E189: Advanced Amazon A9 SEO Strategies

Hey everyone! Dave here going solo for this episode. Mike is down with a terrible cold after a couple of Las Vegas speaking engagements, so he might miss the podcast for a while.

For this episode, we'll uncover the mystery that is Amazon A9. If you've been selling on Amazon for a while, you probably have a basic understanding of how SEO for Amazon works. But with the crazy competition from prominent companies and obscure Chinese sellers alike, how do you really propel your products to the top?

This episode ties in with a recently published article that dives deep on how Amazon A9 SEO works and the strategies to take full advantage of it.

As a sneak peek, here are some discussion points for this episode:

  • How rankings are most often determined by relevancy and conversions
  • What makes a listing relevant to Amazon with respect to keywords
  • What the “hall pass” of new listings is
  • How to create converting listings
  • How to optimize your Amazon product listings

If you want a deeper look at how this all works and how you can apply it for yourself, check out our latest article on advanced Amazon A9 SEO strategies. In the article I share a bunch of advanced SEO tactics for Amazon, strategies even the “courses” won’t teach you.

If you liked this episode or found it helpful, we'd be stoked if you left us a review on iTunes.

Thanks for listening to this episode! Until the next one, happy selling.

Full Audio Transcript

Dave: Welcome to Episode 189 of the EcomCrew Podcast. Today it is yours truly Dave Bryant doing today's episode solo. In today's episode, we are going to talk about A9. For those of you not familiar, A9 is Amazon's fancy word that they have given to their search algorithm. So, today I want to talk a little bit about how A9 works. I reveal a few different trends and strategies and new information that's come out about A9, and at the end of the day, how to better optimize your listings to get higher rankings on Amazon.

Now, in addition to today's podcast, you can also head over to EcomCrew.com/AmazonA9 and see a whole lot right up about today's topic. There's some nifty graphics there that you can check out which kind of help you better visualize some of the concepts that we're talking today.

Hey guys. In today's episode, we are going to talk about search engine optimization for everyone's favorite search engine in the world, which is of course, no, not Google. It's Amazon. So in today's episode, I'm going to talk about some different tactics, strategies, and trends in SEO for Amazon. And my goal is that everyone listening will get at least one or two different takeaways that they can apply to their own product listings on Amazon.

So, as you may or may not know Amazon's name for their search algorithm is called A9. And I believe if you go to A9.com, there actually is a website set up just for Amazon's search algorithm. Now, like all search algorithms, Amazon does not like to say a whole lot about how it works and how it functions. But using a variety of different strategies, we can decipher how Amazon's algorithm is working. And thankfully, we have a couple sneaky little things at our disposal.

The first one is this real world experience running Amazon businesses for a long time. And the second one is that Amazon employees over in China have done us a great favor of leaking some internal reports, basically revealing what types of things Amazon is tracking. So, I'll get to both of these things here in a second. Now, let's give a little broad overview of how search engine optimization works for Amazon. Now if you're like me, and you’re a typical listener of EcomCrew, you probably have a fairly robust background in internet marketing.

And when I first started on Google, search engine optimization was kind of the thing of the day. And with Google search engine optimization, the real thing that matters is relevancy. So, if you're designing an article trying to rank for best e-commerce podcast, well, it's important that the page that you're trying to rank is the most relevant for that search term. Now, with Amazon, obviously it's a little bit different, because Amazon is actually a retail store and so they sell things. And not only is delivering relevancy key for them, also delivering sales on to their bottom line is also important.

So, the way to think of Amazon A9 is relevancy plus conversion equals high rankings. And you probably kind of know that. But what exactly does relevancy mean with Amazon? Well, Amazon has actually done us a real big favor and actually spelled out what exactly relevancy means and how you make a relevant listing. And they've explained this in the Amazon advertising API. Now, the Amazon advertising API has been a real treasure trove of useful information. Not only have they defined relevancy for us, they've also given us real keyword data. A lot of tools right now will actually deliver to you real world Amazon keyword volume.

But along with this they've, like I mentioned, they are actually defining relevancy for us. So Amazon defines relevancy as this, 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 that keyword.

