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How to Rank on Amazon in 2019

Jan 22, 2019

So you’re selling on Amazon in 2019. Lucky you. It’s an amazing time in commerce to leverage the largest marketplace to ever exist.

With that in mind you’ve rightfully prioritized your resources and efforts to rank your product.

It’s simple after all, right?

The loudest guru has given you a semi-clear roadmap and even though you’ve got a hunch they are guessing as they are going you may have just enough information to figure this all out yourself.

You just slap a nice looking logo and some branded packaging on a product from overseas and boom – you’re golden.

Even better you hop on the Google box to find some keywords to not-so-selectively place in your Amazon listing.

You’re an optimization guru!

Not so fast.

Now more than ever FBA sellers are feeling the heavy weight of saturation and ruthless competition in the Amazon marketplace. Heck, even Amazon is getting in on the private label action.

It’s more important than ever to understand exactly what goes into ranking a product on Amazon.

Good thing is I’ve got you covered.

First a quick note. Ranking on Amazon can only be achieved by ‘winning’ keywords. Period.

I’ll say it again – ranking on the largest commerce platform to ever exist requires you to win keywords.

They are just that stinkin’ important.

*Lingering look for those not willing to invest in keyword research but aren’t ranking for a bulk of their keywords*

Yes, there’s no hiding from it.

Don’t miss my article on a deeper dive here. More to come! 🙂

Here’s what you need to know – there are a few key and specific areas impacting your products ability to rank that have evergreen implications.

They include:

– Sales Velocity (via Optimized Sales)

– Page Interactions

These are somewhat obvious but important for different reasons. Let’s unpack each for the sake of clarity.

 

Sales Velocity

Both seller and Amazon want to realize conversions in the form of sales at scale. That ultimately generates more revenue for both parties. A win-win. Do this better than the next guy and you’ve got this box checked in your steps to outrank the competition.

What’s essential, from a sellers perspective, to achieve ongoing visibility and rank is to realize these sales in an optimized or keyword-driven manner.

There’s effectively 2 ways to do this.

  1. Paid sales
  2. Organic sales

Let’s first break down the various means of realizing paid sales.

 

Amazon PPC

Sales from Amazon PPC efforts are often driven by keywords with few exceptions (ex: Auto Campaigns). Those same exceptions are generally used to simply harvest keywords and to realize a marginal benefit for simply having such campaigns turned on.

Pro tip: Yes, you always want to keep Auto Campaign running even with a tiny budget as we continue to see this positively impact product rank.

 

Exact match sales from our Amazon PPC efforts are ideal for realizing the greatest rank benefit. The ever-increasing cost of Amazon PPC (due in large part to increased competition and break-even strategies) has made it difficult for some sellers to sustainably compete and leverage PPC for the explicit benefit of ranking. So it’s crucial sellers do weigh their budgets and objectives to determine the best course of action.

Pro tip: Addressing any Pulse related issues (you can read more herein your Seller.Tools account is a must before deploying break-even or aggressive PPC spend for keywords in your exact match campaigns.

 

External PPC Traffic

We will also lump in paid efforts from external traffic sources. These again impact rank most when driven by a keyword. This is where a unique link (ex: Storefront URL) is often used to embed a keyword into the URL structure. The explicit reasoning being such a link can ‘replicate’ buyer intent to tell Amazon a customer sought out and found a product based on a given keyword or phrase.

External paid traffic can of course come from a variety of sources. Be it YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc. It’s most effective (or provides the highest ROI) when the medium, audience, message and offer are most in sync.

The glaring challenge for most new and intermediate sellers is this often presents the challenge of becoming an expert on more than simply Amazon (a point I touch on a bit later). This can dilute your focus, resources and subsequently, your outcomes. So this is an area to handle with great care and solid strategy.

 

Launch Platforms (ex: Last Launch)

Finally, we will include launch platforms and strategies into the ‘paid’ bucket. This is an area I’m of course quite bullish on given that we can impose more control with a higher level of predictability and leverage segmenting from our launch platform Last Launch (via PAT).

Quicker. Easier. Effective. Last Launch ftw!

