Amazon's Search Engine is Not That Smart. Here's Why.

Published On January 29, 2015

Keyword research is more important in Amazon than anywhere else, maybe even Google. That’s because Amazon is not that smart when it comes to keywords.

First I’ll explain why, then I’ll show you how to take serious advantage of the situation.

Let’s use an example. It’s easier to show than to explain. When you search Amazon for “frying pan”, it’s going to show every single product that has the word “frying” as well as the word “pan” in the listing.

There are only 4 places in each listing where it’ll search for keywords:

  • The brand name
  • The listing’s title
  • The listing’s bullet points
  • The hidden “keywords” section of the listing that shows up when you click Edit

In fact, Amazon would have no idea your item should show up for the keyword Frying Pan if the words “frying” and “pan” don’t show up somewhere in one of those 3 places.

Because of this, if you searched for “incredible frying pan” your results would be absolutely awful. Only 40 products show up for “incredible frying pan”, whereas 36,682 results show up for “frying pan.” The word incredible, though relatively meaningless in this instance, breaks everything.

Now you might say to yourself “Well, nobody searches for that, so who cares?” And it’s true that we “searchaholic” Internet Marketers would probably never be so foolish as to enter a query like that.

However, it’s a fact that most customers are all over the place with their search habits.

Did you know that ~15% of all searches that Google processes every day are completely unique? (Meaning that Google has never, ever seen that particular search before.)

Even after nearly 15 years in business. Even with the suggestions they make in the search box.

Nobody has exact numbers on Amazon, but it has to be huge. (Their version of autocomplete also isn’t nearly as intelligent as Google’s.)

So, for strange searches we now know that you find really bad results. But even for a lot of reasonable searches, you find worse results than expected. Read on.

Let’s Wok Through Another Example

Typing “Frying Pan A” into the search bar brings you suggested searches for a bunch of keywords like “Frying Pan Accessories”, “Frying Pan Aluminum”, etc. One that I found interesting was “Frying Pan Asian”, which is probably what some people search for when they can’t think of the right word – a “Wok.”


Searching for “Wok” results in 28,119 products. “Frying Pan Asian” has only 131 results total, and halfway down the first page, results start to get pretty weak. There are some Woks in there, but there are also results for bamboo spoons, an asian steamer, an electric grill… etc.

And this is a search that Amazon suggested on its own! You’d think merchants would be on top of this kind of stuff.

Now, the easy lesson here is that if you’re selling a wok, you want to sneak the word Asian somewhere into your listing. But there’s a bigger lesson.

Practically No Competition

As I write this, in the top 3 results for the search “wok”, the weakest competitor has 243 reviews. All the Woks that show up in teh search look decent. They all have Prime shipping, etc.

Tough competitors.

In the top 3 results for “frying pan asian”, on the other hand, the highest-rated result has 26 reviews, the next has 0 (yes, none) and the third has 4 reviews. Only one of those has Prime shipping.

And more importantly, they’re not all Woks! Only the 3rd result is actually a wok. So if you happen to be a merchant selling a wok and you were actually on your game (by having entered the word “asian” in your listing), it’s fair to say that you would dominate this keyword.

Even the PPC is awful. There’s not a single Wok in all the sponsored results.

Absurdly Cheap Clicks

At the time of this writing, the estimated 1st page bid for “Wok” is $.24, which is really pretty cheap as it is.

But the bid for “Frying pan asian” is…


Two cents per click.

The Bigger Picture

Ok, you get it. “Frying pan asian” is a steal, and everybody should bid on it.

In all seriousness though, this is not a rare example. It took me less than a minute to find that keyword on the fly while I was writing this article. Every category is full of them. Here are the reasons (in my opinion) why:

Amazon’s “exact match” search leaves 100% of the responsibility on the seller to find every keyword that their product should show up for. This is the opposite of Google, which tries very hard to solve the problem for searchers and webmasters automatically. Keyword tools for Amazon sellers, up to this point, haven’t been all that great. Certainly not good as keyword tools for Google. …and this leads to a pretty interesting scenario.

Capitalizing On Long Tail Opportunities

As a rule of thumb, long tail keywords convert at a higher rate for advertisers than broader, more popular keywords.

The main reason is that there’s less competition, as we’ve seen. But generally, even on Google PPC, longer keywords tend to convert better to clicks because the searcher is going after something much more specific. The more words they type in, the better an idea you have of exactly what they want.

This leads to a better message match, and more dollars earned per search for the seller.

That’s why, even though the search volume may be small for a lot of these keywords, the fact that they convert better makes them worth going after. Ranking organically isn’t difficult in Amazon, and you can bid for an extra listing that costs almost nothing.

There are also less relevant competitors, so your chances of getting a click are that much better than in competitive SERPs where you have to share the stage with a ton of highly-rated products.

With Limited Keywords in a Listing, How Do You Prioritize Which to Include?

The toughest part about selling on Amazon is the lack of publicly available search data.

How do we know how many people are actually searching for “Frying Pan Asian”? What if it’s so small that it’s just not worth it? What if it’s relatively big, but nobody even knows?

There is a trick to get it, but unfortunately Amazon doesn’t make it easy, and it’s also not entirely free.

You have to back the information out of Amazon’s PPC tool.

Run ads on all the keywords you’re interested in for a long enough amount of time to gather reliable impression data, compare all the keywords to each other, and then sort your keywords from your biggest to smallest opportunities.

It’s a pain in the butt, but the nice thing is that once you’ve run ads on a wide variety of keywords, you have information about your niche that none of your competitors would have unless they’re intelligently running PPC ads just like you.

Think about it: If you fail to include even one major keyword in your Amazon listing, you could be missing a giant chunk of the traffic that’s available to you. Over the course of a year, that can easily add up to thousands of dollars in lost revenue for each product.

Look at it as an opportunity. Most of your competitors will not do this work.

Next Steps

I’ve written a step-by-step guide to optimizing your keyword research, along with prioritizing which words are most valuable: