Advanced Amazon A9 SEO Strategies & Tactics

October 15, 2018 in Amazon, Blog
Advanced Amazon A9 SEO Strategies & Tactics
How do you really rank your products amongst high-volume sellers?

Amazon A9 SEO Strategies

Alright. You’re an Amazon seller and you understand the basics of how SEO for Amazon works.

You know that Amazon ultimately cares about sales and therefore rewards conversion rates. You can even name drop A9 as Googlers used to drop a reference to MattBut how do you really rank your products, especially amongst high-volume sophisticated sellers?

In this article, I’m going to share with you a bunch of advanced SEO tactics for Amazon. Strategies even the “courses” won’t teach you.

Related Listening: Podcast Episode 189 – Advanced Amazon A9 SEO Strategies

55% of Sales Go to the Top 3 Search Results

Getting a top research result on Amazon will make you a lot of money.amazon conversion rates

From our own research of over 250,000 keywords via Brand Analytics, we determined that nearly 30% of sales go to the top search result and over 55% of sales go to just the top three listings on Amazon.

This article will help you to get one of these coveted top three search results.

Relevancy + Conversion = High Rankings

Pro-Tip: Want to see if you’re indexing for a keyword? Type your item’s ASIN into the search box followed by the keyword(s). If Amazon is indexing your item it will return your item; if it is not, it will say “We found 0 results for ASIN“. Keep in mind that indexing for a keyword does not necessarily mean that you’re ranking for a keyword.

There are two critical factors for ranking on Amazon: conversions and relevancy. Let’s look at each:

Relevancy: If you’re selling slow cookers on Amazon, Amazon first needs to determine that your item is a relevant product for that search term. If you’re not relevant then you can’t rank.

Conversions: Once your item is deemed relevant, the big key to ranking well is creating a high converting listing. All other things equal, a higher converting listing for a particular keyword will rank better than a lower converting listing.

Leaked Amazon report showing keyword metrics that Amazon is tracking.

This last paragraph is supported through leaked internal Amazon ranking reports. We can see from these reports Amazon is explicitly tracking for each keyword what percentage of the time a customer clicks that listing, went on to Add the Item to Cart and what percentage actually purchased the item.

By understanding the differences between relevancy and conversion rates, the question becomes two-fold:

  • How can our listings be considered relevant by Amazon for a particular keyword?
  • How do we make our listings higher converting?

Making Relevant Listings and “The Hall Pass”

Amazon, through the Advertising API (which is a treasure trove of useful information) actually defines relevancy in black and white English:

How items are ranked

Amazon defines relevancy a follows: Items [are] ranked according to the following criteria: how often the keyword appears in the description, where the keyword appears (the ranking is higher when keywords are found in titles and—if there are multiple keywords—how closely they occur in descriptions), and how often customers purchased the products they found using the keyword.

Amazon is telling us, unambiguously, that keywords in the title matter most and in the description keyword density (not just presence) is also important.

amazon seo product descriptions

Amazon explicitly states that where keywords appear is a relevancy factor.

But let’s not kid ourselves about relevancy. This last part in the relevancy definition about “how often customers purchased the product” is THE MOST important thing.

The single biggest thing you can do to make your listings deemed relevant for a particular keyword(s) is to somehow have a lot of people purchasing your item after searching for a particular keyword. In fact, the tactic of having people search for a particular keyword, find your item and then buy your product is one of the most popular black hat SEO techniques.

We can see from the leaked search report below that 15.03% of the time when a customer searches for Tactical Flashlight they click the PeakPlus listing. 5% of the time when they search for tactical flashlight they go on to purchase the item (an almost identical amount simply add the item to their cart – i.e. the cart abandonment rate for this listing is very low).

amazon ranking for keyword report

The report above shows the probability someone actually buys this listing based on the keyword searched for.

But if you have a new listing, there is no conversion data behind your item. So how can Amazon ever rank a new product? There is strong evidence to suggest that when an item is first listed on Amazon, they grant it a bit of a hall pass (some people also refer to this as the honeymoon period). When a listing is first created, Amazon will analyze your listing for keywords and other data to try and guess whether people will buy your item or not. Once that period passes, it will rely more heavily on conversion data primarily to rank that item. Most people agree this hall pass period lasts about a month.

