Imagine getting customers without having to lift a finger. You can be sleeping, at the beach, at the park with your kids, doing whatever you want and people are still clicking to and buying your products.
That’s what’s in store if you master Amazon SEO and solidify a position at the top of Amazon’s search rankings.
This is the blueprint for the ideal Amazon selling model. You put the work in to launch your product and rank high, and eventually benefit from a prime spot in front of millions of Amazon customers. After a while, your product basically generates cash on autopilot.
This will cover all you need to know to ace Amazon search rankings. Whether you’re launching a product from scratch, or you’re trying to jump from page 2 or 3 to one of the top spots, the principles we’re going to introduce will help you reach your goals.
We’ll look at:
- Amazon SEO & the A9/A10 algorithm
- Which type of ranking you want to focus on
- Key ranking factors in Amazon search
- How to grow your Amazon rankings
- Choosing the right keywords to make optimum ROI
Read on to arm yourself with the tools needed to rank your products and grow your Amazon business.
An Intro to Amazon SEO & the Amazon Search Algorithm
To understand how to rank higher on Amazon, you first need to know the playing field. That means Amazon SEO (search engine optimization), and the technology that powers it.
Like all major search engines – Google, YouTube for example – the search results are decided by a software algorithm. Understanding this algorithm, how it works, and how it decides what shows up #1, is essential to mastering it.
The Amazon A9 Algorithm
A9 – shorthand for the word algorithm – was built in 2003 by Amazon, as a company dedicated to building search and advertising technology. The A9 name is now synonymous with Amazon search, not so much an independent company (the A9.com domain was taken down and redirected to point to Amazon.com after inquiries by Wall Street Journal writers in 2019).
Since its birth in 2003, the A9 algorithm has become increasingly sophisticated. It’s come a long way from the old days of Amazon selling, where it was quite easy to throw products up and manipulate the search rankings to make yours rank #1.
The A9 algorithm governs everything related to Amazon search.
From the search suggestions;
To the products that show in the organic ranking positions.
The main thing that drives the A9 algorithm is customer satisfaction. The reason Amazon is so big (as with any huge business) is their focus on the customer. With the A9 algorithm being such a massive part of the Amazon shopping experience, it’s important to Amazon that A9 shows results that fit customer’s search intent.
While Amazon doesn’t publicly reveal too much about their search algorithm, they do confirm this customer-centric approach.
Amazon Head of Search Marc Delingat says on the now removed A9.com website;
“One of A9’s tenets is that relevance is in the eye of the customer and we strive to get the best results for our users. Once we determine which items are good matches to the customer’s query, our ranking algorithms score them to present the most relevant results to the user.
The better we understand the meaning of a query, the better we can help customers find the products they want.”
So, to summarize, the Amazon search algorithm is designed, and is continually optimized, to present the search results that Amazon customers want to see.
Understand that, and you can begin to understand Amazon SEO.
The Amazon A10 Algorithm
Wait… there’s another?
What is the A10 algorithm?
In 2020, Amazon reportedly updated their search algorithm, now known as the “A10 algorithm”. Does that mean we need to forget everything we learned about Amazon search optimization?
The A10 algorithm update changes how some factors are weighted, but at it’s core, it’s still the same. It’s designed to present the most relevant, most popular products to Amazon shoppers, and ensure they come away happy with their experience on Amazon.
The major changes reportedly introduced by A10 are more power to factors such as:
- Organic sales
- Sales from external traffic
- Seller authority (seller rating and health metrics from the seller holding the buy box)
- Conversion rate
- Impressions (how many times your product shows up across Amazon)
All up, there’s a higher focus on relevance and products that show up and drive sales organically. So if you can get your product to show up more often for different keywords or in “related” or “buy together” sections on other listings, you should be able to rank higher overall.
Additionally, maintaining strong account health metrics will also go further to helping you outrank products sold by less reliable sellers.
While organic visibility is dropping these days, optimizing to show high in organic search results is still a must.
Organic rankings are the low-hanging fruit of your Amazon marketing strategy, and shouldn’t be ignored. The difference between ranking on the first page and second page is immense (especially if you rank high on the first page).
This Amazon shopper behavior study shows what a graveyard the second page – and even the lower end of the first page – is.
- 70% of Amazon customers never click past the first page of search results
- 35% of Amazon shoppers click on the first product featured on a search page
- The first three items displayed in search results account for 64% of clicks
- 81% of clicks are on brands on the first page of search results
This is much like Google search, where 75% of people don’t bother with anything past the first page.
