By: Jessica Belnap
Digital commerce behemoth that it is, it is pretty easy to overlook the fact that Amazon is also the second largest search engine on the Internet. Google, of course, is still THE largest, but Amazon is tailing it only a little and far outpacing it when it comes to product searches. Consumers go to Google for information, of course, and are not always focused on buying something.
When they head over to Amazon, however, they are almost always intent on buying at least one thing, if not several. In fact, 9 in 10 consumers check Amazon even if they have found the product in a different place. So, it makes sense to ensure that your products can be found on Amazon when the customers come looking.
The infamous Amazon A9 algorithm works by looking at the listing as a whole; its performance, sales history, consumer reviews and keywords, to determine how it will rank in the list of results when a customer performs a search using relevant keywords. The main difference between Amazon’s search algorithm and others is that it is highly biased towards products that are already selling well. That should not be a huge surprise; Amazon is in the business of making money, so it is going to heavily focus on selling products that sell.
When we also consider that Amazon does not report search volumes, assuming search engine optimization tactics that work for products on Google will also work for them on Amazon is almost certainly going to be a waste of your time. It is also important to note that only around 30% of shoppers will move past the first page of search results. The good news is that there are some very simple and effective ways to tackle Amazon SEO for your product listings to ensure that they appear in front of the customers most likely to buy them on the first page of results.
Know Your Keywords and Where to Put Them
Every bit of copy you put into a product listing should be aimed at attracting the algorithm, so it’s important to know the basics before proceeding. Keywords, of course, are words that customers might use to locate products like yours when they come looking. There are different types of keywords, and different places in which they should be used in for maximum effectiveness. We’ll talk about the former first, then the later.
What is the difference between short tail and long tail keywords? You may have had these terms thrown around when it comes to SEO, and it is definitely a good idea to understand the differences between them. Amazon’s search algorithm is mainly concerned with short tail keywords, which is to say: search phrases that consist of up to three words and are very general in nature.
On the other hand, long tail keywords are full sentences and questions/queries that are used to search for something very specific. Clearly, Amazon favors the former over the latter for all the obvious reasons.
So, short tail keywords are, well, key, if you will forgive the pun, and they are the best place to start when creating a new listing because as many as possible should go right into the title. This is, however, easier said than done thanks to the many quirks of listing products on Amazon. More on that later.
What about back-end versus front-end keywords? I’m glad you asked, and the answer is pretty simple. Front-end keywords are the ones that the customer also sees. That is, they are found throughout the listing in the Product Title, Bullet Points/Product Features, and Product Description. Back-end keywords, on the other hand, are ones that are “buried,” so to speak, in the listing data.
In both cases, using relevant keywords helps your listing get indexed in all the right places. Why is indexing even important? Indexing is how the algorithm knows that your product is relevant to the customer’s inquiry in the first place. Once it knows that, A9 can then determine how the listing should rank in the search results.
Think of the index as a directory. As the “ranking” part comes second, making sure that your listing is indexed properly is a good place to start. Using relevant keywords throughout the front end and in the back end will ensure that customers can find your listings in the first place.
Research your keywords thoroughly and think a little bit outside the box when selecting the appropriate ones. Search terms that generically describe your product are easy to weave into the front end but are not likely to do the heavy lifting for you on Amazon where you are competing with thousands of similar products that also use those keywords. A reverse ASIN lookup tool is invaluable here, as it allows you to see what keywords are being used on any given product.
A reverse ASIN lookup can also reveal keywords and keyword phrases that are underrepresented on Amazon, which represents an opportunity to start ranking high right out of the gate. Also, keywords should be researched and updated often; trends are always changing, and optimization is an ongoing endeavor.
You have 250 characters, including spaces, to work with in the back end. This is a good place to put less obvious keywords so that the product is indexed in as many searches as possible.
A quick note to remember: Like Google and other search engines, Amazon does not appreciate keyword stuffing. What is keyword stuffing? It is what it sounds like: trying to “beat” the algorithm by using keywords in excess to the point that it is counterproductive. A good rule of thumb is to make sure the copy that is visible to the customer is written in a meaningful way that conveys relevant details and flows naturally. It’s not easy, I know! But like everything else, it takes patience and perseverance to get good at it.
Optimizing Product Titles for SEO – A Balancing Act
Each product category, as you probably know already, has its own character limit and requirements for product titles. Understanding Amazon’s limits and requirements (limits more so) for product titles is easy enough; the harder part is understanding your customer’s requirements, which will certainly vary widely within product categories and between customers themselves.
