An optimised Amazon listing will work hard for you day and night to rack up sales.
Unfortunately, many sellers seem desperate to fall at the final hurdle. They put everything they've got into finding potential hit products and then slip up with their listings.
Do yourself a favour: don't make these mistakes. Avoid them, and you'll be doing a better job than 90% of other sellers AND giving your product the best chance of selling.
1. Guessing your keywords
PLEASE don't guess your keywords.
I'm still flabbergasted by the amount of clients who come to me without any care or concern for keywords.
I offer a discount for clients who have already done their keyword research, but clients often approach me asking for the same discount if I ignore keywords altogether.
"You don't want to focus on ANY keywords?"
Their response is often something like:
"Oh, OK, here are a few." Then they send over a list they have clearly just brainstormed.
There's nothing wrong with brainstorming. The problem is that, while some creative thinking goes into the keyword research process, and brainstorming is one of the best ways to get the creative juices flowing, it's only the start of the process.
After that, you need to research the EXACT keywords that will generate rankings for your product. And that's where you need to turn to specific techniques and tools.
Go one better than brainstorming by visiting the Amazon search bar. Start typing in your main keywords and you'll get more options to add to your list – no doubt including some you haven't thought of yet.
Next, hit Google Search. Do the same thing by typing in a few keywords and take a glance at the related keywords Google recommends.
Finally, use a dedicated keyword research tool to find the keywords people are using on Amazon to find products.
My favourite? MerchantWords every time.
There are some great tools out there, but I enjoy the simplicity of MerchantWords. And it contains 'hundreds of millions' of keywords in its database.
I won't go into too many details about my process here, but use it to generate large lists of keyword phrases based on your original word or phrase. You can then take those lists and crunch them to get the exact keywords you need to use in your listing to ensure you're covered for every possible search.
You might prefer another keyword tool. Some of the best are:
Keyword Tool Dominator
… There's a whole load more (for a good roundup of the best tools, check out this blog on AMZFinder).
Whichever tool you use, they'll all get you to the same place: a listing optimised for the best keywords.
That should give your product a serious visibility boost in the Amazon search engine – which is the first thing any seller needs to do if they want to sell more on Amazon.
2. Writing a far-too-short product description
In the MarketingLand article '12-part recipe for product descriptions that sell', the author John Lincoln states:
"Shoppers who land on a product detail page are like fish who’ve just started nibbling at the bait. The product description is meant to set the hook and reel them in."
I couldn't agree more. And while he's talking about product descriptions in general, the same applies to your Amazon listings.
You need to reel the buyers in. Even a well-optimised listing that gets into the top few positions is going to be leaking sales if it's not optimised for buyers.
You need to write to CONVERT.
- engaging the emotions
- finding interesting ways to brand your product
- focusing on your unique selling point (USP)
You don't have a lot of space. 2,000 characters (less when you add in HTML) is not much.
Use ALL of it.
So often, I come across product descriptions like this:
:You can do better than that.
I know what you're thinking: you've seen products with huge sales that have terrible product descriptions.
That doesn't mean you should copy what they are doing. They've clearly done something right… but it's not the product description.
This one has nearly 650 reviews at the time of writing:
It also has 44 questions. Perhaps those questions could have been answered in the product description? This product is clearly getting sales despite its product description rather than because of it.
The question to ask is: how many more sales could it be making with a better description?
Your description provides an opportunity for you to break into the market. If your competitors use vague 50-word descriptions, that's your chance to make your product stand out.
Make it sound attractive, answer questions, show that you care about the customer and come across as more trustworthy. That should easily take up 2,000 characters.
3. Stuffin' in those keywords
If you've ever done any Google SEO, you'll know how repetitive it can be to constantly insert keyword phrases in a bid to boost your on-page SEO. (This is changing these days as the search engine becomes more advanced and the focus shifts to intent.)
But Amazon is different.
Once you have included a single keyword in your listing – anywhere – it's counted. That includes the title, bullets, backend keywords and (to a certain extent) the product description.
