Amazon Search Optimisation: The Usurper of Search

Day one of SEO training and you come away learning one thing, Google own search… But what if it doesn’t? Well at least when it comes to eCommerce. I’m here to show you how Amazon rose to overtake Google and share with you how to use Amazon search optimisation to rank higher on Amazon.

Who the hell is this guy trying to challenge the all-powerful Google?

Hey! I was just as surprised as you, but when you see figure 1 and figure 2, this brings us into a strange new world, where Google is second best.Graph showing where shoppers start a search 2015

Figure 1 where shoppers start their search 2015

Graph showing where shoppers start a search 2016

Figure 2 where shoppers start their search 2016

9/10 retail customers go to Amazon after they’ve found the product on your site. 45% of the UK search on Amazon before they use Google and in the US it’s 52%. This coupled with the rise of voice search, where Amazon are again killing it, means we as SEOs need to be prepared.

How is Amazon killing it in voice?

  • They have sold more than 5.1 million smart speakers in the US since launch in 2014.
  • Amazon account for circa 90% of all voice shopping spend.
  • Over 70% of people who did a voice search last year used Alexa.

To give you some perspective, Will Reynolds recently announced on LinkedIn that less than 1% of his client’s enquiries starts with “Ok Google”.

We need to get on board with Amazon search optimisation now, because by 2020 there will be 24.1 million smart speakers in the US alone and by 2019 the voice recognition market will be worth $601 million.

Here’s what you need to know about Amazon SEO.

The top 20% of retailers make 80% of the revenue and Amazon’s A9 and A10’s algorithm uses conversion rate, relevance and customer satisfaction to rank products.…Sound familiar?

Do Amazon care that their algorithms are massively behind Google’s? Not in the slightest. Why? Because Amazon’s main priority is targeting visitors with products that will most likely result in a purchase. They push the best performing products to the top to increase their exposure, enabling more sales. This leads me on to a little known fact about Amazon…. Amazon holds no loyalty to its sellers. How do I know? Try putting Asics into Amazon. They’ve been a long-term customer, they supply directly to Amazon but what’s the first thing that appears at the top of the search? A New Balance running shoe. Looking for batteries? You’d expect to see Duracell or Energiser up there, nope, just Amazon’s own brand, Amazon basics. I imagine if you’re in retail and not on Amazon, you maybe sweating just a little bit.

This is where I come in to help.

How to rank higher on Amazon

Now if you came late to SEO, you’ll have no idea what Google was like before Penguin or Panda. I’m here to show you that Amazon optimisation breaks down into four key factors and those factors will help you rank higher on Amazon:

  • Organic
  • Paid
  • CRO
  • …but what about links?

In terms of organic, content is king again and what you really need to focus on is your product – the devil is in the detail when it comes to your product title and your products description.

How to structure your title

  • Don’t stack keywords, use 2-3 and place them early in the title.
  • Use characters to turn your title into phrases.
  • Try to optimise your title readability by varying your title lengths for mobile and desktop (See below).
  • See Figure 3.

Amazon search result

Figure 3 The Organic top results for iPhone chargers 23/05/18

Title Text Lengths

  • For desktop organic results use around 115-144 characters.
  • For paid ads stick to around 30-33 characters.
  • For mobile titles keep them between 55-63 characters.

Mobile, like everything else in SEO is very important – Amazon users switch between searching on mobile and desktop all the time. Earlier this year, Amazon shoppers used mostly desktop, but now mobile searches are about 100,000 in front.

Back end search terms are by far the most important tool for organic ranking on Amazon. This is a great place to enter all the buyer keywords you may have not been able to fit in your product listing. It’s not visible to customers but is indexed by Amazon, so now is the time to stack keywords!

  • There are five fields to fill in – remember only 250 characters are indexed – try not to exceed this. If you do, make sure you start each field with the best keywords to ensure they are counted.
  • Make sure you include common misspellings but there’s no need to duplicate.
  • You don’t need to worry about punctuation, repetition, singular or plural words as Amazon already has got your back on this.

Amazon Keyword Research

For keyword research use the Amazon Keyword Tool. It’s free to use and gives you long tail keywords based on Amazon suggestions and can be used for organic and paid keywords as well.

