So what makes an Amazon product rank #1 for a keyword? What factors separate #1 from #2 and #3 and so on? What's so different and what separates the Top 3 from the rest of the field?

There are factors that my gut has always told me (being an internet marketing/SEO guy) that stood out, but needed evidence. It's finally time to find out if my theories and intuitions were right, wrong, or somewhere in between with actual data to back it all up.

Gathering the data was all done by me and not outsourced; I wanted only experienced eyes on it to ensure accuracy as certain factors vary widely and without an experienced Amazon seller's eye, it could easily be misinterpreted or missed. It was much more time intensive and exhausting than I initially imagined combing through that many Amazon product listings; but I am fairly proud & confident in my findings!

How We Selected Products & Niches

First, I want to establish conditions that were excluded from this study. Since we are looking at the rankings of only "private label" product brands us mortals can make; we filtered out:

  • Amazon's Choice, Amazon Basics, or ones exclusively Sold and Fulfilled by Amazon.
  • Brands already found and distributed at big chain retailers. 
  • Listings that appeared at the top due to sponsored ppc were obviously filtered out.
  • In extra competitive niches, we included the #2 and #3 ranked products as well.
  • We excluded those in niches that were too small. Meaning where one could easily rank their product listing to #1 due to poor competition.

Second, niches were selected randomly ranging from common household items, beauty items, electronics, kitchen, clothing, sporting goods, toys, etc. (literally any & everything you would bump into or see throughout a normal daily life).

The keywords were entered right into the search bar (seasoned SEOers would call this exact match) from the homepage. Most times exact matches were typically shown but sometimes broad match results appeared when listing titles did not immediately contain an exact match.

Keywords were also selected from a pure consumer's standpoint meaning only the most general and widely used keyword combinations & spellings were typed in (aka no odd long-tail keywords). At times, we selected the suggested keyword combos presented in the dropdowns or finding alternative combinations that appeared more popular. In addition; depending on how narrow the niche was; we adjusted the "deepness" of the product. Example: Looking for cell phone cases; since it's a very big and ultra-competitive niche, we went three levels deep using color and material like: silicone clear iphone case.

Summary Of Key Findings

I'll just go ahead and give out the meat and bones; here's what we found briefly.. 

1. Quantity Of Product Reviews and Sales Rank did not make an impact on keyword rankings.

2. Backlinks Were Very Impactful. Backlinks?! Yup, backlinks. We aren't talking about your normal internet backlinks; we are talking specifically about the backlinks from Amazon affiliate websites made by affiliate internet marketers. This is actually something I've studied and noticed long ago, but kept it fairly secret. I've been out the "Amazon content" loop for awhile so I'm not sure if anybody exposed this, but I do plan on writing about it. (Subscribe to be notified!)

3. Older Age. Like fine wine; it appears keyword ranked products do better as they get older. We found a small number were 1-2 years of age, but more than 75% of them were 3+ years old! A few being 6 years old or older.

4. Multiple Products In Niche Brand Line. A low key metric, but directly tied with additional sales; almost 78% of the ranked products were by brands that had an entire line of offerings in the same niche. (which obviously creates more cross-sales amongst it's buyers)

5. Excellent Titles. Clear, concise, formatted titles. Keywords at the beginning of the title out-ranked those that had them in the later end by a huge margin. A mixture of commas, parenthesis, and dashes all used to create a clean look.

6. Longer Titles seemed to rank better than shorter ones. Although not by much; but we found that 60% had long titles that didn't show, while 40% were short ones that the entire line showed in the results page.

7. Average Product Review Rating Of 4.5 Stars or above. Only 14% of the ranked products had a review fewer than 4 stars, the other 86% had an had 4 stars or more. Only ~4% had a complete 5 stars.

8. Higher CTR From Search Page To Listing Page. Although we wish we could tell the conversion rate of search results page clicks to product listing page, we can only go by gut feeling from the other metrics and confidently say that it's very likely these ranked products outperformed the others.

9. Great Brand Names. We gave the brand names of the private label our own score of 1 to 5. We took the simplicity, related, catchy'ness, etc. amongst other factors of the brand names.

10. Exceeding In The Basics. The obvious metrics one would expect to see like product listing optimization, inventory levels, seller profile rating, main image, etc. were all well done by the highest ranking products.

11. Reviewer Rank, Customer Videos, And More. We actually didn't find any correlation of the reviewers rank, customer videos, customer images, or customer Q&A in the higher ranking products versus the ones that didn't rank as high.

12. Value. This is another obvious one; but the lowest price didn't rank higher. It was more about Value and what the product offered in comparision to the price. Although they weren't the lowest priced, they were also not the highest priced either.

1. Quantity Of Product Reviews & Sales Rank

This is a rather obvious one by seasoned Amazon sellers, but just because a product has a high Sales Rank within a certain category does not mean it would rank high for particular keywords.

As for the total number of product reviews; our data shows that it was a mix of times when #1 had the most, and when #1 didn't have the most. There was no leaning towards one way. One pattern however was that the number of product reviews each had were usually all within a "proximity" of each other; meaning the differences wasn't by a huge astronomical margin.

