Easily the top question I get with regard to keyword ranking on Amazon is “what is working now?” And that’s understandable given how rapidly it seems that Amazon’s crazy algorithm likes to switch things up.
This article is intended, therefore, to be a definitive guide on what factors affect ranking on Amazon, with (regularly updated) information on exactly what is being tested and working at present.
So if you plan to take purposeful action toward ranking your Amazon listings for specific keywords, this is the guide to get you started. Without further ado…
4 Internal Factors (With Several Sub-Factors) + 1 External Factor
Amazon’s ranking algorithm is impacted primarily by just five simple (well not SIMPLE) factors. There are nuances to each, of course, but ultimately these are the five levers that move the rank needle.
This is a fairly obvious one. Any shopping platform would prioritize popular (read: frequently purchased) items in search. However, it is important to understand the specific aspects of this portion of Amazon’s ranking algorithm so you get a full picture of how sales impact search placement.
These aspects are:
Velocity – The period of time between purchases.
History – Overall how many purchases in a timeframe were made.
Unit/Session Percentage – Conversion rate (this also impacts SEO).
What this means is, not only does the total number of sales made matter, but also how many sales were made from browse paths related to a specific keyword (conversion rate) as well as how much time in between sales lapsed (velocity).
That kind of nuance is important if you want control over your strategic promotion tactics.
In most Amazon seller circles it is often stated as a forgone conclusion that Amazon “likes” external traffic. This is due to the number of marketing campaigns and black hat tests that have driven traffic of all kinds from external sites to Amazon detail pages with the result ending in increased keyword rank.
However, external traffic isn’t the only thing that Amazon cares about.
Internal traffic can also impact rank (and organic sales) in a positive way, as well as trigger other display options from Amazon. Here’s the breakdown of how traffic impacts ranking.
Some Internal Traffic sources include:
Sponsored Ads – Amazon PPC.
Gold Box Deals – One of many Amazon deal pages.
Lightning Deals – Arguably the most popular of Amazon’s deals.
Traffic From Other Listings – Amazon features many displays all over every page that take shoppers to competitor listings.
Frequently Bought Together – One of the many display options that take shoppers to competitor listings.
Buyers Also Purchased – Another of many display options that take shoppers to competitor listings.
**Those last three are also sub sub factors connected with “On Page Activity” ranking factor #4
Sponsored Ads, in any form (sponsored product, headline search, sponsored brand, etc) represent an opportunity, not only for additional sales, but also rank. Whether it is a byproduct of the current algorithm or by design, sponsored ad product sales do positively impact keyword rank.
This appears to work in favor for both the platform and the seller. The seller, obviously, gets increased visibility with organic keyword rank, on top of any sales from the ad itself. And Amazon will certainly retain that seller as a paying customer (likely with increasing budgets).
Gold Box, Lightning and Other Amazon Deals
The jury is still out on what impact scheduled deals on Amazon have on keyword ranking. Some have reported significant increase, others have claimed no difference. Regardless of whether organic keyword placement is impacted, these deal pages have a rank system of their own.
Deal placements and display times are affected by a ranking system that appears to be based on performance metrics. This is important because deals can offer a substantial amount of visibility and sales.
This means that Amazon is paying attention to the success of your deals as well as the browse path that led customers to it. That data will inform how the algorithm doles out overall visibility of future deals and likely many other placement factors that are unseen.
Traffic from Other Listings
As mentioned several times before, Amazon tracks the entire browse path of a customer. They record each page that was visited, and what actions were taken on each page. This data helps inform Amazon what products are most likely relevant to;
- Each other
- The type of buyer
This data is then used to determine the products on display (and the order they are displayed in) under sections such as “Customers also bought” or “Sponsored products related to this item” etc.
This is what is referred to as “associated traffic” and can be extremely useful to smaller brands. If, for example, your product is associated with, and therefore displayed prominently on, a large brand product, this could offer extremely valuable visibility.
Frequently Bought Together
This takes associated traffic to an even more powerful level. The frequently bought together section shows shoppers what items are often paired together in the same cart. This slight “nudge” from Amazon likely leads to unknown millions in revenue on the platform.
Being linked to an item so much that your relevance is directly tied together allows your listing incredible visibility as it could possibly show up on the associated product’s detail page for hundreds, if not thousands, of keywords.
