SEO is not just reserved for Google, Bing or Yahoo. E-commerce powerhouse Amazon also has its own search engine. This is the search engine responsible for connecting millions of customers with products, resulting in 6,659 packages being shipped by Amazon every minute in 2020.
Every search engine works thanks to an algorithm – a set of rules and calculations that work to solve a problem. Other algorithms (like the one that powers Google) need to grapple with a searcher’s intent to match a search with the correct, most relevant result. The wonderful thing about Amazon’s algorithm is that the problem that needs solving is simple – the goal is to match a customer with the correct, most relevant product and make a sale. Amazon’s algorithm doesn’t have to guess the intent of the customer. On Amazon the customer is there with one intention – to buy something.
The big question is: how do you get your product to appear among the first of the search results?
In this “Ultimate Guide”, we’ll go over everything you need to know in 2021 to help you understand how Amazon’s A9 algorithm works to match customers with products so that you can optimize your own listings to satisfy their search queries and sell your products.
What is Amazon SEO?
Amazon search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of creating the most effective way for your Amazon product listings to appear at the top of its search engine results page (SERP).
So how does a product appear on the SERP? First, a customer must perform a search. They do this by using keywords or phrases to type whatever they’re looking for into the search bar. Whatever a customer types into the search bar is called a “search query”.
Then it’s Amazon’s job to get the most relevant product related to that query in front of the customer. Most relevant here meaning the most likely to lead to a sale.
Optimizing for Amazon SEO means optimizing your product listing in every way possible to get your product in front of the customer. And then convincing your customer to choose your product over the other options.
Having a “great product” is not enough on Amazon. Your products must be searchable (this can be done by doing keyword research and optimizing your listings to include keywords and phrases throughout). They must also entice customers from the Amazon search results enough to have them click through to learn more.
The Amazon A9 Search Algorithm
Just like Google, Amazon also has its own search algorithm. It’s called A9. And just like Google, it also orders products on the Amazon SERP based on each customer query. So, how does it work?
Amazon is an ecommerce platform and because of this, the algorithm doesn’t have to work hard to discover the intent of the customer. The intent is always (or almost always) to make a purchase. The A9 Algorithm works to find and rank the products by what the customer is most likely to purchase according to their search query.
This data comes from:
- A product’s click-through rate (CTR) from the search results page (the number of people who click on the product versus the number of people who see it)
- The product’s conversion rate (the number of people who buy after they click to see more)
- Total number of sales for a product
- Amazon also takes into consideration the customer’s purchase history and any other data they may have to measure purchasing behavior
- There are also rumors of physical location and the distance a product would need to travel to reach you affecting rank (this is part of optimizing for the customer experience)
- Lastly, the seller’s history matters as well – if the seller has a poor history then their product may rank lower
Amazon focuses heavily on optimizing for customer experience to ensure that they not only buy but that they’re happy and will return to make more purchases. The A9 algorithm’s aim is to connect each customer with the product that most correctly matches their keyword search query and make the sale. When the Amazon algorithm sees a product is doing well (its CTR rate and conversion rates are high) and people are buying this one over others, it will push it in front of more customers to recreate this success.
This idea of all facets of the Amazon experience affecting one another is part of the Amazon Flywheel – sales beget sales.
Keywords on Amazon are important – they help you rank on the search results page in the first place. Once you appear on that page, you’ll need to know how to get people to click through to your product and buy it to increase your conversion rate and get you more total sales.
This is why thorough keyword research is so crucial to succeeding with the Amazon search engine.
Let’s take a closer look at how keywords work and why they’re important for Amazon SEO.
Finding the Right Keywords for Your Amazon Product Listing
Keywords are the single biggest component of Amazon SEO. The A9 algorithm needs keywords to present the customer with the best possible options to satisfy their search. If your product isn’t optimized for keywords, how will Amazon know that your product is the perfect one for the customer? How will the customer find your product? They won’t.
So how are you supposed to know what customers are searching? How do you find the right keywords for your product? Do you have to scour through competitors looking for relevant words that jump out at you? Luckily, you don’t.
Amazon Keyword Tools
There are millions of products on Amazon. You don’t want to guess at keywords and hope for the best. You need a methodical approach to optimizing your listings. And due to the importance Amazon places on keywords, it’s best to get a proper keyword tool.
Find Your Competitors
Your competitors are a great starting point for finding keywords relevant to your own product. When you have access to keyword tools like Cerebro, you’ll be able to see how well they rank in their general category and then in smaller, more specific categories.
You’ll also be able to see how many reviews they have, what customers have said about the product in those reviews and notice patterns in similar listings.
