Where To Start With Amazon Marketing

TImothy Johnson, Small Business Solutions / PPC Team Lead
Amazon Marketing 101 from Portent Digital Marketing

Amazon Marketing: Why It’s Important

There are hundreds of millions of active accounts on Amazon. Moreover, nearly half of internet shoppers go directly to Amazon instead of starting with a search engine like Google when they are looking to make a purchase. Those are staggering numbers. But chances are you don’t need convincing that Amazon is a channel worth pursuing if you sell online.

The real question is how to approach it and how to succeed. Competition on Amazon is high and just posting your listing isn’t going to mean sales.

With Amazon, the name of the game is visibility. Specifically, premium visibility and how to get it. Amazon is a search engine. Just like Google, it uses an algorithm to decide who should rank and who shouldn’t for queries or particular product searches. That said, it is its own platform with its own rules defined by Amazonians, not Googlers. It absolutely needs to be treated with a different strategy to win this unique game.

But there are certainly lessons to be drawn from search engine advertising.

How do we generally produce visibility in Google search? With search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search advertising (PPC). These same broad concepts apply to Amazon.

Amazon SEO

The first step to SEO for Amazon is understanding how Amazon’s search algorithm works. That is easier said than done, but if you’re going to understand the algorithm, you need to understand what Amazon’s real goal is. It’s different than Google or Bing’s.

More traditional search engines design their algorithms as a way to, as Google puts it, “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” That’s a nice way of saying they want to rank and present pages in order of their quality and usefulness for any search so that people can find the information they need and continue searching on Google’s owned properties.

Amazon’s goal, on the other hand, is to help people find the products they need so they can buy and keep shopping on Amazon. The word “buy” is the important part here. Amazon is a shopping engine (for now). It wants its users to buy things so its sellers can sell things so Amazon can make money. Send the package ridiculously fast. Drive a review or two. Rinse and repeat.
Everything facet of their algorithm considers this simple end goal of driving the sale.

So, what is Amazon looking at to help people find and buy what they want and need?

Performance and sales: The algorithm looks at things like CTR (click-thru rate) in the search results, conversion rate once users view a listing, and yes, sales.

Relevance: The algorithm looks at how well a product listing matches the query that a user types into the search bar.

Begging the more actionable question: How do I improve those ranking factors for my listing?

Keywords Are King

Much like Google in the not-too-distant past, keywords are a big part of what you can do or control to start ranking better. So, how do you know which keywords matter to Amazon and to those millions of your prospective, future customers? Keyword research.

Keyword research is a foundational part of all SEO, but Amazon keyword research is a little different. And it’s not just Amazon. This is true for all shopping engines. People search differently when they are on Amazon or in a true product-seeking mindset than they might on Google when they’re seeking early information about your category. There is likely to be some overlap, but it is important to use keyword research tools that are meant for shopping.

Here are a few keyword research tools to consider:

Once you have a strong keyword list informed by how people are actually searching on Amazon, you’ll need to figure out how to leverage that insight.

Keyword Placement Matters

Location, location, location! Your title is the prime real estate for optimizing your listing. And not just technically speaking, but for real humans scanning real results.

The next most important placement is your product description. Followed by your backend keywords, which have a strict character count. Your bullets matter too, but more for UX than for strict technical optimization.

Again, the point is to start with a good grasp on what matters most and to let that guide how your listing is constructed, with a heavy dose of common sense about writing clearly, concisely, and engagingly for real humans. There should be a method to the madness.

Amazon Marketing Requires Strong UX

Designing and writing your listing for the end-user will also directly affect your ability to rank well. Blatant keyword stuffing as a practice is thankfully still on the trash-pile of search engine history. Shoes shoes shoes, tennis shoes, shoes shoes…

Having things like high quality product images may seem obvious but it’s exactly this attention to detail and deliberately providing great product information in all forms that will earn you a click and ultimately a sale over someone else. Here’s a short list of UX related considerations:

  • Image quality
  • Image variations (different views, pictures on a model, etc)
  • Clear and descriptive product titles
  • Detailed descriptions and product specifications
  • High rating
  • Good reviews
  • Free shipping
  • Available on Prime?
  • Competitive pricing

Some of these things you’ll be able to control more than others, but you should do what you can to put a good foot forward and earn a shoppers’ trust as quickly as possible. This boils down to looking credible through both polish and social proof, and yes, giving them what they need to make a decision.

