Software has made it easier than ever for the entrepreneurial sort to open up their own online store, and the abundance of dropshipping solutions minimizes startup costs and overhead. In a world like this, why on earth would anyone ever choose to sell on Amazon? One of the most frequently given reasons is that, when you sell on Amazon, you get to access an existing global customer base; you don’t have to go searching for customers. While this is true, don’t forget that you’re competing with hundreds of thousands of other sellers. Those customers still have to find you, too. And the way to do that is with Amazon SEO.
If you know anything about regular SEO, you’ll know that it stands for Search Engine Optimization—the practice of tweaking and regularly updating your website so that it appears as high as possible in search results. In theory, SEO applies to all search engines; in practice, it applies to Google’s algorithm. You build a site meant to be found for certain keywords, and then you keep adding content discussing topics that relate to those keywords. All this is done to demonstrate to Google that you’re an authority, and the more clicks you get, the more Google believes that you are and will recommend you to other searchers. This is a major simplification, but it gets the point across. It’s also helpful in understanding Amazon’s SEO.
When customers search for a product on Amazon, they’re using a search engine, too, one that works off an algorithm built by Amazon itself. In 2021, Amazon released their latest update to this algorithm, which is commonly referred to as A10. With the A10 release, Amazon’s algorithm took a page from Google and started relying on “external signals”—essentially the behaviors of consumers, which the sellers have no control over. In the same way that Google looks at whether users are actually clicking through to a site to measure its appeal, Amazon looks at things like conversion rates and customer reviews to determine what it calls “seller authority.”
Seller authority turns out to be one of the more important aspects of the Amazon A10 algorithm, and for good reason. Your customers are really their customers, and they want their customers to have a good experience. If any random seller can set up shop and start showing up in search results simply because they crammed their listing with all the right keywords, Amazon would have a hard time guaranteeing good experiences. Optimizing your listings is about more than just satisfying the requirements of an algorithm: it’s about satisfying the requirements of your customers. Which, let’s be honest, should be the mission all along.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the factors that affect your ranking in an Amazon search. Understanding what the A10 algorithm looks for in your listing—and your shop—can help your approach to product listing optimization. But, remember: optimizing your listing isn’t enough. A10 places a greater emphasis on external factors, too, and we’ll cover some external solutions that can help nudge things in your direction.
It’s no surprise to … well, anyone that price is a driver of purchase decisions. Customers want the best deal they can get, and Amazon’s algorithms are hard at work updating the sale price of items all day every day in an effort to remain competitive. Quartz.com reported that, site-wide, Amazon changes the prices of products more than 2.5 million times a day. Keep in mind that this report is about a decade old at this point, but this doesn’t make it a relic of the A9 days. While the A10 algorithm reprioritized a lot of factors, price is as important as it ever was (see: the first sentence of this paragraph).
All these pricing changes reflect real time market conditions, inside and out the Amazon ecosystem, and are designed to make sales. But we’re talking one layer removed from that: a pricing strategy designed to land on the first page of search results. It can seem like a daunting task to have this second aspect of price competition layered on, but it’s really just the virtual version of the brick-and-mortar retail: first you compete to be seen, and then you compete for the sale. Amazon’s own guide to its SEO is explicit about the importance of price, and it directs you to use their Automatic Pricing tool as a way to stay competitive.
While their tool is definitely better than nothing, doing a little math tells you that it isn’t quite enough. Business Insider actually did that math on all those price changes, comparing the number to the total amount of products available for sale at amazon.com, and determined that prices on the platform change an average of every 10 minutes. At that rate, a dynamic pricing tool seems like a necessity—and yet Amazon’s Automatic Pricing tool only updates your products every 15. Let’s do our own math, then:
Remember, the algorithm isn’t even going to surface your listing if the price isn’t competitive. But, because there are other factors involved, the answer simply isn’t to undercut everyone on price. A more advanced tool than Amazon’s—a Smart Repricer that can update your products every 5 minutes based on a strategy of your choosing—is the sort of thing that could really help you gain a competitive edge with Amazon SEO.
Just as Google’s algorithm favors websites that are useful to its users, Amazon’s has a preference for product listings that are clear about what’s being sold. Scrolling through a product page is part of the shopping experience, and Amazon wants its customers to have the best possible experience—being “Earth’s most customer-centric company” is right there in the mission statement—regardless of who the seller is.
The title is the best place for the keywords. The rest of the prose should be easy to read, transparent, and informative. Perhaps there was a time when keyword stuffing was rewarded, but those days are long gone. And this is for the better. The A10 algorithm rewards clean, well written copy. The text should be visually appealing, meaning that it’s organized into easily recognizable sections of information, helping shoppers to glean what they need to know quickly. An unformatted word salad that’s a bear to read isn’t going to win you any views, much less sales.
Both Amazon’s and Google’s algorithmic shift toward a better user experience means that what’s good for one is good for the other. Copy that’s been written to rank high on Amazon might also rank high on Google. The more specific/long-tail that keyword is, the better chance it has across both, but in general, you should write your product descriptions with both search engines in mind. There’s plenty of overlap between them.