With your new listing’s hall pass, it is very easy to rank your item for certain keywords. Simply use your favorite SEO tactics circa 2002 and keyword stuff your titles, bullet points, descriptions, and backend keyword data like crazy. The general consensus is that in terms of keyword weighting it looks something like this: Title>Bullet Points>Description>Backend Keywords. It’s important to take advantage of this hall-pass and make sure your item is actually converting for these keywords. Unless your item starts SELLING after customers search for these keywords you’ll lose your rankings.

This free hall pass you get is also why it’s very important to launch your products with an immediate bang. Do not simply create MVP (minimal viable product) listings, i.e. with bad photography, poor bullet points, etc. Do not launch your product until the listing is perfect. Also, utilize Amazon’s Start Selling Date (an option when adding a product) that will start your hall pass from that date.

Pro-Tip: Have you seen the New Best Seller Badge? This badge is awarded to new products in a category added in the last 90 days with the highest number of sales.

The Importance of Product Categories

In the past,  many sellers would deliberately select incorrect product categories that are less competitive to improve their category sales rank. This is no longer effective and can actually harm your SEO big time.

Previously you could have many product categories for an item. However, Browse Nodes (product categories) are now assigned based on item_type_keyword and you can only have one item type keyword per product. This significantly matters because certain product categories you can not rank specific keywords for. For example, if you sell a garlic press with a carrying bag in the category Garlic Peelers, you rank all day long for garlic presses and peelers but you will never rank for “carrying bag”.

I’ve run into this issue multiple times in the past several months. In one case I was selling a type of tent. I had it in the wrong category and literally, overnight I went from selling $300 worth of this product per month to over $6000 per month. If you cannot seem to rank for a particular keyword (especially a fairly low competition keyword), one of the first places to look to change is your product category. 

Keyword Research for Amazon

Amazon has given us all an enormous gift by allowing us to see the exact monthly keyword volume thanks to a bit of a backdoor in its advertising API. There’s a number of tools out there that will do this for you but my favorite is Helium 10’s Magnet 2 keyword research tool.

helium 10 keyword tool

Helium 10 is my keyword tool of choice.

Aside from the hall pass period, optimizing for keywords has limited value after you’ve developed and launched a product. Amazon doesn’t care if you SEO your garlic press listing to death for the keyword stainless steel garlic press – if no one is buying based on that search term, they’re not going to rank you well in the long run.

It’s my big belief that the most effective use of keyword research should be done before you start developing products. Doing keyword research at this point gives you an opportunity to develop ‘long tail keyword products’. For example, you can see from the keyword research above that stainless steel garlic press could be a profitable product to source that has a fair amount of keyword volume behind it.

Creating High Converting Listings = Price + Reviews

So now that you understand how creating a relevant listing works, the more exciting question is: how do you create high converting listings?

Thankfully, the science behind creating high converting listings is super easy. Price + Reviews = High Conversion. One of the great things about playing in Amazon’s sandbox instead of our own website is we don’t need to worry about things like trust signals, user-friendly checkout pages, etc. Amazon does all of this for us.

From EcomCrew’s own research, we know that the top three listings on Amazon are normally 20% cheaper than average. All other things equal, most people prefer a less expensive widget.

amazon price variance

The top 3 listings on Amazon are, on average, 20% cheaper than competitors.

When I’m first doing product research, I like to see what the average price of my competitor’s items are for a particular keyword. To do this, I use Excel and the SEO Tools app.

seo tools for excel and amazon

The SEO tools app for Excel lets me quickly see what the average price of my competitors products is.

Reviews are the other important factor for your conversion rate. I’m not going to discuss how to get reviews on Amazon in a white hat way as we cover it extensively in another article. Of course, manipulating reviews is a really bad idea (and it is one of the ways to get PERMANENTLY banned from selling on Amazon) but it’s important to understand that having some positive reviews is a critical factor in your item converting well.

We know that from Amazon consumer research reports, the most important factors affecting someone’s likelihood to purchase are (in this order): price, Prime availability, and reviews. Without some reviews, it’s very difficult to get someone to click the Buy button.