Once you have identified your main competitors, you’ll be able to pop their ASINs into your keyword tool which will come up with a list of keywords. With this list, you can begin filtering through with options like minimum search volume and relative page rank. Sometimes lists of keywords and phrases can be in the thousands, so it’s important to find the most important and relevant ones related to your product.
Amazon Search Bar
If you’re just starting out or have limited access to these more costly tools, you can use something that everyone has access to – the Amazon search bar.
If you type a keyword and start typing a new word, Amazon will autosuggest terms for you to use. This feature is generally used to help suggest more specific searches for customers.
In this example, we’ve typed in dog food. By scrolling through the letters of the alphabet, you can see some other keyword phrases that come up: dog food and storage container, dog food bowls, dog food container, dog food dry.
Where Should You Include Your Keywords?
If your aim is to come out with a truly optimized product listing and product overall, you’ll have to think about including your keywords through all the aspects of your product and listing. This ensures the algorithm recognizes your product’s relevance to similar products and you’re optimizing your Amazon SEO.
For best results, you should include keywords:
- Throughout your listing copy (this includes product title, bullet points & description)
- In A+ Content or Enhanced Brand Content (EBC) if available
- In your backend search terms
- To fill out the more details section
Keywords are the driving force to ranking and succeeding with Amazon SEO. If you have done you keyword research correctly and are able to optimize your product listings, you are on the path to success.
The Amazon SERP
SERP stands for “search engine results page”. The Amazon SERP is the page that appears after typing your query into the search box.
If your search query is “eco friendly laundry detergent”, for example, here’s how your SERP might appear:
The A9 algorithm decides which products to rank in which order for this keyword based on everything we mentioned above – CTR, CR, and total sales.
In the example for laundry detergent, you’ll see that the first row (1) is reserved for sponsored brands. Anything that says “sponsored” is a paid advertisement. The next row (2) of products is Amazon advertising, also sponsored.
The third row (3) is actually where the organic search results begin. Therefore, the first product on this row is the #1 ranked product for the keyword “eco friendly laundry detergent”.
The sidebar (4) is where you’ll find the filters. Customers can use these to refine their product search.
What if your product ranks #15, or #37 on the SERP? It will be much harder for you to grab customers’ attention. A customer very rarely goes past page 1 before clicking through to a product page. If they’re looking on mobile, they’ll be scrolling through even fewer products. On mobile, only one product appears per line! You’ll notice the same sections indicated with the numbers 1-4 – everything is much more condensed.
If you plan to compete with products that have been on Amazon longer than you, they’ll have the advantage of having more sales than you. You’ll have to think about how you can stand out on the SERP and optimize your listings so that your product ranks higher and appears higher up on the page.
How Does a Customer Decide?
Now that we know how important it is to rank higher up on the SERP, we need to understand what affects their buying decision. Think about yourself and how you’ve decided on a product in the past.
There are a few things the customer will be looking at to help them make their decision to click through and see more details about a product. These can be:
- Product Title
- Badges & Coupons
- Shipping Availability
The first thing you’ll probably notice is the image. The image takes up the most space on the page, is colorful and can the most unique part about each product. Next, you may compare prices, check out the number of reviews each product has and make sure the product title matches what you’re looking for.
There are many quick decisions and judgements happening in a customers’ mind – they don’t want to be looking through search results forever. Find out how you can get their attention and convince them to click through quickly.
How Your Main Image Affects Amazon SEO
The main image of your product listing one of the biggest factors in a customer’s decision in clicking through to your product. If your image is unattractive, blurry, or sends the wrong message, people won’t click, damaging your product’s CTR (click-through rate).
The main image is your chance to attract a customer’s attention on the Amazon search engine results page (SERP). It’s the only image a customer sees if they don’t end up clicking through, so you have to show as much value as possible in this one small frame.
An attractive image will have a higher CTR and the additional images on the product page can help drive the conversion rate (CR).
What are the Amazon Main Image Requirements?
Amazon has a few requirements for the main image that every product needs to follow:
- The product must fill 85% or more of the image area
- The full product must be visible in the frame
- Background must be pure white (RGB 255, 255, 255)
- Core product only – no additional objects or props
- The image cannot contain any additional text, graphics or images
There’s a full list here on product image requirements on Amazon. Not complying with these requirements could get your listing suppressed. This means it won’t appear in the SERP at all and customers won’t be able to find it.
Your Chance to Stand Out
If everyone has to follow these main image requirements, how can you make sure your image stands out and gets more clicks?
