Amazon is not only one of the largest online shops and marketplaces on the web, but also the most important source of information for consumers when it comes to products of all types.
In online product research, as in stationary retail, customers often check prices and product evaluations on Amazon before they buy. Not to mention the millions of Prime customers who, more and more, search and buy exclusively from Amazon. And why shouldn’t they when Amazon is so trusted and reliable and Prime shipping is fast, good, and affordable?
This means: A good rating on Amazon affects online retailers in all sales channels. In addition, Amazon product sites are also often highly ranked by Google, so that Amazon SEO can also have positive effects on Google searches.
In 2015, according to a study by ECC Köln and hybrid software, around 33 percent of German-speaking Internet users started their product research on Amazon – that’s twice as many as with Google.
In Germany and Austria, Amazon is the largest e-commerce sales channel and is establishing its market lead in many areas. Thus, it is important for many retailers and traders to be correctly listed and easily found. But above all, it is important to gain satisfied customers (high sales rate with low return rate) who will also ideally rate the product as above average.
There are many ways to achieve these goals:
We will look more closely at the first two in the following article.
The majority of Amazon customers buy a product that is presented in the first few Amazon search results sites. This means that all lower-ranked products often come up empty.
Amazon SEO is an exciting area, especially because small changes can sometimes have large and immediate effects. Amazon SEO is becoming more and more its own discipline, with a growing number of SEO experts and appropriate tools for exactly this purpose. In many ways, it is quite different from traditional search engine optimization, but experience in SEO is generally helpful.
In contrast to SEO, where many technical and content-related factors that influence website ranking are taken into account, with Amazon you are limited to a few content fields with regards to pure OnPage SEO.
With Amazon Marketplace Optimization (MPO) [also called "SEO for Amazon", i.e. the optimization of products for the Amazon search (OnPage optimization)], you can achieve significant improvements in the ranking of your products on Amazon.
The following areas can be directly optimized or influenced on Amazon to improve ranking in the Amazon search:
From Amazon's perspective, this yields satisfied customers and increased sales. A product that is currently ranked highly (because of SEO measures or advertising campaigns), but that has a lower conversion rate than other comparable products, will sooner or later be ranked lower. Therefore, with Amazon SEO, this basic principle is in effect: Only optimize for keywords and target groups that correspond to the product, its specific qualities, and its purpose of use.
The algorithm used by Amazon is widely known as "A9." This algorithm changes naturally and is continually optimized by Amazon. Currently (status as of April 2017), it seems, for example, to be the case that keyword fields (e.g. "General keywords") over 250 characters in the back-end of the product site (in the seller central) will be ignored; it is also strongly recommended to place relevant keywords, in an appropriate amount and form of presentation, in areas visible to the customer.
Tip: You can ignore the so-called “platinum keywords;” they don’t seem to be of any relevance for ranking.
Retailers shouldn’t just rely on the Amazon search as a source for potential buyers. It is just as important to lead traffic to the respective product and to achieve a conversion rate as high as possible. Traffic without corresponding conversions does not achieve anything from Amazon's perspective, so you should try to generate qualified traffic.
If, for example, you send products over FBA ("Fulfillment by Amazon" – i.e. from the Amazon storehouse) and thus offer "Amazon Prime" shipping (or you are one of the currently few marketplace sellers that can offer Prime on their own shipping terms), you should point this out on your website. Amazon Prime customers are very fastidious and are buying less and less frequently outside of the Amazon environment. They compare prices less frequently than non-Prime customers, proving that Prime is often a decisive sales argument for these customers.
You can only influence the number of products sold or the conversion rates indirectly (mainly via SEO and Amazon advertising displays and as convincing and authentic a product presentation and information display as possible).
To increase the conversion rate, you should have a buy-box, that is, a box where the "In the cart" button is located. Most Amazon customers do not compare the offerings of different retailers that also offer the product, but rather click on the button if the price and shipping conditions are acceptable to them. Retailers with a buy-box achieve the largest portion of sales of this product.
Whoever is currently "occupying" the buy-box or is the established seller can change at any given moment. If they lose the buy-box position a number of sellers currently use so-called "re-pricers" that sink the product price until they again “occupy” the buy-box. This can naturally lead to a downward price spiral and can destroy the margin. But there are a few general factors that make it easier for a seller to capture the buy-box.
Figure 1: Amazon Buy-Box
The buy-box appears on the right edge of the site (in the desktop version of amazon.co.uk) or underneath the personal information (on mobile end devices) and contains the button "In the cart." If several retailers offer the same product, Amazon chooses a retailer and stores this in the "In the cart" button. It is clear that, by far, the most items are sold using this buy-box, because many consumers, especially Prime customers, automatically accept Amazon's choice and seldom look through the lists of all providers.
An optimization of the buy-box is important for all those retailers who cannot offer a product exclusively, because normally on Amazon a product is only offered once. This means that retailers who want to offer an already existing product (clearly identifiable by means of GTIN/EAN), can only be added as an additional provider of that product. So, for frequently requested products, there are often dozens or even hundreds of retailers.
Retailers who offer "shipping through Amazon" (FBA or Prime shipping) generally have an advantage, but are not guaranteed to be the actual best supplier in Amazon buy-box ranking. Even if a product is offered by Amazon itself, it can happen that Amazon does not have a buy-box. A general advantage with Prime shipping is that the seller can easily set the price higher than with non-Prime competitors.
Additional important criteria for a high ranking and the use of the buy-box are:
There are also many factors that influence the ranking and thus the performance of products on Amazon, and these factors must be carefully observed and continually optimized.
Amazon is a major player in e-commerce and is expanding its offerings in all areas, for example with Amazon Fresh (food deliveries), Amazon Echo/Alexa (speech assistant), etc. But you shouldn’t forget how important and effective a well-performing product on Amazon could also be for Google search and decisions to buy in stationary retail. Therefore, it is worthwhile for many manufacturers and retailers to improve their relationship with Amazon.
Published on 04/27/2017 by Karim-Patrick Bannour.
Karim-Patrick Bannour is founder and CEO of the social media agency viermalvier.at. Together with Anne Grabs, he wrote the social marketing best-seller “Follow me! – Erfolgreiches Social Media Marketing” (Galileo Computing). He also frequently speaks and gives workshops for organisations such as ÖHV or The Austrian Federal Economic Chamber. In 2016, he founded the Amazon agency MarktPlatz1 and together with his team supports providers and traders on Amazon.