Takeaway: Don't solely aim for having the highest amount of reviews. You want to be within a good "range" of the highest or higher, but there is a point where the law of diminishing returns happens. Think about it like this; when you shop, you don't shop solely based on what has the highest number of reviews - yes, you take it into consideration it has high social proof but everything else has to fall in place as well.

2. All About The Backlinks... Affiliate Backlinks That Is

Actually; let me re-adjust that... it's all about how many affiliate marketers pick up your product and start promoting it on their own network of affiliate websites. If you don't know what an affiliate marketer does (specifically an Amazon one) - they create a website that they drive traffic to and put up links and ads tied with their affiliate coded URL in which they get ~4% of every sale they make. Since it's driven by an affiliate cookie code as well; they will get the same ~4% for any of their visitors that purchases within the next 30 days.

Let's say they get someone to buy a $100 Amazon product using their affiliate code; they get $4. Now let's say they created this website (which is usually some variation of giving comparison reviews, ranking products amongst the others in the niche, videos, etc.) and they get 5% of their traffic to convert to a sale. Now let's say they drive a mere 100 visitors per day.. that's 5 sales at $4 for $20 a day, or $600 a month. For doing nothing - purely passive income. And that is with just 100 daily visitors.. most of these seasoned internet marketers can drive ~10,000+ unique visitors a month.

How do I know? It's because I actually used to do affiliate marketing, SEO, Adwords, etc. etc. (and quite well) for years.

Most affiliate marketers don't stop at just one website. They spread it across multiple websites; the good ones could easily crank out 12+ solid websites a year - some even have portfolios of upwards to 300+ running at the same time. All passive income. And each website they can sell fairly easily with some of them becoming homeruns & grow to more than just an affiliate site (but more on that in my later post!).

Imagine having built 100 sites over a couple years: $20 daily x 100 sites = $2,000 a day. Minimum.

If you want to see if this is something the top ranked guy in your niche is doing; a couple quick ways to find out (there are more advanced methods like back link explorers, but not necessary at this stage):

1. Reverse Google an affiliate formatted link of your competitors. Type " of title/dp/asin/?tag=

2. Google around some variation of the high ranking competitor product and 'unboxing video' 'review video' 'comparison' 'vs other product', etc. etc. - if the affiliate marketer's funnel website is worth their grain of salt; it should pop up near the top fairly quickly.

But again; this needs it's own long blog post on it. And it's coming!

Takeaway: This is much bigger than you think. It has a HUGE effect on why some products just simply can't get out-ranked just playing inside "Amazon". You got to step outside the box with these ranked products which is an entirely different game. If you want to kill it & truly own an real branded e-commerce company - Learn it.

3. Aged

For those hoping for an immediate (less than 6 month) ranked #1 keyword product in a niche that has decent competition & traffic - you are going up against a hill.

Looking at various inventory levels and date of the oldest reviews; most of the #1 ranked products all have been selling on Amazon for 3.5 years on average.

Which only makes sense; more sales, higher conversions, more outside word of mouth, etc. etc.

Takeaway: Be Patient! Rome wasn't built in a day. Don't read too much into the Amazon sellers who've exploded into 7-figures in a year, those are a very small percentage. Most grew moderately paced and steady over a span of 2+ years. And there are Amazon sellers who've been selling since 8+ years ago.

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4. Niche Product Line Brands

Another interesting find (whether or not it's really mandatory) is that we found just about every single one of the #1 ranked products all belonged to a private label brand that sold other products within it's niche - An entire line of products.

Whether this means that Amazon weighs more "trust" towards brands or brand names is a toss up guess. But one thing is for certain; and that is there is definitely residual sales going on from those other products as buyers stumble upon them which only adds to the MAMM rule. (more on the MAMM rule on my Amazon Ranking Factors post I wrote awhile ago)

The more products the brand has in the niche, the bigger the brand. The bigger the brand, the more the brand is recognizable in the "real world outside of Amazon", think like Anker and Zinus. The more the brand is taken seriously and gets treated as such with a higher conversion rate that some un-known brand won't be able to touch.

Takeaway: Alot of the Top #1 ranked products are private label brands that have gone bigger outside of Amazon. They are recognized by the outside world & recommended by word of mouth or the product has been experienced in person. Don't sleep on how much difference in conversion rates occur due to merely how well a brand is perceived or talked about.

5 & 6. Titles Mean Huge Business

I think this is fairly straight-forward stuff. But the higher ranking Amazon product listings all had very well formatted titles. The crappy ones with missed spaces after commas (and other small ugly things) did not make #1 very often.

Apart from that; Amazon's search algorithm is still (compared to Google) in teenage maturity age. They are still trying to figure things out.. think like a ~2008-2013 version of Google where it could still easily get gamed by the smartest SEOers with certain loopholes and such. Nowadays, you aren't going to get anywhere on Google unless you provide great content and know what the hell you're doing.

With that said; weight on keywords and proximity within it's title still holds large (at least right now in late 2017). Put your most important ones first.