Amazon purchasing factors

Price, prime availability and reviews are the most important purchase factors.

Want to see your item’s overall conversion rate? From within Seller Central go to  Reports->Business Reports->Detail Page Sales and Traffic and look at Unit Session Percentage. There is currently no way within Seller Central to see your conversion rate on an individual search term level.

conversion rate amazon business reports

What type of conversion rate should you be aiming for? In our experience at EcomCrew, typically if you’re below a 10% conversion rate this is poor, 10-20% is average but there’s room for improvement, and above 20% is very good.

Photos & Videos: The NEXT Most Important Conversion Factor

Price and reviews are kings when it comes to conversions, but Photos/Videos are queens. Photos and videos are also one of the most easily controllable elements of a high converting listing and also one of the elements sellers screw up the most. There are four types of photography that you need in your Amazon listing at a minimum:

  • Product photo(s), white background
  • Infographic
  • Lifestyle photograph
  • Product specifications picture

We have an article that goes into a lot more detail on how to create excellent product photography. The most amateur conversion mistake made by sellers is to use bullet points and product descriptions to illustrate key points of their product instead of text in photos. See the photograph below as an excellent example of text used effectively in a photography.

ecommerce product photography - good example

An example of text used effectively in an Amazon infographic.

Video is also an extremely powerful conversion and is now available to all those who are Brand Registered. Unfortunately, if you are not Brand Registered (and as of this writing that requires having a registered trademark) you cannot use videos in your listings.

Enhanced Brand Content

Amazon claims that the use of Enhanced Brand Content can increase conversions by 10%. On the surface, it would seem that having some creative additional design elements on your listings would help conversions immensely. In my A/B testing of listings before and after Enhanced Brand Content there was no significant difference in conversions before and after implementing EBC. I’ve had similar results with multiple brands over multiple years. How do you explain these results? Likely simply because people do not often scroll below the fold. 

before and after ebc

One of my brand’s results, before and after EBC (30 days prior to EBC compared to 30 days after)

This isn’t to say that you should not use Enhanced Brand Content. You should. After all, it’s free. Just do not expect massive conversion rate changes after implementing EBC.

Write Product Titles for Readability and Click-Throughs – Not for Keywords

Look at any competitive product category on Amazon and you will see products that have keyword stuffed titles. Given the debatable value of keyword optimization on Amazon, I am a firm believer that product titles should be written to be readable and encourage click-throughs and product titles should NOT be written for keyword ranking purposes. This supports our research as well that found that the top ranked items on Amazon tend to have shorter titles than lower ranked items.

amazon title length and variance top 70

From our research, the top ranked products on Amazon tend to have shorter titles than lower ranked products.

You should include keywords in your title insomuch that they communicate to the searcher what your item is about and are likely to induce them to click through (and buy) your product.

The Importance of Sales Velocity

amazon sales velocity graph

This graph demonstrates what happens when you run out of stock on Amazon – your sales velocity essentially starts back from 0.

Pro-Tip: The rolling average sales of your products is argued by some to be an important ranking factor. For example, if you have a product that has 14 sales within the first 7 days, it has a 2 item per day rolling average. However,  if your item has been listed for 6 months and has 100 sales, the rolling average is just 0.54 units per day (100 Sales/182.5 Days). As time goes on, it becomes more difficult to raise the rolling average sales of your product.

At this juncture, it’s important to mention a third important factor for rankings: sales velocity. Sales velocity is a bit like a black hole: we can tell it’s there and most definitely know it impacts rankings but we don’t quite know how it influences them. There seems to be an overall consensus though that the more of an upward trend the trajectory of your sales is the higher and quicker you’ll gain in the rankings. This is why when you run out of stock of a product, it can sometimes take a long time to regain your sales volume as your velocity is essentially starting back from 0.

When launching a product, in our experience, it’s most effective to have a steady stream of sales over 30 days opposed to one massive swing on 1 or 2 days. This applies mostly when you’re sending a controllable source of external traffic to a listing such as through an email list (we’ll cover external traffic below). So if you’re sending an email blast to your email list about a new product launch, it’s best to break this up into at least 4 segments over a month opposed to one massive blast.

