Updated 1st August, 2023 – the following article focuses on preparing for Amazon’s Prime Day, however some points and considerations can be used for Black Friday, this year’s date is Friday 24th November.
Amazon has been redefining how we shop online since 1996 – and the changes have not stopped coming, with Amazon’s share of shopping searches now at 63% in the UK.
In addition to this, almost 90% of all product views on the Amazon platform came from searches – rather than from ads or product aggregators, and 45% of all of those views went to products on the first three rows of the search result.
While these top rows increasingly feature ads, this isn’t likely to diminish the percentage share of clicks for the top results by much – though the Google and Amazon SERP are not exactly interchangeable, the share of clicks is similar and, one can safely assume, consumer behaviour is unlikely to substantially differ between platforms.
This means that, if your brand operates on Amazon, it is as important – if not even more so – that you feature in the top positions. This eBook will look at both Amazon SEO and PPC and we’ll show you what can be achieved through paid advertising and – the most cost effective method – improving your Amazon SEO. There will also be a focus on the key eCommerce trading periods and seasonal sales that run every year.
So, Amazon SEO… catering to Amazon’s ranking algorithm – referred to as A9 (after the Amazon subsidiary that handles its SEO) – Amazon SEO is the process of optimising both your seller account and your product pages to appeal to the ranking method that underlies the Amazon search engine results pages. This shares some things in common with SEO for Google search, but is heavily weighted for relevance and performance of your products.
Amazon.co.uk is leading the UK e-commerce market, with e-commerce net sales of US$15,362 million in 2022 generated in the UK; this means that, like Google, if you’re selling online, you pretty much have to be on Amazon.
With your competition consisting of everything from basement/garage bound start-up retailers to multi-billion mega-corporations, you should be ensuring you’re doing everything you can to make sure that your product is capable of standing out from the crowd – and that starts with optimisation.
Unlike Google, who prefer to keep their algorithmic black box sealed, locked and guarded by wolves, Amazon has been quite clear about the factors it expects sellers to optimise.
According to Amazon: “Customers must be able to find your products before they can buy them, and searching is the primary way they can do that. Customers search by entering keywords, which are matched against the information (title, description, and so on) that you provide for a product.
“Factors such as degree of text match, price, availability, selection, and sales history help determine where your product appears in a customer’s search results. By providing relevant and complete information for your product, you can increase your product’s visibility and sales.”
Bearing in mind the four key points above, this is how we would consider SEO optimisation, and instruct brands and businesses that want to adhere to Amazon Ranking factors.
There are a lot of crossovers between these factors – there aren’t too many things to optimise, so there are bound to be.
Visibility, as far as Amazon is concerned, represents the consumer’s ability to find the product and, therefore, relates to the effort sellers put into completing the information sections for your listings. While you can do this en masse using a spreadsheet upload, all of the fields for a solo listing should be present in the sheet you use for the mass upload.
While this is also determined by the data you enter into your product listing, relevance is something you should consider separately – you want to make your products discoverable, but you also need to make sure that the keywords you’re targeting are entirely focused on those your ideal consumer, or buyer personas would be using to find your product. While increasing the number of keywords, or using branded keywords from competitors may (probably temporarily) increase visibility, leaving a consumer disappointed with your product is a poor first impression.
Sales and sales velocity seem to be the key factors for ranking on Amazon – while there may not be too much you can do to influence this at first, you can use paid search to boost your initial sales figures through both Amazon and search PPC. While boosting in this fashion will improve rankings, it should be noted that it is lasting sales volume that produces lasting ranking improvement.
Whether it’s a friendly note with the product, or an email following the purchase, you need to pick up reviews – not only is it beneficial for sales (as most consumers will prefer to purchase an item that has been rated), but it is also a ranking signal to get those reviews rolling in.
When it comes to advertising ROI – Amazon PPC sees a 10-15% conversion rate compared with 2.85% for Google Ads meaning that it is a no-brainer for today’s marketer.
Over the past few years, Amazon has begun to realise its huge potential as an advertising platform and developed a range of flexible, self-serve solutions for sellers to promote their products. It’s power is in taking the tried and tested pay-per-click (PPC) model already well-established by Google Ads and combining it with its own USPs, namely:
- HIGH PURCHASE INTENT
- RICH CUSTOMER DATA
- EASE OF PURCHASE
- SPONSORED PRODUCTS
- PRODUCT DISPLAY ADS
- SPONSORED BRANDS
- PRODUCT DISPLAY ADS
People usually come to Amazon with a specific product in mind – making it a valuable opportunity to expose your product to customers with high purchase intent (meanwhile, shoppers tend to use Google to search for products when they’re in the research phase of their purchase journey).
No other business does eCommerce on such a massive scale, which gives the platform another unique competitive advantage: the detailed customer purchase data that sellers can use to leverage their campaigns. Amazon knows the specific products that customers are purchasing, and how frequently they’re buying. This means its algorithms have a wealth of data to draw on when it comes to accurately matching your ads to relevant customer searches.
A familiar platform for users, with the ability to drop products from a range of different sellers in their basket without leaving the website. If you already sell on the platform, advertising on Amazon is a versatile and powerful way for you to promote your listings, for example, to push your best-selling, seasonal, or end-of-line stock up higher in search results, make them visible to a new audience and, perhaps most of all, making it easy for buyers to purchase them through a familiar checkout interface.
