How do I boost rankings for my Amazon product with on-page keyword usage?

Here’s another question we received recently:

Hey Jon, hope all is well with you, the family, and the team. 

I can see in my Helium 10 account that my product has several notable keywords where its ranking anywhere from the #20 to #50 spot. Where can I place these keywords in my listing in order to try and boost the organic search rankings a bit more when a customer searches on Amazon?

I currently use the search query report and focus on those words that perform best for the brand. I’ve placed those keywords in the backend keyword section, Alt text, A+ content, bullets, and description, etc. 

I do not want to affect the best performing keywords so I am hesitant to move them, so where would be the best place to place those keywords ranking between 20 and 50 organically to get them to rank higher? 

Below is my reply, adjusted a bit to make it more broadly useful here on the interwebs:

Firstly, kudos on your approach here as you are certainly thinking of this the right way. Using the Search Query Performance report that is available to registered brands (under the Brand Analytics tab) is smart, as that report is a potential goldmine for keyword data.

I would recommend prioritizing keywords that balance high search query volume, high click rate and high purchase rate on that report, and then also keywords that rank anywhere in the #5 to #30 range (as opposed to your #20 to #50 range). All of that data except the current search rankings can be found in the Search Query Performance report, and the keyword rankings can be tracked through a tool like Helium 10 or just a good-old-fashioned manual search.

Now to more directly address your question…

Really there are 2 questions here: First, how can you boost your product’s rankings for a keyword on Amazon (in general)? Second, where specifically can and should you put the keywords on the listing to help boost rankings? The second is your specific question, but I feel compelled to answer both questions.

Getting indexed for a keyword vs. improving rankings

For the listing itself, there are many places to incorporate your keywords. And really we have two different goals here. The first is to get indexed in general for a given keyword. This means that you rank *somewhere* for a search on that keyword. It could mean you rank in the 5,000th spot – that is still ranking, just not ranking well. But at least your product ranks somewhere and now you can focus on improving that ranking.

The second goal is to improve the product’s ranking – so in our example here that might be trying to improve the ranking from the 5,000th spot for a given keyword to get your product into the top 5 results. Or to the #1 spot.

Keyword usage: Product Title is king

When it comes to ranking rather than indexing, as is our concern right now, then we need to understand that Amazon gives higher weight to certain fields within the product listing. In our experience, the field that has the most impact is the product title.

The product title field has length limits so you have to pick and choose which keywords to focus on here. We recommend using this field for your top 3 to 5 keyword phrases. That said, a special “pro tip” here is that you can change this field and rotate keywords around. So for example you might choose to have one or two top-priority keywords that you keep in your title, but then rotate through another batch of keywords, maybe changing it once a month or every couple of months.

Top Tip: Rotating target keywords in your product title

Here’s a bit more insight as to why rotating keywords matters. Amazon’s ranking algorithm is a self-reinforcing flywheel. That is to say, if you rank well for a given keyword then you are likely to sell a lot of products when people search on that keyword. And likewise if you convert and sell when people search that keyword, then you’ll continue to rank well.

What you need is a way to force your way into this cycle in the first place. When you add the keyword to the product title, you get a little boost in rankings. Then you’ll start selling more because your product is ranking better. And typically this is rewarded with an additional boost in keyword rankings. You can then remove the keyword from your product title (or replace it with another) and oftentimes the product will still continue to rank for that keyword.

So my #1 tip here is just that. Allocate a little space in your product’s title field which you can use to rotate keywords you are trying to boost rankings for.

Now what about the other fields in the product listing?

Well I’m sorry to say here that in our experience the other fields typically have very little influence over how a product ranks for the given keywords. Once you are indexed (i.e. you rank in general somewhere for that keyword) then whether you include the keyword multiple times, or in one field versus another, typically has very little impact in boosting rankings. Amazon gives much more search ranking weight to search-find-buy conversion data than it does to the presence and placement of keywords within the listing itself.

Now you can and should also put important keywords into your bullet points. We have found that to be the next most highly-weighted field. And since it only takes a moment to do this, there is no reason why you shouldn’t. Just know that this by itself is almost never enough.

Another point on bullet points. Typically this field within a product’s catalog listing has a very long character limit. It varies by product category, but that is the general rule. So I’m a fan of long bullet points in which you get as many keyword in as you can. Just balance that out with good copywriting principles.

We have found that keyword placement in the description field has no impact on rankings. Placement within the search terms field, alt text, and most other fields can often help with indexing but typically has little-to-no impact on rankings. Technically I won’t say it has no impact, just that its very little and not likely enough to get you where you want to go. Particularly for competitive, high-volume keywords.

Why doesn’t keyword usage improve my search rankings on Amazon?

So why doesn’t Amazon give more weight to where you put your keywords in your listing?

Think about it this way… putting keywords in a listing is easy. Everyone can do it. In fact, even not-so-relevant products can do it if they want to. So if Amazon gives a lot of weight to this then its makes their search results too easy to game. And if everyone does it, then we still have to find another criteria with which to differentiate or break the tie. So keyword placement (where) and frequency (how often) is just not sufficient enough to be the primary ranking factor. And its too easy to game.

