the exact keywords used in the search query, so much so that it will only display the products that include these specific keywords within their listings. This even extends to variations on words.
Take the example below for instance.
You can see that a search for "candlestick" returns 31,346 results.
“Candle stick” on the other hand, returns 11,272 results. That’s a significant drop in listings and more specifically, competition.
Perhaps the biggest thing you can take from this is that you should be populating your listings with all relevant keyword variations. Once again, that does not mean keyword spamming.
Alongside price, availability and sales history (each of which we’ll get to further down this post), text match is a huge ranking factor and the information you provide in your title and description will not only influence where you rank on Amazon, but whether you rank at all.
So, assuming you’ve ticked all the boxes (read: included the most relevant keywords) and have been pulled from Amazon’s huge product catalogue following a relevant search query, the next step is understanding the factors that influence where exactly you rank.
A simple search for candlesticks delivers 31,346 results, so while getting onto that list is should be your first consideration, ensuring that you’re optimising your listings to appear at the very top of that list is a whole new challenge.
Amazon Ranking Factors
While search engines such as Google rank their results by those that will most accurately answer the searcher’s query, Amazon rank their listings based on the products in which they believe the searcher is most likely to purchase.
Despite everything I’ve covered up until now, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that your search ranking isn’t determined solely from the keywords you use and how well you optimise your product title and description.
Sure, these play a key role in helping Amazon’s search engine understand the relevancy of your product in relation to the customer’s search term, but even the most optimised listings will struggle to get visibility on the first page of Amazon if they have a poor sales history and/or an awful seller rating.
This is why you need to understand Amazon’s other ranking factors.
While Amazon don’t outright tell us the criteria and weightings they use to determine a products position on their search results pages, information available through both Seller Central and A9’s website gives us a good idea of what is taken into consideration.
Here are some of the factors (in no particular order):
Amazon Sales Rank
The Amazon Sales Rank (more commonly referred to as the Best Sellers Rank or BSR) shows you the top 100 best selling products for each of Amazon's product categories and sub-categories.
While the screenshot above shows the Amazon Best Sellers for the category Home & Kitchen > Home Accessories > Candles & Holders > Candles, the image below shows how an individual product's ranking is displayed on the product page.
This is a fantastic resource for any Amazon seller, providing you with invaluable insight into which competitors are selling more than you. So, take this information and learn from it. Why are they selling more than you? How are their listings better optimised? What are they doing that you’re not?
By using a Chrome extension such as Jungle Scout, you can easily view the BSR data for a product (along with various other relevant stats) directly from Amazon's search results pages.
Another question you're probably wondering is how exactly the Amazon Sales Rank impacts your search ranking.
Well, while product listings aren’t ranked in order of products sold, it’s clear why your sales ranking would be a factor that Amazon's algorithm takes into consideration when deciding which product to rank where.
After all, the more sales a product has made, the more likely it is that it will be a good choice for other buyer’s looking for a product of its kind. Because ultimately, that’s Amazon’s end goal – to ensure their customer’s purchase from them, have a great experience and return to buy more.
When it comes to BSR, the important thing to remember is that numbers aren't everything because not all BSR's are equal. Think about it - your product could rank #3,212 which although on first glance doesn't seem great at all, if you're listing in a category with 6 million products, this is still in the top 1%.
To learn more about BSR and it's impact on product sales, have a read of this article.
The number of satisfied customers you have is a great indicator that your product is worthy of holding the top spot on Amazon's search results. In reality, Amazon needs to be convinced that the potential buyer they are recommending your product to will be provided with exceptional service.
This is why product reviews understandably play an important role in determining your search position.
But that’s not the only reason customer reviews influence where you rank.
Amazon care about conversions, and the better feedback you receive as a seller, the more sales you make and the greater chance you have of appearing on the first page.
Click-Through Rate and Conversion Rate
The more people that click through from the Amazon search results page to your product, tells Amazon that your listing is relevant to the specific search query. In turn, this plays a huge role in them deciding your overall ranking position.
This in itself isn’t enough though. Amazon needs to be sure that you are actually converting customers once they land on your product page, which is why your conversion rate is another huge Amazon ranking factor.
We’ve already discussed the role of keywords in Amazon SEO, but when it comes to the most important ranking factors, text match (or more specifically the keywords used in your Amazon title), product description and featured bullet points, all play their part.
The more relevant your keywords are (particularly the ones you use in the title), the more chance you have of securing a higher search position.
Amazon know that their customers tend to seek the best deals, which is why one of the biggest factors they take into consideration is pricing.
Not only this, but price is further taken into consideration when Amazon select products for the Buy Box, another great opportunity for winning more sales.
Amazon Fulfilled Products
While Amazon don’t outright state that products fulfilled through FBA rank higher, you only need to search for something on Amazon to see that “Prime Eligible” listings are quite often at the top.
In fairness to Amazon, this isn’t because they are necessarily favouring those who use their fulfilment service, but rather they know that by using Fulfilment by Amazon the seller will be reliable with regards to delivery times, while also offering exceptional customer service.
Something worth keeping in mind, however, is that you don’t have to use FBA to be Prime-eligible, and there is instead the option of seller-fulfilled prime.
While some of the factors covered don’t directly influence the Amazon search algorithm, they do impact sales conversions, which indirectly affects your Amazon listing position.
Amazon Listing Optimisation Best Practices
While I’ve done my best to give you an idea of the ranking factors that can determine your search position on Amazon, it’s important that you also look beyond Amazon SEO and think about how these same factors influence sales.
The fact is, Amazon trust their customers more than they trust the information you provide. Now while relevancy is of course crucial (as are all of ranking factors I’ve mentioned above), it's important that you remember that each of these factors play a key role in helping you sell more on Amazon.
