The Advanced Practitioner's Guide to Top Rankings on Amazon.com
SEO

An SEO’s Advanced Guide to Top Rankings on Amazon

Just like the nuances with Google’s search algorithms and the mystery surrounding certain elements of their multiple ranking factors, Amazon.com also has its little quirks when it comes to ranking.

With so few people in the industry discussing the topic of Amazon ranking factors and algorithms, plus the misunderstood product fields, it is hard to get a real feel for what it takes to be successful organically within Amazon.com. This short guide will eliminate all those misunderstandings and show you exactly what you need to do to rank in Amazon’s search results.

Field Elements That Factor Into Amazon’s Search Rankings

The most used feature on Amazon is its search bar. When top sellers discuss ranking on Amazon, we are less worried about category rankings and more interested in Amazon search rankings. How many of you go to Amazon looking for a product and try to navigate the category hierarchies to find that product? You use the search bar. Product field elements available when creating a product on Amazon influence those search rankings.

Product Titles

I’ve been doing SEO for ten years. I am so accustom to keeping title tags under 60 characters that Amazon’s title field gives me a nervous breakdown. Amazon’s product title is the most important factor to search, just like the title tag may be the most important on page ranking factor for Google.

Amazon product titles have a character limit of 500 characters. Not only that, they recommend including as many keywords as relevantly possible into those 500 characters.

Listen up SEO’s. You have to write really long titles and keyword stuff those babies like it is 1999. Let’s do a little case study on two products on Amazon.

We are looking for Micro USB cables for a Google Nexus. Take a look at this product: sej4 1024x369 An SEOs Advanced Guide to Top Rankings on Amazon

Screenshot taken 06/20/2014 of Amazon.com

This is a Micro USB cable. Notice the short title? Let me ask you this. What products is this micro USB compatible with?  There are 215 pages of search results, and I can’t even find this product. Now take a look at this product with an optimized product title: sej5 1024x317 An SEOs Advanced Guide to Top Rankings on Amazon

Screenshot taken 06/20/2014 of Amazon.com

As an SEO, that title makes me throw up in my mouth a little. But, what does it tell you? You know exactly how long the cord is, the brand and every major model it fits. They even throw in the keyword “charger” into the title.

This is an example of a PERFECT Amazon Product Title. It goes against everything we as SEO’s believe, but to rank in Amazon, we have to play by their rules. Look at a few of the search results and you will see the top ranking products have long, keyword rich products ranking first.

sej6 380x298 An SEOs Advanced Guide to Top Rankings on Amazon

 Screenshot taken 06/20/2014 of Amazon.com

Why is the 500 character limit so important?

Here is the key to ranking on Amazon. You only need your keyword to appear once. If you can get that keyword into the title, you do not have to worry about including it anywhere else. With 500 characters, you can pretty much include every possible keyword in the title. For more information on how to format a title for Amazon, review their guide on writing a great Amazon title.

Amazon Bullet Points

The Amazon bullet points field is currently a suggested field, but I have seen warnings on client seller accounts for products that were missing bullet points. This usually indicates that Amazon is working to make this field a required field. The bullet points appear underneath the title. Because of the proximity to the title, image, price and add to cart button, it should be treated as an important field in which to add keywords. This is especially important for conversion purposes since it appears close to the Add to Cart button and above the fold in a lot of cases. Back to our previous two examples, what products does the first product fit? sej7 1024x369 An SEOs Advanced Guide to Top Rankings on Amazon

 Screenshot taken 06/20/2014 of Amazon.com

So far, two content fields above the fold and we still don’t know if this product fits our Google Nexus or not. sej8 380x289 An SEOs Advanced Guide to Top Rankings on Amazon

 Screenshot taken 06/20/2014 of Amazon.com

Our optimized product enforces the fact that it fits the Google Nexus in the title and the bullet points. As a customer, which one are you most likely to purchase? Look at the proximity of “Google Nexus” and the Add to Cart button.

Product Description

The product description displays further down the product page. In fact, it appears quite a ways down the page depending on other fields present within the listing. It is NOT a required field. It makes sense that with this field not being required by Amazon and being below the fold, keywords here are not as algorithmically important. However, our un-optimized product… sej9 1024x397 An SEOs Advanced Guide to Top Rankings on Amazon

 Screenshot taken 06/20/2014 of Amazon.com

More than half way down the page and five field elements down, we finally see that this product does fit the Google Nexus. Neither Amazon nor customers are going to find this product.