By contrast, sales data is very difficult to game. By “sales data” I mean “search-find-buy”, which in other words is just a name we give to the action customers take when they search on a given keyword. Do they then click your listing? Do they buy it?

If so, that is exactly what Amazon wants. And that is exactly the data they are giving you in the “Search Query Performance” report. In fact, whether or not the customer buys the product after searching is arguably the single most important metric to Amazon, and the single best determinant of whether or not a product was relevant for a customer’s search.

Sidenote: This is very similar to how Google ranks websites. They can’t just look at keyword usage on a site, as that is too easy to fake. A sketchy or untrusted site can put keywords on the page. Google also looks at the website’s reputation (measured by links pointing to it from other reputable sites) to prioritize one website over another. Where Google uses links, Amazon uses sales data.

With Amazon, its all about the sales data

In our experience, the better job a product does at converting searches for a particular keyword into clicks and purchases, the better it will then rank for that keyword. So this idea of search-find-buy makes sense not just theoretically, but it also has proven out in our practical, real-world experience.

Now the question becomes how can we get more people to buy the product after searching on a given keyword? Years ago this could be done with creation promotional strategies and 2-step URLs that were “gray hat” tactics given Amazon’s policies at the time. Nowadays those tactics are no longer kosher and could get your account in trouble. So the next best approach is to allocate some budget towards targeting these target keywords as exact match keywords via Amazon’s PPC program (Sponsored Products). Doing so will help you get visibility for these keywords, and the opportunity to convert that visibility into some sales. This can then help improve your organic rankings for those same keywords (directly) as well as other related keywords (less directly).

Top tips for improving search rankings for specific high-priority keywords

Okay so now with this all said, here’s a bulleted list of my suggestions. And then general tone is going to be that its probably a lot less about keyword placement on the listing than you thought. Sorry, I wish it were just a matter of keyword placement! But alas, its not quite that simple.

  1. Make sure each of your priority keywords is included either in your title or in your bullet points.
    • Ideally in both places. If you are short on room in the product title then take turns rotating keywords every few weeks.
  2. Run targeted Sponsored Products paid search campaigns on the exact-match version of each of these keywords.
  3. Ensure you are doing everything you can to optimize for conversions.
    • Optimize for conversions overall: improve your photography, use A+ content, increase number of reviews, etc.
    • Optimize for conversions for these specific keywords: call out any features/benefits related to these keywords in the first 1-2 bullet points, and also consider overlaying the keywords and related features/benefits in the second photo slot, ideally as an infographic. This isn’t about ranking directly as much as it is about trying to speak directly to the person who just searched on those keywords, helping them clearly see that this product is a good match for what they are looking for.
  4. Monitor rankings and conversion rates and adjust accordingly.
    • If you see positive improvements in the rankings then either keep it going or consider raising the PPC budget to push harder.
    • Once you feel good about the rankings for a given keyword, decide if you want to keep everything as it is, or replace that keyword with a different focus. Often you can still continue to rank even after downplaying a keyword that you previously focused on. If you find your rankings are falling for that keyword, then you must decide if you want to switch back to focusing on it or stay with your new keyword target.

Conclusion: Amazon Keyword Grouping

I like to think of keywords in different groups based on importance or priority. The first group is your top one to three keywords that are your core targets – they are relevant, your product ranks well for them, and you just don’t want to mess with them. Those should be in your product title. They should be incorporated into your bullet points. Your images, infographics and A+ content should be structured in such a way as to speak to the features and benefits that someone who searched on those keywords is looking for.

The second group is your aspirational group – keywords that have very attractive search volume, and you have reason (paid search data) to believe that your product is a good fit and will convert well on. The only issue is your product doesn’t rank as well as you’d like. There should be probably three to five of these. No more than ten. These are the ones where a rotational ranking strategy is worthwhile. Rather than trying to rank for all ten simultaneously, pick one or two and really go at those. Incorporate them into your product title, your second image, the top of the A+ content, and run aggressive exact-match Sponsored Products ads on them. Then once your rankings improve, swap them out for the next one or two keywords. If the rankings “stick” after the swap, great! If not, then you’ve got some decisions to make!

The third group for me is more of the catchall keyword universe. These are keywords that are either relevant but just don’t have much search volume, or they have good search volume but aren’t as relevant as the others. My approach here is to incorporate them into the bullet points and to target them with phrase and/or exact match paid ads. We want to make sure we aren’t neglecting them, but they also aren’t high enough priority to command the prime real estate on our listing or the bulk of our budget in our PPC campaign. Monitor over time, as you may find a keyword starts to prove itself worthy of moving from this catchall group to the aspirational group.

About the Author

Jon Payne

Jon is the founder and lead consultant of Vocational Media Group. He works directly with brands to increase their sales on Amazon, while also tightly controlling costs and protecting margins. Jon also practices what he preaches, by building, acquiring and operating his own private label brands on the Amazon Marketplace.

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