Take customer reviews for example. While this information tells Amazon your history as a seller, perhaps even more importantly it tells prospective customers this same information, which establishes trust and in turn results in them making a purchase. This is something Amazon cares about a lot.
With this in mind, you should ensure that each of your listings are optimised not only for visibility, but also for conversions.
To help with this, I've put together some best practices that you should be following not only for increased visibility, but also to sell more on Amazon:
- Use good quality images
Pictures speak 1,000 words, so no matter how much work you've put into researching keywords and crafting the perfect title and description, if your images fail to sell the product, you've wasted your time.
With as many as 8 images to use for your listings, you should be taking full advantage of this to visually convey all important product information. To achieve this, make sure you're showcasing the product at different angles, while also using high resolution pictures so that it is large enough to enable Amazon's zoom function.
Where possible, it's also worth highlighting how the product is used.
This helps buyer's to imagine how they would use the product and the key benefits of doing so.
Now given their success as a marketplace, it should come as no surprise that Amazon sets high standards for its sellers when it comes to images. With regards to the main product image, these standards specifically include:
- Sellers must only use professional photographs or cover art of an item - illustrations or drawings of items are not allowed
- Images must be in focus, sharp, high-resolution and well lit, while accurately reflecting the correct colour of the product
- For Music, Books and Video/DVD categories, product images need to fill 100% of the frame
- Products in all other categories should fill at least 85% of the frame
- The background must be pure white
- Additional inset images, graphics and/or text are not allowed
- The image must not contain gratuitous or confusing additional objects
For additional images the standards include:
- The image must be of, or pertain to, the product being sold
- The image must be in focus, professionally lit and accurately convey the colour and details of the product
- Sellers are permitted to use other products or objects to demonstrate the use or scale of the product
- Cropped or close-up images are allowed
- Backgrounds and environments are allowed
- Text and demonstrative graphics are allowed
Focus on your product title
Along with the main product image, your product title is the only real opportunity you have to capture the attention of potential customers.
To help with this (and help them maintain high marketplace standards), Amazon provide specific guidelines for the creation of your listing titles, including the fact that all words must be capitalised and gramatically correct. They should also be free of any punctuation.
When it comes to actually writing your title, Amazon provide recommended title structures for different product categories. While you can view the entire list here, along with example titles, it's worth keeping in mind that all Amazon titles should start with the brand and product name.
That said, you should still be including the keywords you identified as part of this.
- Make use of the featured bullet points
With 1000 characters to use across five or more bullet points, you need to ensure that you're addressing your product's key features. If you've already conducted keyword research, you should have a better understanding of what your customers want to know. Use this insight, along with key information you think they need to know, in order to structure these bullet points.
This is also a good opportunity to address any common objections and questions that arise. Remember, you can (and should) be updating this regularly to highlight any new questions you are asked.
- Optimise your product description
Use the product description to elaborate on the key points and features you included in your bullet points. This is also the perfect place to include the more specific information such as dimensions, care instructions and warranties.
A key thing to remember is that at no point in your product decription (or on your listings as a whole) are you allowed to include company specific information.
Ultimately, you should ensure that the language you use is descriptive and uses persuasive language to convince the customer to make a purchase.
- Consider using Amazon Sponsored Products
Amazon's pay-per-click advertising option, Sponsored Products, allows you to boost the visibility of your listings through ads that will display next to the search results for the keywords you're targeting. All you need to do is select the product(s) you'd like to promote, select your keywords and set bids for how much you want to spend.
Amazon Sponsored Products is certainly an option worth considering, as the increased exposure can improve your sales rank, in turn potentially improving your organic listings. This is perhaps even more beneficial if you're a relatively new seller looking to increase visibility and sales.
Expert Tip: "On top of keyword research, make sure to use all of the Amazon A9 Algorithmic factors. You should also keep in mind the objectives of Amazon compared to Google and remember that Amazon wants to sell products. Those products that convert better will get preference. Utilising content so that it not only drives traffic to the page, but is engaging to users, keeps them on the page for longer and converts them will help with rankings (think imagery, videos, A+/EBC). At the start it can be difficult to get organic traffic, but this is where things such as sponsored products can come in useful. They give you an artificially prime spot, which allows you build up sales and reviews, both things that will help your organic rankings. It’s also possible to deliver a strong ROI from these, an added bonus". James Dale, Commercial Director at Expert Edge
- Complete all relevant information
Finally, you need to make sure that your products are listed in the correct categories.
The majority of the time, when you type something into Amazon's search bar, Amazon will encourage you to search for that product within the relevant category.
Take the candle example for instance.
When a seller first types 'candle' into the search bar, Amazon trys to direct you to search for 'candle' within the Home & Kitchen category.
Here's the thing - if you sell a candle and don't list it in the Home & Kitchen category, your product won't be visibile to anyone who selects 'candles in Home & Kitchen' and you'll lose a lot of potential business.
Now there will be certain products that could easily fall into two or more different categories and in this instance, it's recommended that you opt for the most common category. If you're not sure which one that would be, search for a product that you sell and look on the left hand side - the categories will be listed in order of popularity.
Once you select your category, Amazon will then ask you for specific information about your product. It is in your best interest to complete this information as best as you can, to ensure you appear in relevant filtered searches.
So, there you have it. A complete guide to how Amazon SEO works and what exactly you need to do to improve your listings and appear on the first page of Amazon search results.
Do you have any best practices that have worked for you? Leave us a comment below!
Don't forget, international Amazon expert, Danny McMillan, will be taking to the stage at Linn Academy 2018 to share his best practices and advice for increasing visibility and sales by building your brand. For more information about LA2018 and to get tickets, click the link below!