Most people assume that Google’s competitors are Yahoo, Bing and other search engines. That is because Google created a business around searching for information, and they are the top site for finding information. But Amazon set out to create a business where you could search for products. The top search engine for products is Amazon, not Google.
According to Alexa.com, Amazon is the 6th most popular website in the world. But when it comes to searching products (instead of information), Amazon is the clear leader. So why do SEO companies focus on ranking in Google? Why not focus instead on ranking your products in the Amazon search? Consider these facts:
- Forrester Research found that a third of online users started their product searches on Amazon compared to 13 percent who started their search from a traditional search site; and
- comScore found that product searches on Amazon have grown 73 percent over the last year while shopping searches on Google have been flat.
These impressive statistics suggest that Google lacks market power in a critical segment of search—namely, product searches. If you are an ecommerce company, I contend that your efforts are much better spent trying to rank highly on Amazon rather than on Google.
Much has been said about SEO for Google, but what about SEO for Amazon? How do you get your products to rank higher on an Amazon search? Let’s look at the basics of Amazon’s organic ranking algorithm.
How Amazon measures success
Google built a search engine so they could sell ads. Amazon built a search engine so they can sell products. That creates a basic difference in how each measures success. Google is successful when you find your answer quickly because you will return, perform more searches, and click on ads. Amazon is successful when you to find a great product at a great price and buy it because you will return and buy more products. So while Google measures success based on conversion, Amazon measures success based on user satisfaction. You need to understand that if Amazon can sell more products by rearranging their search results, they will do that. It’s a completely different type of SEO.
Note: Google does have a product search feature called “shopping” located at www.google.com/shopping (but many people don’t even know it exists).
Google penalizes sites for duplicate content. Amazon doesn’t care if your listings have the exact same content as someone else. You can have the exact same title, bullet points, descriptions and images as another site and Amazon doesn’t care – it only looks at how well your content converts searches into purchasers.
Amazon’s search results page includes a filter field in the left sidebar. When a user clicks on a filter, they will see a subset of the original search results. This is one reason why it is so important to complete as many fields as possible when you create a product in Amazon. For instance, Amazon will not know that a red widget is red if you don’t fill out the color map field, which means it will be excluded when a user filters to only show red products.
Here is what Amazon says about their search:
“Search is the primary way that customers use to locate products on Amazon.com. Customers search by entering keywords, which are matched against the search terms you enter for a product. Well-chosen search terms increase a product’s visibility and sales. The number of views for a product detail page can increase significantly by adding just one additional search term – if it’s a relevant and compelling term.
“Factors such as price, availability, selection, and sales history help determine where your product appears in a customer’s search results. In general, better-selling products tend to be towards the beginning of the results list. As your sales of a product increase, so does your placement.”
Notice that Amazon states that search is the primary way users find products. If you want your products to be found on Amazon, you must pay attention to how those products get ranked on the Amazon search algorithm. Amazon also mentions some of the data they use to rank products. Specifically they mention the search terms, price, availability (inventory levels), selection, and sales history.
Essentially there are three types of factors that affect the Amazon search results: Performance factors, Relevance factors, and Other.
Conversion Rate – This is measured by the number of units ordered divided by the number of sessions your listing received. Amazon defines a session as the number of visits to your Amazon.com pages by a user. All activity within a 24-hour period is considered a session.
Images – Follow Amazon’s guidelines of using 1000 pixel by 1000 pixel images and include enough of them to allow a customer to make a buying decision. this is extremely important.
Price – Price strongly affects sales, so it is important to be competitive.
Title – The title of a product is one of the most important places to include keywords. Amazon suggests incorporating the following attributes in product titles.
- Brand and description
- Product line
- Material or key ingredient
What they do not mention, probably because they want to discourage keyword stuffing, is that you should include an important keyword in the product title.
Brand – Make sure you fill out the brand field with the proper brand as users will often search based on brand name.
Bullets and description – Interestingly, the bullet points seem to be more influential on search rankings than the description.
Search Terms – If you are used to keywords for SEO and PPC, it’s easy to use the “search terms” fields on Amazon incorrectly. Here are the guidelines:
- There are five fields that accept 50 characters each.
- You do not need to repeat any words
- Commas will be ignored
- Quotation marks will unnecessarily limit your keyword
- Including multiple variations of the same word is unnecessary
- Including common misspellings is unnecessary
- Order of the search terms may matter
- Do include synonyms or spelling variations (e.g. include sun screen and sunscreen)
Seller name – There is some indication that the seller’s name is used in the organic search results.
Other Visibility Systems used by Amazon:
Filter Fields – Next to every search result is a list of attributes that allow users to filter their results. For your top keywords, make sure your product has a value filled out for each category of fields to ensure your product is still visible when users filter by color, size, or any other attribute. The Category, Eligible for Free Shipping, Brand, Avg. Customer Review, and Condition fields are visible on most search results.
Reviews – More reviews and better ratings might lead to better sales. Most products that rank well for broad searches have many reviews but it is difficult to tell if the good reviews lead to more sales or if high sales volume leads to more reviews. You can encourage more reviews by emailing your purchasers and asking them to leave a review.
Sales Rank – Amazon maintains best sellers lists and reports a listings best sellers ranking for relevant categories on the listing page. This can be a quick way to see how your products’ sales histories compare to similar products.
Much less has been discussed about Amazon SEO than Google SEO, but to ecommerce companies Amazon may be more important. If you are not selling on Amazon, perhaps you should be – it’s a great source of leads as well as incremental sales over your own website. In fact, you might want to consider not even having a shopping cart on your site – let Amazon do all the fulfillment. On the other hand, if you prefer to maintain your own website and do the fulfillment, Amazon Product Ads might be a useful tool for driving traffic from the number one product search engine (Amazon) back to your website. Amazon Product Ads is a highly targeted pay per click advertising program that puts your products in front of millions of Amazon shoppers. Your ads are shown on Amazon.com to shoppers who are looking for similar or related products. Shoppers who click your ads are taken directly to your website to make a purchase. With no monthly fees or minimum spend, you simply upload your products, set your budget, and go live!
However you decide to use Amazon search, it is something that should not be ignored.
Sources: Forbes.com, The Moz.com, and Greenwood-Online.net