Key phrases are still important, but there is no need to repeat phrases anywhere in your listing – and there is absolutely no need to keyword stuff.
Instead, I find the best strategy is to use a few main keyword phrases in your title and bullets and then ensure all your remaining keywords are used in Search Terms and throughout the description.
Some keywords you will naturally repeat (it's almost impossible not to). There's no penalty for repetition – but there's no reward either. Don't try and force them in multiple times by assuming that this will help you to rank for them.
If anything, keyword stuffing can HURT your conversions by making your copy less appealing. When you keyword stuff, you ignore the buyer. You're doing everything you can to appear in the search results, but the buyers (those with the money) are more likely to ignore you in return.
It's about balance. The A9 search engine cannot be ignored, but neither can customers.
If you use keywords and phrases in the title, don't repeat them in the bullets unless it would seem strange to leave them out.
I know what you're thinking – you've seen a bestselling product stuffed full of keywords. Just as in the previous examples, don't copy it. While it may not be affected right now by keyword stuffing, what's to say Amazon won't suppress it in the future?
And again, the question is: how many more sales could it be making with a better title, bullets and product description?
For further reading, read this excellent guide on Amazon SEO at Sellics and another very detailed guide by Gen Furukawa at JungleScout.
4. Writing overly long titles
With titles being the most important place to use your keywords, it's obvious why you're tempted to include as many keywords as possible here. But even if you do manage to create a compelling title utilising keyword phrases and individual keywords, be careful.
Amazon has clear limits for title lengths. Confusingly, these are different for different categories. While some categories like 'Home & Garden' have 200, others like 'Toys & Games' are limited to 100 and some like 'Health & Personal Care' have a limit of just 50.
Why? Beats me.
And here's the thing: even though there may be a limit, you can often get away with making your title longer. Many sellers do just this.
e.g. This listing is an Amazon Choice in 'Toys & Games' and has 158 characters:
You can find plenty more without looking too hard.
Does that mean you should go over the official limit? It depends. I personally would always recommend sticking to the official guidelines in the Style Guide for your category. Even if Amazon doesn't suppress your listing now, it might do in the future.
Although that means you will naturally be able to use fewer keywords in your title, there's nothing to stop you getting these into your bullets, and a bit of careful planning makes this easy enough to do.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't create a longer title, but just be aware of what you are doing if you are going over the official limits. Keep a close eye on your listing and, if it does start getting suppressed, consider shortening the title.
One thing you should ALWAYS do, however, is keep your title to 200 characters or under.
Amazon brought in a title suppression rule way back in 2015 for titles over this length, and although it has not really implemented it much, it has started to do so recently. With this rule in place, you should receive a warning in Seller Central if you go over 200 characters when creating your title.
And, to play it safe, stick to your category's limit.
Listen to this podcast on The Amazing Seller to hear about an example of a listing being suppressed for going over this limit.
And just a quick point on listing suppression: if your listing has been suppressed, it may be for other reasons. Check out this short guide on Feedvisor to find out steps to take to sort these out.
5. Using poor-quality images
Images play a big role in listing optimisation. Use bad images, and you're going to miss out on sales.
Images are often the first thing buyers see, and they will make a quick assessment as to whether your product meets their needs. Don't risk losing them at the first image!
Your images should obviously meet all of Amazon's requirements. There is absolutely no point in risking a suppressed listing for something so easy to get right.
But rather than just using 'okay' images, how can you improve your images to ensure they maximise conversions?
Images are essential because they recreate the experience that the customer is missing by shopping online. When they see an item they are interested in, they want to pick it up, hold it, touch it, analyse the details.
They can't, so you need to provide the best substitute experience you can.
- Use high-quality, crisp and clear photos in high-resolution
- Show the details of the product, especially anything that makes your product different or better
- Closely crop the main photo to maximise detail
- Show the packaging just as the buyer would see it in the store, which is especially relevant if it could be used as a gift
- Show your product in context to convey the main benefit
- Use lifestyle images showing someone having a great time to connect it to improving the customer's life
Look at what your competitors have done. Which images would entice you to buy? Create similar photos for your listing.
