Everyone knows that optimizing search terms is an important part in growing your business. However, it’s one thing to know something, and another to be able to do it.

How much of a priority is this? What counts as a keyword in the first place? Where do I put keywords? How do I know which keywords to use?

These are all questions you might be asking yourself, and to start with an answer right off the bat—it’s a very high priority. On the Internet in general, but especially on Amazon, if your product doesn’t show up on the results for a related search, you’re not making sales. It’s as simple as that. Keywords get you that discoverability.

You probably know this and a little more if you’ve read our three-part series on Amazon SEO. If not, you can find part 1, part 2, and part 3 here.

SEO is a complicated subject with a lot of aspects to consider and tweak. However, we’ve dedicated this post entirely to keywords. Why? Because they’re arguably the most difficult part of SEO.

Let’s start with a definition.

The term “keyword” is something of a misnomer—don’t think that a keyword has to be only one word. A “keyword” is really a phrase that a user inputs into a search engine. “Pants” is technically a keyword, but “cheapest size 34 faded jeans” is also just one keyword.

Also, please note that although keyword optimization on Google and Amazon is similar, this post will center around optimizing your Amazon keywords. If you need advice on Google SEO, there are many other resources available, such as Moz and Google AdWords.

Why do keywords matter?

Keywords are what get the customer from the landing page of Amazon to your product page. If a customer is searching for a red halogen desk lamp, and you sell halogen desk lamps that also come in red, you need to make sure that customer’s search points them to your product. You do that with keywords.

You can probably guess why keywords are so important. If a customer can’t find your product by searching for what they want, you will not make any sales. You need to use keywords to point interested customers your way if they’re making searches relevant to your products.

Amazon and Keywords

You might be wondering how exactly to “use” keywords, or where you actually type them out when making an Amazon product page. There are two places to put keywords, which we’ll go over in more detail in the Step 3: Implement section.

The first place is your product listing itself. As you may know from part 2 of our SEO series, you can put keywords in your title, your feature list, and your description. Amazon’s search engine will look through the whole listing, find these keywords, and use them to decide what searches relate to your product the best.

The second place is a designated keyword section that Amazon gives you when you’re creating your product listing. The section is called ”search terms.” Amazon will use anything you put in these fields to point relevant searches in your direction. You get five fields that accept 50 characters each, so you should use them to their maximum potential. More detail on this later—it’s not as simple as you might think.

How do I pick keywords?

Onto the most important part.

You might think that picking keywords is rather simple. You know what product you’re selling, so you just have to pick keywords that describe your product and you’re good to go, right? Amazon will figure out the rest?

Not so fast.

You might think you know what customers will search for, but correctly predicting search patterns is likely the single most difficult thing about Amazon search optimization.

This section requires a lot of detail, so we’ve broken it into four steps to help make it easier.

Step 1: Brainstorm

The first step is to think about what you sell. What would you search for if you wanted to buy your products? It may seem obvious, but it’s an important step to get a basic outline for your keywords. Write down what your product fundamentally is, but also jot down some synonyms. If you have multiple products, do this for each of them.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll invent an imaginary Amazon seller. His name is Gustavo, and he sells winter gloves and mittens. Gustavo knows that his mittens and gloves are the warmest and most comfortable hand-covering apparel out there, and he wants to make Gustavo’s Winter Handwear known throughout the world.

Gustavo is also reading this article, because he knows Efficient Era’s blog is the most reliable place for Amazon selling advice on the internet. He begins the first step.

Gustavo Keyword Brainstorm

Note that Gustavo doesn’t just stop at “gloves” and “mittens” or even at “winter gloves” or “warm mittens.” Gustavo thinks about any winter activity that could require warm handwear, any materials or features that customers might want, and any other minute variations or features of his products.

Like Gustavo, try to think of specific circumstances and phrases that surround your product. We use this specificity to capture “long tail keywords,” which are an important concept in Amazon as well as SEO in general.

Long Tail Keywords

Since long tail keywords are so important in SEO, let’s talk about them more in-depth.

A lot of people go into Amazon hoping to eventually rank as the first result for some very general one-word keyword. For example, Gustavo might have come in wanting to rank #1 for both the searches “gloves” and “mittens.” Although this ranking would bring a lot of traffic, this goal isn’t advisable for two reasons.

First (obvious) reason: it’s very difficult. Very experienced professional labels with millions of sales are usually the ones that rank first for these “vanity keywords,” and since Amazon’s search algorithm prioritizes products that it knows will sell well, it’s almost impossible to place highly for these competitive keywords early on.