So, based on this definition, we can take away a couple things. Number one, Amazon is looking at keywords of course, and where they appear in the listing. And they basically say that keywords in the title are more important than keywords in the description and we kind of already know that. If you're even an intermediate seller, you kind of know that keywords and titles mean more than keywords in the description. But the interesting thing here is that Amazon is actually saying that in the description not only does it matter if the keyword is present, what also matters is that the keyword or the density of the keyword in that description.

So, if you're selling a garlic press, and you mentioned garlic press once in your description, well you're going to get some points for that, but it appears that you get more and more points the more often that you mention that keyword in your description. Now, truth be told, in my opinion, how you use keywords is not necessarily all that important for ranking your items, especially in the long term. The most important part is that last part, how often customers are purchasing the products they found using this particular keyword.

And we know 100% that Amazon is tracking the probability that somebody goes on to buy a product after the search for a keyword. And we know this not just from intuition, but because of these leaked reports that Amazon employees in China and elsewhere are leaking to the public. So, if you head on over to EcomCrew.com/AmazonA9, we have a couple of screenshots of these reports. And anyways, for the people listening in their car or listening on a jog, or wherever they are that can access the website, I'll just give you a quick visualization of this report.

So, this report basically has three different columns and its report again, internally from Amazon that Amazon is tracking themselves. And basically, it's listing a bunch of keywords and then the probability that somebody went on to purchase a particular ASIN along with the probability they went on to purchase that ASIN, they're also tracking the probability that person added it to their cart. So this is interesting because we can see that Amazon explicitly is tracking conversion rates per keyword. And that makes sense if you think about it.

The other interesting thing is that Amazon is also tracking the percentage of the time that somebody actually adds an item to the cart not necessarily goes on to purchase that item. And we can debate why Amazon is tracking that for a number of different reasons. But regardless, we can see from these leak reports that Amazon's checkout abandonment rate is almost zero percent. And that's absolutely horrifying because as somebody who's running ecommerce website for many, many years and has a cart abandonment rates around 70 to 80%, the fact that Amazon basically has a zero percent cart abandonment rate is scary and well it'd be nice to me in their position, to be able to run a website and have a zero percent cart abandonment rate.

But nevertheless, I digress. So what does this all mean in terms of optimizing our listings? If Amazon seems to care most about simply keyword conversion rates, does it even really matter to actually try to optimize our listings and put keywords in the titles and descriptions in that type of thing? And the answer is, of course, yes, it does matter. Number one, because conversion rate is almost undoubtedly the most important factor in Amazon's ranking algorithm, but it's not the only factor and keyword density and location is also going to matter.

However, keyword optimization and listings also matters during one particularly critical time of the lifecycle of your listing. And that's in the first month or so that you actually make a listing live. And people have called this first month or so the so called honeymoon period. I've seen other people call it the hall pass period. Anyways, what this so called honeymoon period means is that during the first month or so of your listening going live, Amazon looks more heavily upon the different keywords in the listing and location of them and the density of them more so — or not more so than, but gives you a little bit of a benefit of the doubt over conversion rates during that first 30 days.

So after 30 days, Amazon is only going to really look at your conversion rate. But during the first 30 days, they're going to look at basically the keywords in your listing and try to make an educated guess about how relevant a listing is for a particular keyword. And that's why this so called honeymoon period is so important. And when you're first launching a product, it is absolutely important that you do not waste this honeymoon period and you launch all your listings with a bang. This means that they need to be optimized from the get go. You got to have your various keywords in your titles, in your descriptions and like Amazon's definition pointed out to us, you need to make sure that there's proper density of them in the description not just being present.

The other thing that you want to keep in mind is that if you're launching a new product, you're probably like me and you add listing and you basically make it live even before you actually have stock when you should not do that. You need to really make sure that your listings don't go live until you actually have them in stock. And that basically means that in your fields, when you're setting up your product, there's something called the launch date or the start selling date. And you need to make sure that that start selling date is in the future, it's not immediate, otherwise that honeymoon period is basically going to start the second that you put your listing live, the second you uploaded or added into Amazon.

