Selling on Amazon

3 Steps to Improving Your Rank on Amazon

Learn how to improve your chances of ranking highly on Amazon’s search results page for your products.

Disclaimer:  There are many “gray-hat” and “black-hat” techniques for ranking higher on Amazon based on “search-and-find” conversions based on relevant search terms.  This post will NOT cover those tactics.  Most, if not all of these tactics are considered by Amazon to be “rank manipulation” and can create significant risk to the seller's account.  These tactics vary in degrees of effectiveness and overtime become obsolete as the Amazon algorithms seek, find, and destroy the methods used.  If you ever come across an article, video, guide, tool, or service promoting one of these tactics – use with extreme caution and understand the risks involved in doing so.

 3 Steps to Improving Your Page Rank on Amazon

There’s a common joke among Amazon sellers:

Question: “Where’s the best place to hide a dead body on Amazon”

Answer: “Page 2”

In other words, the likelihood of making sales increases greatly when you are on page one because most shoppers on Amazon will not scan for a product past the first page.  

While it is true that the majority of page views and sales will occur for those positioned on page one, if your product is in a high-demand main category with a relatively stratified sub-category, you can also gain enough sales to be profitable when on page two.  

One such category would be baby clothes.  The baby category is always in high demand, and has many medium to high demand sub-categories.  

There is significant market depth in offerings (sizes, colors, bundle options).  This gives a seller a better opportunity to position themselves on page one for medium and long-tail search terms because shoppers may very well be searching for specific sizes, colors, and patterns.  

For example, look at some of the different variations in colors and patterns that come up when you search for “baby girl onesie 9-12 months”

Example of Baby Clothes Variations on Amazon

Regardless of where or what you’re selling however, the crowning achievement for any seller is to ultimately win a spot on page one.  So how is this done?  

The 3 Components to Ranking

There is no “secret” about the basic components of ranking on Amazon (or anywhere else online, actually).  

It all comes down to these 3 things:

  1. Exposure
  2. Clicks
  3. Conversions

In the context of ranking on Amazon, this means:

  1. A Customer Search in the Amazon Search Box  (a shopper searches for a product using a search term or main keyword such as “blue womens ski jacket”)
  2. Impressions (Your listing is displayed to the shopper in the search results page – “SERP”) 
  3. Click-Through ( a user clicks on your listing or sponsored (ppc) ad),  
  4. Sessions (the shopper actually visits and scrolls through your listing), and 
  5. Conversions (the shopper adds your product to their cart and checks out to complete the purchase, or they one-click instant buy the product).

Here’s how you can improve your chance of ranking on Amazon’s SERP:

Step 1: Exposure

You need to have people see your listing.  The more eyes on your listing the better.  

The “million-dollar question” is: How do I get people to search and locate my product?

This is where Amazon Sponsored Ads (PPC) can help new sellers because it will be the primary source of impressions on your listing, especially if you’re a new seller.  

The more exposure you have from external sources can also improve your impressions.  When deploying this strategy, it is highly recommended that you deploy a sales funnel strategy to reduce the chance for “tire-kicking” clicks (where the shopper clicks out of curiosity to learn more, but has no intention of following through to make a purchase).  

Direct your external traffic to a landing page that introduces your product to the customer and tells a compelling “brand story.”  Then place a call-to-action to purchase through your Amazon listing.  This will help protect on-page conversion rates on your listing.

If your product is brand registered, you can take advantage of your Amazon store and attributed links.  You can promote your store link externally through Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.  With link attribution, you can then track your conversions and gain valuable sales data.  This will help you maximize your ad budgets and improve sales efficiency.

Step 2: Clicks

Getting people to see your listing is one thing, but then you need to get them to click the listing or ad so they can purchase your product!