Now let’s move onto external traffic…
Some External Traffic sources include:
Google – The world’s largest search engine.
Facebook – World’s largest social media platform AND one of the biggest ad platforms as well.
Instagram – Another of the largest social platforms that offers paid advertising.
Messenger – Facebook’s messaging platform.
Email – The way we used to communicate in the olden days before social media became a thing.
SMS – Text messaging. The thing we did to communicate thoughts before Twitter.
Affiliate site – Websites hosted by Amazon associates where information and products from the marketplace are displayed and linked to with an affiliate tag. Affiliates tend to engage in content marketing to get buyers to purchase from their site, and in turn get a commission for all sales on Amazon.
Referral (share buttons) – These are the share icons found under the buy button on detail pages.
Amazon is extremely concerned about how each and every page on their website is ranked by Google. So much so that they have entire teams dedicated to monitoring rank movement. They are also well aware that Google cares about conversion rates and that means sales that occur on Amazon that originated in a Google search will rank better on the search engine.
Knowing this we can infer that Amazon likely rewards listings that perform well on Google within its own platform as well. Some tests have confirmed this, with listings strongly ranked on Google, after deliberate campaigns, increasing in rank (as in, from a lower spot to a higher spot for relevant keywords) on the Amazon marketplace.
With such a strong and obvious correlation, it is a wonder more sellers don’t prioritize Google in their ranking strategy.
Sellers have been sending traffic directly from Facebook ads to Amazon detail pages for some time now. While the effect appears to be minimal compared to other methods, it is still apparent that it helps.
Traffic without conversions can have minute impact on keyword rank due to an increase in keyword relevance. Traffic with conversions, obviously, will lead to much stronger ranking, which is why this method is utilized so much.
Here is a platform with seemingly infinite possibilities. While the ads platform is controlled by Facebook, and thus drives plenty of traffic to detail pages on Amazon, the results don’t appear to have a substantially larger impact with regard to rank.
That said, it looks like organic (or seemingly organic) referral traffic might be performing much better. See, for starters, there isn’t a TON of traffic coming from Instagram because you cannot put hyperlinks in posts. They can only exist in profile pages and shoppable posts (which are only open after review to businesses with a Facebook catalog of products.
This may be the reason that tests have shown that traffic run from Instagram profiles and converted into sales helped boost rank extraordinarily quickly.
This is another Facebook product, but it is still its own platform. Meaning, any traffic sent from Messenger comes back as sent from specifically Messenger. Much advertising traffic gets sent through Messenger as well, but the referring URL is typically a chatbot service.
It stands to reason that shares directly through Messenger that lead to a conversion will likely have similar results to those on other platforms.
Amazon facilitates a detail page share directly through email as well. Up until not that long ago, Amazon used to display a tally of the number of shares on a listing. It was as simple as emailing in bulk your past customers to their Amazon encrypted email addresses to drive that tally up (social proof) as well as gain some external traffic.
The tally is no longer present (and the ease by which someone could bulk send is also not in place) but this illustrates that Amazon cares about sharing detail pages on all mediums. As such, email is likely a viable off-Amazon traffic source that will yield promising rank results.
Much like email, this channel also has its own share tag on mobile detail pages, showing clear evidence Amazon would favor this share medium as well.
In fact, in tests we’ve run, we see adding this share tag to URLs in FB ads with a masked referrer work well with initial rank boost (but the URL must be changed frequently as it appears to have a short “half-life”).
Amazon associate websites account for as much as 25% of traffic to the marketplace. Given the amount of support and tools that Amazon provides those that wish to affiliate market their products, and the amount of customers those affiliates send Amazon’s way, it stands to reason Amazon favors associate traffic to some degree.
Aside from the potential rank boost that may come from traffic and conversions through affiliate super URLs, there is also the fact that being on a larger associate’s site will bring a constant stream of new traffic from the far reaches of the internet. This sounds like a win-win for all involved.
You’ve seen “share tags” mentioned a few times so far. This is in reference to the referral or “share” options on every Amazon detail page. When you click to share a listing with any of the available platforms, it creates a URL for the people on the other end of that platform to follow to get to the Amazon listing. That URL has unique parameters in it to identify the device and platform the content was shared through.
Given what we know about how Amazon likes external traffic that converts on their site, it makes sense why tests using these share tags, even when the referrer is masked, has led to more rapid rank increases.
