A crucial aspect of being a successful seller is product ranking. When it comes to Amazon’s A9 Algorithm, understanding why things are where they are on Amazon is kind of tricky. This is due to the fact that the Amazon doesn’t clarify everything about its A9 Algorithm. It’s up to you to speculate off of personal experience and observations in order to get ahead. Most of these observations relate to the magic behind the A9 Algorithm, the engine that decides Amazon’s search rankings.

Many compare Amazon’s A9 Algorithm to the Google Page Rank algorithm—both determine the rank and position of results. What may come as a surprise is that Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, was one of Google’s early investors. Perhaps Amazon’s search system had a little inspiration, or maybe even a little help.

Sergey Brin and Jeff Bezos in Amazon/Google Conference
Sergey Brin, Jeff Bezos

Regardless, the algorithm mechanics are a well kept secret. However, there is plenty we can deduce if we look closer at how Amazon is laid out: where can certain products be found, how can those positions change, and, maybe most importantly, the overarching goals that the algorithm was likely programmed to adhere to.

What Does Amazon’s A9 Algorithm Want?

When it comes to your listings, you must maintain a balance between appealing to your customers’ interests and satisfying Amazon’s A9 Algorithm. From Amazon’s perspective, they are one and the same. Amazon provides the best possible user experience, which boils down to ensuring that shoppers find what they’re looking for and they’re happy with the result. While this sounds like a rather simple concept, delivering it can be incredibly complicated.

Put yourself in the shoes of a shopper and consider their Amazon experience. The shopper likely has something in mind, which they’ll type into the search bar as a string of words or a single word. These are search terms.

Because Amazon wants to maximize the potential of a purchase, its algorithm must present results that best match the shopper’s search term. Amazon’s A9 Algorithm is all about relevance—the more relevant your listing is for a search term, the more likely it gets shown in a more visible spot. To further increase this likelihood, you need to also cater to Amazon’s remaining goals.

1. Help customers find what they’re looking for.
2. Customer satisfaction.

Amazon keeps customers at the core of its business—attracting them with quality products and encouraging repeat purchases through seamless and stellar experiences. This ultimately means the Amazon Marketplace needs high quality products sold by good sellers. Sacrificing either could mean a drop in consumer trust, Prime renewal, and repeat purchases.

Taking in Amazon’s perspective, we can uncover ways to best tinker with the options we have available in order to increase our chances of getting to the front of the line. Additionally, we must offer high quality products along with the best service possible.

Keywords and Index Ranking

An easy way for Amazon’s A9 Algorithm to recognize your product for a valid search result is to have that term in your listing. If a search term is isolated and put into the listing copy, it’s called a keyword. Figure out which keywords to use and then using them correctly? That’s one of the most important skills you can have as an Amazon seller.

Once your listing contains a keyword, it gets a keyword index. This means your listing will be displayed as a search result when a shopper looks for that specific term. It may show up on page 20, but it technically will be listed. Getting a keyword index is an acknowledgement from the Amazon A9 Algorithm that your listing is relevant. You can check which keywords in your index by using software or typing your ASIN and the keyword into the Amazon search bar. Here’s an example:

We put the ASIN of a backpack along with the keyword “backpack” into the search bar and got this:

Amazon Screenshot Backpack Search
Amazon Screenshot Backpack Search

When we do the same thing using the keyword “spatula,” we get this:

Amazon Spatula Screenshot
Amazon Spatula Screenshot

This is how we know that the listing is indexed for “backpack.” A keyword index is a prerequisite to ranking up organically, and there are many opportunities in listing copy to include relevant keywords. However, keep in mind that various elements of your listing have a different level of impact on your indexing and ranking potential.

Title – High impact, make sure your primary keywords are here.

Bulletins – Medium impact, make sure you populate it with relevant keywords and relevant information, without sacrificing coherence.

Backend – Medium impact, you can use up to 250 characters keywords without the need for coherence. You can also use this space for keywords that wouldn’t make sense in the visible listing copy, like competitors names and misspellings of your primary keywords.

Product description – Low impact, focus on information that’s relevant to your customers or your brand first and keywords second.

A+ content – No impact. If you manage to get into Amazon’s brand registry, you’ll get access to various exclusive options only available to the registered brands. A+ content is one of those benefits. You can add images and infographics to your listing like it’s a simple webpage that you can customize. Unfortunately, none of the content here seems to have an impact on ranking or indexing on Amazon. However, A+ content is indexed by Google, so there is some benefit to its existence.

Seller Account Health and Reviews

Amazon wants to display products sold by reputable sellers to increase customer purchases and satisfaction. This is when your account health comes into play. There are several aspects believed to affect your ranking that are not directly related to sales or your listing optimization.

Seller rating – The seller rating is an overall score given to you by Amazon based on several factors: shipping time, order cancellations, chargebacks, A to Z claims feedback, and customer inquiries. We cannot know for sure how this score is calculated and which one of these factors has more impact than another. As a whole, the score serves as a measure of the seller’s reputation and reliability.

Return rate – The return rare you get on an individual product can impact your ranking. Amazon doesn’t want to sell products that do not satisfy the customer. High return rates will trigger Amazon’s A9 Algorithm to list your products lower. If your return rate for a product exceeds 10%, you are at risk of having that listing deactivated. Before that happens, you‘re first put on “probation” until you can lower the return rate. If you still fail to reduce returns, you may face a listing suspension. No one likes returns and it’s not in anyone’s interest for them to occur. Make sure you have a good quality product that you advertise and present accurately.

Inventory management – Being on top of your inventory management is a balancing act. You don’t want to over stock and fail get rid of your inventory before reaching the threshold for the long term storage fees. On the other hand, you don’t want to go out of stock and miss out on sales.