Amazon Keywords

Here is another field that will make SEO’s cringe. Amazon has a keyword field and they actually use it to rank products. Here is what you need to know about the keyword field. There is no need to add any keyword that has already been used in the product title or bullet points. Amazon will simply ignore it. With that being said, you have five keywords or keyword phrases you can add to the keyword field.

If for any reason you could not use a keyword in the other fields, by all means add it to the keyword field. Amazon will use it in determining rankings. This is a great opportunity to add additional model numbers and other information that are relevant, but would somehow clutter the other fields. If you have a product that fits 30 different models, you have the ability to list the main trafficked models in the human facing content, and use the hidden keyword field for the others. This way you are getting exposure to the lesser models, as well.

Hijack Other High Ranking Listings

Here is another thing that is not only allowed, it is encouraged. Want to rank regardless of how horribly un-optimized your titles, bullet points and keywords are? Simply get listed on some one else’s listing. sej10 An SEOs Advanced Guide to Top Rankings on Amazon

 Screenshot taken 06/20/2014 of Amazon.com

Amazon’s listings are called ASIN’s. In your product fields you can list either a UPC or an ASIN. If you can compete on price, this method is for you. Here is what I do.

  • Search for your product on Amazon as a customer would
  • Make a note of the item that is the same as yours that ranks highest for each search (Non-Prime Listing)
  • Make sure there is not a Prime seller (unless you are doing FBA)
  • Note the ASIN
  • In your Product fields, add that ASIN
  • Note the Brand
  • Change the brand in your product fields to the brand on the listing
  • Lower your price one penny lower than the lowest seller
  • Amazon will match you to that product

Example: amazon.com/eForCity-Micro-USB-Cable-Blue/dp/B00E0EJJLI The ASIN in this case is B00E0EJJLI. Your product fields have no bearing at this point. You are on a high-ranking product due to that seller’s already optimized listing.

Of course it wouldn’t hurt to optimize your listing title, because after you win the Buy Box Amazon will start employing elements of your product details into the listing.

Note: If you are selling FBA, and can meet the other conditions in the bullet points above, then you can use the ASIN of the FBA item.

Make Sure the Product is in the Correct Category

Amazon uses a very advanced category structure full of subcategories that take a visitor deep down the rabbit hole. These categories are called BTG’s in Amazon language. It simply means “Browse Tree Guide.”

Here is a working case study on the importance of proper product categorization within Amazon. When some one performs a search from the home page, Amazon searches all categories by default. After the visitor clicks on a product within the search results, Amazon sometimes changes the default search to the category of that product. Here is an example of the search results of a search performed on the homepage: sej1 1024x425 An SEOs Advanced Guide to Top Rankings on Amazon

 Screenshot taken 06/20/2014 of Amazon.com

Notice the search is set to “All.” After I click an item within that search, notice the default search category change: sej21 380x214 An SEOs Advanced Guide to Top Rankings on Amazon

 Screenshot taken 06/20/2014 of Amazon.com

The default search has changed from “All” to “Electronics.” This is where categorization is so important. From now on, any search I make, regardless of what I am looking for, my search results will come from items ONLY in the electronics category. The only way the default resets to All Departments is if I go back to the home page, or I manually select the department from the search drop down box.

How many searchers do you think even notice this slight change while they are navigating Amazon?

sej3 380x192 An SEOs Advanced Guide to Top Rankings on Amazon

Screenshot taken 06/20/2014 of Amazon.com

If you are not properly categorized, you are losing visibility on refined and contingent searches.

Are Your Listings Even Displaying in Amazon’s Search?

When you list a product for sale on Amazon, there are a lot of fields within the product details that seem unimportant, useless or otherwise below your standards to complete. They may not be important to you, but they are very important to Amazon.

Some fields that on the surface look useless from an optimization standpoint are:

  • Brand
  • Attributes
  • Variation Themes
  • UPC’s

A lot of sellers don’t know this, but depending on category, Amazon will suppress your listing from the search results if these or other fields are not completed. Amazon calls these suppressed listings and their top categories are categories where items will be suppressed.

The moral of this story is to completely fill out all fields, not just required fields. The more complete a listing is, the better opportunity the product has to rank well within Amazon’s search.

