The Foundation for Successful Sales on Amazon
Is Amazon SEO equal to Google SEO?
Google has learned a lot after more than 15 years. SEO used to be very trivial and it was easy to influence search results. After several updates named Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and a few others, search engine optimisation at Google has not only become more complex but also quite tedious. Unlike Amazon: Hardly anyone knew, that Marketplace Optimisations (MPO) can be performed to influence search results on Amazon. One basic commonality is the relevance factor. Both Google and Amazon want to see the most relevant offers at the top of their search results. High-quality and keyword-optimised content is certainly a good basis but not the only thing that matters. Because in terms of SEO, there are significant differences on Amazon. The Amazon marketplace primarily wants to do one thing: sell – not ads like Google but products. Their own products as well as the many retailers‘ products on the platform have made Amazon one of the largest online shops in the world. Similar to Google, the first 3-5 hits of a search query on Amazon receive the most clicks. While Google pays attention to factors like click rates and retention time, for Amazon only the sale counts. If the sale happens immediately after a search and if the customer is satisfied with the order afterwards, everything has been done right from Amazon’s point of view and the chance for a better ranking increases. To appear at the top of the search results, it is important to understand how Amazon SEO works and what online merchants need to be aware of.
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Amazon SEO Optimisation explained with a practical example: In this example, we’ll show you which tools and methods you can use to optimise your product and significantly improve your rankings within hours.
Search Behaviour on Google vs. Amazon
If someone is talking about a search engine, the first thing which comes to mind is Google, right? For about 15 years, the search engine with the colourful letters has established itself as the leader in this market – or not? In fact, there is a new star on the search engine heaven, which currently has 4-5 times higher product searches than Google. We are talking about online-retailer Amazon. It is no longer just a marketplace or shopping platform – Amazon has evolved into THE product search engine. On the one hand, it offers enormous potential to increase sales, on the other hand it is comparatively easy to optimize. Because SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) works everywhere where an algorithm sorts search results by various factors – including Amazon. Its underlying search engine A9 and is equipped with similar levers as Google itself. Only with a crucial difference: the search behaviour is fundamentally different on Amazon. Google is mostly used to find information and solve problems, while the search intention on Amazon is to find and buy products. And Amazon is certainly not lacking in that regard: there are 160 million active products on the German marketplace alone; Amazon has 2 billion sales worldwide every year and most of those sales start with a search on Amazon and not on Google.
The following search engine optimisation rule applies here, too: Onpage optimisation is the basis for SEO and thus the starting point for Amazon optimisation. Here, the quality of the information presented for each product is crucial: Does the product title fit? Are the bullet points equipped with relevant keywords? Are the pictures high-quality, rich in detail and high-resolution (at least 1000 x 1000 pixels)? Is the product description meaningful and does it address potential customers? Here we can see similarities with „normal“ web shops, because basically the Amazon marketplace works the same way – just on a bigger scale. The Onpage optimisation is thus similar to Google’s first approach to SEO – prospective online retailers should keep that in mind. Quite often you can achieve a lot regarding your ranking with only a few means – so take a close look at your product listings, it will be worthwhile.
What many do not know yet: yes, the search results on Amazon can be influenced and in many cases even easier than you think. The first ranking changes are already visible within a few minutes after an optimisation, while on Google, for example, it takes months for a change. A good ranking in the search results should be the ultimate goal for every online retailer. Heatmap surveys have shown that the first 3 hits in a product search on Amazon almost get all the clicks. Conversely, this means: if you are at the top of the Amazon rankings, the sales can only be maintained permanently, if the seller’s performance also fits and buyers recommend the product or rarely return it. The first place in the Amazon search results needs to be justified – if the performance is not right, a good ranking is lost again quickly.
