Amazon’s A9 algorithm SEO guide (Part 1): Internal optimization

It doesn’t matter if you have a small Shopify website or a huge eCommerce website, chances are you either market your products on Amazon as well or at least considered it at some point.

And for a very good reason since Amazon is the biggest search engine for eCommerce.

Amazon has evolved from selling books from a basement to a full marketplace worth around 1 trillion dollars. Just to give you an idea of how ridiculously rich Amazon is, their CEO and founder Jeff Bezos lost a huge chunk of his net worth due to divorce and still remains the richest known person on the planet.

But this isn’t about cool Amazon stats which you can read about here. This is about optimizing your product listings on Amazon and tracking them correctly using Pro Rank Tracker and our light tracker Rankitor.

Amazon has a unique ranking algorithm called A9 which is updated frequently By implementing some of the tips we give you here, you can have a better chance of being featured at the 1st page for the keywords that are relevant for your products.

According to one research by company Feedvisor, 66% of shoppers (as in people that are actively looking to spend and not just browse) are bypassing search engines and start their search directly through Amazon. This means that even if your Shopify website is ranked at the top of Google, 66% of your potential clients go straight to Amazon. This is why understanding A9 better is key to your success.

 

  1. Part 1 (current article) is about better understanding how the A9 algo works, and how to optimize content so it’ll like it.
  2. Part 2 will be about external optimization and general management, to drive more traffic to your products and improve sales.
  3. Part 3 will be about monitoring everything correctly and generating progress reports.

 

Now let’s get to business!

A9 dynamics and ‘purchase likelihood’

So A9 is designed to optimize the likelihood of buying while considering the triangle of parties involved – the buyer, seller and Amazon! All three share a common goal: they want a purchase to happen. All three parties need to benefit in order for the whole operation to run smoothly.

Unlike a search on Google where the intent isn’t always clear, on Amazon a search will virtually always equal buying intent. To give an example, a person searching Dyson on Google might want to learn about the company, see images, guides, tips or buy the product. On Amazon, searching for Dyson means the person considering buying a Dyson product.

Because of that A9 ranks products based on their calculated purchase likelihood. Much like Google, Amazon will never reveal how their algorithm works exactly, but we do know the general rules that they use to determine purchase likelihood:

1. Keyword relevance

The search term the person uses will be the first filter to decide what products will show. Which is why a proper keyword strategy is essential in the case of A9! If you exclude a relevant keyword for your product, it won’t even have the chance to pass the 1st filter.

So, to show you what we mean let’s use a JBL Bluetooth speaker as an example of a product. The search term ” JBL Bluetooth speaker” will yield a high purchase likelihood chance, since the person is searching for that brand directly. The search term “cheap Bluetooth speaker ” however will yield a low purchasing likelihood since JBL are known as a premium costly brand, and as a result cheap brands will likely outrank JBL for that term.

2. Performance

This is rather straightforward – if your product sells well it will rank higher. The holy trinity of KPIs Amazon is analyzing our CTRs, conversion rates, and of course sales.

So now you can understand why JBL as strong a brand as it is will perform poorly for the search term “cheap Bluetooth speaker”. A person searching for that term is not likely to click a JBL product once they see the price, so we will have a low CTR. If they still click and browse, ultimately their budget will likely scare them away, so low CR are expected as well. As for sales, JBL is still a bestselling brand so it will likely still be featured somewhere for that search having a strong metric for one of the three performance factors. When last we checked, the 1st organically featured JBL product for this search was way behind on the 5th page.

Optimizing your chances

Since reviews, images, and copywriting play a huge role here, the need to be ranked the highest is far less strict than Google. While on Google people rarely reach past the 1st page, on Amazon the 2nd page is still being visited and on occasion even the 3rd. This makes sense because most people want to research a few competing products before making an informed decision (personally when I’m researching a product I might even explore as deep as the 10th page).

The beauty of having a truly high quality product on Amazon is that the momentum you generate will build itself eventually into a snowball effect driving your product to the top. The more popular the product becomes the better it performs, the better it performs the higher it ranks, and the higher it ranks the more popular it becomes. So, you have this loop that feeds on itself and you just need to maintain it and boost it with a proper marketing strategy.

Editorial optimization – Titles, content, images and Enhanced Content

 

This is your little Amazon sales funnel and will play a part in both organic search and any Amazon PPC campaigns that you run.

Before we proceed, here are the official Amazon content guidelines and style guidelines on how to create content that follow the rules.

Title + thumbnail

The journey to a purchase on Amazon begins from a relevant title + enticing thumbnail that will make people want to click, thus increasing CTR (the first of the trinity of performance metrics).

The title + thumbnail is the first hook and the foot in the door of your potential customer. You might have the most amazing copy inside, but what good is it if people are not tempted enough to click to see it? In Amazon’s case the title needs to be less clickbait and more “drier” featuring keywords that might be relevant to the search intent.