Amazon is not only a shopping platform, but a search platform as well. Its own search engine facilitates the mechanism through which as much as 40% of their customers find the products they end up purchasing.
As such, search engine optimization (SEO) is a crucial piece of the overall ‘what-impacts-rank’ puzzle. We’ll go over each component of SEO and what you can do to take control over how you index and rank on the Amazon marketplace.
Keyword Density – This refers to the amount of repetition for a keyword or key phrase within a listing. Keyword density is an important aspect of just about any content piece relating to any search engine.
While Amazon prioritizes sales and listing activity, they have revealed that keyword density has, at least, some degree of impact on relevance. In the product advertising API Amazon defines “relevancerank” which is the rank of listings in order of relevance for a keyword. You can clearly see in the image below that the number of times the keyword is found in the listing is a factor.
Title – This is the title of your listing. Anecdotes across all of the Amazon FBA space, as well as thorough testing by thought leaders and services, have all agreed that the title is one of the most important aspects of keyword ranking on Amazon.
This is likely due to an increased relevance score for title keywords, which would make sense given that Google operates in a similar fashion.
Amazon’s own documentation on optimization doesn’t say much about how the marketplace addresses titles, but in the style guide for the Tools and Home Improvement category (one of the only style guides left, as Amazon appears to be removing them all) it specifically states that the title will help search placement.
Search Terms – One of the most often overlooked sections of a product listing is the search terms area. This may be due to the fact that there is no way to see them in the listing, only the back end, therefore it is hard to gauge their impact.
Be that as it may, Amazon has a lot more documentation on their effective use and guidelines for their implementation than almost any other listing aspect. Also, it is important to note that much of the biggest changes that shifted rank power to relevance occurred around the same time that Amazon was constantly changing search term structure.
Amazon increased character limits to 5000, then reduced to 250. They spread the terms out over five fields, then consolidated to one. No one was able to truly grasp what difference these changes would make, but likely they were directly tied to relevance.
At one point it almost seemed like search terms allowed you a place to input keywords that didn’t seem relevant enough to put into the listing. Then it seemed to be where you reinforced your most relevant terms. All the changes this section has undergone were testing exactly those things (and more) to provide the perfect balance of indexing and relevance so sellers could prioritize the most appropriate amount of terms necessary.
Subject Matter Keywords – There is actually an ongoing debate about how “important” subject matter keywords are to a listing with regard to keyword rank. Some say it is inconsequential while others affirm it is crucial. These are all anecdotal reports, but Amazon does at least acknowledge they have an impact on both indexing and search.
Below you can see that while the section has a specific function to Amazon, the information input in it is indexed and made available by the search engine to assist browsing customers.
Bullets – Product Features, otherwise referred to as “Bullet Points” are the necessary details about a product. They appear just below the title on desktop and below product description in mobile. Presumably bullets are where customers get the information necessary for a buying decision.
While prevailing logic dictates bullets would have an important role on detail pages, evidence doesn’t suggest that is the case. Bullets are often left lacking and in many cases, by large established brands even, are left almost entirely un-filled out.
And by Amazon’s own admission, they have little impact on the algorithm as bullets are rarely even fully indexed (as you can see in the image below).
Description – Where there was little information regarding bullet points within Amazon’s documentation, there is even less about descriptions.
A detail page description is an important place for context and it is indexed. However, like bullets, it may not always be fully indexed, and there doesn’t appear to be any added weight to relevance in this section.
Even still, bullets and description provide the real estate necessary for keyword density.
Unit/Session Percentage (as a function of displaying keyword buyer relevance) – This metric counts the ratio of detail page visits to purchases from those visits. It is more commonly referred to as “conversion rate” and is an extremely important metric for keyword rank and maintenance.
Few metrics are as straightforward as this and it informs Amazon quite clearly how relevant a listing is to the searched-for keyword based on how often the search and click lead to an actual sale.
While sales (conversions) are one of the greatest indicator of relevance, what activities browsing customers take on a page can tell Amazon a lot too. Whether time is spent on the page tells Amazon that the information on it is relevant to the search.
Whether the item is added to a wishlist or cart tells Amazon if the keyword has strong buyer intent. And so many other actions inform Amazon on many levels how relevant a listing is for a keyword. And relevance is what determines rankability (more on that later).