What gets a shopper to click on your listing?  There are four main components:

  1. Product Title.  Your product title should ideally be no longer than 150 characters but can be up to 200 characters.  This includes spaces.  There are specific title guidelines that Amazon recommends sellers follow to ensure the best experience for customers and for the ranking algorithms.  You can read all about those guidelines here in the Amazon Quick Start Style Guide
  2. Your main image should be high resolution, at least 1000px on one side, and “pixel-perfect”.  It should comply with all of Amazon’s rules and guidelines for the main image (such as a pristine white background, no logos/watermarks, no text).  
  3. Your price should be competitive.  If your product is price sensitive, the shopper will be looking at your product’s price in relation to the others.  It should match or be just a bit lower when you’re first launching especially.  Prices should always be tested and tested every so often as demand, supply and buyer sentiments shift. When testing, test in increments of 10% (up or down).  Keep in mind that Amazon DOES flag sellers for abusing price (price gouging) and frequently tracks average marketplace pricing for your product category.  If you end up hitting that max cap, you get a pricing alert and potentially have your listing suspended.
  4. Reviews and Ratings.  If your product is something that is expected to function and work a certain way, and quality is important to the shopper for this particular type of item – then shoppers will be looking at your star rating and feedback.  Many customers will now simply use the on-page filters for ratings of 4 stars and above (indicating a good quality product).  If you don’t have any reviews at all, then it is highly recommended you obtain your first 5 reviews through the Amazon Early Reviewer program and Vine (available through Brand Registry only).  Otherwise, you can use the “request for feedback” tool within your Seller Central messaging dashboard and request for feedback that way.  Remember that star ratings reflect not just reviews left, but “star ratings” as well.  You could technically receive five “5-star” ratings, but only 2 customer reviews, which display on your product listing in the customer reviews section.
Here is an example of a product that checks off all these metrics, for the search term “power bank”
Anker is Amazon's top selling FBA brand.  They specialize in selling electronic charging devices for cell phones and other electronic devices.  It is a highly competitive market, and Amazon itself has its own private label brands in the mix.  To be able to rank highly requires a solid product and high-quality listing.
Example of a High Quality Listing (Anker Power Bank)

In addition to the top of the listing content, Anker also is brand registered, which means they can utilize “A+” (enhanced branded) content.  This content replaces the standard text description that is available to sellers without brand registry.  Amazon reports an increase in conversion rates when listings have A+ content on the page. 

Here is what Anker's A+ content looks like for this particular product:

Example of A+ Content on Amazon (Anker Brand)

 Step 3: Conversion

Now we get down to the king of ranking.  Conversions.  This is where the shopper picks your product as the “winner” and purchases it. 

There is no “secret sauce” to converting an impression and click-through to an eventual purchase.  

It comes down to you convincing the shopper that your product is the best choice out of all the other options in the marketplace.

When a shopper is on your listing, they are going to evaluate the four main components that motivated them to click on your listing to begin with:

  1. Title (it should be desktop and mobile SEO friendly, accurate, and follow Amazon’s guidelines)
  2. Images (You should have at least 7 images total, with a mix of lifestyle/in-use images and detailed “infographics”)
  3. Price (to help entice shoppers, consider offering a coupon/voucher)
  4. Ratings/Reviews 

After re-evaluating these metrics, once they get to your listing, they are also going to look and consider the following on the listing detail page:

  1. Prime Eligibility (do you have the prime badge and “buy it now” – how fast can they get it?)
  2. In-Stock (is your product available to purchase right now?)
  3. Well-written and search-engine-optimized feature bullets that accurately describe your product’s main features and benefits (are you accurately explaining your product? Remember that shoppers cannot hold, feel, smell, or otherwise interact with your product – so how can you do this through words?)
  4. A well-written and search-engine-optimized description (preferably you should be using “enhanced branded content” – available to brand registered sellers only).
  5. In the backend of your listing, you should also have complete, accurate, and well-written metadata (this will be located in your keywords data tab and more details tab of your listing).

The Algorithm

A Disclaimer: Amazon’s ad and search algorithms are patented and proprietary in nature. They are based on “Machine Learning” technology, and while they are programmed by humans, the algorithms are entirely machine (computer)-driven.

No one other than Amazon and their development team know the *actual* formulation used to rank products.  
Additionally, the algorithms are programmed to continually adjust and adapt based on several factors such as time of day, geographic location of shoppers, the individual shopper being advertised to and their unique preferences/purchasing behavior. 

