- Lena R. Liberman
- On June 23, 2020
Regardless of the quality of your products or your brand reputation, Amazon shoppers can’t buy what they can’t find. If your products aren’t showing in the first few Amazon search results, you’re quashing sales opportunities before shoppers even have a chance to see your goods, let alone consider them or compare them to similar products. This is why understanding Amazon search engine optimization (SEO) and having a strong Amazon SEO strategy in place is vital to getting your products found, displayed, and ultimately purchased.
What Is Amazon SEO?
Simply put, Amazon SEO is search engine optimization created with the intention of attracting shoppers on and off Amazon (yes, Google indexes Amazon listings and displays them in search results) while also signaling to Amazon’s search algorithm (A9) that your product is a good match for the shopper. By good match, I mean that Amazon thinks that the shopper is likely to purchase the product based on their search query.
When we talk about Amazon SEO, we’re talking about text and graphics on the product detail page, namely keywords (title, bullets, product description, backend keywords) and images. Optimizing these elements is an ongoing process of testing, logging, comparing, and refining variables to see which generate the best results.
Seller Labs Tip: For every Amazon product listing, you’re writing for both human shoppers and an artificial intelligence system. Strike a balance between syntax that appeals to human readers as well as syntax that speaks to the Amazon algorithm. Amazon even gives you tips for optimizing your product discoverability.
How Does Amazon SEO Differ from General SEO?
Search engine optimization is, by definition, the process of selecting and refining keywords that will appeal to Google and other answer-driven search engines. However, Amazon is a different kind of search engine. The Amazon search algorithm is not looking to match the user’s query with the most-relevant answer or best resource; the Amazon search algorithm instead seeks to deliver results for products that the user is most likely to buy. That is based on both past purchasing data and predictive data.
Why Does Amazon SEO Matter?
SEO is what gets content in front of viewers seeking solutions regardless of whether those solutions are answers to questions, resources for further investigation, or products. The better the content, the higher the solution ranks. The higher a solution ranks, the more likely it is to be viewed and pursued. In the case of Amazon, the more that the SEO content and other product listing elements gel with the algorithm and the shopper, the higher that product will rank and the greater the chances of purchase and customer satisfaction. Why does Amazon SEO matter? Because it’s how you draw in human shoppers and how you ping the Amazon algorithm so that your product shows not only in the first few results but above your competitors’ products.
SEO Is Only One Part of Ranking on Amazon
Amazon ranks search results based on the likelihood of the product meeting the user’s criteria and being purchased. Where a product ranks in search results is determined by relevance and performance. Your Amazon SEO strategy addresses relevance and affects performance. Performance, in turn, involves factors such as sales velocity, number of returns, inventory levels, etc.
The workings of the Amazon algorithm are not public, but we do know many of the factors that affect a product’s ranking and position in search results. The best way to play to relevance and performance factors is by understanding the Amazon flywheel and how you as a seller turn the four main gears to benefit your brand, your customers, and Amazon.
Glossary: Your Guide to Amazon SEO Definitions
- A+ Content: A+ Content is a Brand Registry feature that allows Amazon sellers to customize listings with expanded images and text in order to augment product detail pages. With A+ Content, brand owners can tell their stories via images, charts and graphs, instructions, and more in order to highlight key product features, answer common questions, and stand out in a crowded marketplace. Caveat: A+ Content looks awesome and can help communicate a product’s value or a brand identity. However, A+ Content is NOT indexed by Amazon. In short, it’s great content that will help with conversions but not Amazon SEO and discovery. Focus your SEO strategy elsewhere.
- Amazon Algorithm: Also known as A9, the Amazon algorithm is an oft-changing proprietary scan-and-index formula that seeks to match products with user search inputs. Many so-called Amazon gurus promise to teach sellers (for a fee, of course) how to crack the Amazon algorithm so that a seller’s products always display highest in search results. Don’t be fooled by scammers or black-hat tacticians: one cannot crack or hack the Amazon algorithm and get away with it; however, sellers can better understand what the algorithm seeks and then optimize their product listings to play to those points.