Now it’s time to get down to business. If you want to improve your visibility on Amazon, you have to delve deep into the workings of the A9 ranking factors. Compared to Google, there are not only similarities, but also significant differences. One fact you always have to keep in mind: Amazon is about the user experience. Only a satisfied customer comes back and orders again. To ensure the best possible user experience, three criteria are decisive:
To meet these criteria, you need to consider different aspects. Listed below are the key factors which influence Amazon ranking:
Amazon Onpage Factors
In comparison with Google, there are some major differences in Amazon Onpage optimisation besides the similarities that search engine optimisers have known for years. That’s what matters:
The title is one of the most important Amazon ranking factors: quite often it alone decides about a purchase. Here, it’s all about the right interplay of keywords, brand, USPs, product features and good sales arguments. When optimising the product title, it is especially important to satisfy both the search engine and the searcher. The rule here is: do not use more than 200 characters. It does not always make sense to fully exhaust the 200 characters. If you have nothing left to say, then do not stuff your title with keywords unnecessarily. But it should not be too monosyllabic and taciturn. Find a good balance in terms of length, important keywords and sales arguments. Tip: the title also serves as a click surface in the Amazon search results. A longer title thus increases the chance of a better CTR (Click Through Rate).
It’s hard to believe but like the meta keywords then, the „important keywords“ in the Seller Central are crucial for the Amazon ranking. You can set these in your account under product settings; for the customer, they are neither visible on the website nor in the source code. There are 5 lines and each line permits 50 characters. You should take full advantage of that space. Instead of irrelevant keyword repetitions, you should use clever hyphen combinations, because they are seen as an „AND connection“ by Amazon’s search algorithm. If the keyword „anti-aging“ is typed in, three combinations of searches are possible: „antiaging“, „anti“ and „aging“. Each keyword should only be separated with a space to not exceed the permitted characters. By the way, we recommend checking the results to see whether certain keywords really rank and whether sales can be achieved through them.
(High Resolution) Pictures
One of the important selling points in online trading: good, high-resolution product images. To visualise a product realistically, the listing has to be equipped with good digital pictures. To look good on Amazon, you should upload high-resolution images with at least 1000 x 1000 pixels and as many as possible (at least 6 maximum 8). The photos should not be bigger than 1500 x 1500 pixels, otherwise they will be automatically minimized by Amazon. The main focus is especially on the first picture: it appears in the Amazon search and decides significantly whether a search result is clicked on or not.
Often neglected but still important: the product description is not as important as a good product photo but also contributes to a purchase decision. You should place important keywords in them, although they have no major impact on the Amazon ranking. Pay attention to emotionally packed sales arguments in this section. Not a clumsy list of product features but emotionality, personal appeal and positively wrapped attributes – according to the AIDA principle – promote the sale. A clear structure with optimised headings is a must here.
Search Behaviour on Google vs. Amazon
Tip: There are a variety of relevance and performance factors on Amazon. We have summarized the 11 most important ones in a free Amazon SEO e-book. Using practical examples, this e-book explains what you need to consider for an Amazon listing optimisation. If you optimise these 11 ranking factors properly, you have created a very good basis to achieve visibility in the product search.
Amazon Performance Factors
As mentioned before, Amazon depends on the sale of products. It generates commission which the marketplace uses to increase its own sales. An Onpage optimisation alone is not enough – the performance of the products/the seller is also crucial. The following Amazon performance factors are most important:
A selling price does not always have to be the cheapest one and Amazon is no longer the cheapest retailer in direct comparison with other online stores. A look into comparison portals like idealo.de, cheaper.de or google-shopping reveals that Amazon is quite often ranked at the top of the price scale. However, your competition is within the marketplace, therefore, you should position yourself as well as possible (low-price).
What is the most important principle of Amazon optimisation again? Exactly: the user experience. Above all, the delivery time plays an important role in online trading. The wait for online articles should be as short as possible. Therefore, good availability and fast delivery of items are regarded as important performance factors on Amazon.
Various studies have shown that omitting shipping costs leads to more sales, even if the absolute price is not necessarily cheaper for the customer. The buyer always has the feeling that they are saving something and most of them jump on it. Cheap or no shipping costs are therefore also important on Amazon and influence the ranking.