You could get creative too. Are there any seasonal image themes you could use, perhaps showing your product as the perfect gift? Can you create a before and after image to show what your product can do? What about an image that shows the proportions?
This infographic on Pro FBA Images contains some excellent tips on creating better product photos.
6. Failing to distinguish your product
You can use the best images you can get… but it won't help much if they are the same as the other products being sold by your competitors.
You need to find a way to make your product STAND OUT.
Here's what many sellers do:
- They find similar items
- They read the descriptions
- They copy them in their own words
- They are left with another listing that does not stand out in any way
It just adds to the noise on Amazon. How can you possibly stand out and convince people to buy your product when you do the same as everyone else?
Start by asking yourself: how is my product better?
What is your USP? What does your product do that others do not? How would you finish this sentence:
"You should buy my product over the others because…"
A lower price is a big plus. If there are lots of similar products and yours is the cheapest, that's one tactic sure to catch the eye.
But it's not the only one.
- Prime-eligible products are another great way to make your product stand out
- Highlighting that your product is a particularly good option for someone in a specific demographic can also work
And then there are bundles.
This is a fantastic way to add value to your product and make it stand out from other similar products, so you should always consider creating your own.
Here are a few excellent resources on creating bundles that you should check out if you're considering this:
- Here's a great guide to creating bundles at The Selling Family
- Guide at Seller Nexus with some tips on bundling
- Guide to creating bundles at Informed.co
7. Using irrelevant keywords in the Search Terms
This is one of my pet peeves.
Too many people seem to want to use all of the character limits in their backend keywords. But while it's easy to see why you might want to do this, the truth is it can have a negative effect.
Back in early 2017, Amazon changed the limit from 50 characters per line to 1,000. Sellers rejoiced. Now they could fit in every single keyword that was possibly related.
This led to a lot of irrelevant keywords being stuffed in. It turned out that adding every single possible keyword was not helpful.
Because irrelevant keywords drive traffic that is not targeted.
That means your listing will show up for the wrong keywords. If the product that shows up is not relevant to what the buyer is searching for, they will ignore it.
In August 2017, Amazon changed the limit to 250 bytes, perhaps as a result of too much keyword cramming.
You will not get rewarded by Amazon for a high-ranking listing with low sales. What you want to do is work out whether someone using that keyword would be looking for your product.
Here's what Amazon says about keywords:
That 'out-of-context words' is the giveaway. By adding keywords that have no place in your listing, you could be hurting your chances of ranking and making sales.
So what should you be using?
Apart from any relevant keywords you have not used in your title and bullets, synonyms are a good option. If people are looking for the same thing using a different word, that's something you should be listing.
Also consider the type of person who will be using your product (photographers, kids, office workers, mums, etc).
For more on this, there's a useful guide to adding keywords to the backend at SalesBacker that I'd recommend reading.
8. Not using keywords in all the sections of your listing
The three main sections of your listing are:
2. Bullets / Key Features
3. Product Description
You also have the Search Terms (also known as Hidden Keywords or Backend Keywords).
There's a lot of confusion surrounding keywords and where they should be used, and the problem for that lies with Amazon itself and its often confusing policies.
Not so long ago, Amazon stated in Seller Central that neither the bullets nor the description were indexed for search. As such, you were forced to cram in all your most important keywords into the title.
Not great for shoppers.
This then changed and Amazon confirmed that keywords were indexed in the bullets and description as well.
But this clarification has been removed from the Seller Central page (see here). It does make a reference to keywords matched to the "title, description, and so on", but this is far from clear.
Product Descriptions are confusing when it comes to keywords. Although keywords are sometimes indexed, they are often not. Individual keywords don't seem to be indexed, but phrases do seem to be.