Pro-Tip: Getting initial sales velocity can be aided through using Amazon Giveaways. Giveaways are a little known promotional tool/contest from within Amazon that is highly effective. You will away a certain number of items (normally 2-5 items) but also give customers the option to purchase your item after entering your giveaway.

Sending External Traffic to Your Listings

We also know from leaked internal reports that Amazon is absolutely tracking the source of referral traffic to listings and whether it comes from on Amazon or off of Amazon. There could be any number of reasons why Amazon is doing this but one can infer that Amazon is likely placing some weight and reward on listings that deliver outside sales to Amazon. From a sales velocity perspective, it makes sense as well: Amazon will only allow you to go from 0 to 60 MPH so fast. But with outside traffic, you can go to 60MPH as fast as you want.

In fact, in today’s Amazon world, in my experience, it can be very difficult to have a high ranking item organically on Amazon if you are not sending outside traffic to it. It’s a sad reality that Amazon has now persuaded sellers to pay for advertising to build their customer base.

Some of the most effective ways to send traffic to Amazon  are:

  • From an internal email list
  • From a Facebook Ads campaign to a squeeze page to Amazon (it’s forbidden to send traffic directly from Facebook to an Amazon page)
  • From your website product detail page

Sending outside traffic to Amazon listings is an article all in its own and I recommend you check out our Amazon Launch Strategy for more information on this.

Regardless of how you send external traffic to Amazon, there is one major problem with it: it doesn’t help your keyword conversion metrics because there’s no keyword search on Amazon that is resulting in that (potential) sale.

Now, some black hat sellers use Super URLs which basically make Amazon think a keyword search did send the user there. Using these URLs to manipulate Amazon is against TOS and is a very bannable offense. Amazon is getting pretty sophisticated in sniffing out these URLs though time stamps and other clever strategies despite many services claiming to have a completely ‘undetectable URL structure’.

Amazon URL Structuring and External Traffic

When you search for an item on Amazon and click through to a listing, Amazon will store that keyword search in the URL along with some other information. Try it for yourself.

amazon search URL

Along with the keyword data, Amazon is including a timestamp (qid) that tells Amazon when the search occured. If you send all of your external traffic to the link above, it will tell Amazon that all of these searches occurred at exactly the same time of day and it will ignore all of these additional ‘searches’.

To get around this, some sellers use one of three things:

  • A Super-URL: Using another app, the app will redirect the URL to a unique URL with a unique timestamp.
  • A 2-Step URL: You send users to a particular page, such as a store-front page, and require them to manually click through to the listing.
    amazon 2 step URL
  • Search, Locate and Purchase: You require the user to physically search for a keyword and find your product.

Generally speaking, a Super-URL is the most detectable and requiring a customer to search, locate, and purchase is the least detectable.

The Discounted and Free Product Dilemma

One of the most effective ways to drive external traffic to your listings is through couponing and promotions. As many know, Amazon allows you to offer coupons and promotions from within Seller Central.

There’s an old saying that the quickest way to make a million dollars in revenue is to sell $20 bills for $1 each. A similar axiom is true with Amazon: the quickest way to sell a lot of products is to give them away for free or heavily discounted.

amazon promotions tab

Amazon has many different promotional tactics you can use to help promote your products from within Seller Central.

Giving away products explicitly in return for product reviews used to be a credible product launch strategy but Amazon banned incentivized reviews in  2016. However, giving free/discounted products is still a totally acceptable strategy as long as it’s not contingent on the customer leaving a product review. There’s a lot of resurrected giveaway services such as Viral Launch providing these services. This accomplishes two things: it gets you sales for your products (increasing your sales velocity) AND more sales mean more opportunity for product reviews.

There are two problems with discounted and free products though. The first problem is that products purchased at a 25-50% discount typically do not get a ‘verified’ product review badge. The importance of this badge can be debated but unverified reviews do seem to have a propensity to be deleted during Amazon review purges.

amazon verified review badge

Products purchased with a 25-50% discount code typically do not get a “Verified” review badge.

