For the last decade or so, Google has been the first place people go to when they are researching basically anything. This was especially true for products they were interested in buying as product and customer reviews provided all of the necessary information for them to make an informed purchase.
Just like on Google, there are millions of other products listed on Amazon that you will have to compete with.
The problem is that it can sometimes seem impossible to improve your product visibility when it’s bumping up against thousands of other shops selling the same product. It's difficult to know how to rank higher on Amazon.
The good news is that there are a few very actionable items that you can do to improve your product visibility immediately, and the first step is to understand Amazon’s search engine. Just like Google has its own algorithm that helps sort the results for a person’s search query, Amazon also has an algorithm that sorts product listings.
That means that you can apply effective 'Amazon SEO' for your products to rank higher in search results. And the higher that your product ranks on the results page, the more potential buyers that see it.
If you understand the A9 algorithm, then you can significantly increase your product visibility. The more optimized your product listing is according to the algorithm, the more likely it will be listed at the top of the results page.
While there are a lot of moving parts that contribute to your product ranking, it’s not all that difficult to optimize a listing. You only need to understand what Amazon pushes to the top of their results pages.
With a few tweaks to your product listing, you will see both immediate and long-term results, all of which will move you up the ranks on the results pages and lead to more sales.
Understanding Amazon’s A9 Algorithm
There is basically only one thing to remember about Amazon’s A9 algorithm and that is that the algorithm serves one function only: to make the sale (and to make Amazon more money).
Everything on the site is designed for selling as much stuff as possible to consumers, so the algorithm will prefer listings that are most likely to close a sale. If your listing leads to many sales, you’re helping can help Amazon do that, then you will help yourself.
In creating a results page that will likely make Amazon the most money possible, the algorithm focuses on two key factors:
Relevance - How relevant is your product listing to what the user is searching for? The more relevant your product is, the more likely the user will buy it. This is determined by the keywords you use in your product listing.
Performance - How much money are you making Amazon right now? The more sales that you make, the more money that Amazon makes. Products that earn Amazon more in sales will be prioritized and pushed to the top.
As you are optimizing your product listings, you need to always be mindful of these two factors. If you use them to guide your decision making, then you will significantly increase the chances of your product being listed on the first three pages of the search results.
Other Search Engine Algorithms
It is worth noting here that many digital platforms have their own search engines built in. YouTube and Google, for example, have their own algorithms that are designed specifically to serve their brand needs.
For YouTube, the main objective is to keep users engaged with the platform for as long as possible. That is why you’ll notice videos on a never-ending queue, with eerily relevant suggestions just below those.
Not only that, but the platform also heavily rewards users who contribute to the sense of community. Because of this, channels create playlists and facilitate open discussions in their comments sections all in the name of keeping users on the platform for as long as possible.
This same perspective can be applied to potentially any platform. If you can figure out what the end goal is for each platform, then you can optimize your own pages to meet that goal.
And if you help them meet their goals, you also help yourself meet yours.
Relevance: Product Listing Optimization
Amazon is a massive online shop that has products for virtually every facet of life. Understandably, the algorithm is designed to quickly and efficiently go through each and every single product to help match them to potential buyers.
The way that it does this is by ‘crawling’ your product listing and looking for clues in several different areas of the listing.
These clues are most easily placed by way of keywords.
The best way to make the clues obvious to Amazon is to use the keywords in the product title, description, and the backend search terms.
While it may be tempting to stuff all of the keywords you created into each of these spots, you cannot forget that you are writing a product title and description for the buyer, first and foremost.
If you can trick the algorithm into showing your listing first but the buyer can’t understand the gibberish that you’ve included in the description, then you’ll lose favor of both the buyer and the algorithm.
How to do Amazon Keyword Research
The keywords you choose to include in your product listing will be the main force that drives your products to the first pages of the search results. If you do not do your keyword research, you could be missing out on thousands of additional potential customers.
Needless to say, it’s pretty important.
Begin by making a list of all of the obvious keywords that your potential customer might use when searching for your product. Then, run your keywords through an Amazon keyword research tool to discover other variations of the keywords.
The Keyword Tool for Amazon is a good place to start your research. The free version provides a good list of related keywords, though you can’t see any of the data on search volumes.