Amazon offers the following options:
These are bottom-of-the-funnel direct response ads that drive traffic to Amazon product pages, giving brands the opportunity to brands and sellers that want exposure to shoppers with strong purchase intent (as customers generally come to Amazon with the intention of making a purchase).
Like Google Ads, Sponsored Products are cost-per-click (CPC) and largely keyword-driven, matching the keywords that feature in your campaign to the search terms that shoppers use to search for products on Amazon. When a shopper searches for the keywords in your campaign, your ad has a chance of displaying if it meets the required eligibility criteria.
These image ads appear in several different places in Amazon (across all devices on desktop, tablet or mobile): your ads may be displayed on top of, alongside, or within search results – these look similar to organic Amazon search results or Google Shopping ads. In April 2020 Amazon announced that it was releasing product targeting for Sponsored Display ads. This means that merchants can now target similar or complementary products and categories via Seller Central.
With new options, for example, you could target running shoe ads to appear on category pages for running shorts, says Amazon. Similarly, you can cross-promote your own products. “If you also sell socks, product targeting placements on your shoes’ product detail page makes it easy for shoppers to add a pair of socks to their shoes with just a few clicks.”
Until now, Sponsored Display ads have been a retargeting product. Advertisers can use audience views targeting to retarget users who have viewed their product detail pages in the past 30 days and didn’t make a purchase with Sponsored Display ads on Amazon as well as on third-party websites and apps. The two targeting methods can now be used together.
These ads can appear across Amazon desktop and mobile, with placements on detail pages, above search results and top of the offer listing page. You target these ads by selecting specific products or shopper interests. There is speculation that Product Display ads will be absorbed into the Sponsored Products offering as Amazon is putting a lot more emphasis on the latter as the best choice for sellers.
Similarly to Sponsored Products, these are self-serve solutions available to registered sellers, vendors, book vendors, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) authors, app developers, and agencies. Targeting sellers at the top of the purchasing funnel, they allow sellers to boost brand awareness with your logo and a customised headline in ads that appear in search results.
This option generates recognition for your brand portfolio rather than specific products; as well as solutions via the Amazon DSP for advertisers who want to spend at scale via display, video and custom ads.
This is by far the biggest growing opportunity for advertisers, and which accounts for the majority of ad spend on the platform. If you sell on Amazon, Product Display Ads offer a powerful and versatile way for you to promote your listings, for example, to push your best-selling, seasonal or end-of-line stock up higher in search results, making them visible to a new audience. Visibility, whether paid or organic, is key to success as 70% of Amazon shoppers only purchase from the first page of search results.
Amazon Ad Ranking
In order to fully understand how to optimise for paid ads in Amazon you need to get to grips with their ad rank formula.
There’s a significant difference in how Amazon ranks ads (ie, decides when and where to show them) compared with Google Ads because Amazon primarily makes money when items are sold as it makes commission on every sale; Google primarily makes money when ads are clicked on.
In a nutshell, Amazon ranks profitable ads higher; it prioritises what the customer is most likely to buy from based on performance and relevance metrics.
The formula is as follows: Ad Rank = CPC Bid x Ad Grade
Ad Grade is based on:
- Performance metrics
- CTR (click-through rate) history
- Conversion rate
- Overall sales Relevance metrics
- Product title
- Search terms
- Seller name
The bottom line is that the quality of your product page is just as important as the quality of the ad (in the same way as your Google Ad Rank is partially determined by the quality and relevance of your landing page). It’s therefore absolutely crucial that you optimise your product detail pages with great images, a clear description, and a competitive price, before you even start advertising.
It is more important than ever for businesses to make sure that they have a good offering and that they are prepared to adjust their strategy to make the most of these busy trading periods.
Over the years, named retail days have begun to increase – with Cyber Monday first cropping up in 2005 and continuing to grow in prominence, joining Super Saturday (the last Saturday before Christmas) – but these tend to be the naming of existing trends, which retailers have already reinforced with discounts long before they are named. What we are seeing presently, in a financial climate that seems to promise little for retailers offline, is a conscious decision by retailers to increase a demand that has no historical antecedent.
This can, of course, go one of two ways. Simply put – it either works, or it doesn’t
Prime Day usually lasts for 48 hours, and Amazon typically releases new deals every few hours during the event.
Prime Day begins a kind of arms race, with retailers seeking to compete across longer and longer periods for essentially the same spend, eating into other shopping periods with extended runs of discounting.
The average spend per brand more than quadrupled (320%) compared to the Tuesday and Wednesday a week prior to Prime Day 2022, but the average spend per campaign soared by 268%. While average spend per brand increased by 11% from Prime Day 2021, average spend per campaign remained relatively flat (-3%).
Preparation is key
While the Amazon algorithm may not be of the same level of complexity as that of Google or Bing, it’s nevertheless important to ensure you’re ticking all of the right boxes with your product listings.
With Amazon continuing to grow its share of eCommerce and retail in general, there are few brands that can afford to ignore the world’s favourite shopping search engine. By implementing the right Amazon SEO practices, however, and ensuring that you take the platform seriously, you can help your brand compete against larger competitors and take steps to succeeding in an ever more digital world.
There’s no doubt that Amazon can deliver customers at an unmatched scale, making it a competitive place for sellers. While offering good quality products and following eCommerce best practices are obviously critical to Amazon success, there’s an increasingly compelling case for a hybrid optimisation approach of organic and paid campaigns as the best strategy for brands looking to maximise their visibility.
Oh, and one more tip! If you haven’t already, next year: start earlier!