Smart as it is, the Amazon search algorithm cannot determine if the title meets any requirements other than the maximum length, so the degree to which a product’s title is relevant is up to you! The best advice I can give you when it comes to creating titles for Amazon product listings is this simple, effective formula:
Within this formula and the character limit that applies in that product category, use as many keywords as possible to attract your ideal customer – the one that will click on the link, add the item to the cart, check out, and leave a positive review. This is definitely going to be easier in some categories than others because Amazon’s enforcement of the character maximums is fairly inconsistent. In some categories, product title lengths have virtually no character limit because it is not enforced. In others, you have 50 characters ONLY! Try 51 and the listing is suppressed.
While I know it is tempting to take advantage of the inconsistencies in enforcement for product title length by keyword stuffing as much as possible, I do think such a strategy tends to backfire with consumers; they are not interested in reading a novel’s worth of information in a product title. So, finding that balance between long enough to contain all the relevant information and short enough to keep the consumer’s attention is the goal and constant struggle.
I always think about product titles from a consumer’s perspective. As a consumer, I want a product’s title to contain all the important data and be formatted in a way that allows me to gather that data immediately. I appreciate Amazon’s efforts to make sure that product titles are relevant, and I always advise my clients to not try and make product titles too long and complicated.
“Size” and “color” in the equation above are placeholders for whatever variation data is relevant to the item. Other variation information might be anything from flavor to style to team name, etc. Including this data in a product’s title is going to help the both the algorithm and the consumer differentiate it from its fellows, and it will help you keep things organized in Seller Central. Without those data points in the title, you will not be able to see at a glance which is which within the parent when viewing the inventory. Work smarter, not harder, I always say!
Optimizing the Product Features/Bullet Points and Product Description for SEO
Even more important than the Product Description (we will get there), Product Features/Bullet Points will be just about the first thing a customer looks at after clicking on the product. It is vital to pack these data centers with relevant keywords to attract the A9 Algorithm, but in a way that also appeals to consumers. This means writing them in natural language that uses keywords where they fit organically.
Generally, you are allowed five bullet points of up to 500 characters. While it sounds a bit dramatic, those 2500 characters can make all the difference when it comes to conversion. Higher conversion rates mean better ranking overall, so it is worth it to take your time researching keywords and crafting each bullet point to maximize not only SEO, but also consumer appeal. Paint a picture of the product and make a compelling case for purchasing it.
Chances are rather low that your customer is even going to scroll down to the Product Description and read it, but that does not mean they absolutely will not. So, it too must be written as if they will. It is more copy through which the algorithm can comb, though, so make sure it also includes relevant keywords and reads well. Nothing makes me, as a consumer, less inclined to buy a product than when there are copious misspellings and grammatical mistakes in its copy. There really are no excuses for bad spelling/grammar in 2021.
Streiff Marketing – The Amazon Marketing Agency For You
Risking the chance that I am starting to sound like a broken record, I’m going to say it again: optimization is not a one-and-done task. In order to do it effectively, keywords have to be researched and updated several times per year. I recommend it at least quarterly so that you can take full advantage of trends and fluctuations. Consumers are fickle, are we not?
Amazon is an ocean, and it is sink or swim out there. Optimizing product listings for the A9 Algorithm involves consistent attention over time and benefits greatly from experience. If it feels overwhelming, you are correct. It is! This is where an Amazon marketing agency like Streiff Marketing comes in. Our success hinges on yours, so you can rest assured that our team will work hard every day to sell your products!
Streiff Marketing has been helping Amazon sellers grow their presence and sales since 2014, and we have the numbers to prove that our methods work. If you will excuse me the metaphor, my coworkers and I spend our days “elbow-deep” in the catalog making sure each product listing is optimized and doing the continual maintenance it requires. We have a team of specialists with years of optimization experience ready to take your catalog from page 8 and beyond (i.e., nowhere to be found) to page 1 of the search results (because who goes past that? Answer: less than one out of three).
At Streiff, we are striving to bring our clients massive amounts of value. If you find yourself asking how to optimize your listings, get better product rankings, and increased sales on Amazon, let me give you the answer: you hire the optimization specialists to do it for you! Let our team do what we do so that you can focus on doing what you do.
About Streiff Marketing
We are a full-service Amazon Marketing Agency specializing in both Amazon Vendor Central (1P) and Amazon Seller Central (3P) services. Our expert team understands the difference between vendor central vs seller central and builds your strategy to optimize your Amazon brand storefront to maximize sales throughout the Amazon Marketplace. Our Account Management service includes everything you need to use Amazon fulfillment to succeed on Vendor Central or Seller Central, including account setup, optimization, reviews, SEO, pricing, advertising and more.