So make sure that you are not making your products live until you actually have them ready to sell. And what you do — so I'm recording this podcast in October 2018. Right now, let's pretend that my products aren't going to be here until January, what I would do is I would put my launch date as February, some absurd amount of time beyond where I expect to receive those products. And then once I have them in stock, then I'll just put the launch date as the present day, and the present day that those items are available for sale. And that way I don't burn out my honeymoon period.

So this brings up the point now of keyword research. What's the best way to do keyword research for your products? Now, there are a number of great keyword research tools out there. All Your Metrics [ph] is my favorite one. That's from our good buddy [inaudible 00:11:11] who's actually also an EcomCrew Premium member. And these keyword tools will give you real world keyword data for the last 30 days on Amazon. Not estimates, they are actual real numbers. And Amazon at some point is going to close this backdoor. So make sure that you are getting this keyword data right now while you can before Amazon closes this back door and stops revealing actual keyword data.

Now, with that being said though, in my opinion, keyword data research is the most important before you even source the product. After you've sourced a product and you're adding it to Amazon, it's kind of too late. Like I mentioned, I mean you have this honeymoon period where your keyword density and presence get some more clout than usual, but overall Amazon is simply going to look upon the conversion rate of different keywords and not really how well you are stuffing them in your listing. Now, where a keyword research really matters, though, is that you can identify some long tail keywords where you can actually source products from.

So, using everybody's favorite search term, our example product, a garlic press. So, if you do a search for garlic press on one of these Amazon keyword tools, we can see garlic press gets around 35,000 search results. But stainless steel garlic press only gets about 1100 search results. Now, if you try selling a plastic garlic press and try ranking it for stainless steel, garlic press, well, you're never going to rank for that because nobody is ever going to buy your plastic garlic press when they're looking for a stainless steel garlic press. So trying to optimize for that keyword doesn't matter. I mean, ultimately, let's try to give Amazon some credit and say that their search engine algorithm is working somewhat decently and they're not going to rank a highly irrelevant product as relevant.

But if you haven't even sourced these products yet, well hey, maybe a stainless steel garlic press is a great product to source because we can see that people are actually searching for these items and not a lot of competitors are offering them. So, doing keyword research before you’ve even searched or even sourced a product is by far the most critical time. After the fact, after you have the product in your hands, you can't start turning your plastic garlic press into a stainless steel garlic press, you can't really optimize for it. You have to think about these things before you even source your products.

The other important tidbit about keyword research is that way back when I was a lot young lad, you used to be able to basically trick Amazon and put your product in an irrelevant category, and have an artificially high BSR. So you have your garlic press and you listed in something like a kayaks category, and kayaks have a lot much less competition and you need a far lower sales volume to have your item ranking high with a high BSR. Well, this trick not only does it not really work anymore, it can absolutely sabotage your listing and for a couple of reasons.

First, Amazon no longer allows you to list an item in multiple categories. You have to list it in one category. And second is that Amazon has certain keywords which are category dependent. That means that if you list for example, a garlic press in the kayak category, what will happen is that Amazon will never allow you to rank for a garlic press in the kayak category. Why would somebody searching for a kayak all of a sudden want a garlic press? Me and Mike were talking about this actually a couple of days ago where we had both experiences firsthand. We sell a particular tent, it's basically for a vehicle, and we had listed this product in a vehicle category.

And what happened is if we could never rank for the keyword tent. The only time that it appears that you can rank for the keyword tent is — get this, when you're in the tent category. Now, this was a crossover product. You can kind of categorize it as a vehicle accessory or a tent product. But the point was that Amazon wouldn't allow us to rank for the word tent unless we were in the tent category. Mike experienced the same thing with one of his books. He tried to put his book, one of his books in the arts and crafts category, but it could not rank for the word book unless he was in the books category.

So, the takeaway here is, do not try to trick Amazon by miscategorizing your item because you can really do a doozy on the ranking of your items. So make sure that you categorize items correctly. Now, if you're reading outdated information about tricking Amazon, putting things in different categories, don't do it. Okay, so that takes care of the relevancy component of Amazon's A9 search algorithm. The other critical part is conversion rate. Remember relevancy plus conversion rate equals rankings. So, conversion rates are as we all know, that's the percentage of time that somebody goes on to purchase the item.