There’s also plenty of overlap between a good Amazon description and a good one for eBay/Walmart/Etsy/Shopify/Facebook/You Name It. Once you’ve gone to the trouble of creating that perfect description, you may as well put it to work on another marketplace. Using ExportYourStore, you can take a “Write Once, Sell Anywhere” approach to your product listings. Your catalog becomes portable while you “corner” the market on certain keywords across multiple sites.
In the opening of this article we touched on external factors, but now it’s time to go a little deeper. Taking a cue from Google, Amazon’s A10 algorithm considers user behavior as part of a more holistic approach to search results. These user behaviors are monitored and analyzed, and AI draws inferences and conclusions as to what these behaviors mean.
It can also get confusing, because the high behaviors the algorithm sees as valuable are the behaviors you’re hoping the algorithm will encourage. Do you want to rank higher so more people can click on your listing? You’ll need more people to click on your listing so you can rank higher. Want more sales? You need a higher conversion rate (i.e. more sales). This may sound like a paradox, but really these external factors are the checks and balances against unscrupulous sellers who would otherwise game the system. All you can do with criteria like these is to run an honest, profitable business that, over time, results in happy customers.
There is another factor that’s considered when determining your Seller Authority, and you do have some more control over this. If you have a wide variety of inventory—and a lot of it—you gain some added credibility with the algorithm. Of course, inventory costs money and just buying a bunch of different products in order to deepen your bench isn’t a great strategy. When you’re setting up shop, or looking to reinvest your profits, you can be smart about adding inventory to get the most out of your investment. Inventory management software—especially one designed specifically to help Amazon sellers—can help you keep up with what you have while also helping you source more items that will sell at a profit. All of this works to increase your Seller Authority and, by extension, the visibility of your products.
You probably didn’t need us to tell you that getting good reviews is good for business. And you likely don’t need a statistic to convince you that positive reviews drive sales. For instance, if we told you that a product with even just one review is 65% more likely to sell than one without any, that would just put a number on a fact we all intuitively know.
But remember, all these external factors improve your Amazon SEO results. The more people who interact with your product listing, the more the algorithm takes that as a sign you’re a seller worth recommending. If someone clicks on your listing, that’s good for your ranking. If they then purchase after clicking, even better. And if they leave a positive review of that product? You’re definitely doing things right, and Amazon wants its customers to know about you.
As your good reviews pile up, your Seller Authority increases—positively impacting SEO across all your products. Of course, getting customers to leave those reviews is another story. Nobody is more motivated than an angry customer, though, so you’ll need to find ways to nudge your happier ones into leaving a review. It’s doubly important to keep new reviews coming as they build and maintain both your Seller Authority and your revenue. Part of your success with Amazon search engine optimization will depend on increasing the number of (good) product reviews you receive.
Though buyers will often include their thoughts on the buying experience in a product review, those ratings are strictly about the product itself. Seller feedback is a different beast altogether, and no less important to stay on top of. Because this is the spot where your customers can tell the world about their experience, you can be sure that you will receive some negative feedback. You can’t please everyone, but you can handle their comments in a public forum with a Zen sense of calm and professionalism.
This is another one of those external factors that A10 has made more important, and it ups the stakes for sellers to provide great service. Now, when a customer reviews a seller poorly, they’re not just influencing other shoppers—they’re influencing the algorithm itself. A bad review is a ding against your Seller Authority, so that’s a ding that can ripple widely. There’s no data that says how many people stay away from a seller because of a single bad review, but is there any quantity of lost business—real or potential—that’s OK with you?
When someone leaves you negative feedback, especially if they get rude about it, it can be tempting to get into a keyboard war with them. Do not do this. This bears repeating once more: do not get into a keyboard war with customers. Public facing responses should be conciliatory if their complaint has merit; and in either case the issue should be addressed with an eye toward resolution. Resolving is best done offline, out of public view. While there are a number of ways to remove negative feedback, the most effective is always to do so head on with the disgruntled customer.
It may help to look at every negative review as an opportunity. In what’s known as the “service recovery paradox,” customers who experience some kind of service failure with a company end up becoming even more loyal when that failure is corrected. If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t like to think about paradoxes, then you can just rely on the far more straightforward—and linear—fact that combating negative feedback is good for your business and your SEO. Amazon isn’t going to promote a seller with poor ratings.
Amazon has existed at such a position of dominance for so long that it’s difficult—from the consumer perspective—to remember it as anything other than easy. From the sellers’ perspective, though, things seem to get harder and harder. It’s tough enough minding a retail store, virtual or otherwise, now they have to learn the finer points of
Yes, there’s a lot of business to be won, but the competition is getting stiffer. Meanwhile, the A10 algorithm is taking a more holistic approach in ranking sellers. As a result, there’s more to worry about than just product descriptions and prices. Ensuring a steady stream of reviews, handling negative feedback, even just earning a sale—these all reflect favorably on your Amazon SEO ranking. Essentially, Amazon wants its sellers to exhibit the same customer-centric values that are in its own mission statement. Perhaps that’s easier said than done, but—as we’ve covered here—it can be done.