The paid version is a pretty hefty monthly price, but comes with all of the valuable data for an unlimited number of search terms. The lowest price begins at $48 per month, but you can always sign up for one month and then cancel. One month is plenty of time to complete your keyword research.
Another cool option is to install the Keywords Everywhere Chrome extension. This extension works on a whole host of websites that have their own search engines, Amazon and Google included.
The key feature of this extension is that any time you search for a term, you will get the keyword stats immediately below it.
In this example, there are approximately 12,100 monthly searches for this term and the competition for this term is extremely high (the scale being from 0 to 1).
Not only that, but you can also see the data for all suggested keywords in the drop-down menu, as well.
While this tool wouldn’t be efficient for comprehensive research, it does shed light on how many people are searching for any given term.
If you’re not interested in paying for a research tool or installing an extension, then you can generate your own list the old-fashioned way. Once you have your base list of keywords, you can quickly expand it to include all potential variations of these keywords by looking at
descriptors, like color, size, product type, or gender, such as ‘socks for flats’
spelling or grammar errors, such as ‘womens socks’ or ‘womans socks’
Once you have a comprehensive list of all potential combinations of various descriptors, word ordering, and potential errors, then you’re ready to begin using these words in your product listing.
Choosing a Product Title for Amazon SEO
The most important place to include your primary keywords is in the product title. It carries the most weight in the algorithm and should convince the potential buyer to click into your listing.
You can see it happening naturally with the search term ‘polarized sunglasses.’
Each of the top listings include the keyword in the title, along with various descriptors and other popular search terms.
Here are a few ways to optimize your product title:
Include the primary keyword
Include clear descriptors, like size, color, quantity
Include any special ingredients or materials
Include a brand name
How to Write Product Descriptions for Amazon SEO
The product description provides an opportunity to really hook the potential buyer. There are many different tips and tricks to write product descriptions that sell, so you have plenty of room to get creative with it.
As far as optimizing the descriptions for the Amazon algorithm, only include keywords that are relevant to the product and that can fit in naturally with the text. If you find yourself making a stretch to include a certain keyword, then go ahead and skip it. You can always include it in the backend search terms, which I will get into soon.
The product description is bulleted so that the reader can easily scan the information for the most relevant details. Variations of keywords and descriptors are naturally sprinkled throughout, such as ‘toddler’, ‘big kid’, ‘easy installation’, ‘steel frame’, and ‘25-90 pounds’.
If you’re not totally sure where to begin, then check out your competition. See what’s working for them and replicate it in a way that is original to you and your product.
Here are a few ways to optimize your product description:
Use bullet points to make the information immediately clear and easy to scan
Include details like dimensions, weight, size, color, or anything else that more thoroughly describes the product
Use additional keywords, but only if they are super relevant and fit in naturally with the sentences
Tell a story in your description to make it easier for the buyer to imagine having the product
List the features and describe how they will benefits the buyer
Backend Search Terms: The Secret to Amazon SEO
The backend keywords are just as critical as those that you use in the title and description. The difference is that the buyer doesn’t see them, but Amazon does.
Consider the backend keywords as your direct message to the Amazon search engine where you can explicitly tell it what your product is meant to be listed under.
It’s the perfect place to include any keywords that didn’t naturally fit into the title or description, such as those with grammatical or spelling errors. It also allows you to include less than subtle search terms, like ‘shoes for old people’ or ‘suits for fat people.’
Don’t just copy and paste your extra keywords, though. The backend keyword section only allows for 250 characters in total, so list only the most relevant keywords as possible.
While the 250 character limit may be frustrating, it’s a part of the strategy that helps make the Amazon search engine so accurate. By forcing shop owners to choose only the keywords that fit within the limit, it is also forcing them to focus on the most relevant keywords.
The more relevant that your product is, the higher that it ranks for your target keywords.
Amazon has a few general guidelines when it comes to the backend keywords, so be sure to stay in line with them.
From SellerLift: Amazon Backend Keywords - the hidden Amazon SEO boost
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of keywords, you can easily edit your backend search terms under the ‘Keywords’ tab when you are in the ‘Edit Product Info’ screen.
Here are a few things to keep in mind about backend keywords:
Use the backend keyword section to include super relevant terms that didn’t naturally fit into the title or description
Limit it to 250 characters or fewer
Don’t waste any characters on punctuation or plural variations of the same keyword
Don’t include any keywords that are already included in the title or description
This is the best place to include keywords with grammatical or spelling errors
Performance: Performance Optimization
Another very important factor in the Amazon algorithm is the overall performance of a particular product.