As for the length of the title; the data shows the longer titles probably ranked higher due to higher conversions or CTR rate from the product results page. Longer titles have more information that keep buyers from having to click and "dig" from the product results page. However; don't just use filler words that don't add any value.. make sure every real estate on the title makes an impact in helping the buyer.

Takeaway: Spend time on your titles. It's one of the most important (if not the most) factors that determine your CTR from a product results page. And Amazon's search algorithm definitely takes CTR into consideration.

7. Review Rating Lower Than 4 Stars - Forget It

One would think this is obvious that only products with a high average review star rating would rank #1, but it's quite interesting to see just how mandatory having a high rating is.

Pretty much; if you're aiming to have your product take the #1 spot, having less than an average 4 star rating will not get you there.

However with that said; we noticed that there isn't a much difference in between a 4 star and a 4.5 star rated product. Meaning; a 4 star rated product often times out-ranked a 4.5 star. So as long as you have a 4 star rating; then you have a ticket into the rodeo show.

Takeaway: Don't sell shit. Sell something that is 4 stars or better. Notice I didn't say "try to maintain or achieve a 4+ star rating". Don't sell average or medicore things - it's a huge time suck & a constant uphill battle just to contend. Apart from that, more importantly - You want to make the world a better place. What you give to the world, you get back (in currency).

8. Higher CTR From Search Results Page

This is Huge. Apart from a pure conversion rate once a potential Amazon user is on your product listing page; the second most important metric is even being in the "fight" in the first place - meaning; a typical Amazon shopper will search for something, then open 3-5 tabs of products they think will fit, then narrow it down from there. You want your listing in one of the opened tabs. From analyzing the factors that affect CTR from product results page (more from my old 2016 Amazon ranking factors post) of the #1 ranked products - All of them are absolutely crushing the factors.

There are factors that are more abstract and can't be measured but only judged by "seller eye" like brand perception, etc.

Takeaway: Want to rank with the big boys? Covering the basis is a minimum to get into the ring - Make sure your listing is well optimized & has "shelf appeal".

9. The Impressions A Good Brand Name Makes

The #1 products all were sold by companies with (for the most part) really good brand names. Since we are looking at just private label brands, we factored out the names of copycat hi-jackers and looked at the main seller account.

Yes, there were some "okay" names and some generic ones that you could tell were "online seller'ish" along the lines of like Great Deals Inc, Superb Goods, etc. etc. but the true private label brands that we want to be like all nailed it on their names. The majority having a name that directly relates to the niche. It was split about 40/40/20 as to whether it was one-word or two-worded or three-worded brand names.

Takeaway: Spend some time and effort into making a brand name that sounds and feels good. One that brings a shopper confidence that you are legit, high-quality, and bigger than just a "fly-by-night seller who happens to get ahold of a few boxes of that product & will be gone when it sells out" - Be percieved as a Real brand & company.

10. Cover Your Basics Well, That's An Order

This covers the absolute basics of product listing optimization that you should be covering anyways. And without disappointment, all of the #1 ranked keyword products have their bases covered - covered very, very well actually.

Things like: Title, main image, supporting imags, bullet points, description, inventory leves, etc. etc.

Takeaway: Covering your basics takes more than 15-20 minutes. You need to meticulously go through every single word, images, and any other real estate you can control on your listing. Your words need to make a buyer feel 110% confident your product is & will fulfill exactly what they need or want without sounding like an infommercial.

11. Reviewer Ranks, Customer Videos, Images, Q&A

From the data; the listings that had these usually fell into a higher rank (more than likely due to an overall higher conversion rate). But just like quantity of product reviews; there's a law of diminishing effect where as long as you fall within a proximity of those high ranked listings - then the higher conversions would not be much more different than the other.

Takeaway: Use whatever methods to get a solid foundation to get your listing going & making your listing attractive, but don't obsess over it. If you're selling a great product (which you should be) then these things will come organically.. and if you're product is better, then the organice rate at which these come in will eventually over-take.. it will just take awhile.

12. Value

This is e-commerce basics 101. Actually; this is human pyschology 101. This is not price compared to features, or price compared to size, etc.. This is covering everything in an optimized combination. The right price for the right product that performs the right way (or better way) in the right size in the right color.

Although there are many deal shoppers on Amazon; a strong majority aren't looking for the cheapest product, but value the stress-less, convenience, and worry free purchase more instead.

Takeaway: Sell something you would use and rave about yourself.

In Conclusion

This article is getting a bit winded so I thank you for hanging on! I hope you got much value & insight out of this.. I know I did from even just writing this! I also hope that I was able to un-earth a few gold nuggets that you can take & directly apply to your Amazon product listings & affect that bottom line.

My shameless plug: check out Feedbackz (automatically send product review requests, specifically for those a bit more experienced in marketing & serious in design asthetics).

James fend
James Fend is the Founder of Helpify and Feedbackz. He also owns ecommerce companies with 6-figure yearly sales through Amazon and his online stores. He focuses on content & inbound marketing, SEO, and web design.