How Amazon’s Search Engine Works

September 30, 2014

Marketplaces ChannelAdvisor By ChannelAdvisor

Retailers are always vying for top position on Amazon, but what does the marketplace look for when it compiles results? Given the many options for customers, we’ve identified what retailers can do to improve their listings and ranking on the marketplace giant.

How Buyers Search

Buyers scan results pages very quickly. They spend a fraction of a second on each result, taking a longer look if something is worth it. With this in mind, it’s important to optimise your titles and photos to capture attention. Buyers are also interested in words related to the terms they type in Amazon’s search engine. For example, a buyer searching for a MacBook will likely notice words like ‘Air,’ ‘Pro’ or ‘Retina’.

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How Amazon’s Search Engine Works

AmazonSearchBlog2When a buyer types a query into Amazon’s search box, the search engine looks up those words in its index, finds all the results and then ranks them accordingly. This ranking system uses several factors to identify which results are relevant. When doing this, Amazon is assessing the quality of the product and listing, the degree of text match and customer feedback.

It’s a sophisticated engine that excludes common words like ‘the,’ and it also learns common misspellings automatically — and provides spelling corrections. It’s not case-sensitive, so it ignores uppercase and lowercase letters. It also ignores punctuation, so there’s no need to list different variations in a listing (‘t-shirt,’ ‘tshirt’ and ‘t shirt’).

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How to Improve Titles

Because buyers spend only a fraction of time on any result, you should keep your product titles short. A minimal amount of information is needed to identify the item. A title of 60 or fewer characters is highly recommended, but the shorter the better — especially as many shoppers now search from mobiles. It’s harder to read long titles, so buyers may just skip them. Plus, they take up more space, showing fewer results.

Ask yourself which words are likely to be relevant when buyers scan results. Once you’ve identified these, you can assess what information you may not need to include. Titles shouldn’t include full item descriptions. You can use the descriptions and bullet point areas in your listing to provide this additional information.

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These examples of good titles are effective because they’re short, rich with keywords and relevant to what consumers tend to search. The examples of poorly constructed titles are less successful because the titles are effectively product descriptions. Titles shouldn’t include details such as compatible model numbers, testimonials, packaging details or other options.

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Amazon provides recommendations to sellers about titles within category-specific style guides. It’s a good idea to look this up for your category to see learn the recommended format. In general you’ll see Amazon suggesting the following:

[Brand] + [Series] + [Model] + [Product] 

At ChannelAdvisor, we strongly recommend doing an audit of your listings to make sure they’re optimised. To get started, review titles, starting with the longest ones, and identify where you can condense them without losing impact. If you are following a title format like the one suggested by Amazon above, you can even utilise ChannelAdvisor’s Data Transformation Engine to build titles in the format shown by using Business Rules.

Let’s take a look at this example:

Current Title (146 characters):

Pixnor USB AC Power Adapter Home and Travel Charger with US/EU/UK/AU Plugs for Apple IPAD / IPHONE / SAMSUNG / BlackBerry / HTC / Nokia / Motorola

Assess which words in your title are the most important, then move these to the front so it’s easier for your buyer to spot them. In this example, ‘AC Charger’ and ‘USB’ are the critical points to highlight. Information such as the fact that the item is universal and that it can be used when buyers ‘travel’ or stay ‘home’ are not as important. Shoppers are less likely to search for those points, so remove these from your title and include them in your product description instead. You should also clean up capitalisation to make your listing look more professional. Here’s our suggested update:

Optimised Title (53 characters):

Pixnor International USB Power Charger for Smartphones and Tablets

How to Improve Keywords

Keywords are one of the primary methods buyers use to find products on Amazon. Your keywords should include product attributes — such as model numbers, materials or specs — and alternative ways of describing the product.

Amazon’s algorithm uses a ‘match score’ to promote the most relevant search results, so relevancy is key. Your match score will be better if the words you use are in the same sequence as the buyer’s query. We also recommend listing different phrases as different entries, instead of together on the same line.

Keywords should not include:

  • Information that is already present in other fields, such as your title or brand
  • Subjective claims about the quality of the item (‘best’)
  • Statements that are only temporarily true (‘new,’ ‘on sale’, ‘available now’)
  • Information that is true of most or all items in the category (‘book’)
  • Common misspellings of the product name
  • Variants of spacing, punctuation, capitalisation and plurals (both ‘80GB’ and ‘80 GB’, ‘computer’ and ‘computers’, etc.).

Keywords should never include information that misrepresents the product, such as a competing brand or a different author. Doing so violates Amazon’s policies.

Summing It Up

When building or reviewing your keywords, remember that the aim of the game is to have keywords that help buyers by providing additional information that wouldn’t otherwise be searchable. Keep that in mind as you review yours.

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 16.01.10When selling on Amazon, it’s in your interest to spend some time focusing on your data to attract more customers. If you’re interested in learning more about the latest from Amazon, join our ‘What’s New with Amazon’ webinar on 30 September at 7 p.m. BST/ 2 p.m. EDT. For more information and to register, please go here: bit.ly/ECOMAmazonWebinarSeptember

Blog post by David Le Roux, account manager, ChannelAdvisor EMEA