With half of all product searches starting on Amazon, the reality is that brands and retailers must play with Amazon. In my previous post, I touched on the importance of Amazon as a channel for brands. While that piece provides a foundational presence in place on Amazon, the next critical step in building awareness and revenue is to optimize your product pages to rank. This article outlines the fundamentals of Amazon Store Optimization (ASO), also known as search engine optimization for Amazon Shopping.
Getting your products to rank in relevant searches on Amazon is very similar to getting your website to rank on Google. There are two primary categories of Amazon ranking criteria: performance and relevance. Performance factors are primarily sales-related, while relevance factors are keyword-related.
Since Amazon is a retail marketplace that monetizes transactions, product pricing and sales history are important performance factors. A complete list of performance ranking factors include: product pricing, product options (model, color, features, etc.), product availability, sales history, customer reviews and click-volume.
While product options, availability and sales history are straight-forward performance factors, pricing is its own complicated beast. Since pricing drives most purchases on Amazon, setting the right price is critical to generating ideal sales volume, product reviews and rankings. Achieving an optimal conversion rate requires data analysis. To view your current conversion rate, go to: Seller Central: Reports > Business Reports > Detailed Page Sales > Traffic > Unit Session Percentage.
Another key performance factor that is challenging but essential to manage effectively are customer reviews. In 2015, Amazon transitioned to a weighted system for measuring average star ratings. The algorithm for customer reviews is weighted with the following criteria: If a product is purchased at a discount, the age of the review and how helpful the review has been, based on visitor feedback. With a more sophisticated average formula, you can’t incentivize reviews. You can remind customers to write reviews, however. The ideal outreach frequency is twice: After the order has shipped (to set the expectation) and a few weeks after the product has arrived (to give the customer time to use the product).
Like Google’s ranking algorithm, relevance factors focus on keywords embedded in the product page. Amazon’s ranking algorithm is also like Google in that it does not appreciate keyword-stuffing or otherwise negatively impacting the user experience with poorly-crafted copy and irrelevant keyword usage. The primary relevance-related ranking evaluation criteria are outlined below:
- Brand Name: linked to other products by the same brand
- Product Listing Title: brand, model, name, features, colors and sizes
- Product Descriptions: keyword-infusing all form fields in product listing
- Product Description: ideally bullet point format vs. paragraphs
- Field Keywords: appear in the product URL
- Nodes: identify product category relationships (Root > Parent > Leaf structure)
- Field-BrandTextBin: dedicated to brand name and can be measured
- Line of the Product: additional opportunity to help categorize the product
- Color: self-explanatory, more selection is often better
- Material: include all materials incorporated into the product
- Size or Dimensions: essential, especially for furniture, appliances and electronics
- Quantity: minimize returns by outlining the number of products included in the package
When it comes to helping Amazon rank your product pages above the competition, it is essential to incorporate relevant keywords across all relevant fields mentioned above. The current keyword character limit is 250 (not including spaces or punctuation). The length limit applies to the total content in all generic keyword fields, with a max of five attributes. When optimizing product pages, Amazon provides guidelines for sellers:
- Do not include keywords that are not descriptive of the product.
- Do not include brand names (even your own) or other product identifiers.
- Do not duplicate content that is present in other attributes, such as title and bullet points.
- There is no need to repeat keywords: Once is enough.
- Use keywords that are synonyms, hypernyms, or spelling variations of content in visible attributes.
While the algorithm weights brand name, product title and description heavily, sellers cannot underestimate the importance of optimized product images. Best practices for image optimization include: providing high resolution (1,000 x1,000 pixel images) that are zoomable; images of the product from a variety of angles; product label closeup; action shots of the product in-use; product comparison or contextual images of product relating to a human hand or other point of reference; images including informational charts, graphics or even text.
Getting your products to rank in Amazon searches is like Google in terms of keyword relevance across all aspects of your product pages. Unfortunately, Amazon incorporates a performance aspect to its product rankings that is more difficult to game than Google, as it involves product pricing, sales history and similar non-relevance metrics. To rank, you must understand Amazon’s rules and play nicely.