Organic search rankings are vital for attracting customers, customers who go on to give you the best profit margins, because you didn’t need to spend anything on ads to get them. And since clicks aren’t distributed evenly across all the results on the first page, each spot you move up is more and more valuable.
You might get 1% more sales by moving from #10 to #9. Then 3% more sales by going from #9 to #8, 10% more by going from #8 to #7, and so on.
In this guide we’re going to look at how Amazon SEO works, and the factors the A9 search algorithm takes into account when ranking products. But at all times, remember the most important thing – the customer.
Amazon search is built to help Amazon customers. The best way to optimize for Amazon search is to focus on the customer too. Keep this in the back of your mind at all times when trying to grow rankings, and any ranking increases you get will be more likely to stick around with any updates to the algorithm in the future.
Sales Rank vs Search Rank
There’s nothing worse than working hard to reach the wrong goal. So we’re going to spend a minute differentiating between two different “rankings” on Amazon, and which one should be your focus.
Search rank is what we’ve been talking about in the previous section. The search results presented by the Amazon A9 algorithm when someone searches for a certain term, like “5 speed hand mixer” or “hiking backpack”.
Your search rank is where your product shows up in the organic search results for this term (the products showing up that aren’t sponsored products, related searches, editorial recommendations or other special categories).
Your product will have a ton of different search rankings, for different search terms. For example, you may rank #1 for “hiking backpack”, but #5 for “waterproof hiking backpack”.
The key to search rank is ranking high for the most profitable keywords or search terms, which we’ll look at in more detail later on.
You’ll also come across the term sales rank, or best sellers rank (BSR). This is a metric to show a product’s sales in relation to other products in a specific category or subcategory.
Taking this product as an example, its sales rank is:
- #4,741 in Kitchen & Dining
- #15 in Hand Mixers
- #1,905 in Kitchen Utensils & Gadgets
A high sales rank indicates that your product is doing well, but if you’re checking your revenue, you’ll already know that. Sales rank is more of a customer-centric ranking, to show customers where a product stacks up against others in its niche.
Follow your BSR, and use this as a benchmark for performance, but don’t put too much of a focus on it. Instead, put your mental energy into boosting your search rankings, and sales rank will follow.
Check out this post to learn more about sales rank and BSR.
Amazon Search Ranking Factors
Understanding the ranking factors of the search algorithm is central to knowing how to grow your Amazon rankings.
Amazon, of course, doesn’t want people to be able to game the search rankings. This would have the potential to present inconvenience to their customers, if people could rank low-quality products just by knowing how to satisfy the algorithm. That’s why the specifics of the Amazon A9/A10 ranking algorithms are secret.
Regardless, there is a lot we are 99% sure of when it comes to Amazon rankings, as many have run tests to isolate variables and see what has an impact on search performance.
As a result, there are two broad ranking factors that come into play.
These two ranking factors hold the key to ranking your product on page 1 of Amazon.
Let’s break that down a little.
When a customer searches for something on Amazon, the search algorithm is designed to show results that are relevant to the search query.
If we go back to what Amazon’s Head of Search said about A9;
“When a customer tells us they are looking for “Harry Potter in books”, we distinguish in their query the title: “Harry Potter” from the category information: “in books”.”
The ideal outcome for Amazon is for a customer to come to the site, put in one search, and find the product they’re looking for. As opposed to needing to search a number of times to find the right thing.
Relevance is mainly defined by the keywords on your listing. Amazon will crawl what’s written on your product detail page – starting with your product title, then description, then backend search terms – to decide if your product is relevant to the given search term.
One thing that’s important to understand is that relevance and keywords are not multiplicative. Meaning, you’re not really going to make your product more relevant and rank higher by using a keyword 1000 times.
Keywords determine if your product is relevant to a specific search term and eligible to be ranked (“indexed” for this keyword). After that, it comes down to popularity as to whether it ranks #1 or #99.
I could use a few words to describe this ranking factor – popularity, performance, conversions, sales – but it all means the same thing.
Amazon wants to show products that are popular with customers. They want people to go away happy with their purchase, so they’ll come back and shop on Amazon.com again.
If the products showing up high in Amazon search were all low-quality products or poor sellers, Amazon would get a reputation for selling these kinds of products.