Amazon Visibility Isn’t Something You “Fix” – It’s Something You Work At

Just like other forms of SEO, you are never truly “done” optimizing. This kind of effort towards best-possible visibility is all about Distance from Perfect, a concept we talk about a lot at Portent.

Continue to iterate. Amazon’s algorithm will absolutely continue to change over time as they learn and improve, so make sure your marketing team or your agency is current on what’s happening to stay ahead of your competition.

Amazon PPC

As with just about everything in digital marketing these days, sometimes you need to pay to play. This is especially true for new products without a lot of historical sales to provide lift organically.

Amazon Sponsored Products are a very effective way to get people to your listing and boost sales in a targeted and cost-efficient way. Amazon’s PPC platform is similar to Google Ads (formerly AdWords) in that it is keyword-driven and uses a CPC or cost-per-click auction model. The ad targeting options available, combined with the strong purchase intent of most Amazon users make it an easy choice for serious Amazon sellers. If you’d like to learn more about Sponsored Product advertising on Amazon, this companion piece walks through the strategies and tactics in more detail.

Sponsored Products aren’t just for new products either. Yes, it’s a great way to get products off the ground, but it can also be highly effective for seasonal campaigns and for providing an overall lift when organic sales aren’t meeting short-term revenue goals.

Can Sponsored Products Improve My Organic Ranking?

In a word: Yes. Although it’s not as simple as an ad spend “dragging” a lagging search result up the page, the visibility and extra sales from paid will mean a better organic rank in the future. Think of it as proactively creating momentum for your organic listing.

How to Run Ads on Amazon

Sponsored Products can be found and mentioned in Seller Central. As described above, Sponsored Product ads are fairly similarly to AdWords in terms of how you can manage them, For instance, you can (and very likely should) create campaigns and ad groups to target keywords with max CPC bids.

It’s worth noting that AdWords controls are more robust than Amazon’s at this point, with a several-year head start, although Amazon seems to be investing heavily to make up ground. Whatever your take on the interface, the important thing to remember here is still that keywords are king.

The keyword research you already did on the SEO side can and should influence the keywords you target with your paid ads on Amazon. You know what they’re searching, so unless it’s cost prohibitive (ad costs minus your specific margins) you know exactly where you’d ideally like to show up.

Importantly, and just like AdWords, “negative keywords” (those terms that signify a search for a product where you’re not a good fit, are also an important tool for Amazon PPC. Be sure to invest a bit of time early-on to develop a strong negative keyword list to help narrow your targeting. This will improve efficiency and prevent wasteful spending. Focus on showing up when you’re truly the best fit, and invest to make sure you’re highly visible in those moments.

Where Do Amazon Ads Show Up?

This might sound well and good, but without the context of what this ultimately looks like, it can be tough to connect the “I should…” with the real end result.

Just like Google, Amazon ads are usually given some of the most premium real-estate on the entire site. This means they will be the first thing a shopper will see.

Amazon paid or promoted products are given prime placement

Not only do paid or sponsored results give you a shot at the top of each search results page, they can also be seen directly on other seller’s product pages. That’s a pretty significant advantage over traditional search when it comes to merchandising, if we do say so.

Use Amazon Ads to show your products on competitor listings

Is Amazon Advertising Easy Enough To Handle Solo?

The reality here is that Amazon is a highly competitive marketplace because the upside volume is simply unmatched. Achieving high ranking and driving sales doesn’t happen by accident. Whether you’re opening a job req for an internal staffer, or looking to your agency partner, it’s generally a very good idea to have someone familiar with both SEO, paid search management, and Amazon’s platform-specifics managing your presence.

Shameless plug: if you aren’t sure whether your Amazon products and presence would benefit from professional help, contact us or read more about how Portent helps sellers on Amazon here.

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  1. There is some priceless information here for ecommerce marketers and I have archived this post for future reference. I loved the section ‘Amazon Visibility Isn’t Something You “Fix” – It’s Something You Work At’. Definitely worth spreading the word on this. Great article Timothy, thanks.

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