A shopper searching for “power bank” in North Carolina at 5 pm EST, may see a different result than a shopper in Colorado searching for “power bank”  at 5 pm EST (for example).
If there were ever a case where a seller were able to “solve” the formula in its entirety, they would most definitely have an unfair competitive advantage.  

The Algorithms work continuously on ensuring a “fair marketplace” where no seller has a *technical* advantage over the other.  In other words, sellers compete solely against each other on the merits of their product, demand, pricing, and product listing quality.  This is not to say, of course, that there are still sellers that manipulate the system and deploy tactics which temporarily give them advantages.  This is an unfortunate but real fact of doing business on Amazon.  Whether or not you, as a seller and business owner decide to pursue down this path will be a question of your own personal ethics and the capacity to take on the business and legal liabilities associated with deploying these strategies.

The Ranking Process

When a shopper searches for a product using a main keyword or search phrase, and clicks on your listing and makes a purchase, the search algorithms log that information, and this gets factored into a “score” that helps determine your ranking.  

The algorithm takes into consideration all the metrics above plus several others (like where the shopper was located, how they made the purchase, time spent on the page, how long the product sat in the cart before checkout, what other items they purchased with your item, etc.)

The more times you convert on the same search terms and keyword phrases shoppers use, the higher you climb in page rank over time.  

The speed and rate for which this happens has a lot to do with *sales velocity* on conversions in relation to the other sellers *in your product sub-category* for the same period of time.  Usually Amazon calculates these metrics on an hourly basis. 

For example, if you sell 10 widgets in the tools category in a 24 hour time frame, for the main search term “blue widgets” – and your competitors sell on average 5 widgets for the same search term, your velocity is higher and therefore, you can gain rank position on this search term. 

If the conversion happened on a paid ad placement, the ad algorithm would “count” the shopper’s search term and conversion on that term as it would as an organic sale, which means you got credit for the search the same as if you were organically positioned in the SERP.

Pro Tips

  1. If you're just starting out on Amazon, and looking to rank your product, be sure you know a bit about your competition first and do a full “SWOT” (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis of your page one competitors.  
  2. Carefully review their listing content from top to bottom.  Note how they are writing their titles and descriptions, and the overall quality of their images.  Are there areas where you could improve on the listing quality?  What is depth in terms of pricing and reviews?  What do shoppers say?  Read the 3 star and below reviews and note what their common complaints are.  Be sure you don't make the same mistakes as your competitors or else your product will be “Dead on Arrival”!
  3. Test the market in a controlled “sand-boxed” setting outside of Amazon to validate demand, through your own website store or Shopify.  Drive controlled traffic through Google, Facebook, and Pinterest to test interest and engagement.  
  4. Consider registering your brands' trademark before listing your product for sale on the Amazon marketplace, so that when you do go to sign up and list, you will be able to apply for brand registry and have instant access to all of the marketing tools and benefits only available to registered brand owners.  This will help you in protecting your listing from counterfeit abuse, listing “hijacking”, and give you access to the Early Reviewer and Vine programs (helpful in getting your first reviews).  

In Conclusion

Ranking on Amazon, either through paid or unpaid searches, will be an important consideration if you wish to drive impressions/traffic to your product listings and increase your opportunity for a sale.  

One of the most important things you can focus on to improve your chances for ranking highly in your product’s category, is to ensure you have a listing that is optimized for the best shopping experience possible for your prospective customer.

Remember that just because you’re placed on page one, ultimately does not guarantee thousands of sales.   Depending on the competitiveness of your category and the product mix served on your main keywords and search terms, you may still struggle to get sales.  This speaks directly to the overall demand for your product, the existing competition, and the shopping behaviors of your target customers.   

Ultimately, your ability to rank on Amazon will be contingent on many factors  – some that will be mostly out of your direct control.  Always focus on what you can control – which is delivering an outstanding product that people want; and focus on validated and proven advertising strategies to boost your traffic and clicks.

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