Conversely, if high-quality products show up at the top of search, these are the products Amazon’s standard is set by.
It’s also in Amazon’s best interest to promote best-selling products. The more sales a product makes, the more money Amazon makes. So it stands to reason that if you make a lot of sales, Amazon will reward you.
It all comes under the umbrella of popularity. The most popular product for a particular search term is the one that is going to come in first.
More (Specific) Ranking Factors
We can narrow down to more specific ranking factors, but almost all come under one of the two umbrellas, relevance and popularity.
Here’s a full list of things that influence your Amazon search ranking:
- Product description/bullet points
- Backend keywords
- Product information
- Sales velocity
- Conversion rate
- Clickthrough rate
- Account health
- Seller Rating
- # of product reviews
- Product rating
- Time on page
- Bounce rate
- Exit rate
The biggest ones to consider are your title and product description for relevance, and sales, reviews and conversion rate for popularity.
(Some double as relevance and popularity factors. For example, conversion rate, sales velocity, exit rate for a specific search term. Say your product, a hiking backpack, has a 10% conversion rate overall, but a 20% conversion rate for the search term “waterproof hiking backpack”. That’s a sign that your product is relevant and popular with this search term, and will result in higher rankings.)
The Most Important Ranking Factor – Customer Satisfaction
While we looked at two broad categories all ranking factors come under (relevance and popularity), as well as a bunch of individual ranking factors, everything comes back to one thing: customer satisfaction.
Is a customer likely to be satisfied by this product as the #1 result for their search query?
Any ranking factor can be traced back to this.
- Sales velocity – fast sellers indicate people like the product
- Reviews – a lot of good reviews have an obvious correlation with customer satisfaction
- Conversion rate – a good conversion rate shows people are happy with this search result and willing to make a purchase after clicking through
So, whatever you’re doing to optimize and improve your Amazon search rankings, make sure you’re showing Amazon that customers are going to be satisfied by purchasing your product after searching for a certain keyword.
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Win the Amazon Rankings: How to Rank Your Products on Page 1
When you nail down a formula to ranking on page one, it’s like starting the 100m sprint at the 50m mark.
While everyone else is stumbling and trying to get traction, you’ll know what works, and you can replicate that for new products, for new keywords for the same products, or for products you launched earlier.
The following is a number of actionable things you can do to satisfy the A9 algorithm ranking factors and rank your products higher. Put these things into practice, observe any movements in your rankings, and start building your Amazon ranking formula.
Optimize your listing for relevant keywords
The first step to ranking is just showing up. That means the first thing you need to optimize is your keywords, so your product is indexed for your target search terms.
Notice we’re saying relevant keywords. There’s no point trying to optimize for keywords with low relevance to your product, even if they have high search volume. This won’t result in many (if any) sales, and at worst will even hurt you by a drop in conversion rate metrics.
You want to find relevant, high-volume keywords, and let the search engine know your product is a candidate when a customer searches for this. Ideally you’ll find and include as many of these keywords as possible, though there’s only enough room in your prime real estate for a few.
The most important keywords, those most relevant with high search volume, should go in your title. Not only is the title the first thing that A9 looks at, it’s also big for getting people to click through from search results, as people will be much more likely to click if there’s an exact match of their search term in the product’s title.
This space is extremely limited, so limit this only to the most important keywords.
Next is your bullet points, features and product description. This is where you’ve got a bit of free reign to fit in as many long-tail keywords as you can find (and that are relevant).
What are long-tail keywords? Long-tail keywords are highly specific phrases, usually 3+ words long, which customers use when they’re further along in the buying cycle. Long-tail keywords tend to have lower search volume, lower competition, and are more likely to result in a sale. For example, if your main keyword is hiking backpack, a long-tail keyword may be lightweight backpack for hiking or waterproof hiking backpack for women.
Finally, in your backend search terms you can add any more relevant keywords. This is a section hidden from customers, only visible to the algorithm, so make sure you use all the space you’re given to increase the number of terms you can rank for.
Optimize your listing for conversions
Conversion rate – how many people buy your product after clicking through to the product listing – is a big signal for both popularity and relevance.
A high conversion rate shows Amazon you’ve got a winning product. It also shows them that your product is relevant to the search terms it’s ranking for.
So, as well as optimizing for keywords, you need to optimize your listing to convert viewers into sales.
The two biggest areas to optimize to increase conversions are:
First, you’ve got to find a balance between optimizing for keywords and creating listing copy that is readable and persuasive.
