Every seller has the same goal on Amazon — to increase sales. It’s the same game in every retail venue, whether online or on the street, but online, you achieve that goal by ranking higher than everyone else and placing consistently near or at the top of the search results when shoppers search for the products you sell.
Although there’s no single, clearly defined path to success in the Amazon marketplace, successful Amazon Sellers have developed and practice several methods to beat the competition and stay on top.
In this article, we present several approaches to gaining a competitive edge, especially when struggling to increase product search ranking in the Amazon marketplace.
Understand the A9 algorithm
The key to getting your products ranked higher in Amazon searches is to understand the A9 algorithm — Amazon’s automated system for ranking product listings in search results. Even though Amazon doesn’t explicitly reveal the criteria it uses to rank product listings, how A9 works is evident based on observations and experimentation.
Key factors impacting the rank of product listings in search results include the following:
- Sales performance: The more you sell of a particular product the higher its ranking. To win the top spot, you need to increase your sales velocity beyond that of the top seller of that product. One way to do this is to point all your internal and external sales traffic to your Amazon product listing.
- Text relevancy: All text contained in your product listing must align with what shoppers search for when looking for the product. Text includes keywords, listing title, product description, and bullet items. We explain how to keyword-optimize these text items later in this section.
- Price: All other things being equal, low price wins. You don’t want to compete on price alone, because that strategy reduces the profit margin for all sellers; however, you do need to price your products competitively.
- Availability: Before A9 will rank you near the top, it wants to make sure you have plenty of product in stock to fulfill orders. Using FBA and keeping your FBA inventory well-stocked is the best way to show A9 that product is available.
Other factors may also impact a product listing’s search ranking, including the following:
- Fulfillment method: Fulfilled By Amazon (FBA) trumps Fulfilled by Merchant (FBM).
- Customer reviews: Higher customer product reviews can give your product listing a bump in search ranking. A liberal return policy and superior customer service, including after-sale product support when it makes sense, helps.
- Answered questions: Answered questions are listed above customer reviews and play an important role in sales conversions and the ranking of product listings.
- A+ content: A+ content, formerly known as Enhanced Brand Content (EBC), enables sellers to showcase their products using additional images and more creative copy (and with A+ Premium), videos, testimonials, comparison charts, and more. Think of A+ content as a professionally designed multimedia ad embedded in the product listing.
- Pay-per-click (PPC) ads: Amazon PPC, also known as Sponsored Products, enables you to essentially pay Amazon for a higher search ranking. With Amazon PPC, you set your daily budget for ads. The more you’re willing to pay for an ad, the greater your chances of having it displayed, and the higher its placement.
- Images: When creating a product listing, use all eight image slots and be sure to use high-quality images that are at least 1,000 pixels in height or width. Smaller images fail to enable the zoom feature, which hurts both search ranking and sales.
- Promotions: Offering special deals and promotions can boost your products in the search rankings.
In the following sections, we explain various ways to improve a product listing’s search ranking that give you the “most bang for your buck.”
Research the Competition in Ranking
Researching the competition is a great way to ride a competitor’s success to increasing your own search rankings. When researching a competitor, examine the following:
- Keywords: Several tools are available to help you peek behind the scenes of competitors’ product listings to find out which keywords and phrases they use; for example, JungleScout’s Keyword Scout and Sonar’s keyword tool.
- Product listings: Examine the competitor’s product listings, including the title, product description, image use, questions answered, and customer reviews.
- Price: Look at the way your competitors price products and change the price over time to figure out their pricing strategy. How are your competitors pricing and repricing products to win the price game while increasing sales and still earning a profit?
Product Listing Optimization
Amazon shoppers aren’t window shoppers. They usually know the type of product they want, and they search for it by name. Often, they even have a specific brand in mind. You want to make sure that the keywords you use in your product listing match the words and phrases shoppers are likely to enter into Amazon’s Search box to find the product you’re selling.
Amazon offers the following tips for optimizing your search terms:
- Use no more than 250 bytes. (You can type in all lowercase or mix upper and lowercase.) A byte is a group of usually eight binary digits (zeros and ones) that act as a unit. Each alphanumeric character (a–z, A–Z, 0–9) is one byte, but complex characters such as ö may be two bytes, and some Chinese and Japanese characters can be three or four bytes. The Search Terms field has a built-in counter that stops accepting input as soon as the byte limit is reached.
- Separate keywords with spaces, not commas or other punctuation.
- Include synonyms but not misspellings.
- Include abbreviations and alternate names.
- Don’t repeat words.
- Don’t include the product’s brand name or any brand name in your search terms.
- Don’t include the product’s ASIN.
- Don’t waste characters on words such as “a,” “an,” “the,” “and,” “or,” “by,” “for,” “of,” and “with.”
- Use singular or plural — no need for both.
- Avoid temporary statements such as “new” or “on sale now.”
- Don’t make subjective claims, such as “best” or “cheapest” or “amazing.”
- Don’t use offensive or abusive terms.
To edit search terms in a listing, take the following steps:
- Open the Inventory menu and click Manage Inventory.
- Click Edit (to the right of the product whose listing you want to edit).
- Click the Keywords tab.
- Click in the Search Terms box and type the desired keywords.
- Click Save.
You can also update keywords by making changes to your inventory file and uploading it to Amazon. See our guide to listing products on Amazon for details.