The first thing that you need to do to determine if you have a good or a bad conversion rate is to figure out what your conversion rate is. And you can do this for free through Seller Central, through your reports section on the top header navigation and then scroll down to business reports. And I think it's called item detail page metrics or something along those lines, and determine what your unit session percentage is, which is basically Amazon's lingo for conversion rate.

We get EcomCrew premium members all the time asking us to do a listing review. And that's the first thing that we always do is say, okay, tell us how many how many views did you have over a month and what was your conversion rate during that month? And we need to determine, do you have a traffic problem or do you have a conversion problem. And benchmarks for what a good conversion rate is, obviously it depends upon the product. If you're selling a $10 product compared to $1,000 product, well, the $10 product is going to have a far higher conversion rate than the $1,000 product. So, it is a little bit product dependent.

In our experience, a 15% plus conversion rate is good, a 20% plus is really good. If you're below 10%, no matter what product you have, you probably have room for improvement. So that's the first thing you can do is figure out, okay, what's your conversion rate. Now, when it comes to conversion rates, the most important thing is price. And that makes sense. Amazon is a low price marketplace. We did some statistical analysis a few months back, reviewed the prices of I think 1,500 different listings. And basically, we found that the top three listings for any product category have a price that is 20% lower than the average of all the other products. So what we can take away from this is that if you want to rank high, you need to have a price that's approximately 20% lower than average. And that's key.

Now there is there is a lot of variance in that number. There's a lot of exceptional cases. There are certain categories where through our data; we can see the top ranked items were actually higher price. But overall, you want your items to be lower than average in terms of price and ideally around 20% lower than average. The same thing goes again, if you go to EcomCrew.com/AmazonA9, you can see the full stats there ranks 24 to 20. The items are above 6% lower than average. And then once you start getting into 20 plus, ranking of 20 plus, the prices begin to get higher than average. So that's the big key here is that you need to have a low price

Now after price, there's some debate about what the most important thing is. Is it reviews or is it photos and video? Now, I'm going to deliberately tiptoe around reviews. Reviews is a whole other topic for another podcast, probably another company, so I'm not going to talk about reviews. Obviously having good reviews and lots of reviews is important for your listings, but let's just ignore that topic just for the sake of brevity for this podcast, and let's just talk about photos and enhanced brand content.

Photos, having great photos is the number one conversion rate killer that I see personally especially reviewing premium members’ listings to have three or four photos. And almost just as bad as only having three or four photos, the three or four photos that they have are simply products on a white background. That doesn't cut it anymore in Amazon's marketplace. You need to be having some type of infographic in your listings.

I always say that the four biggest that you should have on every listing is number one, a photo on a black, or a white background. That's just kind of your TOS compliant main gallery image, and Amazon is cracking down especially in certain categories about non TOS compliant main gallery images. So, at some point or another, you do need to get rid of all that text and other TOS violating gibberish that you have on your main gallery images.

Now, the next one that's important is having an infographic, basically a picture of your item. And then a bunch of different bullet points on that picture showing the key features of that product and the key benefits. The other thing is you need a lifestyle photo. Have a lifestyle photo of your item in action. So, if it's a garlic press, show somebody pressing garlic, if it's a dumbbell, show somebody carrying that dumbbell, some type of lifestyle photograph. And the other one is some product specifications pictures. So, just a photo of your product and then also a list of the key specifications of that product. So, if it's a dumbbell, again, the weight, the dimensions of that dumbbell and that type of thing.

Now, the other thing instead of — or not instead of but in addition to photos is enhanced brand content. Now, enhanced brand content is kind of a weird one. Now, Amazon says that EBC as cool people refer to it as will increase your conversion rate by 10%. Now the truth of it is, I personally have never seen EBC really move the needle at all in terms of conversion rates. Now, this is going to be heresy for a lot of people. And there's probably people listening to this podcast right now or hanging on their radio or their iPhone and saying, no, no, no, EBC is the be all, the end all for conversion rates.

In my statistical analysis of the listings where we've applied EBC, basically the difference has been negative drop of 0.14% in terms of conversion rates. And that's probably not a statistically significant number; it basically means that there's been no movement in our conversion rates before or after applying enhanced brand content. And that kind of makes sense. People don't read below the fold. And that's why people don't read descriptions. It's below the fold on an Amazon listing the majority of the time. EBC is below the fold.