- Bytes and Characters: Bytes are binary data units that stand for characters, numbers, and symbols. Most characters that you type are equivalent to a single byte unit. However, some characters require more than one byte. When Amazon says that you have UNDER 250 bytes for keywords, that does not mean that you have 249 characters to use. It could be fewer, especially if you’re using symbols or foreign characters. A good rule is that 200 characters will give you the padding you need to not exceed the byte limit and risk suppression of keywords, or worse, suppression of your entire listing.
- Images: While it would seem that images speak more to the human shopper than the Amazon algorithm, they are indeed indexed by A9 — sort of. In addition to visual recognition done by Amazon’s sophisticated software, image titles and alt-tags should be used with clear and descriptive language to speak for the images and help your Amazon SEO. Be sure to fill out these image fields. Many of your competitors will not make time to tag images properly so this is an easy Amazon SEO advantage for those who seize it.
- Indexing: Search sites like Google and Amazon crawl the Web looking for information that they can parse into results for users. However, crawling is not instant and not everything that is crawled is indexed. In terms of Amazon SEO, focus on being found by what does get indexed and put your SEO and keyword efforts there. Always put your most-important keywords and features first. When a snippet appears in search results, you want that piece of information to show.
- Keywords: Keywords are the heart of Amazon SEO. These are important words and phrases that cue matches between your product listing and the user’s search via parsing done by the Amazon algorithm. There are two types of keywords in the case of Amazon listings:
- Frontend Keywords: These are the terms you input that the user sees: title, bullet points, and product description.
- Backend Keywords: Sometimes called hidden keywords, these terms sit behind the scenes where shoppers cannot see them. They are terms that need not be displayed to potential buyers but they can do some heavy lifting when it comes to indicating to the Amazon algorithm what your product is all about. Space here is very limited so you need to really maximize your Amazon SEO efforts to communicate the most-relevant, most-important information to A9.
- Keyword Research Tool: There are many places and ways to find high-value keywords that drive conversions. Some are just intuitive, some can be found by doing searches of your own and by reading product reviews and competitor listings. But sometimes you need hard data to find powerful keywords. That’s where a keyword research tool like Scope (part of Seller Labs Pro) comes in handy. Use Scope to run a search by ASIN or keyword and you’ll be amazed by the search terms that shoppers are using that you hadn’t even thought of. You’ll also get information about how those keywords rank and their search volumes. Goldmine.
- Keyword Stuffing: While you want as many strong keywords as possible in order to attract shoppers and suggest a good match to the Amazon algorithm, you don’t want to overreach and pack your listing with words and phrases that might be irrelevant. Quantity is not better and it can actually harm your ranking. A lot of keywords might lead to impressions, but only quality keywords will lead to conversions. Don’t try to be clever by packing your frontend and backend keywords with vaguely connected terms. These only frustrate buyers and lead to a low sales conversion rate, the latter of which actually lowers your Amazon ranking.
- Organic Search Results/Rankings: These are the non-sponsored products that match the user’s Amazon search based on relevance and performance. When advertised products are displayed as matches via PPC campaigns, those are considered paid results. Advertising is a great way to get your products displayed. When advertised products start leading to sales, your product’s performance improves and your organic ranking will also improve as a result. Amazon Advertising is its own world of opportunities, but you will find a lot of overlap with product listing SEO strategy. It’s all about those keywords!
- User Search Terms: These are literally the words and phrases (and even ASINs) that customers input into the Amazon search box when looking for products. The User Search Term report is available in both Seller Central and Seller Labs Pro (start your free 30-day trial of Pro today). Like Scope the keyword research tool, the User Search Term report is a goldmine for finding new, powerful keywords. Remember that these terms are the exact words that shoppers are using to describe the products they seek. It’s the voice of the customer, not unlike product reviews. The User Search Term report not only gives you great keyword suggestions, it will help you understand your audience and better meet their needs going forward.