Amazon’s A9 Algorithm: SEO for Amazon

Every system in the world has a Search functionality, and Amazon is no different. Amazon doesn’t suffer from Search Intent, as every search carries a very high conversion rate. It’s crucial, therefore, to optimise products and profiles on the world’s biggest eCommerce.

The A9 Algorithm

The A9 algorithm is designed to match direct and indirect factors in order to match user queries to products that they are most likely to purchase. The key word when Pat Petriello used when describing the algorithm was that it is designed to optimise “sales velocity.”

Here are some key stats related to the SERP and platform that every SEO should know:

  • 70% of users never click past the first SERP
  • 35% of users click on the first product featured on a SERP
  • The first 3 items in a SERP account for 64% of clicks
  • 71% of all clicks occur on the first SERP.

So by being on the second SERP, even with a well optimised product, you’re still looking at 30% traffic, 30% clicks, when compared to the first page. If you’re somewhere low on the second SERP, you’re looking at less than 10% traffic, and almost 5% product clicks.

According to Amazon’s Support Pages:

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. 

Amazon’s algorithm can be broken down into 3 subsections in terms of drivers.

  1. Direct factors
  2. Indirect factors
  3. User factors

Direct factors include relevant information that is processed upon query. For example, things like:

Indirect factors involve the delivery, processing, and “selling” of a product on Amazon. These are based on sales velocity, and include things such as:

  • Promotions
  • Advertising expenditure
  • A+ Content
  • Fulfilment method (FBA)

User factors are beyond the control of SEOs. These are based on user behaviour, where Amazon really makes their money through up-selling and cross-selling. Factors include:

  • Purchase Behaviour
  • Shopping Times
  • Purchase Frequency
  • Query Logs (similar to Google)

How do you optimise for the A9?

There are lots of things taken into account, but the algorithm is not nearly as robust as the Google algorithm. If SEOs are capable of beating the Google algorithm, then the A9 should be a cinch, right? Well, it is significantly easier, but the “user behaviour” relevance factors are things that you, as an SEO, have no control over. That’s what makes Amazon’s algorithm so unique, is that it’s completely user driven, whereas Google modifies and augments user queries in the back-end.

Direct Factors

This is a full list of known Direct Factors along with methods of optimisation:

  1. Keywords – All SEOs should be familiar with keyword optimisation. This is driven by Competition vs. Search Volume. The greater the Search Volume, the more likely the increase in competition in order to saturate that volume. However, that’s not always the case, and the ability to find the same product through a variety of keywords exists. This means that it’s your responsibility as an SEO to find keyword combinations that lead to your clients end product, and find out which have the best Competition : Search Volume ratio.
  2. Reviews – The higher the rating of the product, and the more ratings there are, the more reliability the product has in the eyes of A9. These are also critical for beyond the A9, for example the appearance in Google or Bing results. Reviews are always presented in a very legible form of Structured Data Markup, so by having a large quantity of good reviews, your product could rank well within A9 and Hummingbird.
  3. Prices – It’s no secret that browsing on Amazon leads to conversions. It’s very important for Amazon to consider that customers are always considering price between two specific products, and they know this. The current business model of Amazon is drive out competitors through extremely low prices; one of the methods of accomplishing that is by showing the lowest cost products in a SERP, unless otherwise specified through filters. Getting your product onto the first page therefore requires you to have a very competitive, if not below-the-margin price.
  4. Engagement – Similarly to Google, Amazon knows when people are engaging with your product, and when they are “pogo sticking.” Pogo sticking involves clicking on a product from a SERP, spending a very short amount of time on the product page, and then going back to the SERP, and clicking on another product. This is highly detrimental to rankings, because it’s a strong indicator that the current product does not satisfy the query that the user has asked. Therefore, optimising your on-page copy, images, or other factors will improve your Engagement, leading to far better rankings.
  5. Images – Images in the A9 algorithm behave differently as to most Search Engines. On Google, images can be optimised to be displayed per queries. Images in the A9 algorithm are not uniquely displayed, this reduces their value significantly. Instead, images are a ranking factor that boosts the ranking of product URL’s. Ensuring you have the maximum limit, or near the limit of pictures is the only way to really improve this factor.

Indirect factors

This is a full list of known Indirect Factors that influence rankings, and can be optimised:

  1. Promotions – Price reductions are key in not only attracting customers from a UI/UX point of view, but it also is encouraged in the algorithm. The greater the % discount, the more likely you are t o be displayed for hot deals, and flash sales. This of course, significantly decreases the revenue, so unless there is flexible budgeting supporting the promotion, then you should try optimising other factors before this.
  2. Advertising Expenditure – Amazon is open about the fact that it likes it’s customers who pay for advertising the most. The fastest way to get exposure and traffic is by paying for the AdSpace at the top of the SERP. Amazon has one of the least recognisable “paid ad” features, which really encourages users to engage with the top 3 results as if they were part of the organic SERP. This is great not only for customers, but you as an SEO will see an improved ranking for a significant period of time after a reasonable advertising campaign.
  3. A+ Content – The A9 algorithm can measure “thin content.” Much like Google, this is penalised, and a page with keyword stuffing, spun content, or thin content can not only very easily be detected, but can lead to a profile-wide penalisation if further investigation is pursued. A+ Content refers to writing content on the page that engages with the user and explains the details of the product. Many SEOs have different theories about the ideal word length, but after aggregating all the figures, we at SEOSPIDRE believe it to be roughly 800-950.
  4. Fulfilment Method (FBA) – Amazon prefers products which are fulfilled by Amazon. While from a legal point of view this is easily considered anti-competitive behaviour, from an SEO point of view it’s a one-way ticket to landing on the front SERP. If your client is capable of supporting Amazon fulfilment then ensure they adopt this. Amazon loves products that they have almost full control over, it improves reliability and builds on the A9 revenue model, which leads to better ranking for your client.

Additional Optimisations

These factors are considered by the A9 algorithm, but it’s unsure whether or not they’re actually taken into the SERP generation or ranking algorithm

  • Conversion Ratio
  • Traffic from non-Amazon sources
  • Account Health

Ultimately, the way to the heart of the A9 is by delivering what a user wants to see. Both the direct and indirect factors can be influenced by SEOs, but the user behaviour, a third of the ranking algorithm, is completely beyond their control. This leaves you to a 67% ability to influence the SERP position of your client.

I would recommend particularly focusing on keywords and keyword research, along with working on Engagement, as while engagement itself will drive up ranking, it’s the fact that pogo sticking will detrimentally impact your ranking that really matters.

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