It might be tempting to get too creative with title phrasing but know that if you don’t follow Amazon’s guidelines they might actively suppress your product as a penalty.

Since you are limited on how enticing the title can be, the thumbnail carries a lot of weight in this case. In fact, the thumbnail image is the main driver of CRTs here; various Amazon eye tracking heatmaps consistently show that people focus on the thumbnail images and price more than the actual titles.

Next, once people are in your product page the product page content needs to be aimed at conversions (the second performance metric):

Images

 

This is one of the 1st things people will look at once they click through. Needless to say, having high quality crisp images that show your product in the most relevant fashion and detail is key here.

For example, if your product is a nightlight, then you will want to add images that show the product in detail on a white background (as per Amazon’s rules) preferably from several angles. Next, you can add an image showing a room with a cozy atmosphere with your product providing a pleasantly warm and dim light that you can read a book in bed with. Don’t hesitate to show several use case scenarios for your product! By showing ‘scenes’ of using your product you can sell with feeling and style. The images ultimately need to tell a story of benefits and gain.

Believe it or not, but having a cool package actually helps sell a product at times. If you have an awesome attractive package, do show it in the images!

If you did everything correctly, people should be able to understand what your product is about from the images alone.

People often buy with their eyes, so ideally a strong image game can convert people without even getting to the rest of the copy!

If you plan to use Amazon’s PPC system, then you can do some A/B tests to see which image+title combo performs the best, since Amazon provides you with that CTR data.

Side note: it wouldn’t hurt for you to make sure your logo serves your brand. Many fail to design an enticing logo that will fit the nature of the brand, and this ends up hindering growth. Check out our two logo guides.

Well written bullet points

 

This is the 2nd piece of copy people will look at after the title since it shows right below the price. Most marketers will say it’s better to have a small and powerful piece of text in each bullet point, instead of a thick paragraph. So, try to keep it as concise as possible, and avoid getting too verbose. People searching to buy are not too patient and certainly don’t want to read huge chunks of text. Having each bullet point structured as high quality ‘alternate title’ is a good trick if you want to keep it short and to the point.

Try to at least present some basic sales approach in your bullet points of being informative and persuasive.

Necessary information and answers to practical questions that the person might ask themselves about your product. For example, in the case of the nightlight:

  • Battery operated: 3 AAA batteries.
  • Long lasting up to 2000 hours of light on a single battery pack.
  • 3 power settings.

Show the benefits. This means sell the solution or fix the person needs. The phrasing can be more opinionated and persuasive. For example:

  • Easy 10 minutes installation.
  • Small but powerful! This small adjustable nightlight packs up to 1000 lumens.
  • Fall asleep easier! A warm 2700k light with no blue light.

Product description

If the people are not sold via the images, title, price and bullet points, they will skim through the description. Skim is the keyword here due to our general lack of patience, so writing a solid persuasive copy is also key here as well. Conveying the message with a short and to the point paragraph is better than a stretched out and verbose one. The same basic sales approach applies here as well – informative with a smooth persuasive tone. Don’t try to hard sell with capitals, obvious exaggerations and overused exclamation marks, this isn’t the 50’s.

Enhanced Brand Content (EBC) and Amazon A+ Content

This is an exclusive Amazon feature available to registered-brand sellers and vendors only. To become eligible, you simply need to have your brand registered as a trademark, and then sign up for free.

It allows you to enhance and enrich the content of your product page, with additional vivid images, infographics, more engaging product descriptions and comparison charts of your own products.

Hare’s an example of a product page fortified with enhanced content:

Amazon claims that using enhanced content can increase sales by 3-10%. This might not seem like a lot, but since snowball effects need to be triggered and their momentum tends to grow exponentially, this increase can count for a very nice boost. And if you are invested in an Amazon PPC campaign, then this might be the difference between having a positive ROI and losing money.

Using enhanced content will not influence your ranks directly, but it will improve two of the trinity of A9’s ranking factors: conversion rates and sales. So, this feature will help your chances, but this isn’t a magic bullet. A low quality product with poor reviews will not be saved by enhanced content. And having enhanced content will surely not compensate for having poorly designed content.

Amazon A+ Premium content isn’t free like EBC, but it allows even more creative options and interactive features such as sliders to be included, but it’s not cheap.

Learn from your customers and top competitors

One of the easiest sources you can access to take notes and examples from for your content strategy are your reviews and the top ranked product in your category.

Reviews will give you insights into what people like most about your product and what problem it has helped solve. People can be great copywriters unintentionally just by speaking their honest opinion. You might even see an unintentionally well phrased segment in a review you can use.

The leaders in your category are a great teacher since they reached the top by doing things correctly. Analyze their content and see how they structure their content, what tones and phrasing they use, their style of images, etc. If you can emulate some of it to fit your own personal style or just take pointers and try to do the opposite if you are feeling bold.

Keyword strategy

As we mentioned earlier, a proper keyword strategy is the first step to even being listed in relevant searches.

