What SEO Means on Amazon and How Brands Can Make the Most of It

66% of consumers start their searches on the ecommerce site when looking to buy

Search engine optimization has been around for more than 20 years, but optimizing specifically for Amazon is a more recent phenomenon.
Illustration: Trent Joaquin; Source: Amazon

Amazon is many things—including a search engine.

And when it comes to product queries, consumers flock to it. Research from Amazon optimization platform Feedvisor shows 66% of consumers typically start their searches on Amazon when they’re looking to buy a product or researching what to buy.

Yet, while the art and science of search engine optimization, or SEO, has been around for more than 20 years to help brands boost their rankings on sites like Google and Bing, optimizing specifically for Amazon is a more recent phenomenon.

According to Jon Maxson, senior director of SEO at digital marketing agency iCrossing, brands have started to devote more attention to their Amazon strategies in the past few years as it has become a more popular destination for search and also because Amazon has started to give marketers more tools to optimize product pages and more sophisticated ad-buying opportunities.

And while Amazon’s and Google’s algorithms are “fundamentally similar in that they are trying to return the most relevant results for a particular search query,” Maxson said, search on Amazon has a much clearer intent: to buy something.

“Amazon is not only concerned with what’s most relevant, but also what sells the best,” he said.

As a result, a “conversion-first mentality is critical for success,” Maxson said, and brands should spell out the value of a product to consumers to help make their buying decisions easier. That starts with keyword research but also includes deciding where to put those keywords in product titles and page copy.

S is for stuffing

According to Amazon, brands should focus on creating content with keywords that match customer queries as much as possible. In its guidelines, the platform says providing relevant and complete information for products can increase visibility and sales.

Mark Irvine, director of strategic partnerships at search marketing company WordStream, said because factors such as price, availability and selection are largely out of the control of SEO agencies, most focus on content. And that, he said, is why a search for “black umbrella” yields a listing with the title “Umbrella Windproof Travel Umbrella Compact Folding Reverse Umbrella, Lanbrella,” a bulleted list that uses the keyword “umbrella” nine times and a product description that includes the keyword 40 times.

Maxson noted this practice of stuffing in as many keywords as possible was once a common tactic on Google, which now penalizes sites for it because keyword stuffing degrades the user experience.

But it’s not so cut-and-dried on Amazon. Sales are the No. 1 goal, so brands that stuff keywords into product titles and pages may initially be more visible, but if the pages are unreadable, conversion rate can suffer. And, of course, brands that sell fewer products lose visibility. So, Maxson said, SEOs have to play around with keyword placement on Amazon to strike the right balance.

Sellers who have been approved as brand owners through the Amazon Brand Registry process can also access what Amazon calls its A+ Content feature, which lets brands change product descriptions and describe features in a different way by including a unique brand story, enhanced images and text placement. Amazon says A+ content can boost conversion rates, traffic and sales.

Leo Carrillo, associate director of Amazon and Marketplace growth at digital marketing agency Tinuiti, said Amazon recently launched another tool, Manage Your Experiments, which lets brands A/B test how their content affects conversion rate and what changes when they add features like A+ content. But, he said, it’s too early for any takeaways for brands because the tool is too new.

E is for exact

Riyaad Edoo, Unilever U.S., search and ecommerce lead at media and marketing services company Mindshare, said brands should “never really concentrate on just SEO for [their] product detail pages.”

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