Going out of stock impacts your organic ranking more negatively than anything else. If you go out of stock, all of your organic rankings will start to plummet quickly. Ultimately, you will miss sales opportunities because you can’t fulfill them and you’ll also lose a significant portion of your regular sales once you restock. Amazon will not display your product if it’s out of stock, and so … DO NOT GO OUT OF STOCK!

To help you keep an eye on inventory, you have something called the “Inventory Performance Index. Not that it’s also a sort of rating that Amazon pays attention to.

Amazon Screenshot

If you’re on top of your inventory it is good for you and will really help the A9 Algorithm “like” you more.

Reviews and ratings – Good reviews are the best stamps of approval you can get on Amazon. It’s simple: more reviews and higher ratings are better. However, it’s hard to tell how much influence one has over the other or exactly how big of an impact they have on organic ranking. We know for sure that reviews matter to the customers, but they don’t make products more relevant. This is why we often see products with lower reviews ranked higher than others. For example, take a look at the first page results for the search term “backpack.”

Amazon Screenshot Backpack
Amazon Screenshot Backpack Search

We can see that the orange backpack is organically ranked lower than the backpack right above it even though it has significantly less reviews and the same rating of 4.5. We can also see that the one on the top right outranks the two on the bottom right, even though it has a lower rating but significantly more reviews. If you go to the second and third pages for this search, you’ll see the number of average reviews steadily drop. Reviews are not the only factor in organic ranking nor are they the most significant, but we know for sure that there is an impact and a correlation.

Try to find ways to increase your review count and keep your ratings high. This means setting up a series of email campaigns that you can use to ask for reviews and to leave a good impression on customers.

Organic Rank vs. Bestseller Rank

When people say things like “ranking up,” they’re usually referring to organic rankings. However, there are two different types of ranking on Amazon and they each have their own ranking system and real estate. If you win at either one, you get to the top.

Organic Ranking: You rank up higher organically on a certain keyword by doing two things.

  1. 1. Being indexed for a keyword.
  1. 2. Getting sales that come through that keyword.

If an Amazon shopper searches for something and buys your product among the search results, your organic ranking goes up for that search term. While it sounds simple, remember that you’re competing against other listings. If a certain keyword gets searched 10,000 times in a month and results in 1,000 sales, the #1 product gets a badge.

The intricacies of Amazon’s A9 Algorithm takes into account more than this, but our simplified version is the correlation that’s most noticeable. Ultimately, if you sell enough of a product, you receive an “Amazon’s Choice” badge.

Let’s revisit the first page of search results for “backpack” for more context.

Small Amazon Screenshot Backpack Search
Small Amazon Screenshot Backpack Search

We can see that one result holds the “Amazon’s Choice” badge for the keyword “backpack.” We know that these organic rankings are related to keywords and just as you can be indexed for a lot of keywords, you can also have a lot of “Amazon’s Choice” badges.

This particular backpack is indexed for over 30,000

Amazon Matein Travel Laptop Backpack for Women and Men

It also has quite a few “Amazon’s Choice” badges. If we type in “laptop backpack,” the results reveal another badge.

#1 in Laptop Backpacks on Amazon

Keep in mind that these organic rankings change constantly, and one of the things that contributes more to the fluctuations than anything is PPC. From the perspective of Amazon’s A9 Algorithm it can be speculated that a sale that comes from a sponsored ad counts as much as an organic sale.Your organic ranking goes up if someone types in something, finds your product, and buys it. PPC replicates this exact process and it’s how products that start at the bottom of organic rankings move up. This is why understanding how to utilize and manage your PPC campaigns is crucial to selling on Amazon

Bestseller Ranking: The bestseller rank (more often referred to as BSR) exists in parallel to organic ranking and is a much less convoluted ranking system. There is no need for guessing or speculating when it comes to BSR. There is only one rule: generate more sales for a higher BSR.

You can see the BSR for any product if you scroll down to the listing’s product description. For example, the one we have here shows the BSR for the backpack from our previous examples:

We can see here that it’s the #1 ranked product in its subcategory, “Laptop Backpacks.” Products usually have two BSRs, one for their subcategory and one for their whole department.

BSR gets interesting in terms of real estate. Compared to organic ranking, a higher BSR provides a lot less exposure. For example, if you click into “Laptop Backpacks” from our example, you will see the list of top 100 items in that subcategory.

Screenshot A9 Algorithm

Some shoppers prefer to shop this way and it can help with sales. If you have a BSR high enough to be in the top 100 of any subcategory, let alone a department, your product is already likely well-ranked organically. However, the top 100 in BSR rankings get the highly coveted “Best Seller” badge.

Best Seller badges are not related to keywords. The badge gets displayed on the listing no matter where it’s found, which helps immensely with conversion rates. In fact, the only way for your Best Seller badge to not show is if you specifically search for “Amazon’s choice badge for…

The #1 backpack that we’ve been using in examples has the highest ranking.

A9 Algorithm Backpack Screenshot
Amazon Best Seller Backpack Screenshot

In many cases, obtaining the sales volume to earn the Best Seller badge is extremely difficult. But once you do, you can expect your sales to spike. The Best Seller badge also gets displayed on your sponsored ads. This gives you an enormous advantage for advertising on keywords that you are not organically ranked highly for. An important thing to note is that the BSR gets updated once every hour and it can fluctuate wildly at certain times of the year.

In Conclusion

While don’t know exactly how the A9 Algorithm works, we do have a pretty good idea. Amazon wants to create the best possible user experience for shoppers on the platform and the Algorithm is designed with that as its primary objective. An Amazon seller can get the best results by doing everything in their power to align their efforts with the Algorithm’s. There are many ways to do that and there are plenty of rewards that come from doing it well. It’s all about having the algorithm push you forward and ride the wave.

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