Make sure your product description is easily skimmable – shoppers on Amazon aren’t there to read blog-style paragraphs.
Also focus on the benefits, rather than the features, of your product. Benefits are what the customer really wants out of your product, and highlighting them will convince more people to buy.
Example: “high-quality cotton seams” is a feature. “Jeans that last a lifetime” is a benefit. Focus on how the customer benefits from your product’s feature.
Aside from copy, images are the other big factor that drives conversions.
People want to be able to see and experience as much of the product as possible when buying online. So it’s vital to have a large number of high-quality images.
Make sure your images show a range of different angles and uses for your product. “Lifestyle” photos – images of the product in use – are super effective.
Some other things that help drive more conversions include:
- A+/Enhanced Brand Content
- Answering questions on your listing
- Offering prime shipping
Increase sales velocity
Sales velocity is a pillar of the product ranking algorithm. While you can break the product ranking process down to a multitude of individual ranking factors, you can also simplify it with this small equation:
More sales = higher rankings.
At the end of the day, sales are king. Sales are what you want to see, and they’re what Amazon wants to see as well. Give them what they want to see, and they’ll reward you with more visibility and higher rankings.
Of course, there’s a flywheel effect that comes into play here. To get more sales, often you need to rank higher. But to rank high, you need sales.
That’s why anything you can do to proactively drive sales to your product will prove incredibly beneficial. Options for this include:
- Running Amazon promotions such as coupons or lightning deals
- Amazon sponsored products (PPC) campaigns
- Paid ads outside Amazon (Facebook, Google)
- Driving traffic from your own audience, such as your email list or website
Drive sales from external traffic
Driving people from outside Amazon to buy your product is especially powerful at growing your rankings. For one reason, as mentioned above, it helps you to get the sales you need to kick the sales-rankings flywheel into action.
On top of this, many sellers claim that sales from outside traffic actually carry more ranking power than regular sales. 3x as much, in fact.
The reasoning behind this is, you’re doing work for Amazon by getting in front of people on other channels and sending them to Amazon.com. Amazon rewards you for that with stronger popularity signals and higher rankings. It’s not just theoretical – sellers driving traffic and observing ranking changes have come to this conclusion on the back of actual data.
Filter low-intent customers to improve your conversion rate
We know conversion rate is a pretty important ranking factor. And boosting conversion rate doesn’t just mean getting more conversions, it can also be achieved by limiting the people reaching your listing who don’t convert.
The more you can make sure only the most targeted, buy-now customers get to your detail page, the higher your conversion rate will be.
This comes into play the most when you’re driving external traffic. A lot of sellers send people straight from external channels (Google, Facebook, other social media) to the product page on Amazon. The problem is, people on these channels aren’t in buy-now mode, while shoppers on Amazon are – and Amazon products have a super high conversion rate on average as a result.
That means many people you send from Facebook/Google will not buy your product, and your conversion rate will drop because of this.
So, if you’re advertising in front of a low buyer intent audience, or an audience that is not yet 100% targeted, it’s a good idea to filter your traffic with a landing page. Show them everything about your product on the landing page, and have them make the decision to buy or not right there.
This way, only the high-intent shoppers go through to Amazon, boosting your conversion rate, and your rankings.
Use FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon)
FBA does not seem to be an explicit ranking factor, but you’ve got a better chance of ranking higher if you use it. This is because of the Prime factor.
Selling with FBA makes your products Prime-eligible, and eligible for free shipping over $25. This is a big driver for conversions – getting more people to click through from the search results, and more people to convert and buy.
Higher conversions result in turn with higher rankings.
Get more reviews
Reviews are another big element in getting more conversions. They are also a direct ranking factor, so if you get a lot of reviews, your rankings will go up as a result.
If we go back to our cornerstone ranking factors, reviews are one of the best things to gauge popularity. A product with a lot of reviews and a high rating is a popular one, however you spin it.
Reviews have been a big deal for as long as Amazon has, which is why fake reviews have been a topic of contention for the last few years. Today, getting reviews is not easy, since you’ve got to tip-toe around the Amazon review guidelines to make sure you’re not doing anything that may incentivize or manipulate customer reviews.
In the post-incentivized reviews world, having a high-quality, reviewable product is essential if you want to get enough reviews to be competitive. Your product should ideally generate reviews on around 1-2% of sales by itself – you can also use outreach methods such as product inserts and emails to get a few more reviews on top of this.