This also keeps us, as an example, from trying to be both a Facebook Ad expert and Amazon FBA expert at the same time. A struggle that bogs down most if not to some degree all sellers.

What’s worse is the squandering of valuable time (yes your time has its own ‘cost’) constantly ‘learning’ while other sellers are gobbling up the marketshare you’re supposed to be competing for.

But on the paid side it’s generally that simple. Again, the more the better.

For Organic Sales the focus is on optimization.

 

This is usually where sophisticated sellers shine. It’s sales achieved simply by doing what every other seller has to do (ex: listing creation/optimization) but better. Serving to Amazon exactly what it wants to see in terms of keyword placement, use (ex: word vs phrase), frequency and other similar considerations. Then those sales are realized from (potential) customers already on Amazon actively seeking products/offers.

As you can guess this is where Seller.Tools features really shine for keyword prioritization, performance insights (at the keyword level) and even harvesting keywords for you.

While I’ve shared this resource aplenty I always like to include it when addressing weighting of listing elements for those who rightfully prioritize keyword research and listing optimization.

Below you’ll find a graphic that effectively tells you where you should place keywords with higher demand (ie higher TSI+) within your listing. Exceptions being if you want to ‘win’ or prioritize a longer tail keyword as an example and leverage it’s placement (as one of a few factors) in your listing to garner more potential visibility and sales for that given keyword.

Organic sales are the bulk of the pie –  making up the majority of sales generated on Amazon.com. It’s the reason that we at Seller.Tools have in our own businesses, in aggregate, generated over $100,000,000+ in revenue over the past few years and shifted our focus to expert-level optimization tools and strategies. The Seller.Tools platform itself includes tools our team used to create businesses from scratch to be juggernauts in their respective spaces.

So as it pertains to rank, as with the paid side of things, it’s ideal to realize organic sales at scale and in a kw-driven (or optimized manner).

 

Page Interactions

As a consideration to rank page interactions usually only gets talked about in-depth at $10k+ masterminds.

The gurus usually miss this one altogether.

Or they fall back on myth-ridden cliches like conversion rates matter most.

Let’s unpack an example for this often misunderstood point.

Here we have a high ranking product (in a cutthroat space I might add) that somehow maintains the top spot while having more than 8x the impressions than what should be considered their ‘main’ keyword.

page interactions last search

This is a typical case of botted traffic (or what Amazon calls invalid traffic’) directed to a product listing through a keyword or phrase. This is initiated by the seller for the explicit purpose of driving up page interactions on their product detail page. What this highlights, in a pretty awe-inspiring manner, is that while sessions are astronomical and conversions suffer (relatively speaking) products can rank simply by welcoming and achieving a surplus of page interactions relative to their competitors.

This is an important point as you can imagine.

But where else have you possibly seen page interactions have some of the greatest impact? In blackhat tactics like ‘Add to Wishlist’, ‘Add To Cart’, page scrolls/clicks and even completing the step of printing product detail pages.

Yup, that’s a thing.

There’s also been tangible reinforcement of the importance of page interactions in Amazon documentation spelling out what positively impacts Popularity Score – effectively the metric that determines exactly how a product ranks. My last glance of this documentation had Popularity Score factoring in over 220+ factors. That’s 220+ steps impacting the rank potential of a product – many of which included explicit page interactions and their respective weight.

No shortage of sources attempting to attribute the given weight of interactions (or features)!

Eye opening to say the least.

But what’s an important takeaway with this insight in mind?

I would first be careful anytime you see a ‘top 10’ list of ranking factors for Amazon. Rightfully, your skepticism should shoot through the roof. Unpacking page interactions alone is a daunting task. But to ignore their impact and implications is not recommended and of course impossible to consolidate into a list of a top 10.

Instead, I would recommend accepting the range of factors it implies and working with it in mind. You do want more page interactions signaling to Amazon that there is a high level of interest and engagement on your product listing. Raw metrics to verify this taking place would show up in Session data as it speaks to the potential for greater page interactions.

I would go so far as to say external traffic, as it’s quite often put on a pedestal for it’s ranking impact, is more powerful because of it’s potential to drive more page interactions. New customers (ie unique sessions) may be more likely to spend a larger amount of time viewing product detail pages (ex: images, reviews, Q&A) and subsequently engaging on a listing thereby increasing page interactions.