Second reason: have you ever searched for just “gloves” on Amazon and immediately bought the first result without a second thought? When a customer is using broad keywords, more often than not, they’re browsing. Looking through the first few results, comparing colors and designs… not ready to buy yet.

On the other hand, think about a customer who searched for “grey size M waterproof women’s ski gloves.” They know exactly what they want. They’re practically waving their credit card at the screen. Even though these searches are much more rare, their conversion rate will be significantly higher than the broader, ‘browsing’ searches.

Those longer, 3+ word phrases are exactly what you’re looking to optimize for. They’re the “long tail” keywords. These keywords are significantly less competitive, making it easier to rank higher for them. They’re also much more likely to convert into sales, since they indicate a desire for a specific product.

These unique searches may only occur once every few days, as opposed to thousands of daily searches for “fat head” keywords (as those one-word vanity keywords are also called). However, when summed up, long tail searches make up the majority of total search volume—around 70%. You can see this in the graph below, courtesy of moz.com. In addition, since long tail keywords have a notably better conversion rate despite their rarity, the math works out in your favor for making sales.

Search Demand Curve Chart

When Gustavo is building his keyword list, he shouldn’t just be thinking about life among the stars, ranking highly for vanity keywords. Neither should you. You and Gustavo should both focus on long tail keywords, the less competitive keywords that will send you higher quality traffic.

Step 2: Build

Now that you know what your keyword creation goals are, it’s time to start building up and optimizing your list of keywords. Like Gustavo, I’m sure you got a good start on your keyword brainstorming. Now it’s time to bring some other tools into the mix.

Even though brainstorming about your own ideas for keywords can get you pretty far, there will always be keywords that you didn’t think of. That’s why your keywords should be supported by data, and thankfully, there’s a certain search engine giant out there who has a lot of data.

I’m talking, of course, about Google.

I know I said that this article is about Amazon keyword optimization, but Google does have a bit of experience in the keyword department. They have an enormous amount of collected data about searches—most importantly, about related keywords.

If you have a Google Adwords account, you can access one of their most useful features for free—Display Planner.

In order to access the Display Planner keyword suggestion tool, log into your Google Adwords account. Under the “Tools” tab, click “Display Planner.” Once there, click the “Individual Targeting Ideas” tab, followed by the “Keywords” sub-tab. Now, type in any keyword you like and the tool will return related keywords.

If you don’t have a Google Adwords account, you can use Google Trends. Search any keyword in the search bar at the top, then scroll down to the bottom right corner. You can see “related searches” there and get some good keyword ideas. Do this for multiple varied keywords and see what you can find, like Gustavo did for the keyword “skiing gloves.”

Gustavo Related Searches

Keyword research is a great way to expand your initial brainstorm. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to find some new categories or keyword directions you hadn’t thought of before and expand from there. After doing a bit of research, you should have a fairly substantial list of keyword ideas.

Step 3: Implement

Now that you and Gustavo have your juicy lists of keywords, it’s time to implement them on your Amazon product page. As I mentioned previously, there are four main places to put your keywords. Let’s go through them one by one, starting with the most obvious one.

Search Terms

The first place you’ll want to put keywords is, understandably, the designated spots that Amazon gives you to put keywords. The most important thing about this section: even though each field is for one search “term,” you should not put only one word per field. You get 50 characters per field, and you should take advantage of all 50 of those characters.

The very knowledgeable people over at Moz.com have written a fantastic mini-guide on using these search term fields, so I recommend that you go check that part of this excellent article out. Note that you will have to scroll down a little bit; the section in question is titled “Search terms.”

To briefly summarize Moz’s guidelines:

  • Don’t repeat any words, except for synonyms and spelling variations
  • Use all 50 characters of each field (commas and quotations marks are a waste)
  • Branch out and use all the related, varied keywords you came up with beforehand.

In case you’re curious about what our good friend Gustavo came up with, here are his search terms.

Gustavo Search Terms.png

Title

If you’ve ever stopped to read an Amazon product’s title, you’ll notice most of the time that it’s almost illegible, packed with excessive amounts of buzzwords that cover up what the product actually is.

This is entirely intentional.

One of the priorities of Google SEO is to make your titles readable and inviting. This is not the case on Amazon. The purpose of the title field on an Amazon product listing, in terms of actual implementation, is to contain as many keywords as you can reasonably fit so as to leverage Amazon’s search algorithm.

