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SEO for Amazon – winning the buy box

In this blog post, we go through a new form of SEO - and how to get a top position in the Amazon search results.
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As Amazon enters the Swedish market, e-commerce companies will need to understand and master a new form of SEO – how to get a top position in the Amazon search results. Since a lot of you are already familiar with optimising for Google searches, we will approach this subject by comparing Amazon SEO with Google SEO, so that you can draw on your current skills while learning some new Amazon-specific ones.

Amazon is a lot like Google and also completely different

Google and Amazon search algorithms essentially do the same thing.

They go through an incredible amount of data and then try to deliver what they think is the search result that best matches the question that the user has. So, whatever is best for the user, that is what they’re trying to deliver. In that sense, they are exactly the same.

What is different then? It is how they define what ”is best for the user”.

For Google, this is: ”Finding the right thing”.
For Amazon, it is: ”Buying the right thing”.

When Google delivers the search results, they want the user to look at the listed options, click on one of the top ones, go to wherever that takes them and then be happy with the experience that was delivered on that website.

So, now Google tries to read a lot of different signals that indicate if the website visit was a success or not. And in Google’s world, this website could be anything. It could be a weather forecast, photos of birds, fairytales, even products.

Joel Tukiainen – Head of SEO & Analytics – Keybroker

If you look at it from the Amazon point of view, Amazon wants to show a list of products.

So, this is the first difference between Amazon and Google; Amazon search results are ”products only”. There are no other search results than the ones showing lists of products. This makes a huge difference. As Joel Tukiainen – Head of SEO and Analytics at our sister company – Keybroker, puts it:

“Since Amazon is product driven when it comes to search, you will need to make sure there is demand on the market. Unlike working with SEO on Google, you can not work with inspirational content higher up in the purchase funnel to create demand and/or work with branding for your company.”

Now to the second difference between Amazon and Google: when the user finds a product in the search results and clicks through to the product page – Amazon doesn’t stop there.

Amazon thinks that they’ve done a good job when the customer has found the product added it to their cart, completed the checkout, had it sent to their home, decided not to return it and then finally written a review.

“Success for Amazon means: the customer has found the product, added it to their cart, completed the checkout, had it sent to their home, decided not to return it and then finally written a review.”

So if you want to summarise; the differences between the Amazon and Google algorithms are these: Google is broader in scope indexing everything, not only products. Amazon is deeper in customer experience, optimising for the whole customer journey. But Amazon does this for products only.

Now, let’s get down to the details of optimising for Google and Amazon. Also on a detailed level, there are quite a lot of similarities between how the two algorithms work. So we’ll begin by investigating these similarities, because then you can draw on your experience from Google optimisation, now that you are about to start your Amazon optimisation.

1. Content is king

If you have been optimising for Google then you know that there are two main categories of work here: on-site and off-site. There is a huge debate over which one is more important, but we’re not going to get into that game today. Let’s begin by focusing on on-site.

A crucial task in your SEO work for Google is to optimise the content on the pages that you want to rank. So whatever search phrase that the user will type in – this is what you need to match on the page. In body text, in titles, in meta description tags etc.

Joel Florén – Head of Automation and Search – Keybroker

Amazon is similar here. The content on the product page is hugely important for ranking success. It begins with a product title that should contain the brand name and the type of product. As a result, we can see that many Amazon product names are very long. They are much more descriptive than just the simple product name that you have given it.

When we move onto the product description details, this needs to be very exhaustive, detailing all the specifications and descriptions that the customer can look for. Here it’s a good idea to use bullet lists to make it easier for the user finding the key points in the product description.

Finally, as with any high performing e-commerce site, having good product images is crucial.

“Content, once again, is king. Our experience shows that companies that invest in research, detailed product descriptions and high quality images become the winners also in this race to the top”.
– Joel Florén – Head of Automation and Search – Keybroker

2. Your track record is important

In both cases of optimisation, history matters. If you have a proven track record of delivering a great experience to the user, both Google and Amazon will take this into account.

In Google lingo, we often call this authority. A site that’s been around for a while has a lot of inbound links. It has built credibility over the years and has a higher chance of ranking well compared to its competitors. It’s the same thing with Amazon. A seller that has a lot of testimonials, a long track record of delivering products with no complaints and low returns will be higher up in the search results. When Amazon launches in Sweden, this factor will make it harder for Swedish beginners in the game of reaching top positions. This is because sellers that have already been on the platform for some time will have a head start.

3. The winner takes it all

Another factor where Amazon is really similar to Google is “the winner takes it all” approach. We all know that the click rates on the top positions on Google are so much higher than if you are just a few positions down.The top positions get almost all the clicks.

On Amazon, it’s very similar. The number one listing – often referred to as ”the buy box” – gets over 80% of the purchases. So again, it’s incredibly important to strive and work towards that top position. We’ll get back to this in just a little while.

4. They both love external links/traffic

Amazon and Google are similar in the sense that they both value external linking and external traffic.

As you know, the authority of a web page in Google’s terms is determined by the number of other websites linking to it. In the beginning, this was almost the only ranking factor that Google used.

