- Lena R. Liberman
- On July 2, 2020
I can write this article in a single sentence, and if you’re pressed for time, you can stop after this: The way to get an Amazon Best Seller badge (that little orange ribbon-like icon) for your product is by selling the greatest number of products within your category over a duration that Amazon does not specify publicly.
While that sentence is indeed true, it isn’t the whole story nor does it address the value (or possible lack thereof) of the badge nor does it address what I call the Amazon Best Seller Badge 3Cs:
A Bit About the Amazon Best Seller Badge
The Amazon Best Seller badge is precisely that: an icon displayed in the search results and on the product detail pages for items that are the best sellers in a category. Originally, Amazon displayed the badge only for the #1 best seller in a category, but now several products in a single category can carry the badge simultaneously. In general, there are 100 best sellers in any category. The higher the level of category (e.g., a category such as “Pet Supplies”), the more diversity and competition in the 100 best sellers; the lower the level of sub-category (e.g., “Knots, Macrame & Rope Work Craft Books,” which is more specific and with a smaller audience), the less diversity and competition.
In some sub-categories, there may not even be 100 best sellers because the category is so slender. Needless to say, getting your product to be a best seller in “Toys and Games” is a different endeavor (and achievement) from getting your product to be a best seller in “Traditional British & Celtic Digital Folk Songs.” However, being amongst the top sellers in either category will get you the same Amazon Best Seller badge.
Some Facts About Amazon Best Sellers and the Amazon Best Seller Badge
- Straight from Amazon and stated on the Amazon Best Sellers page: Best sellers are defined as “Our most popular products based on sales. Updated hourly.” Amazon explanations can be cloudy. This one is clear.
- As stated, best sellers are updated hourly (sometimes there’s a lag of an hour or two), which means that the badge is up for grabs hourly. It also means that if you have the badge one hour, you can lose it the next hour.
- When a product loses best-seller status, be it after one hour or one month, the Amazon Best Seller badge is gone for good unless the product regains the spot.
- Ranking #1 means that a product has recently sold more than all other products in that category (or subcategory) within that particular marketplace. Because of marketplace specificity, a book that ranks #1 on Amazon.co.uk but ranks #139 on Amazon.com will not carry the badge on the United States marketplace.
- Not all categories display the badge at all times, which is to say, if there’s not enough sales or data about sales, there will be no badge displayed in that category for that hour.
- Amazon Best Sellers has become a category of its own with prominent placement in the top navigation. This makes inclusion even more valuable as shoppers who browse for popular items rather than search for specific ones can find gift ideas and see items that they wouldn’t have known about otherwise.
The Amazon Best Seller Badge 3Cs: Competition, Calculation, and Category
By now, all sellers know that they are likely to sell more — and to sell more at a faster pace (sales velocity) — by being 1P wholesale vendors who sell large quantities directly to Amazon (where, in turn, Amazon is able to sell to consumers at low prices) or by being 3P brand-registered sellers using FBA. In a nutshell, Amazon rewards sellers when they do all of the things that make business on Amazon easier and more profitable.
If you are in one of these brackets and your numbers (prices, account health, shipping speed, ratings, etc.) are in good shape and your Amazon listings are optimized, you are well positioned to compete and to prosper. Lower prices and “Sold by Amazon” or “Fulfilled by Amazon” are all green lights and confidence boosters for buyers, and all increase your chances of winning the Buy Box as well as ranking higher in search results and thus selling more and having a better shot at your product becoming a best seller.
There is one seller with whom you cannot really compete and win: Amazon itself. If Amazon has a private label offering, that product will naturally be “Amazon’s Choice” in the category and it will get some extra love in terms of placement. It will also likely be low priced and it will certainly be sold and fulfilled by Amazon. That is the recipe for a becoming a best seller and getting (and holding) the Amazon Best Seller Badge. You can’t beat that system.
But that scenario is not applicable to all categories (yet), which means that competing hard can win you best-seller status and placement and even the badge. If you do win the badge, congratulations! Do take notice (and perhaps a screenshot) because best sellers are updated hourly and the badge goes away once another product in the category usurps yours.
In short, yes, you can have a best seller for an hour and lose it — all without even knowing that it happened. And once the badge is gone, it’s gone unless your product reclaims the position (sadly, there is no badge for “Once was a Best Seller”). So there’s getting it and there’s keeping it, which, much like the getting and keeping the Buy Box, are entirely different things.
As I wrote, the Amazon criteria for determining a best seller is based on sales, but what does that really mean?
- Calculating a best seller seems to be based on historical sales (the length of that history is not specified) but it also takes into account predictive elements. Amazon is really good at prediction and it is getting better all the time.
- The sales-period durations are neither fully historical (all sales since start) nor are they so brief as to be based solely on a spike as in a product launch where the item is inexpensive and new. The emphasis on sales history is recency within reason.