Now one area though, where EBC really does matter is in videos. Now, videos aren't part of A plus content, what people traditionally refer to as EBC, but videos now are part of enhanced brand content and anyone that is brand registered can add videos to their listings. And videos are absolutely huge for increasing the conversion rates of your products. So you can get brand registered and being brand registered is not as easy as it used to be given the fact that you need to be trademarked now. But if you can get brand registered and you can add a video to your listing, you are going to really help your conversion rate. So, I highly recommend that if you can get a video of your product and add it to your listing.

Now, a couple of other things to look at besides relevancy and conversion rates. First off, you need to be looking at the sales velocity of your products. Ideally you want to have an upward trend on the sales velocity of your products, you want them to be selling consistently more and more and not consistently less and less. You want to go from one sale a day to two sales a day to three sales a day, and so on. So, you want to have kind of an upward trend in sales velocity.

The other thing that appears to be important according to Amazon's A9 algorithm and we can see this from some of these leaked Amazon reports is that Amazon is absolutely tracking the source of traffic to your product listings. And that means that they're not only tracking how people got to your listings from within Amazon, they're also tracking to see how much of that traffic is coming from external sources. So what we can infer is that Amazon likes it when people send outside traffic to their listings. And that makes sense. It's kind of like having a product in a Wal-Mart or a Whole Foods.

Those stores want you to have your own marketing campaigns and send people into their stores to buy your items. So same thing with Amazon, they want you to be finding your customers and sending them to your Amazon listings. So, sending external traffic to Amazon listings is a very — I'm not going to say critical component of ranking but it's definitely going to help. In fact, on our website now for our products, what we do is we actually give people the option to buy it on our website, but more importantly, we also give them the option to go a link directly to the Amazon listing, so they can go to Amazon and buy it.

And I hate doing this, I hate basically sending our traffic that we fought to get and we've paid to get and sending them to an Amazon listing where I'm going to have to pay 15% commission rate. I hate doing that, but it does appear to help tremendously with ranking your items. So, if you can send external traffic to your product listings, and then also have them purchasing those items, it's really going to help your rankings. Now, kind of to wrap things up here, hopefully you're listening to this podcast over and over again and all of a sudden, you have a number one ranking item on Amazon, or at least a first page ranking item on Amazon. Now that brings up an important point, what does it mean to rank on page one on Amazon?

With Google, it used to be really easy, that would mean that you'd have a top 10 listing. Now, that doesn't matter as much anymore because Google is kind of playing with how many search results they deliver on a page and normally it's well beyond 10 results per page. With Amazon it's kind of the same way. They are very elastic on how many different search results they show on one page of the search results listings. So, it kind of ranges anywhere from around 24 items on a page to 54 items. And that depends upon device category, keyword, and some other factors. But the point is that page one can mean anything from 24 items, or it can mean anything to rank in the top 54 items.

But being page one is obviously very important. You want to be on page one instead of page two. So, what I recommend you to do is for the top keywords that you're targeting, go and do a search on Amazon. See how many search results that there on that page, do it on your laptop or your desktop and then go to your phone, and do a search for that keyword. And again, see how many listings are on that page. Just get an idea of what you're going for because again, a number 25 ranked item could be really good for a keyword that's a 54 item per page keyword, or it could be really bad if you're on a 24 item per page keyword. So, take a look and see at least kind of what success looks like in terms of what rank you want to be at.

So that kind of wraps up some tips and tricks and trends in Amazon SEO. I hope that you guys found that useful. And if you head over to EcomCrew.com/AmazonA9, there's a whole blog article write up about ranking on Amazon. A lot of this stuff is pretty visual. So there's a lot of graphics there that will help you kind of make better SEO decisions when it comes to Amazon. And until the next episode, happy selling.

Okay guys, that's a wrap. As I mentioned in the intro, you can head over to EcomCrew.com/AmazonA9 and that will link you to our full search engine optimization for Amazon article. Like I mentioned before, there's lots of good tidbits and graphics on that page, so I highly recommend checking it out. You can also head over to EcomCrew.com/189 and you can post any comments there as well.

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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