If the product doesn’t have a high conversion rate, then Amazon will replace its ranking with a product that does. The rate at which virtual window shoppers convert into buyers is your product listing conversion rate.
The higher your conversion rate, the higher your ranking.
So even if you strategically place all of the best keywords throughout your product title, description, or backend list, you could still not budge in rankings if you also never make any sales.
As you optimize your product listing, you need to optimize it in a way that helps you make more sales.
Besides selling quality products and writing solid product descriptions, there are a few other ways that you can improve your conversion rate on Amazon.
Because of some basic evolutionary psychology principles, people look to other people for guidance before taking a risk. In evolutionary times, this helped us survive the day-to-day risks that naturally and grimly killed off many of our ancestors.
Now, in our modern and safe lives, we use the same innate instinct to look to others for guidance before we take a risk.
Only, today, the risk is any potential purchase.
Before making a purchase, we feel comforted by the reviews of others who have already purchased the item. We trust them and that they have our best interests at heart.
The more (positive) reviews that you have, the more likely online shoppers will convert to buyers.
You’ll notice from the previous example that the carseat not only is the #1 Best Seller but also has the most and highestrated reviews compared to its competitors.
The only product with more reviews is a product that’s not totally relevant to the original search terms or intentions. It’s merely a booster seat, not a car seat.
Otherwise, the most traffic and sales go to the product with the most reviews. It’s hardly a coincidence.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to get product reviews is to implement an email feedback sequence that automatically encourages buyers to leave a review. You can easily offer a special discount or incentive to those who leave a review.
Services like Snagshout help sellers incentivize the buyer to leave reviews automatically. All you need to do is set it up and let the reviews come in.
Fulfillment by Amazon
If it’s possible and makes sense for your business, consider joining the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program. The FBA program allows third-party sellers (like you) to delegate the packaging and shipping tasks to Amazon fulfillment centers.
The main benefits of becoming an FBA seller include
Products sold by FBA sellers seem to rank higher than products listed by non-FBA sellers
Before potential buyers even have the opportunity to read through your title or description, they will first see your images.
While keywords that you use will help Amazon to know whether or not to list your product for any given search, it is the images that will help convince the buyer to click through to your product. Remember that the more click-throughs you have, the higher you will rank.
This Olympus digital camera demonstrates an exceptional job of using quality images for the listing.
You can see that each image clearly demonstrates the various features of the product, while also making the product look sleek and desirable.
This Brookstone bottle opener uses a very similar approach by using a white background, good lighting, and high quality resolution:
The second image is for more technical understanding, further showcasing the features of this item without sacrificing image quality:
The images are meant to quickly answer any questions that the potential buyer may have that they might not have seen in your product description quite yet.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you select your product images:
Go with a high-quality resolution, at least 1,000 by 1,000 pixels, so that the quality isn’t compromised when users zoom in on the image
Showcase both the benefits and features of the product - easily opened bottles anywhere (benefits) with a light, easy-pull lever design (features)
Opt for a white background when possible
Ensure that there is enough lighting so that users can see the details of your product
Ranking on Amazon is not easy to do. It depends largely on sales and takes some time to work your way up the results pages.
If you follow the tips that I’ve outlined in this article, though, you can optimize your product listing and immediately begin moving up the ranks. Within a week, you can have all of the other tasks completed and watch your ranking and sales increase from there.
Once you find what works for you and your products, apply the same strategy to all of your products. You will see movements across the board, all without having to invest in an expensive marketing strategy.
Keep in mind that a lot of this depends on other factors as well. How saturated your niche is could greatly impair your ability to quickly move up the rankings just as well-established brands will naturally hold the top spots. Even so, a fully optimized product listing will get you close enough to the first page to have increased sales. And we know how Amazon feels about that.
Marquis Matson is an SEO analyst, content marketer, and writer. She specializes in search engine optimization for ecommerce sites in the yoga and wellness niche. She lives as a digital nomad, spending time in Ecuador, California, Thailand, India, Australia, and more. You can find her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or at marquismatson.com.
Ecommerce brands don’t need gimmicks or fanciful but complicated web design. The six steps above are great ways to help you make your products visible, and your solutions to customers’ pain point known.