And again, it’s about the user experience. The seller who satisfies his Amazon customers will reap the benefits of good rankings. This includes, among other things, the response time to inquiries and messages from buyers. As an Amazon seller, you have to provide fast and goal-oriented answers. Only if you work Amazon-compliant and satisfy the customers from the point of view of the marketplace, you can hope for more visibility. Once fallen in disgrace, your seller account can quickly come to an end.
Sales Rank / Categorisation
In terms of performance factors, sales rank is the most important criteria. This also includes the correct classification of the product into a suitable category, grouped by so-called nodes (unique Amazon codes). If a product is sold very often in a certain category, it can become a bestseller and not only gets the small bestseller icon, but also appears very high in the search results. Another advantage: Customers like to buy what other customers order. Thus, a bestseller is almost a guarantor for many sales.
FBA / Amazon Prime
A true booster for more sales: Prime logo. As soon as the small Prime logo appears next to a product on Amazon, it suggests to the customer that he will receive his goods faster and more reliable. In fact, most of the articles are delivered similar or just as fast without Prime, but FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon) is a huge ranking advantage for the conversion. Through FBA, Amazon earns more per sale and of course is willing to treat the respective items preferably in the search. Shipping through Amazon is not worthwhile for everyone – only a seller who works with large margins can afford the expensive service charge.
On Amazon, product reviews are more than just user-generated content – they can be one of the main selling points. Not every rating is automatically useful of course. Only if a review on Amazon is regarded as helpful by other buyers, it can promote the sales of products enormously. Whether the review is verified – meaning it came through a direct purchase on Amazon – is not really pivotal. As an Amazon seller you need to answer this question: Does this review help, or does it offer added value for other customers? If the answer is „yes“, then the respective review is conducive. The number, the timeliness and the average overall rating also a play a crucial role. For the user, the small yellow rating stars are a good incentive to click on a certain result after a search query. Just like Google, Amazon also includes the Click Through Rate (CTR) in the ranking.
There are many sellers who offer the same product along with some 20, 30, 40 or even more retailers. Here the ultimate goal is to make it into the BuyBox – meaning the list above the bullet points – to be displayed as an active seller. Besides the product price (including shipping costs), the seller reviews play an important role. Here customers give a direct assessment of the respective seller’s performance: How good has been the communication? How does the seller deal with returns? How fast were the goods sent? Only Amazon merchants with good ratings have a chance to get into the BuyBox. Therefore, you should always strive for a positive feedback from your buyers – do not forget that your economic success depends on it. Unlike the reviews for products, a seller rating may actually only be given after a real order. Anyone collecting artificial reviews here risks his Amazon Seller account from being deleted.
Amazon only earns money if a purchase on the marketplace was successful. In case of a return by the customer, the purchase price will be refunded. Hence, Amazon cannot charge commission. Therefore, Amazon prefers dealers and products in the ranking, which have a particularly low return rate. Again, the user experience plays an important role. Buyers who frequently return goods are apparently dissatisfied. This reduces the chance that the buyer buys a second or third time on Amazon. Depending on the product line, the return rate is sometimes higher or lower. For fashion articles (for example clothing) or jewellery and accessories (for example chronograph watches) the return rate is around 50%, while the return rate for electronics articles (about 10% returns) is much less. As a seller, you should be aware that every return is poison for the ranking. Although this can never be avoided in online commerce, a watchful eye should be kept on products that come back frequently.
Indirect Ranking Factors
Amazon pays attention to user behaviour on its platform. The so-called customer journey is ultimately decisive as to whether a user orders a product on Amazon or not. Therefore, some „indirect“ factors are included in the ranking. The following are the most important:
CTR from the Search Results
After a product search, Amazon measures how often or with which distribution users click on certain results in the product listings. Click heat map surveys have shown that the first three results get the most clicks. Rarely a potential buyer looks at the second, third or even further pages. So as a seller, you have to be aware that you can only sell successfully on Amazon if your products make it into the top 3 search results. The same rule applies to Google’s search results. Here the principles resemble those of “normal” SEO techniques.