Again, this is somewhat of an educated guess and driven by anecdotal insights. But as you can imagine truly isolating variables on Amazon to test and arrive at a result with statistical relevance is nearly impossible save if you have the last name of Bezos.

But to put a bow on this very important consideration page interactions are a crucial piece of the ranking equation. More is better. Variety is good. 220+ factors is a lot so getting creative to figure out how you can positively impact this variable is an important piece of the equation.

Before we move further to what could be considered the ‘new’ factors to focus on as it pertains to rank it’s important to reinforce and sum up the simplicity of the aforementioned factors.

Amazon wants to see optimized (keyword-driven) sales and for (potential) customers to invest time and complete steps/interactions while on your product detail page.

 

‘Honeymoon’ Period

Affectionately coined the honeymoon period, Amazon will generally give precedence to a new product and its rank impact within roughly its first 180 of being active. That’s to say relatively new products on Amazon do get a slight edge.

An important note is that we’ve isolated the start of this honeymoon period to your first sale – not when your product is ‘Active’. So it’s crucial that sellers do their due diligence ahead of realizing that first sale or even refraining from completing test buys for this explicit reason.

So for the purposes of ranking we may leverage this period to expedite some of the aforementioned factors – optimized sales and page interactions.

Since it’s made it on my list of ranking factors you may also consider if you should ‘reset’ or start anew with a product to leverage this important variable.

The challenge, if we want to call it that, is for seasoned products (years on platform) to compete with brand new products.

What they must do is factor in some of the other rank factors mentioned here (think page interactions and sustained sales velocity) as well as make the most of that time on platform. That time should be focused on initiatives like review gathering (including images), ongoing keyword harvesting/optimization, additional Q&A, video uploads, strong(er) EBC, etc.

On the Last Launch side of things we typically recommend a longer multi-day launch to extend the sales velocity window for seasoned products. There are exceptions of course. If a listing has remained competitive, has been expertly optimized (ie used Seller.Tools data/insights) and can be expected to easily garner organic sales post-launch.

 

Pro tip: Based on our testing there does seem to be diminishing returns over time.. That’s the say the earlier in the approximately 180 window you can garner more sales velocity and page interactions the better as, over time, the impact of this factor is lessened. So move quick(er) to make the most of this ranking factor.

 

Quality of Customer

When Seller.Tools first introduced PAT (preferred audience targeting) and the measures we were taking to segment higher quality customers with Last Launch some called us crazy. Liars even.

Now those same folks are slowly acknowledging that this point (or fact really) has become the reality.

Don’t worry we’ve got tough skins!

The shift to further classify (or even qualify) customers by Amazon is rather intuitive. Treating the largest buying community on the planet ever as one big, nebulous community lacks prudence and layers apathy over the top of massive mounds of data Amazon has.

Highly unlikely.

But what’s most important is understanding the implications when you’re attempting to rank your product(s).

Put simply – higher quality customers equate to higher rank impact.

While we can’t necessarily share how we aim to identify higher quality customers it’s important to know it is in a data-driven manner.

We also imagine this to be a moving target over time as Amazon evolves and associates different metrics/indicators for qualifying customers.

With this insight in mind your aim is to filter as many high quality customers to your listing. The more page interactions the better. And, again, it’s important to achieve this in an optimized (keyword-driven) manner.

Pro tip: With all the frenzy about the effectiveness of the ‘best’ type of URL to use we’ve actually found through our own meticulous, ongoing testing that the quality of customer is a far better indicator of the potential rank benefit. Exception being ‘older’ and/or non-optimized URLs.

 

Putting it all together

So now that we’ve ironed out major factors and areas of focus to rank it’s important to roll as many of these items together to make the most of your ranking efforts.

Which is actually quite simple.

It’s what we do with Last Launch every single day.

It’s what you can do by timing your launches and leveraging the honeymoon period.

By incentivizing more time on your product detail pages (ex: customers finding and sharing their ‘favorite’ review alongside a discounted purchase).

