Behind the Scenes Guide to the Amazon Ranking Algorithm
One word can strike fear into most Amazon sellers. What word? Rankings.
We live in a world where things are constantly changing. From the cell phone technology to the food we eat, the one constant thing is change. This is even true for the Amazon ranking algorithm (A9).
Unlike other search engines, Amazon’s platform is a product-based search engine. This means it is designed to do one thing: sell products. Unlike Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other major search engines, Amazon does not need to decode searcher intent – meaning phrases like ‘sell my home’ or ‘buy a new car’ are not seen on the platform. This takes a major piece out of the search puzzle, but the ranking process is still a complicated one.
How do I improve my ranking on Amazon is a question asked by sellers almost daily. As such, it is important to understand that the ranking signals given off by Amazon’s A9 algorithm are complicated, but come down to two main categories: on-page optimization and off-page. Since on-page is the one thing we can have full control over, that will be our focus in this article.
Ranking = Research
No matter if you are just beginning your seller journey on Amazon and trying to rank your very first product after tackling Amazon product research, or are a more seasoned veteran ranking your 100th product, the roadmap to success is the same. In order to sell a product to customers, you need to:
1. Know EVERY. Single. Detail of the Product you are Selling
It’s not enough to describe your product as ‘Girl’s ballet tights.’ Your customer will want more details including size, approximate age they will fit, are they footed, can they be worn under school uniforms, etc. Knowing the answers to even the most random questions will be beneficial to you as you move on to the process of creating the listing.
2. Know Your Audience
This is crucial for Amazon listing optimization. Who is likely to buy your product? What does their lifestyle look like? What challenges do they face and how can your product help them overcome it?
These are all questions to help you get a visual of your audience so you can zero in on their pain points and address how your product is a solution to them when you write your listing content.
Let’s say for example you are selling acne cream. Your target audience may be teenagers who have acne prone skin. Their problem may be that an upcoming prom/homecoming/special event is stressing them out because they want flawless skin at the event. Your product is the way to achieve that goal.
One thing to keep in mind is that while you may have a product aimed at teenagers, you are really selling to their parents who have the purchasing power to buy the product on behalf of their son or daughter. So while you may be targeting teenagers, a shout out to the parents may have a powerful effect on your listing as they are the ones with the buying power.
3. Know Your Competition and What Differentiates You from Them
Okay so now that you’ve taken the time to learn every aspect of your product and learn about your audience, you need to spend time analyzing the competition. Chances are your product is not the only one of its kind on the market, so this step is critical to learn two things:
1: What competitors are doing that is working for them
2: How you can do it better.
Let’s say you have an ordinary product, but there are many on the market. So you take the time to read through your competitor’s listings, both positive and negative customer reviews and see what questions are being asked about their products. Find out what makes your product stand out from all the rest and highlight that in your content.
A good example of this done well? KickFire Classics is selling juggling balls. Not the most exciting topic and probably not one a ton of people are searching for, but they took their product, found ways to answer questions and differentiate it by making it fun, including juggling video tutorials and really going all out to add value to their customer base. Because of this, their product has gotten great reviews. Take a look:
Keywords, Keywords, Everywhere
Now that you know your product inside out and backward, you know who your customer base is and you know what your competition excels at and needs to improve, it’s time to search for your keywords.
A keyword is a single word or phrases your customer may use to find your product. Nailing this piece is critical to your on-page optimization and organic search rankings.
Keyword research can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be, but the more thorough you are, the easier the ranking process will be. There are many tools that can be used for keyword research purposes both free and paid, but one way to get started is right in Amazon’s search bar.
Let’s take the example of a girl’s ballet tights from above. When you start typing in the product, Amazon gives you a whole list of things people are searching for.
So now we know people are looking for tights in a specific color, convertible, footless, etc. These will be the main keywords we want to pull into our listing.
Another way to use Amazon in your keyword strategy is to look for items that complement each other – or are frequently bought together. With tights, people may be looking for ballet shoes, tutus or leotards – these will also be major keywords to use in your content.
I geek out over my keywords. There are so many tools to use to make the process easier, I could write a whole article on that alone (and probably will!), but for now, I will just give one piece of advice: Take the time to do this right. Every missed keyword is a potential missed income opportunity.
This is where competitor knowledge comes in. Using Amazon to your advantage again-take a few minutes to read through the first 10 competitor listings related to your product and take note of unique words used in their titles and bullet points as you will want to use those phrases too.
Some of you may be asking what’s the point of spending hours performing this research? Not all the keywords I find can be stuffed into the content of my title, bullets, and description. To you I say, that is true. However, words that you do not use can be added to the backend and will still help your product climb the ranking ladder.
Craft Your Listing
Remember when you asked me about why you should waste time with keyword research? This is why!
Using your high-volume search terms in your title, bullet and description will greatly improve your on-page optimization. Depending on your industry you will have anywhere from 80-250 characters available for use in your title. This is prime real estate–use it! Use your very highest volume words as close to the beginning of the title as possible so that when potential customers skim the title they get all the info they need. The formula for crafting a title that converts is this:
Brand + Product + Feature 1 + Feature 2
Here’s a perfect example using our ballet tights again– Notice how they have the brand name, dance tights (product), Footed (feature), Ultra Soft Pro Hold & Stretch (feature)
Now that you’ve crafted your title using your most important keywords, it’s time to address your customer needs in the bullet points. These should be attention-grabbing, but also keyword rich to both answer your customers’ questions and improve your rankings. The more you know your product and audience, the easier this will be. Here’s a good example of a slime-making kit that excels at both these points:
Notice the playfulness in ‘make magic,’ ‘slimy science,’ and other bullet headers. This is the chance to make your product stand out from the competition – have fun with it!
The MOST important thing to keep in mind during this process is to write for humans and not bots. While you want to use as many of your high-volume keywords as possible, you want to use them in a natural manner. Look to your listing as a way to have a conversation with your customers even though you aren’t talking to them face-to-face as you would in a brick and mortar store. This is hard to do in the character limits given and may take more than one try before it sounds just right, but the more you answer questions in the listing, the less time your customer service will spend answering them after the sale.
Just the Beginning
While these on-page optimization tactics are fully within your control, they are not the only ranking factors on Amazon. They will, however, give you a good start to getting your listing ranking higher from the start and strike out some of the fear surrounding the words ‘Amazon rankings.’
To make our lawyers happy:
The views, thoughts, advice, strategies, and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the guest blogger (author of this blog). They do not purport to represent or reflect the views, thoughts, advice, strategies, or opinions of Helium 10, its parent organization, subsidiaries, partners, affiliates, or any other entities doing business with Helium 10.
Given the ever-changing nature of selling on Amazon, sellers should use common sense and consider the relevancy and timing (among other factors) of any information, strategies, or advice that they receive and make the most appropriate choices for their own business. Helium 10, its parent organization, subsidiaries, partners, affiliates, or any other entities doing business with Helium 10 are not responsible for any legal, financial, operational, or any other professional losses or damage that may result from execution of said information, strategies, or advice.
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