If the quality of the displayed product information is not good (e.g. bad or very small pictures, no or irrelevant product features, faulty product description, etc.), the probability increases that the user lingers on the detail page for a very short time and quickly returns to the Amazon search results or even clicks on one of the cross-selling offers. A low dwell time harms the ranking on Amazon – or in other words: a high rate of cancellation (bounce rate) should be avoided at all costs. Therefore, Amazon sellers should optimise the quality of their product information.
Even if click rates and length of stay are good, there is still no purchase. At the end of a successful customer journey, there needs to be conversion, meaning a triggered order. If a lot of users click on a particular product from the Amazon search results and / or stay on the product page for an above-average time, but the product is ultimately only ordered by a few, the conversion rate drops and slows down a good ranking. As an Amazon seller, you should keep an eye on the CVR (Conversion Rate) and constantly optimise your products.
The BuyBox Issue at Amazon
Not every Amazon seller is in the luxurious situation of offering products that no one else sells. A high number of sellers offer the same items as their competitors and are therefore in a constant price war. The problem: Depending on the product category, Amazon charges up to 20% commission on each item sold. This sometimes even exceeds the margin narrowed by the price war, or only leaves a small yield in the low, single-digit percentage range. However, since price is one of the most important factors in winning the BuyBox, many retailers on Amazon are in the so-called price trap: they have to offer their products for a cheap price to get into the BuyBox but cannot do so if they are not able to make at least a small profit. In order to avoid this BuyBox issue and to sell products on Amazon successfully, it makes sense to sell your own articles or to trade as a vendor, which gives you the benefits of premium marketing opportunities and Amazon Prime.
Amazon Reviews are like Backlinks on Google
When it comes to SEO one tends to talk about two main components: Onpage optimisation and Offpage optimisation. Onpage is similar in Amazon SEO and Google Optimisation. According to various metrics, content is upgraded: more or relevant keywords, semantic search, high-quality and easy-to-read text, optimised images and videos, etc. In regard to Offpage SEO, Google only talks about backlinks referring to one’s own website, which influence ranking. Backlinks on Amazon do not exist, but reviews have an equally strong effect on the positioning in the search results. Although reviews on Amazon and backlinks on Google work fundamentally different, there are some interesting similarities:
Because of these similar conditions and side effects one tends to treat Amazon SEO, in regard to product reviews, like an Offpage optimisation – even if the reviews themselves are displayed Onpage on the respective product sites. Similar to link building, it is risky to build too many and too irrelevant reviews excessively. If you do not play by the rules of Amazon, you’ll have to deal with decreasing rankings and even the deletion of your seller account. An expulsion on Amazon is equal to a total economic loss for many sellers. The way back to the marketplace is either very cumbersome or not possible at all. Our advice therefore is: Play fair and above all 100% Amazon compliant and do not risk your seller account. Using loopholes for the optimisation has not worked on Google in the long run and won’t work on Amazon.
Secret Tip 1: Use Amazon Affiliate
A lot of retailers only look at their products on Amazon and are not able to see beyond one’s own nose. Seeing the bigger picture can push the sales of products on Amazon enormously, increase the Seller Rank and lead to more revenue in the long run. An important lever can be the Amazon Affiliate Program. Particularly clever are those who also set up an external website, posting great content here and pushing this page forward on Google in the rankings. Thus, you can redirect valuable traffic from Google towards your Amazon products. This way, you increase the chance of improving your sales on Amazon and pushing the best seller rank for the respective product. Of course, this does not work everywhere and, above all, rarely very fast. It may be worthwhile to contact existing Amazon affiliate sites and to offer your products there as well.
Secret Tip 2: Use Synonyms in Keyword Research
Every user is different, thinks differently and looks different. This is one of the most important basic rules in SEO. Why? Quite simple: Depending on origin, intellect, age, gender and social class, people use different vocabulary but in principle they describe the same thing. If you focus your product only on a specific keyword, you will never reach every customer. The magic words in a keyword research are: synonyms and semantics. For instance: An Amazon seller would like to sell an evening gown. If he only optimises for the keyword evening gown, he will not be found with related search terms. Potential buyers might as well look for cocktail dress, party dress, evening dress or evening wear. Optimising for related keywords can significantly increase the visibility on Amazon.