If you’ve entered a product category that’s already saturated, you may notice that many of the main product images are all the same. Your goal is to make your product stand out. It needs to look different than the other products on the SERP.
You can achieve this by:
- Adding different colors
- Increasing the amount of space the product takes up in the image frame
- Including the product packaging in the frame
- Showing some of the product outside of the package (more relevant for food products)
- Including benefits or keywords on the product packing
- Showing all accessories that come with the product
When you know your competition and what the other products you look like, it’s in your best interest to get creative. If all the products similar to yours are black and you make yours purple, that catches a customer’s attention.
This is a nice example of a main product image that stands out among the others.
If you include additional benefits on the packaging big enough to read from the SERP, this also helps you stand out. Readable text can help answer a customer’s questions even before they decide to click on your product. That’s awesome!
Look at the way this company featured packaging as part of their main image:
For more tips on how to stand out with your images, you can check out our post Every Image You Need for the Perfect Listing.
Badges and How They Affect Amazon SEO
We touched on badges briefly in the section about the search engine results page. Badges are little squares or text that appear along with the product on the SERP.
These badges can indicate:
- Amazon’s Choice
- Best Seller
- Climate Pledge Friendly
- Shipping Availability (Prime & Fresh)
These badges can help build trust in a customer, help your product stand out and can even communicate additional benefits. Let’s go over a few of these briefly and see how they can affect sales and CTR.
Best Seller and Amazon’s Choice Badges
People over often overwhelmed with choice. And with so many products on Amazon, the search results are just another abundance of choice.
Enter the “Best Seller” and “Amazon’s Choice” badges. As a customer scans the products in from of them, they’ll notice just one product each of these badges. Though they may not know exactly what they mean, they know not every product gets the badge.
This creates trust, shows scarcity and social proof. They can plainly see that product with the Best Seller badge has tons of good reviews (sometimes much more than the others). It must be a pretty good product, right? And if they’re shopping on Amazon, “Amazon’s Choice” must be a good thing too… For impulsive shoppers in a rush, these badges take the guesswork out of making a choice for themselves.
Coupons and Deals
A lot of shoppers on Amazon are looking for the best value for their money, meaning price can be a determining factor in getting clicks on your product.
The green coupon badge signals a deal happening and a customer notices that the product with the coupon is now the same price as the other products, they may feel they’re getting more value since its price was initially higher. More clicks!
The “Limited time deal” is part of the lightning deals selection as creates timely pressure: Hurry! Grab this while the price is right. These are all great to convince customers who are price-focused and prefer not to check out too many options.
Climate Pledge Friendly Badge
This is a relatively new initiative by Amazon to become net-zero carbon by 2040. You can see the list of certifications that qualify for this badge on Amazon. From the customer side on the search results page, this is another way your product stands out.
The idea behind this type of green marketing for the customer is an additional benefit – Nice! This company cares about the environment. For those customers who are already eco-conscious, this is even better.
You now have the option to hover over and “see certifications”. This is even more information that a customer has access to just from the SERP page! This minimizes the need to click through to view more details and can speed up the customer’s decision-making process.
Shipping Availability Badges
Amazon Prime and Fresh shipping badges are helpful in attracting attention on the Amazon SERP. This is especially true around important holidays. A customer wants to feel assured about buying something and knowing that it will arrive before Christmas.
The Amazon Prime Badge appears to people who haven’t subscribed to Prime and lets them know that shipping is free and that the package comes by a certain time. When a Prime customer is signed in, they’ll even be shown a badge with the fresh logo that promises 2-hour shipping (available in certain regions only).
Inventory Running Low
When a customer sees “only X in stock – order soon”, this is another scarcity tactic that may drive them to click through to the product. They may think: If they’re running out, it must be a good product. I better check out what it is.
As you can see, badges can increase click-throughs by offering more information to the customer right from the search results page. The more information they have here, the better idea they’ll have that a product is right for them and the more likely they’ll be to click through to product listings to learn more about it.
How Amazon Product Title Affects Amazon SEO
It’s a well-known fact that Amazon gives the most weight to keywords in the product title. Just like the product image, this will be a customer’s first impression of what your product is and whether or not it fits their needs.
The customer has an idea in their mind of what they’re searching for. The Amazon algorithm uses all its data to match the product that will mostly likely result in sales. Making sure your top and highest volume keywords and phrases appear in your title helps Amazon find your product and match it to the customer’s query.
Product Titles for Humans
When writing a product title, it’s important to remember it’s not just the algorithm reading it. Humans are reading the title too, so it has to be readable. If not, the customer won’t be inspired to click through to check out the product in further detail.
