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Amazon Search Insights Can Help You Sell More

Amazon does well in online retail, but as previously noted in our discussion of Amazon Exclusives there are ways for individual sellers to thrive on Amazon’s platform as well. Part of seller success starts with visibility in Amazon search results.

Achieving effective visibility in Amazon SERPs (search engine results pages) poses a big challenge. Ripen eCommerce recently published its study on Amazon SEO Research with the intent of bringing some clarity to the process.

The study’s findings affirmed a seemingly basic truth – the rich get richer. “The single strongest correlation we saw was between sales rank (an ordinal ranking provided by Amazon, which is available to the public) and a product’s search engine ranking position (SERP). In fact, not only did we see a strong correlation between sales rank and SERP, but we also noticed that top selling items had incredible ranking power for a wide range of search queries.” Note that a product’s sales rank is only relevant to the category in question.

It’s important to note that the company was not looking at how to win the Buy Box on a product page – instead, Ripen eCommerce was looking for which products showed up in search results. It describes the study’s methodology on this page: it selected keywords, extracted data from Amazon’s search engine results pages, and measured the strength of each ranking factor to determine which products ranked highest for those keywords.

Another major factor in ranking was the seller’s fulfillment relationship with Amazon.

Above: “Not only does being shipped and sold by Amazon.com have a relatively strong positive correlation, but the two third-party options also have negative correlations.”

The report outlines the following fulfillment options for merchants on Amazon:

Amazon Shipped & Sold – In this case, you have a vendor relationship with Amazon. You sell the product to Amazon at wholesale prices, and Amazon sells it for whatever retail price they deem appropriate.

Third party sold, Amazon Fulfilled – This is a typical consignment relationship. The product is still entirely owned by a third party seller, but it resides in an Amazon warehouse ready to be picked and shipped when ordered. Amazon calls this program Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). In most cases, this is the best route for a merchant to sell Prime-eligible products directly to the consumer.

Third party shipped and sold – This is a typical drop-ship relationship. The item is listed for sale on Amazon.com but resides in the seller’s warehouse. When an order is placed, the third party seller picks and ships the item.

The report noted, “Not only does being shipped and sold by Amazon.com have a relatively strong positive correlation, but the two third-party options also have negative correlations. As with any study, this correlation does not necessarily equal causation. Amazon has been accused of cherry-picking the best items to be sold by Amazon, so it is possible that the positive correlation we see is just a secondary effect of Amazon choosing to sell top sellers.”

Ripen eCommerce Marketing Director David Rekuc said, “I think that too many potential vendors don’t explore fulfillment type enough. Amazon vendors have a real advantage on the platform, and if you can explore that option, you should at least seriously consider it.” (See this Amazon page to learn about becoming a vendor.)

Rekuc provided some additional context on the study. He noted no product categories stood out as particularly good or bad in SEO. “The areas that I saw the need for the most improvement was on products that are attempting to rank for a wide variety of terms.” He pointed to a variety of mistakes in that area:

  • Not naming each child ASIN individually. For instance, if it’s the black XL version of the shirt, the name should reflect that.
  • Trying to keyword stuff titles. We found the best selling products on Amazon are more likely to stay under 74 characters than the average product. This is because at 74 characters, Amazon truncates titles on mobile.
  •  Product descriptions are a great place for in-depth explanation of the product. Including multiple uses for the item if applicable. Not many sellers and vendors paid attention to this.

Prudent use of those 74 characters proved impressive. Of those products that performed best within their category in Amazon SERPs, Rekuc said, “Within 74 characters they plugged their important keywords, communicated what the product is to the consumer, and even enticed clickthrough rate. They almost always had extremely detailed descriptions, plenty of reviews, and attended to customer inquiries.”

Rekuc provided some key points that should help Amazon sellers climb the SERP ladder. “I would distill the biggest ranking improvements you can make into the following critical points:”

    • Categorization is really critical – if you get it wrong, you can be near invisible. 
    • Advertising – Sales drives so much of the rankings on Amazon, so a strong discipline in advertising on Amazon really helps drive results in organic rankings.
    • Conversion rate optimization – Again, going back to sales being a huge ranking factor. I would always focus on creating highly converting product pages. You can always buy more traffic, you can’t buy a better conversion rate.

You can view the research on the RipeneCommerce.com website.

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David A Utter
David A Utter
David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. You can find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.