Amazon Algorithm Explained – How To Improve Your Amazon Ranking In 2018

Have you ever wondered how the Amazon algorithm works?

The following interview explains the Amazon algorithm, and more importantly, how to leverage it to improve the ranking of your product listings on Amazon.

I recently went and interviewed Casey Gauss, the CEO of Viral Launch to find out more details about the Amazon algorithm.

Viral Launch help Amazon FBA business owners launch products successfully on Amazon.

Casey has probably the best firsthand experience of the Amazon algorithm because he’s been involved in over 30,000 Amazon product launches.

He gets to see the data of what works and what doesn’t on a daily basis, so he’s maybe the only person that has better info outside of those working at Amazon.

This is going to be the best shot you’ll get at learning the Amazon algorithm from an expert.

We’re going to cover things such as:

  • How does the algorithm work?
  • What keywords do you need?
  • How do keywords work in the Amazon algorithm?
  • How do you rank for keywords?
  • Does it matter how long your listing has been alive?
  • How does your sales history affect your ranking?

I hope that this helps you understand the Amazon search algorithm a little bit more because knowing how the algorithm works will make or break your success… because having your listings ranked high in the search results is the only way people are going to find your product(s).

Q: Do you know what percentage of organic sales come from the search bar?

No, it’s so hard to tell because sometimes, if you’re ranking but you’re not running ads, you can’t attribute 100% of sales there because maybe Amazon is running some marketing campaign or re-targeting someone that viewed your listing. It’s so hard to tell definitively where results are coming from.

Q: Do you have to get on the first page to make sales?

When you buy stuff on Amazon, assuming you do, how are you finding that stuff? You’re going into the search bar, you’re searching for a product, reading reviews and then buying it.

So yes, products ranked on the first page of search results will get the majority of the views and sales.

Q: How do you think the Amazon algorithm works? How does the algorithm decide which listings to choose when you type in a keyword?

In e-commerce, any algorithm is largely concerned with ‘How can I drive more sales?’ That means making money.

That means someone is getting out their credit card and paying for something. This is the biggest indicator of relevance. With Amazon, their algorithm is concerned with relevance.

So the largest indicator of relevance is a purchase.

If someone searches ‘fish oil’ and they see a ‘grill brush’, they’re not going to buy that grill brush because that’s not what they’re looking for. They’re looking for ‘fish oil’.

If a customer searches something and then they buy, that’s an indicator to Amazon that “Hey, this is what the customer was looking for”.

The biggest driver of product rankings on Amazon is sales. Amazon is concerned with sales history, not just sales over the last day or the last hour.

Amazon will look at sales over the past 24 hours, 48 hours, 3 days, 5 days, 7 days, and so on. I think that the sales history probably goes out to at least 180 days. in terms of tracking.

What this means is, let’s say you had a product that has been live for the last year. Over the last six months, it just hasn’t been performing very well. Maybe selling two units a day on average.

Let’s say competitors have been selling 50 units a day, so their sales history over the last six months is awesome. Six months selling 50 units a day on average. It’s very strong versus your five units a day.

If you have this low sales history, it’s harder for you to achieve a high product ranking and/or maintain a high ranking.

Q: Are you saying if you’ve sucked for a while then it’s going to be hard for you to get on the first page?

Harder, yes.

You might want to do a relaunch.

But what you should take into account is how many reviews you have on that product. Because if you have a good number of reviews, 100 reviews, 200 reviews, it’s hard to walk away from that.

Q: Would you just add a variation?

What you should definitely pay attention to is when you first launch a product. Essentially, in those first few days, Amazon really pays attention to the sales. Any sales driven through that period is huge for relevance.

Q: In the first two weeks, how do sales give weight to your ranking?

We find it a lot easier to drive rankings. You don’t need to drive as many sales afterwards. Your ability to maintain rankings so much easier.

We’ve had plenty of instances where, maybe someone doesn’t have that great of a product or that great of a listing, maybe not that great reviews.

In that first two weeks we launch the product successfully, and it maintains it ranking for months and months, even though it has bad photos or low number of reviews. But they’re able to maintain that ranking because they performed so well in that first two-week period.

I think Amazon gives it a little extra love to see ‘let’s get this listing and chance. Let’s see how well it performs.’

If it performs well in the first two weeks, I’m assuming Amazon is like, “Wow, this must be good if they are doing this well right off the bat.” we definitely see an advantage in the first two weeks.

Q: Where should people put their keywords?

We’ve done a lot of analysis around this.

Every one of our 30,000 product launches tracks keywords and the content of a listing to understand how they influence search result rankings.

Amazon puts weight on your product’s listing title when it comes to ranking. We think that Amazon pays greater attention to the words at the beginning of your product’s listing title.

Let’s say you have a ‘fish oil’. You’d include ‘fish oil’, ‘omega 3’, in your listing title.

To an extent, we’re almost keyword stuffing our titles to make sure that we have several high volume keywords in the product listing title.

We try to make sure that it’s coherent so it still readable. But sometimes, it may appear a little bit quirky.

One thing that I like to say is: I would rather have 3% lower click-through rate, but rank for twice as many keywords.

I’ll give up the cohesive title or beautiful sales copy in my title to make sure that I’m ranking for two times as many keywords or three times as many keywords.

So, I’m going to get so many more impressions. Even though my conversion rate is a little bit lower, I’m driving so many more impressions and I’m driving so many more sales.

Q: Do you believe that you rank higher for each of the keywords in your title with every new sale of the product?

Yes, I do.