The second problem is with free/discounted products is that normally you’re sending customers there through external traffic which means you are not getting any keyword conversion credit. There’s also some suspicion that discounted purchases do not get as much credit as full price purchases but so far there’s nothing definitive to support this.

What Does It Mean to Rank on Page 1?

We all know that having a product ranking on page 1 is critical and hopefully after reading this article you have a better chance of getting your products to page 1. However, how many products are displayed on page 1 varies depending on a number of variables including category, keyword, and device.

Pro-Tip: There is an infinite number of Amazon keyword tracking SaaS products available. As someone who is both very cheap and also a data freak I personally love using SEO Tools for Excel. Sellics and Helium 10 are popular choice as well.

Typically, the number of items displayed on page 1 varies from 24 to 54 items. This means that having an item ranking #25 for a keyword can sometimes be OK while sometimes it’s terrible. This is one drawback to most keyword position tracking tools: they normally track position, not the page position. It’s worth performing keyword searches manually for your top keywords, ideally on different devices, to see what the search results for your search terms look like.

Conclusion

It would be nice to think that Amazon is so sophisticated as to always rank the best products the best. The truth of it is, Amazon’s search algorithm is still developing and tricks and black hat tactics often still have a positive impact on search rankings. Hopefully, this article has given you some insight into how to rank your items using some of these lesser-known tactics.

What is your experience keyword ranking on Amazon? Are there any tactics I overlooked or simply got wrong? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

  • About The Author: Dave Bryant

    Dave Bryant has been importing from China for over 10 years and has started numerous product brands. He sold his multi-million dollar ecommerce business in 2016 and create another 7-figure business within 18 months. He's also a former Amazon warehouse employee of one week.

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10 Comments

  • Ray
    October 24, 2018 Reply

    Dave, amazing content in your post. Avid podcaster listener here! I am VERY curious if you have any insight or thoughts on this--- When driving external traffic into Amazon, I use rotating URLS (Zonpages is great for his) via Storefront Super URL. I am very curious if you know if the traffic is QUALIFIED against USA traffic with Amazon accounts (Avg CPC around $0.30-0.40) vs UN-QUALIFIED (No Amazon account, just clicks for the sake of clicks to URL) via Poor Country targeting (Avg CPC around $0.01) just to drive RAW numbers to the account. I have tested both briefly but it's been largely inconclusive and I wanted to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks kindly!

    • Dave Bryant
      November 5, 2018 Reply

      Hey Ray - thanks for the comments. From any of the reports I've seen they're not qualifying it to that level of granularity although I could be wrong. Be careful of course not to kill your conversion rates by sending too much low converting traffic.

  • Jeff G
    October 29, 2018 Reply

    Dave, great post! What are your thoughts/strategies when it comes to the backend data beyond the search terms such as Target Audience, Subject Matter, Intended Use, etc. Are these fields you have found tricks to further enhance the relevancy of your products?

    • Dave Bryant
      November 7, 2018 Reply

      Sorry for the late reply Jeff. As far as relevancy I don't know conclusively (they've never impacted anything in my experience) but one can imagine they matter potentially for some modifiers such as running shoes for MEN.

  • Tommy D
    December 23, 2018 Reply

    "it’s forbidden to send traffic directly from Facebook to an Amazon page"

    Do you have a link to this policy? I never knew of this.

    • Dave Bryant
      December 26, 2018 Reply

      It's an Amazon associates policy (at least it was previously) not a seller central policy.

  • James Wakefield
    January 4, 2019 Reply

    Hi Dave, great article. Volumetrics is now offline due to Amazon's recent policy change on search volume data. Are there any other reliable sources that you would recommend?

    • Dave Bryant
      January 8, 2019 Reply

      Hi James - unfortunately the backdoor has been closed for all of the client based programs and I *believe* for server based software tools too. I'm looking into it though.

  • Christopher
    July 9, 2019 Reply

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the great post, very insightful. I saw in the EBC section you mentioned that Amazon claims there's a 10% increase in conversions - where can I find the source of this stat?

    Thanks in advance!

    Best,
    Christopher

    • Dave Bryant
      July 24, 2019 Reply

      It was in one of their old marketing materials. I don't have a link for it now.

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