What Amazon's 250 Character Indexing Maximum Means for Merchants

Update: August 22, 2018: Clarifications About Update to Search Term Field

You bet that Amazon keyword guidelines have changed again. For a full explanation and best practices regarding the new 249-bytes-on-1-line rules, read “Amazon Takes a Byte Out of Search Terms.” We’ll keep this original post active and add rolling updates so that all of the changes are logged for your reference.

Update: August 3, 2018: Seller Central Notification About Update to Search Term Field

Amazon recently added a notification upon logging in to Seller Central to inform sellers about the less than 250 bytes limit to the search term field. This isn’t news to most sellers but it does show that Amazon has officially set the record straight on its site and not in a forum. The notification says:

Amazon limits the length of the search terms attribute to less than 250 bytes. If your search terms exceed the limit, you will now see a warning message beside the search terms field on the Keywords tab in Seller Central.

If you see the warning message, click Save and finish on the same tab. Your search terms within the length limit will be saved. This shortened version is the first 249 bytes of your current terms. You can edit the terms, but they must be less than the limit.

For information on how to optimize your search terms, see Using search terms effectively.

Along with this official update, Amazon has also removed the ability to add multiple search term lines (now just one line instead of five). Included with this update is a nifty notification to let you know that you’ve exceeded the 250 character limit in the single Search Terms field line. The notification says, “Search Terms: Please reduce your generic keyword length to less than 250 bytes.”

amazon-250-character-notification

Update: August 24, 2017: Seller Central Notification About Quality of Search Results

Amazon posted in Seller Central on August 24, 2017, about a “new feature improving the quality of search results.” Here’s the original message with embolden text of the most important updates:
Amazon launched a feature that limits the length of the generic keywords attribute to less than 200 bytes in India, 500 bytes in Japan and 250 bytes in every other marketplace except China. The limits have been shown to improve the quality of search results. It applies to newly registered and existing ASINs.
Key Guidelines:

  • Keep content within the prescribed length limit (less than 250, 200 for India, 500 for Japan):
    • Length limit applies to total content in all generic keyword fields (a max. of 5 attributes).
    • Whole entry will be rejected upon exceeding limit.
    • Number of bytes equals number of characters for alphanumeric characters (e.g. a-z, 0-9) while other characters can be 2 bytes or more. Examples include ä (2 bytes), £ (2 bytes), € (3 bytes) or ❤ (3 bytes).
    • Spaces and punctuation (“;” “,”, “.”) do not contribute to the length limit, but words should be space-separated. Punctuation between words is unnecessary.
  • Optimising keyword content for search discoverability:
    • Do not include keywords that are not descriptive of the product.
    • Do not include brand names (even your own) or other product identifiers.
    • Do not duplicate content present in other attributes, such as title and bullet points.
    • No need to repeat keywords; once is enough.
    • Use keywords that are synonyms, hypernyms or spelling variations of content in visible attributes (e.g. if product title is ‘whiskey’, use ‘whisky‘ in generic keywords).

For further information, see how to optimize listings for search and browse.

Update: July 20, 2017: Amazon Confirms 250 Character Change

An Amazon Seller Central Support representative posted in a thread about the algorithm/character limit shake up. Here’s the original thread from the forum. You can also read the thread below.

Hello Sellers,

We understand your concern with the input of search keywords. 

Amazon launched a feature that limits the length of the generic keywords attribute to less than 200 bytes in the IN marketplace, 500 bytes in the JP marketplace and 250 bytes in every other marketplace except the CN marketplace. The limits have shown to improve the quality of Search results. To date, the Search team has been suppressing generic keyword attributes that exceed these limits. This will apply to newly registered ASINs as well as existing ASINs.

We recommend following the guidelines below to optimize your use of the generic keywords attribute. 
Key Guidelines for the Generic Keywords Attribute:
Keep the content within the prescribed length limit (less than 250, 200 for IN, 500 for JP):

The length limit applies to the total content in all generic keyword fields (A max of 5 attributes).

The number of bytes equals the number of characters for alphanumeric characters (i.e. a–z, A–Z, 0–9) while other characters, such as umlauts (e.g. ä), each corresponding to 2 bytes or more. Examples of other character byte sizes include £ (2 bytes), € (3 bytes) or ❤ (3 bytes).

Spaces and punctuation (“;” “,” “.”) do not contribute to the length limit, but words should still be separated by spaces. There is no need for punctuation, such as commas, between words.

Guidelines for optimizing keyword content for Search discoverability:

Do not include keywords that are not descriptive of the product.

Do not include brand names (even your own) or other product identifiers.

Do not duplicate content that is present in other attributes, such as title and bullet points.

There is no need to repeat keywords; once is enough.

We recommend using keywords that are synonyms, hypernyms, or spelling variations of content in visible attributes (e.g. if the product title contains ‘whiskey’, the generic keyword attribute may contain spelling variations (‘whisky’); if the product is a ‘guitar’, the generic keywords may contain a hypernym (‘musical instrument’).

For further information, please refer to the optimize listings for search and browse help page . 

