Amazon Updates Search Terms Algorithms

New feature improving the quality of search results
Aug 28, 2017

Amazon launched a feature that limits the length of the generic keywords attribute to less than 200 bytes in India, 500 bytes in Japan and 250 bytes in every other marketplace except China. The limits have been shown to improve the quality of search results. It applies to newly registered and existing ASINs.

Key Guidelines:

  • Keep content within the prescribed length limit (less than 250, 200 for India, 500 for Japan):
    • Length limit applies to total content in all generic keyword fields (a max. of 5 attributes).
    • Whole entry will be rejected upon exceeding limit.
    • Number of bytes equals number of characters for alphanumeric characters (e.g. a-z, 0-9) while other characters can be 2 bytes or more. Examples include ä (2 bytes), £ (2 bytes), € (3 bytes) or ❤ (3 bytes).
    • Spaces and punctuation (“;” “,”, “.”) do not contribute to the length limit, but words should be space-separated. Punctuation between words is unnecessary.
  • Optimizing keyword content for search discoverability:
    • Do not include keywords that are not descriptive of the product.
    • Do not include brand names (even your own) or other product identifiers.
    • Do not duplicate content present in other attributes, such as title and bullet points.
    • No need to repeat keywords; once is enough.
    • Use keywords that are synonyms, hypernyms or spelling variations of content in visible attributes (e.g. if product title is ‘whiskey’, use ‘whisky’ in generic keywords).

For further information, see how to optimize listings for search and browse.

What does this mean for sellers optimizing their own listings?

First key element here is that the entirety of your submission will be rejected if there are too many bytes – and it’s measured in bytes, NOT characters. So if you have special characters, such as umlauts or accents, you need to account for those extra bytes.

The next key element is that you shouldn’t use any punctuation; spaces are sufficient.

Third, if you are wondering what a hypernym is, it’s basically like a bad trip down SAT memory lane. Flower is to daisy, as _____ is to dog. A) cat; b) puppy; c) animal; d) fur. And because choosing C is always the right answer, it’s c) animal. Basically a hypernym is a higher level description of the product. Hyponym is the opposite, it’s a more descriptive word that means the same thing, such as beagle or terrier.

Example of good search terms

Product is a facial oil and the description contains all ingredients, face, beard, nose, etc descriptors.

The keywords can therefore include common misspellings or words that you wouldn’t want associated with your product on the front page of your listing.

For example, we worked on a project for a facial oil, and found that a competitor was ranking high for keywords such as lubricant, lube, vaginal dryness, and more similar keywords. Nowhere on the detail page were these uses noted, but the product was regularly showing up in search terms.

If you’re not sure how to find these kinds of alternative uses for the products you list, try a reverse search lookup tool. Multiple options exist in the market, including Seller Labs’ Scope and KeywordInspector.

Final list of keywords:

lube lubricant dryness vaginal facal balm facail berd cuticule

Why isn’t it longer?

The keywords in the detail page itself covered correct spellings of face, facial, beard, and cuticle, as well as many other keywords we thought would be good, such as beauty, youthful, rejuvenate, etc. We also didn’t want to explicitly advertise the use of the oil for natural lube purposes, although apprently this is a very popular use for natural, organic oils.

Always opt for quality above quantity, particularly if they’re going to reject the entire submission for indexing if it’s over 250 bytes, but the interface itself currently allows 1000 characters.

Best practices for Keywords:

Hidden keywords

Amazon provides sellers with an opportunity to add hidden keywords for a product. These keywords should only include generic words that enhance the discoverability of your product. For example, if you are selling headphones, your hidden keywords may contain synonyms such as “earphones” and “earbuds.” Hidden keywords are not required fields.

Here are some best practices for providing hidden keywords:

  • Don’t include product identifiers such as brand names, product names, compatible product names, ASINs, UPC codes, etc.
  • Don’t provide inaccurate, misleading, or irrelevant information such as the wrong product category, the wrong gender, out-of-context words, etc.
  • Don’t provide excessively long content. Respect the limits that are set for different fields.
  • Don’t provide redundant information that is already captured in other fields such as title, author, product description, bullet points, brand, etc. It won’t improve your product placement in search results.
  • When entering several words as a search term, put them in the most logical order. A customer is more likely to search for big stuffed teddy bears than for teddy stuffed bears.
  • Use a single space to separate keywords. No commas, semicolons, carets are required.
  • Don’t include statements that are only temporarily true, e.g., “new,” “on sale,” “available now.”
  • Don’t include subjective claims such as amazing, good quality, etc., as most customers don’t use subjective terms in their queries.
  • Don’t include common misspellings of the product name. Amazon’s search engine compensates for common customer misspellings and also offers corrective suggestions.
  • Don’t provide variants of spacing, punctuation, capitalization, and pluralization (“80GB” and “80 GB,” “computer” and “computers,” etc.). Our search engine automatically includes different case forms, word forms, and spelling variants for searching.
  • Don’t include terms that are abusive or offensive in nature.
  • Abbreviations, alternate names, topic (for books, etc.), and key character (for books, movies, etc.) could be included as keywords.
I want help optimizing my listings!
About the Author
I got my first job at Amazon because of my German language skills from my Master’s in History. Take that, people who said I’d never get a good job with my liberal arts degree! I soon learned that I’m not good at taking orders and started my MBA coursework at Seattle University.

I worked at Amazon for 8 years, as a liaison for law enforcement in Fraud/Transaction Risk, a quality and compliance manager in Product Compliance for Amazon Brands and imports globally, and lastly, managing hardware for Website Availability. I love the flexibility that working for clients on Amazon rather than for Amazon affords me.

In my not significant free time, I do fiber crafts such as spinning, crocheting, and embroidery, and I have been in a community band since 2009, playing French Horn, Trombone, or Euphonium depending on the band’s needs that season.

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