In the following section, we offer a couple of tips for finding effective keywords and how to use keywords in your product listing’s title, product description, and bullet items.
1. Digging up effective keywords
To find effective keywords, try one or more of the following methods:
- Find out which keywords your competitors are using, as we discuss in the earlier section “Checking out the competition.”
- Find out which keyword Amazon requires. Use Amazon’s Product Classifier, as we explain in the section “Downloading an inventory file” to find the required keyword for a specific product category, and be sure to include it in your list of keywords and in your product listing title, product description, and bullet items.
- Start typing a word or phrase in the Amazon Search box that describes the product you’re selling. As you type, Amazon gives you a handful of suggestions based on the history of user searches. The items in the list are usually a good source for keywords.
- Use a third-party tool such as JungleScout’s Keyword Scout or Sonar’s keyword tool for analyzing keywords in Amazon, based on product category.
What matters to the customers matters to the A9 algorithm, so when you’re choosing keywords, put yourself in the shopper’s shoes. What would a typical shopper type in the Search box to find your product? If you can answer that question, you’ve found the perfect keyword!
2. Using keywords in your product listing title
A typical customer types one or more keywords into the Amazon’s Search box, and Amazon displays a list of products that it determines are most relevant to those words. The customer quickly scans the product titles and clicks the title that most accurately describes the desired product. To show up in that list, preferably at or near the top, make sure the title of the listing contains the keywords shoppers search for.
To optimize your product title, move the most important, most descriptive keywords to the beginning of the title. You typically want to include the brand name and model (if relevant) followed by the product type and any key details; for example, “Shark Navigator Lift-Away Deluxe NV360 Upright Vacuum Blue.”
Titles of product listings are truncated on mobile devices, which means stacking important keywords at the beginning of the title is even more important to win sales from mobile shoppers.
3. Using keywords in your product description
Your product description provides even more opportunities for the strategic use of keywords. As you compose your product description, be sure to pack it with keywords, especially important keywords that you couldn’t include at the beginning of the title. However, make sure the keywords blend in smoothly with your narrative. Don’t write a product description consisting entirely of keywords.
4. Adding keywords to bullet items
One additional way to take full advantage of keywords is to include them in the bullet items in your product listings. You can use the same keywords you used in the title and product description to reinforce the importance of those keywords.
Performance Optimization Strategies for Amazon Listings
Sales move the search rank needle more than anything else, according to all the testing we’ve done. This is especially true when you compare your sales velocity to your competitors. When you first list and appear on page 20, this can be extremely challenging, especially when only 30% of customers reach page 2!
In order to generate sales from your Amazon listing, you need both internal and external traffic.
Learn more about how to increase sales on Amazon.
2. Product Reviews
Your ranking is influenced by the quality and quantity of reviews you receive for your products.
3. Seller Feedback
Negative feedback affects your product search results equally. Your feedback rating can also influence your chances of winning the Buy Box.
4. Order processing speed
In order to succeed on Amazon, you need to ship fast and accurately. You’ll also rank higher when you handle orders efficiently.
5. In-stock rate
Popular products can run out of stock due to poor inventory management. Sellers who keep a high in-stock rate are preferred by Amazon to minimize refunds and cancellations prior to shipment.
6. Order Defect Rate (ODR)
An order defect occurs when a customer complains about it. Negative customer feedback, A-to-Z Guarantee claims, shipment problems, and chargebacks are all examples of defects. If the buyer later removes the feedback, it won’t count against your ODR. If an issue arises, try to resolve it as soon as possible.
Other Amazon SEO Strategies to Help Rank
This section presents a few observations we’ve made about ranking factors that aren’t directly documented by Amazon, but which appear to influence SERPs.
1. Consider using Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA).
When all else is equal, Amazon-filled items rank higher than those that are fulfilled by merchants.
2. List your products on Amazon with brand names.
Search engine ranking may be enhanced by a brand name that happens to contain the main keywords.
3. Include the seller’s name.
A seller name containing the main keywords for the product may help increase organic ranking.
4. Complete the other fields on the edit product page.
Be sure to fill out all relevant fields on the edit product page as some of them have been shown to have an effect on rank position and search filters.
5. High-quality photos improve rankings and conversions.
In addition to quality zoom photos influencing conversions, which certainly impacts rank in search results, it appears that more photos are positively related to rank.
FAQs About Ranking On Amazon
Is Amazon.com a search engine?
Sure. Amazon.com is both an e-commerce marketplace and a search engine.
A lot of buyers use Amazon to compare prices and find products they’re interested in purchasing. Many sellers use Amazon to research the market before launching a new product online.
Furthermore, Amazon.com data is often used to answer voice search queries since the introduction of Alexa.
How often does Amazon update its search algorithm?
Amazon rarely announces when they make changes to their search algorithm. Consequently, it is impossible to predict how often the Amazon ranking algorithm changes.
Fortunately, the core algorithm tends to be fairly stable.
How does the Amazon SERP work?
Users are shown the Amazon SERP after completing a product search on Amazon.com. SERP represents the search engine results page.
You are far ahead of most sellers I know if you have made it this far. Having now gained a solid understanding of how Amazon’s search engine algorithm works, you know its name.
You also know quite a bit about the components that make up a product detail page and how they affect your ranking in the search results, with no need to hire an Amazon product ranking service.
What’s more, you have practical action steps you can implement immediately.