-Susan
I had a question sent to me in a Private Message, and I wanted to make a clarification here. 
The prescribed length limit is less than 250 in ALL markets, except IN, JP and CN. Therefore, the prescribed length limit is less than 250 for the NA marketplaces, .ca, .com, .mx
—End of thread—

Here’s the original thread that prompted us to report on the algorithm/character limit update

Here’s the copy of an email a customer sent us that they received from Amazon support:

Dear Seller,

Thank you for writing back to us and letting us know that the issue has been fixed when the keywords are shortened to no more than 250 characters.

Please be informed that I have contacted our concerned team and received a response stating that as the Search team is constantly working to improve the relevance of search results for our customers. This help our sellers too, since we can remove non-relevant products and let sellers compete with smaller result sets of only relevant items.

Our concerned team is running a project on this to help optimize our approach, and have not yet finalized any communication, but that is still in progress.

As of now this is working as designed, the system ignores any generic keywords over 250 bytes for all the categories including health and personal and beauty. In addition, we were also informed that our system do not do partial matching of Generic Keywords fields and it is unlikely that anyone will search for paragraphs of keywords in their entirety.

AS per the help seller can put 1000 characters but our system can index only 250 characters at maximum.

Please know that we currently do not have an option of indexing the keywords to more than 250 characters. I apologize if this policy doesn’t meet your business needs.

I do understand that this may help you for better buyer experience. However, at this time, this feature is not available for our sellers.

As to make sure that you are heard, I have passed your message to the Business team as a feedback, so they are aware of your interest.

As we continue to improve both our platform and our service, input from Sellers like you is valuable. I truly appreciate your suggestion as this is a great input for Amazon to work upon and this can actually be of great help to Sellers as well as Buyers.

If there are changes pertaining to this, Sellers will be notified via Seller Central. We encourage you to keep checking, as functionality is often refined over time.

We strive to make your selling experience on Amazon as eventful as possible and therefore we are willing to extend any help that you may need at any time.

I personally wish I was able to do a lot more in this regard however, as the Policies are determined by our Business team we at Seller Support would not be able to influence those decisions.

We wish you great success in your future endeavors. Have a wonderful day!

What Amazon’s 250 character indexing maximum means

It seems Amazon will now only index the first 250 characters in a product detail page’s backend keywords instead of 5,000 characters as believed before. This applies to all five search term fields. The biggest points of this update are:

  1. Generic keywords will be normalized, which means all upper and lower case keywords, and singular and plural forms of the same keyword, shouldn’t be added.
  2. Merchants don’t need to add keywords that already appear in the title, description and subject keywords.
  3. Amazon’s system ignores any generic keywords beyond 250 characters for every category.
  4. Amazon will also discontinue doing partial matching of generic keyword fields because it believes it is unlikely anybody will search for paragraphs of keywords.

This means Amazon third-party merchants will need to be extremely cognizant of the keywords they use in their product detail pages. To give you some context, 250 characters is about 40 words, which isn’t a lot. So keyword research and optimization will be more crucial than ever to stand out in organic search.

How to know if your product is indexed for a specific keyword

There are a couple of ways you can discover if your product or a competitor’s product is indexed for a specific keyword. This process is known as a reverse ASIN lookup. The first method is a bit manual.

Manual Reverse ASIN Lookup

First, go to the product detail page if you don’t have the ASIN on hand. Once you land on the page, go to the URL and locate the 10-digit ASIN. For our example, we’ll use our steadfast apple slicer; it’s ASIN is B00XTCERLE.
apple_slicer_asin
https://www.amazon.com/Handles-Stainless-Happy-Gourmet-Kitchenware/dp/B00XTCERLE/ref=sr_1_10?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1496334572&sr=1-10&keywords=apple+slicer
Now, go to the search bar and paste in your ASIN and add a ‘+’ then the keyword you want to check whether it’s indexed or not. If I want to know whether or not the apple slicer is indexed for the keyword slicer, I would simply put B00XTCERLE+slicer into the search bar and hit enter. If the ASIN is indexed for this keyword, it will then be displayed on the search engine results page. If it isn’t indexed, say for example I search for B00XTCERLE+manzana, the search engine results page will say “Your search “B00XTCERLE+manzana” did not match any products.”


You can use this reverse ASIN lookup method on any product on Amazon. But it’s a manual process that only verifies if a product is indexed for a keyword—it doesn’t give you any new keywords.

Reverse ASIN Lookup with Scope

If you want to sophisticate your reverse ASIN lookup process, then use our Scope tool.

First, go to the product detail page you want to research. For this example, I’ll be using the apple slicer, again. Select Show Scope from the bottom right-hand corner on Amazon. Scope shows 217 keywords for the apple slicer ASIN in a variety of long-tail formats. You can view the results based on the keyword, time it was last refreshed, search volume, CPC bid, search position and estimated sales. We can narrow down the results for search volume since we want to see what shoppers are mostly looking for. We can then export the keywords to a .csv file to remove any duplicates.
This process will show you which keywords you or your competitors are ranking for, and it will give you a starting place to begin your backend keyword optimization process.

Moving Forward

This update is a positive step forward for merchants, shoppers and Amazon. Why? Because it means Amazon search will produce much more relevant results. The biggest challenge for merchants is that they’ll have to spend more time optimizing keywords for both organic and paid search. The result should be lower impressions but higher conversions because shoppers are landing on relevant search engine results pages.
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