Why ranking on Amazon breaks regular SEO rules

Chad Rubin |

Selling on Amazon is almost a must for modern multi-channel e-commerce stores. After all, the platform owns more than 55% of all U.S. product searches.

However, if you’re migrating to Amazon from your own site, ranking on Amazon requires a conscious shift away from traditional SEO tactics.

While Amazon SEO is all about getting your pages to rank above others in search, it’s considerably different from Google and other search engines. Even if you are familiar with traditional SEO, you’ll still have to learn how Amazon’s algorithm works to be successful.

For example, Google uses external factors such as links, social signals, site authority, and site history in their ranking algorithm. Amazon’s ranking algorithm is purely based on internal factors like sales, titles, keywords in the search term field, and product availability.

Unlike Google, where you can focus on building backlinks and relevant keywords across the site, Amazon ranks your products on a product-by-product basis, not on your entire store. Instead, you must focus on building sales, quality content, and converting visitors to boost your ranking.

Whether you’re accustomed to Amazon and want to know more or are in the middle of launching an Amazon seller account, you have to understand how and why Amazon ranks products to make it to the first page.

A conversion based approach

Amazon’s primary difference from Google is their algorithm. Google uses more than 200 ranking factors, Amazon primarily cares about conversion. The more people who click on a product and go on to make a purchase, the higher Amazon will rank you.

Amazon wants to make sales, and if your product converts, it will rank.

QID

Amazon tracks which products you click on and whether you buy them using the QID, which shows up in your URL as soon as you click on an item. QID tracks what you click on, what you searched to get to that product, and if you make a purchase.

This is then used in Amazon ranking because it shows search relevance and conversion, which allows Amazon to predict if someone will purchase a product if it shows up under a specific keyword. In practice, if people consistently search for an item and then click on your product, but eventually buy something else, your product ranking will drop. If they click on your product and buy your product, your product ranking will improve for that search term.

Sales

Because Amazon’s ultimately wants to make sales, the more sales you make, the higher you will rank. Products that sell more are consistently ranked higher, even if they are not optimized or rated as well. Amazon reviews your sales over time and ranks products that have the most sales for their lifetime on the marketplace.

Amazon also uses something like Google’s bounce rate. If the customer hits the back button and goes to another search result, it negatively affects your ranking. However, while Google is concerned about quality of experience, Amazon is concerned about relevance.

Pay-to-play

While ranking products with more sales first makes sense from a marketplace perspective, it does have a drawback for Amazon sellers. This is similar to how traditional search engines rank sites that have more traffic. But because it is one of the primary ranking signals, it’s more extreme.

Amazon’s “sales velocity” is the rate of product sales within a specific timeframe. The faster your products sell, the better their velocity and the better Amazon ranks them. As a new seller, you can’t greatly improve sales velocity without using Amazon Sponsored Products because you won’t rank.

If you can’t afford to use PPC to boost sales to improve seller velocity and improve your ranking, you will have to rely on a high demand for your products to create it organically, which isn’t always successful. This is especially true if you have a lot of marketplace competition.

Designed for relevance

Again, Amazon’s wants to help you sell products so they make money. This gives you an advantage over Google, which simply does not care if you sell anything.

For this reason, Amazon offers several tools designed to improve relevance so that you improve your conversion.

Reviews

Reviews are actively used in ranking. More reviews will help your products to rank better, but in most cases, you need an average rating of 3 stars or higher to rank. Amazon wants to know that customers will be happy with their purchase. Reviews function similarly to social signals from Google for Amazon search. But they are only collected from the product listing, which makes the whole process much simpler. Your primary goal is to get reviews and to keep them as positive as possible, thereby boosting ranking and conversion.

Stock

Amazon actively ranks you based on stock. If you sell out, your ranking will drop. Take steps to prevent stock-out events, which will hurt your SEO.

Conversion

The better your conversion rate, the more Amazon will rank you for that search term. Where Google allows you to use synonyms of non-relevant keywords to rank your products, Amazon actively punishes you for it. If you have too many clicks without purchases, your ranking will drop for that search term. Because Amazon uses conversion as a primary ranking factor, it’s important to focus heavily on creating relevant, helpful pages that will convert sales before anything else.

Search term fields

Amazon allows you to fill out 5 search term fields to tell them what your product is, and how it should be found. It is in your best interest to use all 5 and to make them as relevant as possible.