Amazon PPC

This is the easiest way to drive your sales up on Amazon (Surprise, surprise Amazon is just like Google, you give it money and it helps you out). Not sure where to start? Start by creating manual PPC campaigns to target your keywords, then pump up the bids to drive exposure. Again, just like Google, running your paid activity for a short period at cost or even at a loss will be worth while to increase your organic ranking.The paid top results for iPhone chargers on Amazon

Figure 4 The Paid top results for iPhone chargers 23/05/18

See how much clearer the ads look on paid than they do in the organic top results? Nice short to the point ads. Creating a campaign is really simple as well.

  • You type in the campaign name, so you can monitor the results.
  • Add in how much your daily budget is (Min is £1).
  • Pick the dates you want your campaign to run.
  • Finally, you choose whether you want Amazon to target your ads on their data or you can configure this manually. I’d recommend the latter because nobody knows your customer as well as you do.

Now it’s time to set the key words you want to target – again, you have the choice to do this manually or automatically through Amazon. If you’ve used the keyword research tool from earlier, it’s time to use it again but now, like on AdWords, you can decide if you want the keywords to match exactly, broadly or as a phrase. A mixture of all three is the best way forward.

Now it’s time to see what the CPC for your keywords are and decide how much you’re willing to spend. What’s the best way to get conversion on your ads? Offer a deal.

You should always let your campaigns run for at least four weeks to get the best data you can from Amazon. After that four weeks, review what’s working and what’s not and amend your campaigns accordingly.

Now for CRO

  • Customer reviews: The higher your reviews, the higher Amazon is going to rank you. Like Google, you need to get a few reviews before Amazon starts to rank you against the bigger competitors. No one really can agree on the magic number but from what I’ve seen you need a minimum of 50.
  • Answered questions: These are essentially what blog posts are to your standard SEO content strategy. The best way to get these are to ask your customers what questions they have after buying your product (Also it’s a good way to try and get a review).
  • Image size and quality: I can’t stress this enough, these must be 1000 x1000 pixels so your buyer can zoom in and you need photos from all the angles of your product.
  • Price: Because Amazon values buyers over its sellers, it will always push the lowest price to the top, so you need to be auditing your competitors regularly to see what they are charging.
  • Exit rates: If someone looks at your product then immediately exits the Amazon site, Amazon is not going to be happy and will knock you down. Make sure you are in no way misleading buyers to avoid this.
  • Bounce rate: Same as the above, if someone lands on your product then leaves quickly to look at someone else’s, Amazon is going to see you as a hindrance to its buyers and penalise you.

But if Amazon is so much like Google then where do links play a role? In short, they don’t, they’ve been replaced with something that Amazon hold more dearly than any other factor. The quickest and easiest way to win at Amazon SEO is a sale.

Sales are Amazon’s equivalent to links. The more sales you have, the higher you’ll rank, and higher rankings lead to more sales – just like downloads for App store optimisaton. Outsell the competitors that outrank you for your keywords and you will shoot to the top. DO NOT be tempted to put through fake sales and fake reviews. Just like Google, Amazon hits you with penalties and these are a lot harder to get passed. You can’t even contact your buyers to offer them discounts directly without Amazon picking this up.

The scope of search in 2018

Figure 5 The scope of search in 2018

Now some of you may have seen the above chart and think this undercuts everything I’ve just said, but this chart only looks at search as a whole and doesn’t just focus on shoppers looking to buy products. When you take this into consideration, you get charts like figure 1 and 2.

Simpsons meme

In all honesty when it comes to eCommerce, Google is a lot like Abe Simpson here; a ton of knowledge and lots to shout about but no teeth, because what’s the point of Google if it’s not to make money?

Final thoughts

What to expect from Amazon’s A11:

  • Amazon will probably link with PayPal to cut down on black hat sales and reviews.
  • Content will probably be more precise, so stick to shorter and clearer titles.
  • We’ll probably see improved ranking for stores that have their own eCommerce sites but still use Amazon Pay.
  • CPC is expected to be controlled by relevance score and much more.

Keep a weather eye on the horizon because Amazon is making big moves and I guarantee it won’t be long before you can do your monthly grocery shop, your banking, buy a car and book your holidays on Amazon.

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