Secret Tip 3: Use Google SEO for Amazon
The following principle always remains in full force and effect: the more (relevant) traffic the better. There is a simple reason for it. The probability to sell a product is 4 to 5 times higher on Amazon than on any other online store. More and more users are no longer searching for certain products on Google but rather on Amazon. Still, the search traffic from Google can be used for Amazon. How it works? Quite simple: An Amazon product has a unique URL, which in turn is indexed on Google. After the content on the product page is perfectly optimised, the chance increases to rank even on Google with your Amazon product. The first three search hits for a product search on Google consist to 70% of Amazon products. If you also optimise your product text with regard to Google SEO, you are also increasing the chance of more traffic and thus more sales.
Amazon SEO in Perfection: Case Study Kavaj
Theoretically, almost everything works. Amazon SEO becomes particularly exciting when you can prove it with a success story. There are already many practical examples that can be used to prove Amazon ranking optimisation but no case is as impressive as the Kavaj GmbH case. The masterminds behind the company are two former Amazon employees who were among the first online retailers to professionally sell mobile phone cases on Amazon. Founded in 2011, Jörg Kundrath and Kai Klement managed to generate impressive sales of 3.6 million euros in less than 3 years with the sale of mobile phone and tablet cases. They made it primarily through a clever marketing strategy and perfect Amazon optimization. From Google Adwords, a dedicated affiliate website, Facebook marketing to a targeted SEO strategy on Amazon itself: Kavaj is a model example for other online retailers. Here are Kavaj’s most important success factors:
Build Your Own Brand to Make It Worthwhile
At Amazon, the most successful sellers are those who do not sell third party products but offer their own label or brand. Here you have much better margins and no BuyBox problem – meaning no price trap. Kavaj makes his own products and succeeds.
Amazon Keyword Optimisation in Perfection
If you look at Kavaj’s Amazon products, you will notice that the product title, bullet points and product description are optimised not just for one keyword but also for semantic search queries. In addition to words such as „case“, „cover“ and „leather pouch“, the listing also includes terms such as „iPad“ or „custom-fit“, „accessories“ and „original“ – just about all the keywords that potential customers could use to search on Amazon.
Perfect Product Pictures
All uploaded images of Kavaj are in high resolution and thus unlocked for the zoom feature on Amazon. The photos are also professionally created, neatly cropped and show not only the product itself but also the purpose of it. The pictures make it easy for the customer to imagine how the product „feels“.
Helpful Customer Reviews
Our sample product has been on Amazon since March 2012 and already has over 2200 reviews. On Average, this product gets 2 reviews per day with an overall rating of 4.3 stars.
Build an Affiliate Website
You can argue about the design but technically Kavaj has done everything right here. The Amazon content was not copied (duplicate content) but rewritten for the website. Through tracking links, affiliate commissions on Amazon are tapped and Google traffic is redirected. This not only increases the sales rank but also the sales.
Social Media Marketing
Social channels can also be used for Amazon optimisation. Kavaj is active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram. For our sample product, there was also a separate „how-to“ video shot, which scored at least over 50,000 Views on YouTube: it should never be forgotten that all traffic from these external sites is directed towards Amazon.
Conclusion: Amazon SEO Works
Online retailers like Kavaj demonstrate perfectly how one can increase the visibility of Amazon products through Amazon optimisation and clever online marketing. We’re not talking about a small single-digit percentage improvement. Some retailers have increased their sales fivefold in a few months through Amazon SEO! That will certainly not work everywhere but fact is: product optimisation is worthwhile for almost every retailer. In principle, only five essential things are needed:
Finally, there are some questions that are often asked in regard to Amazon Optimisation and Marketplace Optimisation (MPO). You can find more information in our free Amazon e-book and our extensive Amazon video course.