The Amazon community has been all abuzz for weeks over the supposed 250-character limit. I, however, have been noticeably quiet about this topic because there has been so much conflicting information from a huge variety of sources. I’m not usually a first-adopter. I like to test and tweak and read and apply and then draw conclusions.
After speaking at an in-house workshop for Seller Labs, I decided to share what we, at Marketing Words, have found out so far. Information and results from sellers, Amazon, consultants, and other sources are still coming in, so we may change the way we approach listings in the future based on evidence that comes forward later on.
Relevance Is a Top Priority
Whether it was for Google or Amazon, I have preached about relevance with regard to search terms for the past 18 years. It is THE biggest and most important factor right now with Amazon. In fact, in this article about Amazon announcing the 5,000-character search term change, lack of relevance was one of the biggest reasons I said this new policy would hurt sellers’ listings.
Here’s What I Agree With
From all the articles, blog posts, webinars, and tests Marketing Words has run, here’s what I believe at this point.
- The 250-character hard stop is not true. We have seen too much evidence with client listings to the contrary. Just recently we had client listings indexing with 260 characters in search terms and also 390 characters, 765 characters, and 903 characters. Between 87% and 96% were indexed.
Will the 250-word hard stop become a reality? Perhaps. The Home / Kitchen / Garden / Pets Style Guide currently states the following. Is it a mistake that will be corrected? Maybe. Amazon has included information in the past that they later recanted. But it is something to keep an eye on.
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- Amazon responds differently to keywords than it does to keyphrases. Checking indexing for individual words is not especially helpful because 99% of shoppers will enter a phrase when searching.
- It is not necessary to put words/phrases that are in your search terms in the title, bullets, or description. HOWEVER, I suspect that Amazon is working toward eliminating the search terms section altogether.
Amazon seems to be headed down the same path as Google. Google eventually just discounted the META keyword tag completely because it was so badly manipulated. Amazon states in Seller Central that adding search terms is optional and that — if you have them in the copy — they aren’t required in the search terms fields. It appears that Amazon will eventually either get rid of search terms or give them no weight at all.
If you have words or phrases in the search terms fields that you depend on, and Amazon eliminates the value of those fields, you’ll be out in the cold. Better to have them in the copy.
I Have Not Found This to Be True
- If you exceed 250 characters, nothing gets indexed. We have proven that wrong time and again. That being said, Amazon recently released this information (below). It states these new TOS apply to all marketplaces which should include the U.S. My advice is the same for those who have existing listings. TEST. See if your listing needs to be changed or whether your search terms are being indexed (and ranked) even though they exceed 250 characters.
- Repetition in the search term fields is not necessary. We are still testing this, but including keywords from the title and bullets in the search terms may help. What’s more, if you search for the phrase “stainless steel garlic press” and “garlic press stainless steel” you do not get the same results. That means Amazon does not see the two phrases as the same.
- Phrases are more important than words. Our limited tests have shown that most listings rank the same when searching for individual words vs. phrases.
Things to Remember
- Amazon does not treat all listings equally. There are simply too many backend triggers and switches that cause one product page to react positively to a change while others react negatively.
- Don’t forget about rankings. Everybody is taking about “indexing.” Basically, all that means is that Amazon had a quick look and said, “OK, we agree that the phrase ‘silicone slim iPhone case’ is a good match with the product you’re selling.” That’s it. Nothing more. It does not mean you will ever appear in the search results for that term.
- Most indexing tools only check for indexed WORDS. They do not check for entire phrases. Because the majority of shoppers will conduct searches using phrases, you need to watch how much stock you put in the results these tools give you.
- Take it easy on the subjective and marketing language. The use of “awesome,” “#1,” “best seller,” and other such phrases are not in line Amazon’s terms of service. They do not want these types of terms in titles, bullets, descriptions, or search terms.
- Testing is — and always has been — critical to long-term success. As you can see from all the conversations going on about this topic, you need to do some testing on your own. Of course, that applies to every element of your Amazon listings. Because each product page is different and will respond in various ways to changes, you’re really the only one who can accurately say what works for your listings and what doesn’t.