Add to Cart (highest weighted due to it being the biggest indicator of intent) – When a shopper adds a product to their cart, whether or not they purchase this single action holds the most weight with regard to ranking power.
This is because people rarely search for an item and then choose to buy right away. Cart abandonment is common for even the most popular marketplaces in the world. As such, Amazon concerns themselves (when dealing with keyword rank) primarily with buying intent.
Wishlisting – There was a time when anyone, regardless of whether they had a verified account, could simply add items to an Amazon Wishlist and this would rank an item. Presumably this is because Amazon viewed this as an indicator of high buyer intent.
While those days are over, it appears that there is still some level of intent transferred with the adding of a product to an Amazon profile list. For this reason, a popular item can see keyword relevance increase and therefore some level of rank boost.
Reviews – It has long-since been assumed that the strongest rank impact that comes from reviews is due to its effect on conversion rate. Social proof has been shown time and again to be a significant factor in online purchases.
And while for many years it was argued that you “don’t need” that many reviews to make sales on Amazon, recent polls indicate that most consumers expect upwards of over 100 reviews for any product they are considering buying online.
Even still, Amazon has admitted that reviews impact ranking. They don’t explain exactly how, but we understand there to be a slight rank weight given to products accumulating verified reviews at a steady and growing rate (meaning reviews and review velocity count toward rank so long as there is no indication of manipulation).
Questions and Answers – The Question and Answer section of a detail page is indexed by Google as well as Amazon. This, in turn, helps keyword relevance as the section is filled with content and keywords.
Review Upvotes – While there is no direct evidence that upvoting reviews has a significant impact on keyword rank, it is considered an on-page action and likely does affect review content relevance.
Reviews themselves are indexed by search engines and so their content does count for something. While the impact is likely imperceptible, the algorithm does appear to take helpful reviews into more consideration.
Click Thru to Competitor – This action has a two-fold impact. If it leads to a sale, it will associate your listing with your competitor’s listing (therefore showing each listing in relevant cross-promotional areas on the site).
It also will inform Amazon whether your product is more relevant for a keyword than your competitor. If a competitor regularly outperforms your listing in terms of on-page activity and sales directly after your product is viewed, this will inform Amazon that the competitor serves customer needs better and therefore is more relevant.
If the opposite occurs, then you win the relevance battle and therefore will likely show up higher in search results.
All of these things impact ONE main lever:
Keyword relevance is the primary factor for ranking. Relevance tells Amazon the most efficient order to display items on search result pages. A listing’s relevance score helps ensure items are sorted in an optimal manner that will most likely lead to a happy transaction.
Sales and conversion impact relevance by showing completed purchase intent and aggregate ratio to traffic. This is, essentially, the indication of an item’s popularity.
Traffic indicates relevance due to bringing external visitors to the listing. Since Amazon cares about how it’s own pages are indexed and rank on external search engines, relevance is rewarded (albeit in a minor way) to visits from external pages with an assumption that the keyword likely drove that visit.
SEO indicates relevance based on optimization of the seller (and to some degree, Amazon). Amazon may be taking measures to control more of how it catalogs items in its own marketplace, the platform still understands one of the best sources for accurate information about a specific item is its seller.
The keywords chosen by a seller typically fit the subcategory and therefore are likely relevant.
On-page activity indicates relevance based on interest (increased signs of intent). Time on page and review upvotes indicates strong interest. Add to carts, wishlisting, etc all show buying intention. These activities bolster the keyword that initially lead there as relevant to the listing.
How Customers Themselves Affect Keyword Relevance
Most of what Amazon considers with regard to keyword rank weight are a series of metrics Amazon measures based on activities taking place on its website. Amazon does also pay attention to traffic sources, but that is primarily for authority and to gauge intent.
However, there is another factor that has a lot of power. That is the shoppers themselves. See, it isn’t just about what they do while on the site, but also what they’ve done, where they come from and how they use the site moving forward.
All of these things inform a separate metric Amazon has just for them.
Customer Trust Score (how Amazon determines whether the sale came from an organic “regular customer”)
First, we need to ask the question, why do they even care?
When shill buyers, fake buyers, or otherwise non-typical buyers make purchases, it impacts rank placement, which impacts the search and browse experience.
Anything that negatively impacts the search and browse experience for typical buyers will have detrimental effects to the bottom line. It undermines the entire point of the complex search algorithm Amazon has built.
