Editor’s Note: This post originally published in August 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Amazon is a search engine just like any other, so it’s important that you think about optimization and how optimization best practices may have changed each year. If you’ve never worried about optimizing your products for Amazon you don’t have far to go, but now is a great time to start creating a strategy. Google should be your first priority, but for e-commerce companies or companies that focus on selling a product, Amazon is probably a close second.
Fortunately, optimizing for Amazon isn’t so hard once you understand optimization in general, and once you put a strategy in place you can be pretty set to go—the Amazon algorithm doesn’t change nearly as much as the Google algorithm.
Tips and Tricks to Ranking Well on Amazon
Before jumping into optimization tips, it’s important to really stress that Amazon is different than Google in a few fundamental ways. You’ll notice that many of the tips below are very similar, but understanding how Amazon is different than what you might be used to is crucial. According to a Moz article, there are four major differences between Amazon and Google:
- Conversion vs. user satisfaction. Google was built to sell ads; Amazon was built to sell products. This means Amazon finds success by measuring revenue or gross margin per search as opposed to Google’s success metrics like CTR or time spent on a page.
- Structured vs. unstructured data. Amazon’s index is completely structured, meaning you need to give them exactly what they want in their specific format. Google is a little bit more lenient (although this is slowly changing in 2015).
- On-page vs. on-page and off-page. Amazon is really all about on-page optimization. Building links off-page will not affect your rankings the way it will for Google.
- Compelling vs. unique content. Most of your traffic will come from someone who is already searching on Amazon, and Amazon doesn’t care about unique content nearly as much. If you have the same titles and bullet points as another listing, no problem.
Once you understand a few of these fundamental differences you can start your optimization process. This will involve both optimizing your actual Amazon product page as well as using some of their features to drive traffic to that page. Below explains the process:
Optimizing Your Page
Follow the Image Guidelines and Upload a Good Amount
You always want to make sure you have more than one image (5-6 is usually a good rule of thumb) so that visitors can get a feel for your product from all different angles. It’s also important that you follow all of Amazon’s Product Image Requirements.
You’ll notice there are a quite a few on the official page that talk about specific industries and their standards, but the basics include using a professional photograph (no drawings), the product and props should fill 85% or more of the image frame, no watermarks, and image pixel dimensions of at least 1000 or larger in either the height or width is preferred.
To really enhance your product images, check out these ideas:
- Show the product being used
- Have a picture of the product packaging
- Include photos that show the size of the product
- Show the product from multiple angles
The images you provide for a product listing are often the make or break factor for many users. Pretend the images you use are the only way you get to communicate with users, and try to make them powerful enough on their own to inspire a purchase.
Focus on Your Product Title
Just as with Google title tags are very important, but instead of 60 characters you get 500 with Amazon. Also unlike Google, the longer and more detailed the title, the better. With Amazon it doesn’t have to be compelling or grab a viewer’s attention; it just has to give off enough information for someone to make a purchasing decision. For this reason, using all of the 500-character limit is encouraged. If you look around Amazon, you’ll notice that the products with long, keyword-rich titles outrank those that are simple and clean. Below is an example that shows just that:
It can be hard to get used to this after coming from optimization for Google, but it’s an important step. According to an Amazon help page, you should follow a formula to help create your titles. For example, the style for many products may be:
Brand + Model Number + Model Name + Product Type, Color
One example of using this formula for a title would be:
KitchenAid KSM150PSER Artisan 5-Quart Mixer, Empire Red.
Again it’s not the prettiest title and it’s very different than something you would use on Google, but this is how it works on Amazon! You only have to have your keyword appear once in your title (that’s right, keywords in your description are less important), so again, that’s why you see some of the companies above using several different keywords all in one title.
Use Bullet-Point Content Form and Focus on a Description
You often see bullet points for a product on Amazon under the title. This is a great place to add keywords and really show what you’re all about. It’s close to you images and actually appears above the title, so make sure you don’t skip this step. Below shows an example of what the bullet points look like:
Because the bullet point feature is so prominent, sometimes companies get confused about the description and forget to add it altogether (it’s not required after all!). The description still appears it just appears further down on your page. This doesn’t mean that it’s not as important, it’s just not as important as the bullet point section. I would still add in a description, not worry too much about keywords, and make it detailed but short and sweet all at the same time. Below shows where the description shows up:
Actively Work to Increase Your Amazon Reviews
Although it has never officially been said that reviews have anything to do with rankings and with the Amazon algorithm, they’re very important if you want to make a sale so it’s worth mentioning. Reviews fuel product ratings and give your Amazon listings credibility with future buyers, which is a really important part of your growth and optimization plan. You can try and improve your review count the same way you would on Yelp or Google—create an outreach campaign, utilize social media, talk with your loyal customers, etc.—or provide a product for free if someone leaves an unbiased review.
Driving Traffic to Your Page
Use the Sponsored Products Feature
This is an Amazon PPC ad option that allows you to create ads on Amazon that will show up next to search results for the keywords you specify. All you have to do to get started here is select your keywords and your products and then set bids for how much you want to spend. This will help improve your sales rank, which will hopefully improve your organic listings. You can get started create these ads here. Below is what a Sponsored Product ad looks like:
Fill Out all of the Relevant Categories
You may have heard the term “Browse Tree Guide” from a number of different sources. This refers to Amazon’s category and sub-category structure. When someone searches for a product on the homepage they are taken to a list of results, but once they click those results then anything they do from that point forward will be within a certain category (Amazon takes care of all of the so the shopper usually has no idea). If you’re not categorized correctly and are not in that category, you’re out of luck. You are prompted to select categories when managing your page, so choose wisely! At the very least, just choose something.
List an ASIN in Your Product Field
This was something that Search Engine Journal mentioned here that can help drive traffic to your page even if you’re not ranking. What you want to be able to do is get your product listed on a product page that is ranking. This is an excellent option if you can compete for price with an almost identical product. Below is a screenshot of what this means:
To make this happen, you have to change your product fields by listing an ASIN (what Amazon listings are called). You can find the ASIN by looking at the URL. For example:
In the above URL, B011ZLWHOE is the ASIN. Add that ASIN to your product fields, change the brand in your product fields to the brand on the listing, make sure you have a lower price than the product you’re competing with, and you’re done! Visit the link above for more detailed information.
Product Listing Grader
To test how you’re doing in all of the aforementioned optimization categories, you can check your product listings using Jungle Scout’s Product Listing Grader:
The tool is completely free and will give you a breakdown of how each part of your product listing is performing, so you can identify and address weak spots.
Extra Tip: Avoid Duplicate Content
It may sound obvious, but you have to make sure you remember that all of your product pages on Amazon must use different content than you’re using on your own e-commerce website. Because they are two different search engines a common mistake businesses make is using the same content, the most common example being the description, but this can actually still cause duplicate content issues.