According to Hitwise, in August of 2012, 11.3 billion searches were conducted in Google. This is a massive number to be sure, but it is a drop of 200 million compared with August of last year. Nor was this unique to Google. The entire search engine industry saw a drop in use.
But that's not all. According to Forrester research in July, 30 percent of online buyers start researching their product purchases on Amazon, while only 13 percent start on a search engine like Google or Bing. No wonder Google is pushing Google Shopping so hard, and Amazon is refusing to buy in.
As far as visibility goes, Google sites still sit at the top of the ComScore list, with 187,000 unique visitors out of the total 220,273 surveyed. But Amazon isn't far behind with 103,864 visitors, who clearly have more commercial motives in mind.
With Google Shopping and AdWords pushing organic results below the fold, high competition, and broad awareness of how to “game” Google, is it time to start thinking a bit more about the direction of this industry?
Is it time to start thinking about SEO for Amazon?
Optimizing for Amazon
There is virtually no information about how the Amazon search engine works available online, so a lot of testing is going to be necessary. Amazon does allow you to include your own search terms: 5 lines, each of them 50 characters. It would be wise to pull in some popular keywords from the AdWords Keyword tool and insert them here. Do a search on Amazon and to see how good the relevance is and what the competition looks like, and adjust accordingly.
The keywords that are used by Amazon are those found in the:
- Brand Name
- Product ID
- Part Number
- Search Terms
Amazon advises against using any keywords in your search terms that can be found in these other data sets. Don't rely on Amazon to crawl your description or bullet points for keywords (although I know for a fact that Amazon can and will even use keywords found in the actual text of a book if it has to, because it will display these in the search results).
Try to choose a product name that includes keywords which are searched for often (again, most likely using data from Google's keyword tool) but that doesn't have too many relevant search results to compete with.
You will want to leverage your online relationships, and possibly the occasional free giveaway, in order to get as many positive reviews as possible. Amazon's algorithm seems to weigh more heavily on positive reviews than number of reviews, but quantity is still a big factor. Reviews are like the “links” of the Amazon world.
According to the A9 website (the subsidiary that powers Amazon's search), the ranking algorithms are designed to learn from customer behavior, so your ability to convert visitors into customers is not only going to improve sales, it is going to improve rankings. This may also mean that you will want to carefully qualify your leads before sending them to your Amazon page from other sites. This should boost your conversion rate, which will help with rankings.
You can adjust your metadata and categories whenever you see fit, and this is an important difference that you will want to continue toying around with and testing. Keep in mind that some users prefer to browse through categories rather than searching Amazon, so experiment with different categories to find the right balance of visitors and competition in order to get the most sales.
Of course, the downside to optimizing for Amazon is the fact that Amazon takes a cut.
Online marketers and SEOs will increasingly need to weigh their options. Organic rankings in the search results don't require profit sharing (as with Amazon) or upfront payment (as with Google Shopping and AdWords), but the competition is higher and the buying traffic is increasingly found elsewhere.
Meanwhile, walled-in gardens like Google Shopping and Amazon are where buyers go first, and the competition is lower, but they aren't necessarily good places to build up long term brand recognition, they don't bring you subscribers who will regularly interact with your brand (unless you use an eBook strategy), and you'll need to be willing to open up your wallet.
It will be interesting to see how the upcoming battle between Google Shopping and Amazon will turn out, and what this is going to mean for SEO and internet marketing as a whole. As always, keep your eyes on the future and stay vigilant. Inevitably, the best path is going to be some combination of all these strategies.
Is it too soon to start thinking about Amazon SEO? What about SEO for other platforms and APIs?
Carter Bowles is a freelance writer, science blogger, and SEO enthusiast. He lives in Idaho with his wife and daughter, where he is pursuing degrees in physics and statistics. Carter writes for Northcutt, a Chicago based SEO and Inbound Marketing company. Like Northcutt on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and check out all they have to offer at www.northcutt.com.
Image credit: Benny Lin