Optimization means “making the best or most effective use of a situation or resource.” Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to maximizing the search engine to improve rankings and achieve the intended outcome. When optimization is done correctly you have effectively signaled to the search engine what inquiries you are relevant for.
So, when we talk about Amazon SEO, what we’re really saying is what effect can I have increasing views and sales?
We often talk about SEO in general terms, but SEO best practices are specific to the search engine. Anyone who’s taken a crack at optimizing for both Amazon and Google search engines knows there’s a big difference. Sure, they are similar in many ways, but their end goals are very different. While Google’s rankings are affected by many factors, ultimately the engine is focused on clicks; while Amazon’s A9 algorithm’s goal is conversions.
Search Engine Beginnings
At the dawn of the internet, several search engines tried to effectively index the internet and present it in a fast and easy way. Google’s oultasted the rest and quickly became the gold standard search engine. Google continued to innovate the search experience and processes. Today Google’s search engine looks at upwards of 10,000 rankings signals to determine relevancy and serves more than 450 million searches a day.
However, Google’s search dominance is shifting. A 2016 survey found that 38% of shoppers start with Amazon compared to 35% who start with Google. Although, far less is understood about Amazon’s search engine, as more consumers start the purchase process there it’s critical for eCommerce sellers understand how the Amazon search works and make sure it works for them.
Search Engine Basics
First, it’s important to know what Amazon’s search engine isn’t doing.
When you use the search bar to make an inquiry, Amazon isn’t scanning all listings at that moment to find the best fit. Instead, the search engine is using the most relevant data from the most recent “crawl” to fill the inquiry. Most importantly, Amazon is showing the results with the best chance of making a sale.
Remember, Amazon makes money when you make money, so if the search engine’s algorithm displays your listing and a purchase isn’t made, it remembers that. And after a while, if that keeps happening your listing won’t come up under those keywords anymore. It’s pretty simple.
When you type a search into a search engine there is a lot more happening than meets the eye. Search engines start the process of filling your query long before you even search for it. Using programs called “bots” the engine can crawl the available pages or listings in the case of Amazon, looking for important signals for relevancy. There are a lot of different ideas about how often these crawls take place, but it’s regular enough to make sure your listings are optimized.
Amazon describes it best, when they say “Our work starts long before a customer types a query. We’ve been analyzing data, observing past traffic patterns, and indexing the text describing every product in our catalog before the customer has even decided to search.”
Amazon’s search engine is powered by their A9 product search algorithm, which maximizes revenue per customer using several ranking factors.
Amazons search engine is a conversion engine. Every tweak they make to the engine is aimed at increasing conversions using relevancy signals.
The engine is fairly simple. Amazon determines what listings are relevant for a given keyword, then they order those in a results page based on relevancy, all with the intent to convert.
A9 is actually a subsidiary of Amazon and has made the following insightful statement regarding how relevancy is determined:
“One of A9’s tenets is that relevance is in the eye of the customer and we strive to get the best results for our users.”
In other words, A9 changes rankings according to customer behavior. So, if we want to optimize our listings and increase sales you have to start with the consumer, which is what Amazon does. The key to optimization is focusing on content that is relevant and complete to your customer.
Alternatively, Attempting to rank for irrelevant search terms may increase impressions in the short term, but will provide a bad experience for customers and negatively.
Optimizing for Amazon
Start by looking at product uses and doing keyword research. Searching for keywords on Amazon will help you understand relevant search terms. It’s critical to begin with quality keyword research. Using countless keyword planning tools you can give yourself a foundation to build a solid listing.
Don’t assume you understand what your customers are searching. Some sellers assume they don’t need to perform keyword research because they intimately understand the product. Unfortunately, in many cases, they couldn’t be more wrong.
Good Amazon optimization should be completely honest and descriptive, using good content that is naturally relevant. Well-written and descriptive content will often not require significant optimization because it is relevant.
To make sure you don’t get lost in the weeds, start with your consumer. For every step of optimization ask yourself one question,
What will my customer be looking for to make a purchase?
If you don’t know, you haven’t done enough keyword research.As Amazon continues to make changes to the algorithm that affect ranking factors with the intent to improve search results for consumers and increase conversions for sellers, it’s important to focus on the basic elements of optimization.
In Amazon optimization, there are aspects of the listing that are more important than others. Some areas of the listing have a direct impact on Amazon rankings, while other areas have an indirect impact on rankings. Here are the 5 areas of listing optimization according to importance:
Make sure the title targets the focus keywords with the highest search volume. Think of the title as the label on a box. What would you write if you only had 50 characters but wanted to get as many people to open it as possible?
- Brand name
- Product name
- Any distinguishing features such as color, size or use
2. Bullet Points
The bullets are the perfect opportunity to inform the customer about the benefits of the product while targeting longer tail keywords. Longtail keywords are more specific keywords and phrases that customers tend to use they’re closer to making a purchase.
Amazon wants to show consumers the best listings to make money. For most products, the images have an effect on conversions.
Aside from the main image, make sure that you include as many images as possible with more than 1000 pixels. At least one image should show the product in use. Make sure the image is accurate, current, and big.
Once again, ask yourself what your consumers want to see. When in doubt, look at competitor listings to see what works well and what you would change.
4. Enhanced Brand Content
Use EBC to talk directly to consumers about pain points your product solves and tell your brand story.
At this point, Enhanced Brand Content (EBC) is not indexed. Which means Amazon bots don’t crawl it for relevancy signals. However, we have seen conversions rates increase considerably using EBC. As your conversion rates increase, A9 views that as a relevancy factor and change the corresponding keywords and increase rankings.
EBC is a good way to optimize a listing for your consumers, and when done correctly, it should help improve rankings and sales.