Amazon kind of breaks the rules for traditional SEOs. Take advantage of the 500 character product titles, the Amazon bullet points and the keyword field, or just match to an already high-ranking product listing and you could see your sales skyrocket literally overnight.   Featured Image: Jeffrey via Flickr (Creative Commons)

 An SEOs Advanced Guide to Top Rankings on Amazon
Charles Montgomery has worked in the Ecommerce Digital Strategy field since 2004. With a strong focus on SEO as it relates to the overall goals of the etailer, he infuses organic strategies into all aspects of clients' digital marketing mediums.
 An SEOs Advanced Guide to Top Rankings on Amazon
 An SEOs Advanced Guide to Top Rankings on Amazon

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17 thoughts on “An SEO’s Advanced Guide to Top Rankings on Amazon

  1. I have been doing a lot of testing with Amazon products and have created a tools to check the keyword rankings in Amazon and in Google for the product URLs. I noticed the products that do the best position wise have real reviews. Amazon has an algorithm that rewards products with reviews.

    1. Keep in mind that reviews are just one factor. I have NEVER asked for, nor manipulated reviews. The marketplace is too large to have to resort to those tactics. What you can do, if there are ASINs that are the exact same as your product, that also have reviews, match to one of those ASINs. If your product is optimized, but you are missing reviews, let the others’ reviews work for you. Then, Amazon will start to incorporate parts of your product details, optimizing the ASIN even better. Win the buy Box and you are set.

      1. Charles, allow me to clarify. I meant getting real reviews from people that have bought your product. I have notice that Amazon was rewarding those types of listings. I have found that they actually devalue the reviews from non-verified buyers. I hope that helps.

  2. Wow, truly fantastic information here. I didn’t know a LOT of this stuff and have been content to simply supply Amazon with a feed from my regular product database. I can see how that is definitely not the thing to do now. Of course, that means that there is never going to be an automated way of keeping your Amazon feed updated. Manual is the only way to do it (what a PITA).

    1. Once you get it setup and optimized, there isnt a lot of manual work. What I do is take the painstaking time to locate the best ASIN’s or optimizing my products for their own ASIN. After that, it is a matter of monitoring your products.

      I like to take my top items and divide them by 30. I then, on a 30 day rotation, perform searches to see if the search landscape has changed. This gives me a constant look into new opportunities and missed opportunities, and doesnt take a lot of time.

  3. I’ve been looking for an article like this since last year, thanks. Other than these tips it’s a good idea to send a few links toward the product.

  4. This applies to many marketplace shopping sites besides Amazon. I did this years ago on eBay whenever I was selling electronic equipment and it worked like a charm. Even included extra keywords in product descriptions if I couldn’t fit them in the title. Did this most recently on Bizrate and TheFind as well.

    1. Do you think eBay SEO is similar to Amazon? Do you think eBay has changed their policies since getting potentially penalized by Google a few months ago?

      1. Ebay is completely different, with its own set of rules.

        Ebay’s problem is its sellers. Amazon sellers are traditionally internet marketers. They understand (in varying degrees) search optimization. Ebay sold itself as the site for people to sell the things in their attic.

        Because of that, Ebay sellers for the most part know nothing about internet marketing, algorithms, or search optimization. They just know they have something lying around the house and Ebay is the place to go sell it.

        Ebay would have been fine if it wasnt for those dynamic internal links they placed on every page.

  5. Hijack Other High Ranking Listings

    Does this apply when you manufacture your own line of products? I’m the only one selling this brand, but other sellers sell the same line with other brand names and are high ranking.

  6. Maybe I am just being silly…but if someone goes through the trouble of optimizing a listing and setting up their business, this hijacking thing kind of sounds unethical. I know it is encouraged by Amazon but, as they make a percentage from every sale, they want to make it easy for ANYBODY to sell.
    However, thinking about it from the other seller’s perspective. Let’s say they have been in business for a bit, then you come in and undercut them and win the buy box using their listing, suddenly you get all their sales. Just doesn’t sit right with me.

    1. Antonio, no one owns an ASIN. Each product page on Amazon is known as an ASIN. No one owns rights to that page. I see where you are coming from, but Amazon wants people to match to an existing ASIN if they are selling an identical item.

      The reason Amazon wants this is so things dont get too cluttered.

      When you list on Amazon, you MUST include either an ASIN or a UPC. If I create a listing on Amazon with a UPC and a product with that UPC already exists, Amazon will match it to that product page instead of creating a new page (ASIN).

      What Amazon does is takes different content elements from different sellers on an ASIN. IN essence, each seller on a ASIN shares the responsibility of keeping the content up to date. Usually as some one gets in the Buy Box, Amazon starts taking some of the data from that seller.

      There is nothing unethical here. In fact you could think of it as it is Amazon’s listing not yours. If you dont like it, dont sell there.

      You are right about one thing. If I sell the same product as you, I can sell it FBA, match to the ASIN, lower the price to a penny lower than everyone else on the listing, and win the buy box and the majority of sales.