Amazon SEO: Interview with Nathan Grimm

Written by Sarah on 10th August 2016

When it comes to search engine optimization for Google there’s a whole host of information out there. However when it comes to Amazon SEO, who Google named as one of its biggest competitors, there’s comparably very little out there. What information there is out there, also appears to be at least 2 years old.

That’s why I asked Nathan Grimm, of DNA Response, to give us some insights. Nathan wrote one of the best posts I’ve seen explaining how to rank well on Amazon back in 2014. As someone who works day in and day out on the marketplace, who better to ask for an update?

Amazon SEO in 2016: Interview with Nathan Grimm

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do:

I’m the Director of Marketing and Product at DNA Response, Inc. After getting through my inbox in the mornings I increase revenue for a wide range of brands on marketplaces like Amazon. I work with a great team to improve our marketing programs, automate ecommerce operations processes, and optimize content.

Back in 2014 you wrote an epic post on Amazon SEO; in the last two years, what’s changed?

Much like in Google SEO, the basics have not changed a bit. Amazon still wants to return a list of products that the searcher is most likely to purchase. The search algorithm analyzes relevance and sales performance to return the best results.

What has changed a bit are the popular tactics employed by sellers to improve search rankings. In 2014, everyone was talking about super URLs and boosting best seller rank by giving away steeply discounted products. While those tactics are still around, a majority of experienced Amazon sellers have realized that gaming the system has limited value.

To create strong businesses over a long time period, sellers are turning to more traditional strategies like branding, product development, supply chain optimization, and demand generation. These activities produce high quality products at good margins with strong demand and much greater reliability than Amazon-only selling tricks. The industry is growing up.

When improving sales on Amazon how important is SEO amongst all of the marketing strategies that you can employ?

Search is the number one way that customers find products on Amazon so it’s incredibly important. However, search optimization is inextricably linked to other marketing and operations efforts.

For example, content has to be optimized for both relevance and conversion rates, pay-per-click and SEO programs rely on the same keyword research, and pricing decisions need to consider margins and brand positioning as well as search optimization.

If an Amazon seller has a large catalog, which SEO tasks should they focus on first?

The first thing I would do is set up a keyword research and copywriting process that can handle a high volume of products. Amazon’s relevance algorithms use the title, bullets, and search terms fields to determine what your product is and if it’s relevant to the customer’s query so a process for discovering the best terms and using them in copy is a must.

Every new product in our catalog undergoes an intensive optimization process including keyword research, copywriting, image optimization, review acquisition, and categorization. This process ensures that all products are well-understood by Amazon’s algorithms and that the listings entice customers to buy the products at a high rate.

After establishing a keyword research and copywriting process that is capable of revising your catalog in six months or less, expand your focus to Sponsored Products, Amazon’s PPC program. Sponsored Products will drastically improve your keyword data and sales performance across the board by providing incremental sales to your products and real-world performance stats segmented by product and keyword.

Are there any tools you find indispensable for Amazon SEO?

I have to have SEMRush and Amazon Sponsored Products. Without these tools I wouldn’t be able to perform meaningful keyword research.

SEMRush is a keyword research tool built around Google. We use it for research of new products. Amazon and Google are very different search engines but consumers will type in many of the same queries on both. At the moment, it’s not possible for tool companies to produce an SEMRush-like tool for Amazon because Amazon does not publish search volume data.

After initial keyword research, I create a PPC campaign in Amazon Sponsored Products. It’s a full-fledged PPC advertising system but for SEO, it provides real impression, click, and conversion data by keyword and product in the Amazon environment. Once campaigns have been running for a few weeks, we use the Amazon PPC data to replace our Google-centric research.

How important is pricing as part of SEO?

Pricing is a central component of retail and marketing strategy. As such, pricing decisions can’t be made in an SEO vacuum. Pricing must align with branding, cost structure, and competition. That said, if you can develop a price advantage over your competition it can have a huge impact on sales and SEO.

In fact, one of the things I include in an Amazon keyword analysis is the price of products in the first page of results. If the product’s price is competitive, it goes a long ways towards achieving strong rankings results. If the product’s price is not competitive, I will temper my rankings expectations and make sure that the listing does a great job conveying the extra quality and features that consumers will receive.

Since you wrote your initial post, Amazon Prime has almost doubled in the number of users. How much of an impact does Prime have on a seller’s SEO strategy?

Amazon Prime means that sellers must use Fulfilment by Amazon to achieve maximum results. Prime-eligible products are given many advantages in the Amazon environment. The Amazon Prime filter is the top filter on every search result and is used frequently. Prime offers receive priority in the Buy Box algorithm. Many promotional programs like Lightning Deals are only available for Prime products.

Because Prime opens up so more opportunities to increase sales, if you want to dominate search results, your products must be available through Prime.

How does Amazon Prime affect SEO?

What’s the biggest challenge when approaching Amazon SEO, and what can you do to overcome it?

The biggest challenge today is proper analysis of Amazon’s search algorithms. This is a challenge with any search optimization community that can only be overcome by large-scale research, testing, and publishing. In that area, the Amazon SEO community is far behind the Google SEO community. To make progress, everyone – myself included – needs to spend a greater portion of their efforts on research and testing of Amazon’s search engine.

Thanks to Nathan for taking the time out to give us an update on SEO for Amazon. For more info on SEO and ecommerce, follow him on Twitter, or contact DNA Response.

What do you think? Will you be taking up Nathan’s call to arms for more research on Amazon’s search engine? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…