- Amazon Best Sellers are precisely that: the items that sell the most in a category. What will not directly push you toward the top spot are product reviews and seller feedback. The Amazon Best Seller badge is awarded according to sales and only to sales. Of course, product reviews are indirectly correlated to sales; without good product reviews (or worse, with bad ones or none at all), your sales will suffer.
- This is Amazon. As a seller, you can do things to increase volume and accelerate velocity (running a huge sale or promotion, aggressively running Amazon Sponsored Advertising, etc.), but you’re not going to trick Amazon’s number crunching in a way that is ethical or sustainable or without repercussions. Be cool and play the game as Amazon intends.
Not all categories are created equal as touched upon early in this article. There’s definitely more prestige, placement, and sales power in having the best seller in “Books” versus having the best seller in “Industrial & Scientific Lab Autoradiography Supplies.” That said, competition comes back into the picture as it is infinitely easier to achieve best-seller status in a small-niche super-specific subcategory such as “Cat Leashes” than it is to achieve such in a larger subcategory of “Cat Collars, Harnesses & Leashes” or the even-larger category “Cats” or the much-larger (and infinitely more competitive) category of “Pet Supplies.”
So in this case (as in all product listings), if you are the purveyor of a cat leash and you are pursuing that best-seller spot, you would definitely want to list your product in “Cat Leashes” as it is the most-targeted category (shoppers looking for cat leashes who ended up here would be more likely to convert than other shoppers) and also the least-populated category. You would also want to list in more-general categories so that your product might be found more easily by someone browsing at a higher level of the category tree (rather, the CATegory tree—rimshot!)
Since most shoppers do not browse by category but instead search by inputting keywords, it behooves sellers to get granular with their categories if they want to achieve best-seller status but not necessarily if they wish to be found by browsers. As with everything on Amazon, it’s a delicate balancing act.
A Note on Categories and Best Sellers: Don’t List a Product in a Vaguely Connected Category
Knowing how Amazon categories work can lead to the temptation to pursue best-seller status or the best seller badge by listing a product in a vaguely connected small category. For example, COVID-19 created stunning demand for face masks of all sorts. The seller of the product shown below has listed a face mask in the category of “Tools & Home Improvement.” While one might wear a face mask while sawing new boards for a DIY deck project, it’s a stretch to say that the product is a right fit in the “Tools & Home Improvement” category. However, the seller put it there and got the top spot and the badge in that category — but not by selling to browsers of that category, rather by selling a relatively inexpensive pandemic-related necessity in a category where there are expensive power tools that are not urgent purchases. The item would be a truer fit in “Medical Supplies & Equipment,” but it faces much more competition there.
Needless to say, category stretching is not a solid tactic because:
- It’s misleading and it’s not in the spirit of fair play. Consider a shopper who is legitimately browsing for a heavy-duty table saw and gets a first result for a face mask. The shopping experience becomes frustrating when the customer encounters top-level products that simply are not relevant. Don’t be that seller.
- A frustrated shopper leaving a product detail page after not buying can actually be a strike against a product in the big-picture ranking algorithm. If users frequently leave your Amazon detail page without making a purchase, Amazon notices that and considers it a high exit rate, a negative when it comes to ranking. Amazon also measures time on the page and picks up on incredibly short durations such as what might occur if a user is steered to a detail page that is not at all what was sought. So those are red flags to Amazon. No conversion for you, no conversion for Amazon, Amazon counts that against your product.
- Trying to game the Amazon system eventually catches up with sellers. If you are consistently taking liberties in order to stuff your products into lower-competition categories, Amazon will eventually find out. Getting best-seller status or even the Amazon Best Seller badge is not worth risking your ranking or selling privileges. If you find yourself tempted to manipulate the categories, ask yourself “Is being a best seller or having the badge for an hour worth the risk?”
Is the Amazon Best Seller Badge Worth Pursuing?
There is no doubt that the Amazon Best Seller badge has visual appeal and carries weight with customers, especially now that it appears in search results as well as on detail pages. Given that possessing the badge can last for just a single hour, I’ve heard sellers refer to the Amazon Best Seller badge as appealing more to seller ego and vanity than to buyers. Don’t be distracted by shiny objects. You’re not a raccoon or a magpie, you’re an Amazon seller trying to run a successful business. Work on doing the things that make your product a legitimate sustainable top-ranking best seller in its legitimate category. Don’t sweat getting the badge or holding onto it. That will happen when you really are #1.
Focus on keywords and listing optimization and ranking in search results, focus on advertising and conversion, focus on shoppers who know what they are looking for and who choose your product because it best meets their needs and wants, and focus on customer service and communication. Keep your eyes on the real prizes: sales, ranking, rating, brand recognition, and customer satisfaction and loyalty. If the badge follows, all the better, but it’s not what really matters.