By even incorporating EBC and Related Video Shorts to have more media-related interaction and time on your product detail page. Possibly even drawing attention to or in some way incentivizing this type of activity? My aim is to provide you with the powerful insight – but the execution is up to you!

Some of the other factors not mentioned here should simply be considered tools in your toolkit. As my aim is not to be exhaustive in potential rank factors (remember those 220+ factors I mentioned) but to help you prioritize the essential pieces or heavy hitters, effectively the 80/20 of launching in 2019.

So with strategy and crucial factors checked off there’s a few practical steps or tactics you can deploy if you’ve got some extra and time and money (remember Last Launch saves you both).

The default approach for many sellers is to drive external (paid) traffic with a compelling offer (ex: 90% off) to a landing page. From there they can disseminate single use promo codes. For a bit more control you could also add a Manychat or messenger bot sequence as a third step for more communication, greater filtering/segmenting and other similar considerations.

This can be a good approach for many brands but has a few shortcomings you want to mitigate. As an example you could very well be serving these steep discounts (in the aim to achieve a higher sales velocity) to the very same customers who are and may be all-to-willing to pay your retail (or full) price in any other scenario. Bummer.

Also consider you would (or really, should) do this step multiple times given that you are aiming to rank for a majority of keywords if you want to gobble up more of that potential Amazon market share.

We refer to that as the potential of diluting your brand equity. When you muddy the waters with the perceived value of your product and buying experience you run the risk of diluting the real, long term value of your product and brand. Doubly so when your focus is to not simply be an ‘Amazon brand’ and brand equity is exactly what you need to bridge the chasm between a single marketplace seller and transitioning to a multi-channel presence.

Now some sellers will deploy more sophisticated strategies such as a loss leader to serve as the gateway for customers being introduced to their brand. However, this should also be carried out in nuanced fashion (samples, accessories, etc.). I would definitely champion this approach if you can execute it strategically and mitigate the aforementioned issues/concerns.

What’s preferred by savvy Amazon sellers and brand owners is to create more insulation between your product/brand and a steep (ongoing) discount.

*Points at Last Launch to help mitigate this shortcoming*

Also, and more practically, this approach can be problematic for new and even intermediate sellers who again are already ‘firefighting’ their way to private label success. Jumping from and expected to be the expert in  sourcing, importing, compliance, shipping, delivery, branding, etc. and we haven’t even gotten a single product in customers hands!

Oh and, by the way, dial in an expert funnel that offers short term returns for long term concessions.

Sign me up!

But I digress.

One little extra Pro tip: I’m a firm believer in break-even (Amazon) PPC strategies. Even overspending as needed. If you view it as the cost of business and really dial in your numbers (so as not to unintentionally lose money over time) it can be an EXCELLENT way to be omnipresent on channel, drive paid sales, not be an ‘expert’ somewhere off-Amazon and of course feed into this rank factor as well. I cover this a bit more in-depth in a video here.

The point being made is that there are a variety of means of achieving the clear factors I’ve outlined for you here. This is how to rank your products for many if not all keywords on your radar.

I know for many I’m opening up concepts and factors they’ve never seen and especially in one place (without a steep cost). And that’s intentionally so. For that reason I’m excited for the implications for you reading this content in full and going forward empowered in your business to make the absolute most of your ranking efforts.

I’ve also begun drafting an article on deep-diving into keyword research at the expert level. Such a topic warrants a more exhaustive review for the most powerful insights. So be on the lookout!

At Seller.Tools we are here to support your ranking efforts as we take our bleeding, cutting-edge insights and incorporate it into both our platform and Last Launch. So if you haven’t already I would encourage you to check out both today by accessing your free 14 day trial here or setting up your Last Launch now. You can do so here!

Aaron O'Sullivan

Troy Johnston   Co-founder, Seller.Tools

Troy Johnston is the Co-founder of Seller.Tools, a robust suite of optimization tools leveraging actual Amazon data. He sold one of his flagship brands for multiple 7 figures and quickly moved to consulting for 8 & 9 figure clients on Amazon.

Troy is obsessed with creating data-driven solutions for Seller.Tools clients by empowering sellers with the best data alongside exclusive features. You can find Troy and an amazing community of FBA sellers through the Facebook community FBA Kings.

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