Q: Could you almost rank for something that’s kind of irrelevant by just getting so many sales, even though the keyword wasn’t in your title?

Yes and no. it depends on the category. I think that Amazon is doing a little bit more of this, but not to the degree that some people think. Latent semantic indexing is where they build these keyword clusters of relevance.

The ‘fish oils’ keyword cluster won’t include keywords such as ‘dog cages’, as it’s unrelated to fish oils. So you won’t rank a fish oils product when someone searches for dog cages, for example.

Q: How well does Amazon know what words relate to each other?

We believe that you don’t need to have exact phrases in your listing.

If you have ‘fish’ and ‘oil’ in your title, you do not have to say ‘fish oil’, ‘fish oil omega 3’, ‘fish oil or pills’.

However, we do try to keep a phrase order. In this case it would be ‘fish omega 3 oil’.

So then, you still have ‘fish oil’ in phrase order, versus having ‘oil fish’.

But again, I think these are small improvements or optimizations.

Another thing is you definitely need to have the plural forms of your keywords in the title.

Looking at ‘grill brush’, let’s say you’re selling just one brush. You definitely want to have ‘brush’ and ‘brushes’ in your title because Amazon treats them differently.

If you want a quick anecdote, we pushed something very similar.

I’ll continue to use the brushes example. We ran a launch for a product that only had the plural form in the title. We also ran a launch targeting the singular form. So we inserted the keyword ‘grill brushes’ into the title.

We only got the single form listing to mid-page 2 and we’re like, “What the heck is going on?”.We would expect it to hit page 1.

But if we go and search the plural form, we saw that it was ranking really well on page 1 in the top 10. It was because it had the specific plural version of the keyword in the listing title.

Amazon was giving it lift because the specific keyword was found in the title.

Q: Where does the Amazon algorithm care about backend keywords?

There’s only 2,000 characters available in your description, 500 on average for your bullet points (100 each bullet point), and let’s just say 100 in your title.

So that’s only 2,600 characters available in the front end of your listing and then 250 in the back end.

So, 2,850 characters are available. That’s not that much space.

You definitely have to be choosy about which words you are placing in your listing. Basically the way that we do it is we put the most important words and keywords in the title, then we include words that relate to the title and the product, then we go into bullet points while still providing some emotion-charged phrases to build people’s emotional connection to the product.

The trick is how can I beautifully marry sales inducing language with the keywords that need to be in there from SEO (listing optimization) perspective?

Because If people aren’t finding your listing, it doesn’t matter how beautifully written it is.

Then we go to the description. For the backend search terms, they usually don’t have any of the words like ‘fish’ and ‘oil’ or anything like that. It’s just the collection of words that we weren’t able to put into the front end of the listing.

In the grill brush example, let’s say we only sell a ‘green grill brush’. But we want to rank for the words ‘black’ and ‘red’ or something like that. It wouldn’t make sense to put it in the front, so we’ll include it in the backend.

Q: Is there any difference if we put the keywords in the description versus the bullet points versus the backend keywords?

Yes, I imagine there’s some kind of difference. Normally, we treat the bullet points as second in order of priority, then description, then backend search terms.

I think the difference is probably so subtle that it is very difficult for us to confirm for sure. We don’t have strong data that shows us either way is correct. There are so many different things going on. There’s so much noise.

It’s hard to understand things definitively, unless there’s like a significant difference, such as our example of the keywords appearing in the product listing’s title.

Q: If you had to sum it all up, what is the most important element of the Amazon algorithm?

Just make sure that you’re driving sales.

Make sure that you have a listing where you have your main keywords in your title.

Takeaway Points

  • The majority of sales on Amazon are initiate by people searching for something in the search bar.
  • You’re going to get a lot of sales on your product through inserting many different keywords.
  • When you launch a product, Amazon’s machine learning algorithm will analyse the keywords in your listing which contribute to your overall ranking
  • Based on how many sales you make, particularly in the first 14 days, this will likely be the biggest influence on your ranking and which keywords you’ll rank for or not.

Essentially, whoever’s getting the most sales through a keyword, Amazon ranks. That’s just the way that the entire search algorithm works.

Your goal is to find the right keywords for your listing. You get a lot more sales than your competitors through those. And then, you rank higher. That’s the whole name of the game.

Amazon uses sales history to determine which keywords that you’re going to rank for. It’s not just if you did good one day or for three days. When you launch, Amazon’s algorithm is testing and learning.

If you do really well in those first 14 day, Amazon gives you extra love because it’s like, “Wow, this product came out and it’s just crushing everybody else.” Then you’ll rank higher.

Your overall job is just to find the keywords that are the best for your listing.

How do you find keywords that related to your product?

You need a keyword research tool to do that. I suggest you either use Viral Launch or my favorite is Helium 10 for keyword research, but they’re both good and they both get the job done. I have videos for both in my $1 Amazon FBA course.

Keywords

Whenever you get a sale on your listing, you basically get a lift for every keyword in your title. You don’t want to duplicate keywords.

So don’t have ‘fish oil pills’, ‘pills fish oils’. Just have the word ‘fish’ once. Try to get phrases in there if you can, but if you can’t, it’s not the most important thing.

The keywords or phrases that you can’t fit in your title, but still want to include, just put them in your listing somewhere.

If you convert really well on a keyword that has high traffic, put those words at the start of your listing title.

There are the basics of the Amazon search algorithm. It’s all based on keywords that people are searching for, and the sales you achieve.

Now that you know how the Amazon algorithm works, find out about gated products on Amazon and how to avoid problems…