Boost sales velocity & conversion rate relevant to your keywords
Sales velocity and conversion rate are big ranking factors, which we’ve already covered. But it’s important to note that it’s not just your overall sales & conversion rate that matters. Amazon takes into account your performance for particular keywords, and ranks you higher or lower as a result.
If you search for something on Amazon and click through to a product, you’ll see a bunch of characters in the URL, including this:
The URL shows which search term you used to find the product. This means Amazon can attribute sales, conversion rate, bounce rate, time on page, and all other metrics to your product for this keyword, and decide if it’s right to rank for it.
With this in mind, one trick to boost sales and conversions related to a specific keyword is to drive external traffic through 2-step URLs. How it works is, instead of sending someone from a Facebook Ad/Google Ad directly to your listing, you’ll send them to a search page with a keyword search filled out. When they click through, Amazon attributes the click (and the sale, should it happen) to this keyword.
Combine this strategy with the landing page filtering strategy we talked about earlier, and it’s a great way to boost your sales and improve conversion rate for your priority keywords.
Choosing the Right Keywords to Rank For
Ranking on Amazon is hard, so a key part of the process is making sure you rank for the right keywords.
This means ranking for a large number of different search terms, which have high search volume and can lead to a sale for your product.
Some of the tactics we discuss to boost your rankings require a lot of work and focus towards specific search terms. That means you can easily waste a lot of time and energy by focusing on the wrong keywords.
Let’s give some idea of what kind of keywords you should be targeting, and how to find them.
First, you want to be looking for keywords with a lot of searches. If a lot of people are searching for a particular term, it means more people will see your product when you can get it to rank.
Investigating search volume is important, because there are often particular phrases that are searched much more often, and optimizing for the wrong keywords means you’ll miss out on a lot of traffic.
For example, here we have “fish oil” at 69k monthly searches and “omega 3” at 50k. The search volume tells us these are high-volume keywords that would be extremely valuable to rank for (if our product fits this niche).
The other side of the coin is relevance. It’s better to put effort into keywords that are relevant to what we’re selling, and likely to result in a sale. Ranking for high-volume search terms doesn’t mean a whole lot if no one buys your product from these searches.
In some cases your best keywords might be the ones with lower search volume, but higher relevance.
Take this example with our hiking backpack. The keyword “backpack” has a huge search volume, with 252k, but if our product is made specifically for hiking, it likely makes more sense to focus on the “hiking backpack” keyword, which has less search volume but is more relevant.
It’s also worth noting that keywords with lower search volume are often less competitive as well, which makes it easier to rank your product.
Finding Keyword Ideas
You should have a few keyword ideas before you even start doing any proper research. There should be a few terms you can think of that relate to your product. “Hiking backpack” or “fish oil supplement” for example.
One way you can find more keyword ideas from here is to use the Amazon search related searches function. Type your initial keyword into the search bar, and see what else Amazon suggests (these are real searches that people are typing in).
You can plug these into a keyword research tool to check out the search volume and competition, and assess whether they should be priority keywords.
Another use for keyword research tools is a reverse keyword search. Plug in a product that’s ranking high for one of your main keywords, and many tools will be able to show you which keywords they are ranking for. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, see what your competitors are doing well and follow this as a guideline.
Amazon PPC can also help you find keyword ideas, by running automatic campaigns. With this, Amazon will find related keywords for your product and set up sponsored products ads for these keywords. This is really effective because you can then see how your product performed for these keywords, and decide if they’re a good fit to try and rank high organically for.
Final Word: Ranking on Amazon in 2020
If we look back a few years, the ranking landscape on Amazon has definitely changed. Not so much because of changes to the ranking algorithm, more so because of increased competition on the Amazon marketplace.
In almost any product category, there’s likely to be hundreds of competing products to choose from. That’s why you need to send strong relevance and popularity signals to Amazon to get them to rank yours at the top.
You can display relevance by:
- Use of keywords in title, bullets, product description and backend search terms
- Getting more clicks, sales and higher conversion rate for specific search terms
- Having a high time on page and low exit rate from relevant searches
While popularity is shown by:
- Overall sales & conversion rate
- Review rating
And while there’s a multitude of individual ranking factors, at the end of the day, customer experience is key. If customers love your product, and it helps Amazon grow their own brand, you’re going to find yourself near the top of the search rankings.