Amazon, naturally, scans titles of products to determine if they are relevant to searches. The more keywords in your title, the more searches your product will rank for. It’s not exactly as simple as that, but taking advantage of keywords in your title is an important part of Amazon search optimization as a whole.

We’ve addressed this subject in part two of our series on Amazon SEO, under the “Title” section. Now that you have your keywords, you can put this into action, and so can Gustavo.

Listings for mittens don’t necessarily have the longest titles on Amazon, but Gustavo was browsing our SEO article linked above and thought he’d copy over this picture as an example of a keyword-stuffed, 182-character title for a portable charger.

Long Title Example

Note that you don’t necessarily have to fill your title with every keyword under the sun - Amazon likes shorter titles (under 50 characters is their soft recommendation). However, as long as you’re under 200 characters, you’re fine. Again, check out more details in the “Title” section of our SEO post on the subject.

Features

The nice, concise bullet points below the pricing are an excellent place to put extra keywords that would look too awkward in the title or simply didn’t fit. Amazon scans your entire product page for keywords, so anything in these bullet points will register.

However, be careful. Unlike the search terms and the title, the primary purpose of Features is not to be stuffed full of keywords. You want your primary focus in this section to be providing specifications or details about the product in a concise, readable manner. Your secondary goal is to weave in a few keywords here and there, but don’t go overboard.

Another thing—you don’t need to repeat keywords. Unlike on Google, there is no benefit to having a keyword appear multiple times on your product listing. If it appears once, you’ll be able to rank for it, but extra instances do nothing.

Gustavo, ever the industrious one, did some research on his competitors to learn how to optimize his Features section. Here’s what he found.

Features List Example

This tough competitor wrote a very detailed Features list, providing a lot of information in a relatively concise manner. They also placed quite a few strategic keywords, such as “hand wash,” “all purpose,” “waterproof,” and all the materials used. The grammar might need a little work, but hey, nobody’s perfect. Gustavo made a note to spell-check his bullet points.

Description

The description is the section that you have the most control over, and it is a perfectly viable place to put some remaining keywords—Amazon scans it as well. However, we must stress again—you do not need to repeat keywords anywhere on your product page.

If you’ve already taken care of most of your keywords in the features list and title, focus more on making your description inviting and marketing your product rather than stuffing it full of keywords to the point of illegibility. In terms of keyword optimization, the description is more of a place to weave in an extra keyword or two that you couldn’t fit anywhere else.

Step 4: Watch

Gustavo’s feeling pretty good about his keywords now. You might be too—after all, your advice came from us. In all seriousness, though, the work doesn’t stop there. At the risk of sounding dramatic, it’s only just begun.

To shoehorn in a cliché Winston Churchill quote, “to improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” You can’t be certain that your initial swing at keyword optimization will bring back the results you want, simply because keywords are hard and people often use unexpected search terms. You’ll have to change at some point.

The next step, then, is to track the results that your keywords have gotten you. This is difficult to do manually, but fortunately, we have a better solution coming soon… For now, pick a few keywords you’d like to test out, search them, and find where your product ranks. You might have to go through a few pages, but don’t get disheartened! More than anything, it takes time to place well. Keywords aren’t a magic ranking cure-all.

Here’s the problem—tracking keywords manually, although doable, is impractical and difficult, since Amazon doesn’t provide any built-in systems for keyword tracking. Thankfully, Efficient Era has developed a solution for this exact problem.

The Efficient Era Keyword Tool is nearing the end of development, and we’ll update you as soon as it’s released. It tracks all keywords you choose, as well as automatically generated keywords, gives you your ranking for them, gives you new keyword suggestions, and much more. Once it is released, links and more information will be posted in an update below.

Conclusion: Making Changes

Once you’re tracking your keyword standings, whether manually or eventually using our Keyword Tool, you have the power to take action and make the changes you need to. This is really the most important part of keyword optimization, because letting your keywords stagnate is the surest way to get left behind.

Feedback loops make the world go ‘round (no pun intended), and keywords should be no stranger to them. By setting up a system of tracking keywords and making edits, you can test keyword changes out out, see what works and what doesn’t, and make the appropriate adjustments. Constantly change—make Churchill proud.

-Update 6/23/16-

You may have heard whispers (or shouts) of Amazon increasing the character limit of search terms from 250 (5 rows of 50 characters) to 1000 characters.

Although this appeared to be true for a few products at first, it is the consensus that this is no longer the case for the vast majority of categories. Efficient Era recommends that you continue to work within 250 characters despite this confusion.



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