So, coming up with the right keywords from your personal knowledge and intuition alone is probably not going to cut it in most cases. You need to harvest as many relevant keywords as you can. You might not use all of them, but having as many of them discovered as possible, will allow you to choose more wisely. There are several ways to go about it:

Amazon’s own autocomplete function – the algorithm of Amazon’s auto complete relies on real searches that people conduct. This is as straightforward as it sounds – head to Amazon search and type your main product keyword, in this example – ‘nightlight’. And start an elimination process of simple A to Z combinatorics, until you harvest all that you can via your common sense.

Analyzing the top competitors and reviews – they know which keywords to target since they already made their research. You can harvest a nice chunk of relevant keywords from your main competitors by going over the top listing for some of the relevant searches for your product niche.

Your customers will also drop relevant keywords in their reviews, so look out for that!

Explore Amazon’s keyword search volume and choose the strongest keywords – every keyword that you track with us will have an estimated monthly search volume revealed, like this:

 

By knowing how many people use that search term a month, you will get a better picture of which terms are popular and which are dead-end search terms with almost no volume. Of course, this also depends on how strong the keyword is, since low search volume doesn’t necessarily mean a low quality keyword!

Like with classic SEO keyword research you will need to make the distinction on how much the search volume counts in each case. For example, here is a 90k dollars Mickey Mantle Autographed Set Four M Enterprisesbgs Graded & Authenticated – JSA Certified – Baseball Slabbed Autographed Cards with obscure keywords that only a handful of people search for. But if one of them spends this much on a baseball card, you might make more money than a cheap product with search terms that has tens of thousands of monthly searches.

Bargain price!

Where to place the keywords

So, Google crawls virtually your entire content to source keywords and build their search index, but where does Amazon look for relevant keywords when it comes to populating their search index?

These are the fields that are sourced for keywords and their limitations:

Note that keywords are sourced from all indexable sections on equal weight as far as it’s currently known, so other then placing them in a way that is readable and makes sense for conversions, don’t fuss over which “strong” keywords go where. The important part is that they are included so that your product can have the chance to get listed. Amazon used to give more emphasis on the titles, causing many product titles to be a poorly readable mess and contributing to a lower quality customer experience. Now everything functions to make content readable.

Brand – The only relevant keyword is your brand name and direct searches that include it. So, no need to optimize this field.

Title – The entire title is crawled. The length of the title is still limited however as per the official Amazon style guidelines we specified earlier. Again, to avoid a suppression penalty, avoid breaking their guidelines.

Bullet points – Only the first 1000 bytes are indexed. This should be more than enough for an accurate high level marketing text. Remember we told you earlier, it’s better to keep it short and to the point anyway? This is another reason why.

Product description – the description is indexed only for the following conditions:

  1. When a person searches for at least two words that appear in the description near one another in no particular order. For example, let’s say the description shows this phrase: “Our handheld vacuum cleaner is the cheapest on the market”. For a person searching for “cheap vacuum”, the product will be indexed!
  2. When a person’s search includes one keyword from the description, and at least two from other indexed fields.

This is a good spot for those thick longtail search terms. And also, don’t forget Amazon ranks well on Amazon, so these are Google SEO relevant keywords as well.

Enhanced Brand Content– Doesn’t get indexed, and for regular sellers replaces the description field.

If you opt in to use EBC, then you lose some keyword placement possibilities, but you will gain a boost in your conversion potential (one of the three main ranking influencers). This is a tactical choice you will have to make, but for most common use cases, the other keyword fields should suffice.

If you use Premium A+ content you will be able to use both a keyword sourced description and the features of EBC and A+ Content, but it’ll cost you a pretty penny.

Generic keywords field – Limited to 249 bytes. Amazon’s version of letting you freestyle on keyword placement with no phrasing coherence just like you would on meta content or WordPress tags. Since this field will be indexed equally to the other ‘readable fields’, place keywords here which will not be used in your marketing copy or keywords which appear in your EBC so they can be indexed as well.

Additional product information fields – These fields are important to fill out because they will get used when people narrow their search with Amazon’s filters. Your product might not be on top for the general unfiltered search term but it may come on top for filtered searches.

Not like Google – So unlike Google you have a more limited space to play with your keyword placements, so you will have to choose wisely which keywords to include. But as you saw it’s very structured and you don’t have to use a keyword more than once. You also don’t need to concern yourself with minutia such as: including both plural and singular, capital letters vs. lowercase, slight misspellings, compound vs. separate spelling and the like, which is good and a huge time saver.

 

Summary

This sums up Part 1 of our guide which dealt with internal optimization. As you saw, SEO for Amazon is very straightforward and structured and almost resembles the early simple days of Google. Unlike modern SEO strategies for Google which can be ambiguous and all over the place, with several competing schools of thought.

A9 is also frequently updated, so make sure you stay up to date with the latest changes via forums and news sites.

Part 2 will be released next week and will deal with general management and external optimization, make sure you are subscribed to our blog, so you won’t miss out.

Got additional insights and pointers? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

 

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