Amazon is similar in the sense that they will give a higher ranking to a seller that brings external traffic onto the Amazon platform. So if you are buying external ads and sending traffic to your Amazon pages – this will affect your ranking. This is because Amazon wants you to bring traffic to their website.

As you can see, this is similar in the sense that they both factor in external traffic in their algorithms. But it’s also different in the way that it works specifically for each of the algorithms.

Let’s now start taking a look at the major differences between optimising for Amazon and Google.

1. It’s all about the customer journey

The biggest difference is that Amazon tries to catch signals that indicate who is the best seller in terms of delivering an end-to-end buying experience for the customer.

So, what are those details, or ”signals” that you need to think about?

2. Not a competitive price? Then – no deal.

Not surprisingly, the first one is the price. If you don’t have a price that is competitive compared with the prices everybody else selling the same or a similar product, you’re not in the game.

You could think that this is the only ranking factor on Amazon since they are obsessed with giving consumers low prices. But it is not. You could be selling dirt cheap, but the rest of your fulfilment could be a disaster. Amazon wouldn’t like this.

3. You must have it in stock

So the next ranking factor for Amazon is whether the item is in stock or not. Consumers want to buy products now – not tomorrow. If the product is in stock, you have a chance of winning the top position.

4. Get it there fast

“Item in stock” is connected to the third factor – delivery time. Same here: if you can get it quickly to the consumer you might win the buy box.

The delivery time is tightly connected to the fifth factor, which fulfilment method you use.

5. Amazon Loves Amazon

When you deliver from your own fulfilment centre, Amazon has no idea of how good you are at doing this.

However, if you have chosen the Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) method, then Amazon has a good idea of how long it’ll take them to get the product to the consumer. They basically trust their own logistics more than they trust yours. So with everything else equal; the seller that has Fulfilled by Amazon will outrank the one that has Fulfilled by merchant.

If you want to understand the different ways of selling on Amazon – check out our lastest blog post on this subject.

6. The voice of the customer

The last ranking factor is incredibly important. It’s the ratings and the testimonials.

Besides price and delivery, customer satisfaction, as expressed in a good rating or a good testimonial, is Amazon’s third obsession. So without those testimonials and ratings, you will not be able to reach the top position.

“Ratings and testimonials is Amazon’s third obsession.”

So, for Swedish sellers going online on Amazon for the first time, getting reviews and ratings has to be one of the key tasks

7. Bye-bye technical SEO

With “technical SEO” we usually mean optimising the technical aspects of your shopping platform to make it more “SEO friendly”.  You are looking at such things as where on the page/in your code crucial text snippets will appear,  how you optimise your web page speed and which e-commerce platform/software you choose to begin with.

And in the now everyone will be on the same platform – Amazon’s. And therefore the focus will shift to content rather than tech.

“SEOs have been used to having control of all the technical aspects of their website. On Amazon, everyone will be working with the same technical conditions and what you really should be focusing on is making the input data (your product feed) as optimised as possible for the product-related search behaviour.”
– Joel Tukiainen – Head of SEO and Analytics – Keybroker

Winning the buy box

The number one position on Amazon is often called “the buy box”. As you can see in this image, there are a number of sellers of the same product, but only one of them gets the top position.

As you probably understand by now, this is not an “either-or game”. It’s not like you need to have the best price OR the fastest delivery. In fact, you need to be working with ALL the factors we have included in this article. If you do this consistently over a long time – then you will have a chance of winning the buy box.

Analytics and understanding customer behaviour

If you are used to working in Google Analytics, Google ads and Google search console, you will find that the Amazon analytics platform is not as rich or detailed as the Google platform.

And since you are now optimising for the whole customer journey, the job at hand is also a lot harder.

You should also know that by advertising on the Amazon ads platform you will get more and richer data.

The reason I’m saying this is that you need to understand that you will have to invest in order to get this right. You got a harder job to do and your tool is not as good as your old one. You best come prepared.

How will Amazon influence Google?

Before I wrap up this blog post, I’d just like to share some thoughts on the future of product search. Since product searches make up a substantial part of Googles’s search volume, they’re not going to let all of this traffic just move over to Amazon without a fight. What we have been describing is the current state, but you should expect this to change as we are going forward.

Much of Google’s revenue growth in search ads comes from Shopping ads. Swedish online retailers often have over 50% of search traffic and sales coming from the Google Shopping advertising format. With consumers now starting to bypass search engines and going directly to Amazon, Google is investing heavily to protect its product search business. This includes launching functions such as Google Express (shop on Google), simplifying product feed management in Merchant Center and rolling out organic shopping results.  The battle for product search ads revenue has just begun.”
– Joel Florén: Head of Automation and Search – Keybroker

What to do now:

By now you should have a rough understanding of what it means to be optimising for Amazon search. But as usual, the devil is in the details and the best way to learn is simply to get going. Start your Amazon account, log in, upload some pilot products, and get busy on those product descriptions.

If you already have some ideas about what it means to be optimising for Google I hope that this blog post has been able to show you that working with Amazon is not that different.

Most of the ranking factors, algorithms, signals and guidelines are in fact just “common sense”. So, if you start your work here in a commonsensical way this will get you far, maybe even to the top spot.

By John Ekman
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