Category

Much of Amazon search is conducted using category searches, which you can use to your advantage by ensuring that your product category is as specific as possible.

Amazon actively works to request the information they need to rank you for relevant product searches. This is vastly different from Google and Bing. Both want you to present information to your customers which they, of course, will verify.

Amazon SEO that works

Ranking on Amazon means understanding how Amazon’s ranking works, optimizing your titles and pages for search, and working to provide a quality experience and to drive sales. At the end of the day, Amazon only cares about making money and providing a quality experience for the customer, so if you focus on those two points, your SEO should come naturally.

PPC

Using Amazon’s Sponsored Products program can help you to drive sales and increase your seller velocity which will boost your overall ranking. However, you should handle conversion optimization first and during your PPC campaigns to boost sales and conversion from clicks.

Use great titles

Titles are one of the most important ranking factors on Amazon because they are the first thing that the customer sees other than the image. If you’re accustomed to writing titles for regular search engines, you’ll have to change your tactics for Amazon. Unlike Google, Amazon searches titles using individual words not search phrases, which means that repeating words and including different variations of phrases (Coffee Maker, Coffee Machine) is a waste of time and space.

  • Use each word once
  • Research your options and check which words top-selling competitors are using
  • Your product can come up under any combination of terms in your title
  • Use descriptors (4GB RAM, cotton, etc.)
  • Address pain points from other products (for example, if you see customers complaining about the odor on an item, list yours with “odor free” in the title.
  • Write for the customer first. The title should make sense.

Use images

You already know that you should use high-quality images to meet Amazon’s guidelines, but they can be an important part of your ranking. While most search engines rank images using keywords and metadata, Amazon does not. However, they do greatly boost your conversion to indirectly improve ranking.

  • Use high-quality images
  • Add text detailing unique value to images or tackle pain points (For example: “Doesn’t tangle” on a pair of earbuds)
  • Show products in use when possible

Max out product descriptions

Product descriptions and bullet points are not included in Amazon search, but they are used for conversion. Because conversion optimization is a large part of Amazon SEO, you should use them to offer as much helpful information as you can. The more questions you can answer about the product on the listing, the more easily your prospective customer will make the decision to purchase. This is similar to Google in that Google also ranks for helpful content. But, conversion is your priority.

Fill out all keyword fields

Keyword fields allow you to tell Amazon what you want to be found for. However, you should approach this as an auxiliary to your product title. Individual words in the product title, seller name, and brand are automatically included in your keywords, and repeating them will waste your keyword space. Instead, use unique terms that you find through Amazon search or your keyword tools.

Research

While you should be using keyword research tools, Amazon typically offers you a lot of information that you can use to optimize your products. For example, by typing your keywords into Amazon Search, you will see the top searched keywords for what you are typing. Or, by visiting the top selling products in your niche you can see:

  • Their title keywords
  • Their bullet points
  • Images
  • Keyword density (what are they talking about on the page)
  • Reviews (what do people like, what do they dislike, what are pain points, what did they want, what did they get, etc.)

All this information can help you to craft a better title and product description for your own products because you know what people are looking for, what they are likely to be wary of, and what to say to boost conversion.

A/B Test

It’s important to continue to test your product titles, description, and bullet points over time to improve your conversion. Making small changes and testing the results can help you to boost your conversion rate a great deal, especially if you test results and work to offer a better experience for buyers at the same time. With better conversion, your product ranking will naturally improve.

Amazon’s search algorithm is very different from Google’s because their biggest concerns are conversion, sales, and customer satisfaction. This means that your primary goal is to integrate conversion optimization rather than keyword optimization, use Amazon Sponsored Products to boost your sales velocity and to ensure that your titles and keyword areas are optimized for your product.

Making the switch from Google to Amazon can seem daunting at first, but Amazon’s search algorithm is simpler, more product centric, and almost entirely based on sales and conversion. If you can build strong sales, create titles with relevant keywords, and highlight unique product value, you’re already on the right track.

Chad Rubin
Chad Rubin builds e-commerce businesses and is a top 250 Amazon Seller. Fresh out of college and Wall Street, he took his family vacuum business online and built his own direct-to-consumer e-commerce business called Crucial Vacuum. He grew it from 0 a $20 million dollar valuation in just 7 years. He co-founded Skubana with DJ Kunovac as an all-in-one e-commerce operational tool.
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