How to Structure Your Product Title
If you can answer some of the customer’s questions right in the title you’ll have a better chance of gaining a click, increasing your click-through rate (CTR) and then hopefully your conversion after that.
Always lead with the most important information and keywords. Customers will quickly be scanning all the products that appear on the SERP and making judgements about whether to click through to learn more.
It’s important to remember that even though you have up to 200 characters (depending on the product category) to work with in the title, not all of these will show up. Product titles on mobile, for example, are cut off much sooner than a desktop search, meaning fewer characters to tell the customer what your product is.
We like to go for a general structure like this:
How to Best Use Your Bullet Points (Key Features)
Even though the bullet points don’t appear on the Amazon SERP themselves, they do affect the way a customer decides whether to “add to cart” or not. And this ultimately affects your conversion rate, which affects Amazon SEO.
The bullets are your chance to let the customer know they’ve found the right product and answer any further questions they might have. They’re like the salesperson a customer interacts with in a store when after see something in the window and deciding to check it out.
If a customer is reading your product’s bullet points, then they haven’t added to cart” yet. They’re still in the process of deciding. Your bullet points are there to explain the benefits of your product and convince them to buy.
The best way to convince them is by using the inverted pyramid method:
You’ll want to start with the most important information and then get down into the details and extra benefits as you go. Customers will also be scanning through the bullet points and may “check off” something from their mental checklist whenever it’s mentioned.
Benefits Over Features
Customers don’t care about having a 2.3GHz Dual-Core Intel Processor. They care that their computer runs fast. When a customer understands the benefits of your product, they can relate back to their own life. An emotional connection is much stronger and sells more easily.
Amazon doesn’t weigh keywords within the bullet points as heavily as they do for the product title or backend search terms, however, that doesn’t mean that including them there won’t help the product rank for these terms. Check out our article to learn more about bullet points and how to optimize them.
When you optimize your bullet points for sales, you also increase your chance of making a final conversion. Don’t skip this part!
Backend Search Terms
The backend search terms are widely accepted as the second most influential part of a listing (after the product title) and greatly affect Amazon SEO. The backend search terms are keywords placed into the back end of a product listing. They are not visible to the public.
You have 250 characters to use in your search terms, spaces included.
What types of keywords should you use here?
Main Key Terms
Since Amazon gives so much weight to the backend keywords, it’s a good idea to include your main search terms here, even if you’ve already used them in your listing. This gives you more of a possibility for ranking for the term or phrase.
Since Amazon is not available in all countries, consider adding keywords in other languages to target those that don’t speak the main language of the store. Since it would look odd to have phrases in different languages on your listing, the backend search terms are the perfect place to include them.
Consider a customer in Portugal who wants to buy something on Amazon. Since there’s no Amazon Portugal, they’ll most likely choose Amazon Spain which is the closest. There’s a high chance the customer doesn’t speak Spanish, so he’ll search for a product in his own language.
Adding keywords in multiple languages increase your chance of targeting speakers of those languages. Think about who else might be buying from the marketplace and translate some of the most important keywords.
Just in case you don’t believe us, check out this screenshot from Amazon US. Just look at all those auto suggestions for guantes (gloves in Spanish).
Search Terms That Didn’t Fit
Sometimes there are simply too many keywords and phrases for a product to fit into one listing without making it sound bad. Here’s where the backend search terms come in handy again.
Amazon has its own spellcheck but what if there’s something they missed? The Misspellinator tool in Helium 10 allows you to check possible misspellings for your biggest keywords. If you have characters left over after adding all your other search terms, misspellings are a good choice to add.
Because of the great weight that Amazon puts on these 250 characters, use them wisely and don’t violate any of Amazon’s terms.
Some of Amazon’s guidelines for backend search terms:
- Avoid brand names or identifiers
- Use only relevant keywords
- No punctuation necessary
- Don’t repeat keywords
- No need to include plurals made by adding ‘s’
- Use a hyphen (-) to signal variations
Optimizing your backend characters will help increase the success of your Amazon SEO and can get your product to rank for even more keywords.
Amazon SEO is so much more than just having a good product. For it to succeed and rank well on Amazon, you have to think about:
- Keywords. The driving force that will put your listing on Amazon’s map
- Your main image – it matters. Find a way that makes your image stand out from similar products to increase CTR
- The SERP and the psychology that makes people scroll past or drives them to click through to your product listing to learn more
- The copy in your listing. Your copy is your salesperson when you’re not there. Well-written copy that includes keywords and answers customer questions increases a product’s chance of conversion