How is Trust Score determined?
Through an exhaustive list of factors including:
- Account country of origin
- IP address authenticity
- Credit card viability
- Purchase behavior
- Review behavior
And so much more
When buyers with a low trust score purchase or review your product, it could:
- Have ZERO impact on your BSR or keyword ranking
- Trigger the deletion of the review or the blocking of future reviews
- Trigger an investigation into buyer collusion
That means the two primary ranking factors (to oversimplify it) are:
RELEVANCE + CUSTOMER TRUST
With this powerful knowledge in mind, now you can take more control over your visibility and position on the Amazon marketplace. This is why they say “knowledge is power” because you can implement your knowledge for a clear competitive edge.
Here’s what to do right now to increase keyword rank and gain traction for your Amazon product listings…
- Get steady sales (ideally increasing) over time. I know this is easier said than done, but the idea is, Amazon’s algorithm favors growth. If your listing is showing increase in sales, conversions, listing activity and traffic, the algorithm will see the momentum and make your product more visible (in case that stimulates more sales, conversions, activity and traffic).
- Drive external traffic (and internal if you can). Traffic is the first step in stimulating the ranking algorithm. We’ve already discussed how raw traffic alone impacts keyword relevance. However, there is also the inevitable on-page activity and sales that come from increased traffic which really help things along. When Amazon sees that your product is bringing people TO their platform, you get rewarded with rank.
- Optimize your listing. This is one of those “duh, everybody knows that” things…yet surprisingly a lot of people don’t prioritize this. Optimization is key for indexing and conversions, which are two extremely important factors for relevance.
- Run promotions and other marketing strategies to encourage lots of page visits (encourage them to show interest too). This is kind of how you manufacture tips one and two above. You can get steady sales AND drive traffic by running promotions. These can be in the form of rebates, coupons, buy one get one, etc. You can also incentivize purchases, add to carts, internal traffic, on-page actions and much more this way.
- Advertise on diverse platforms (and vet buyers if at all possible). Much like tip number four, this is just another level of taking control over your traffic and promotions. If you run advertisements on off-Amazon channels like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and more, you can control the buyer pool you are targeting (and therefore control to some degree the quality of the buyers).
- Send traffic and sales through diverse URLs. The best URLs are direct referrals from outside sites. However, when you do that, you can’t really instruct your buyers to take certain steps the way you can in a chatbot flow, for example. So when you are using Messenger or other means of real-time communication to direct buyers, you should send that traffic to varying URLs. Two-step URLs, social share URLs, branded URLs, etc. Rotate through these regularly and generate new ones for fresh timestamps.
To Recap, Here’s What Impacts Rank & How You Can Use It Today
➢Sales volume/velocity/history will always be a huge driving factor (duh).
➢Organic (or seemingly organic) customer behavior, both on-page and on-the-way-to the page (referrer traffic).
➢Traffic + diverse referrers + on-page activity + add to carts + sales + sporadic (but growing) velocity + stable or growing history = rank rank rank.
➢Full priced purchases have outperformed discounts (and they probably always will).
➢Add2Carts still work, but with diminished effect.
➢Social share URLs are working well too.
➢Run add2cart and coupon promos parallel with full priced campaigns.
➢Rotate through diverse URLs (such as Pinterest, email, Twitter, etc).
➢Sprinkle in search find buy.
One final note of caution though.
Amazon does monitor for search and browse manipulation. This doesn’t mean they go in and suspend everyone they suspect using (or abusing) a promotion channel. It just means they can and will stifle the effectiveness of your actions. So, remember to stay within expected percentage ratios of add to carts, purchases and on-page activity so that velocity limits don’t get flagged.
You do that by using multiple strategies at once. Do ALL THE THINGS at the same time, so no one method or channel stands out. And don’t get greedy. Meaning, don’t go from most products selling 20 units a day to running a 300 unit per day promotion.
See, that’s why deep discount promo-blasts still work. That’s why super URLs still work. That’s why SFB + rebates still work. As long as the “levers” are pulled, but not in excess (triggering velocity limits) and the traffic is diversified, things look mostly organic. Or at least, your actions look indiscriminately aggressive (as opposed to trying to exploit a singular weakness).
Follow these simple steps, just like many other seven and eight figure sellers, and you will grow your Amazon presence, scale your brand, and hopefully profit massively.