You can try this yourself. Go to Amazon and type 'ASIN:' into the search box followed by your ASIN. Leave a space, then type in a single keyword from the product description that is not used anywhere else.
e.g. ASIN:1234567890 durable
You'll probably draw a blank.
But try the same thing with a phrase that appears in the listing but nowhere else, and it might show up.
e.g. ASIN:1234567890 durable design
Then you have your Search Terms, which, depending on who you listen to, have more or less weight than the Product Description.
Sellics is very confident about Search Terms going above Product Description in the pecking order. Here's an insightful reply they left in a comment at the end of that post:
So they do carry some weight, but how much isn't clear. Also, if you want your listing to show up in Google, it can be useful to use your keywords in the Product Description.
So what does all this mean? Here's how I go about using keywords:
1. Use your main keywords in your Product Title
2. Use any other important keywords you cannot fit into your Product Title in your Key Features
3. Fit in as many more relevant keywords as you can in the Search Terms (the limit is 250 bytes), including keywords that would not make sense anywhere else (synonyms, alternate spellings, etc) – but don't waste space repeating keywords already used.
Finally, create a compelling and persuasive Product Description that makes more natural references to keywords. Repeat keywords you have already used – it's unavoidable to a certain extent and it won't hurt.
Also, focus on keyword phrases more than individual words as these seem to be indexed more frequently.
If you have other keywords in your list that make sense but that you did not have room to use anywhere else, use these here too.
This way, you've covered all your bases. You've also future-proofed your listing as best you can. What if Amazon decides one day to ignore all the keywords in the Search Terms? Then you've still got a good selection of them in the Product Description.
9. Not using persuasive language
And so onto the last great mistake. As the last point demonstrated, a great deal of focus goes onto keywords. There's good reason for this (you want your product to show up in search), but it sometimes gets to the point of obsession, where nothing else matters.
So remember this: ranking is important… but so too are conversions. And your conversion rate has a direct result on your rankings.
Let's say you rank for a keyword phrase. Great. Shoppers check out your product, look at the pictures, read the copy… but they're not convinced and they move on. Then this happens again and again.
What does this say to Amazon? That your product is not relevant enough for that search.
The solution is:
A: Make sure you rank for relevant keywords (see point 7)
B: Make sure your listing is persuasive
Persuasive copy makes all the difference. Even if you rank for your main keywords, that doesn't mean anything until buyers get out their wallets.
Spending some time on your bullets and description shows that you care about the customer experience. It builds that all-important thing: trust.
The simple process of creating a unique listing using a tone that your target buyers can relate to shows that you are different from the other sellers.
People want to know that they are buying from a seller who cares about their experience. They want to know that if they experience a problem, they will be looked after.
When you create a persuasive listing using language that connects with the buyer, you instantly stand out from the other listings. It's not hard when so many listings get it so wrong.
Try and get into their heads, as described so well in Point 2 of this post on Splitly. Try and work out what they are thinking and how they approach the search.
But what exactly is persuasive language?
For a start, it doesn't mean hype-filled sales language. It means:
- focusing on the benefits
- using emotional trigger words
- highlighting scenarios in which customers can use your product
- overcoming objections
One of my favourite techniques is to read reviews of similar products to uncover benefits that will connect with buyers – you can read all about how to do this here.
And here's another reason to make your product description persuasive: Google.
Many sellers are not thinking about Google when they create their listings. But Amazon products show up in search – and so does the copy.
This post at Channel Reply gives a good example of Google displaying a product and using copy from the product description as the meta data.
It has decided this is the most useful content for the users, ignoring Amazon's own meta description.
It's another thing to keep in mind, and another reason to make the first sentence of your product description compelling.
Now go create your listing!
I hope these Amazon listing mistakes have been useful and will help you in your bid to boost your rankings, sales and overall success on Amazon.
None of it's rocket science, but all of it's essential.
And if you'd rather get on with the task of running your business and leave all this stuff to someone else, give me a shout and I'll be pleased to create your listing for you.