You might be aware that last month Amazon officially announced it had reduced the Search Term length allowed from 5000 bytes down to 250 bytes.
Here's the announcement Amazon made about the change:
So why have Amazon taken this decision? Amazon's latest September update below offers some insight. "Limiting search keywords has been shown to improve the quality of search results". In other words, Amazon has clamped down on the blatant manipulation of META data that has been going on for some time (keyword stuffing with irrelevant terms that results in a poor browsing experience for the shopper).
I've seen several posts these past weeks regarding Amazon's new byte limit, with some gurus advising sellers to remove anything over 250 characters from their search terms.
I disagree with this knee-jerk strategy and I'll tell you why.
Existing Amazon listings will already be historically ranked for keywords or phrases - that the seller may not even be aware of.
Let's say a seller had previously added 750 bytes per line to their search terms, giving a total of 3750 bytes across 5 lines. Somewhere within those bytes there will be terms or phrases that are generating sales. While the seller may not be indexed for the full 3750 bytes, they will be indexed for some.
If a proportion of sales come from a handful of keywords sitting somewhere within rows 1 to 5 of the search terms field, and the seller suddenly deletes 700 characters from each line (leaving 50 bytes a line) then in effect they may have just erased those sales generating keywords from their listing! Over time their ranking for those terms are likely to drop, along with sales.
I've actually had sellers tell me their sales dropped after making these changes and worse, they hadn't tracked their keywords or ranking beforehand!
So for existing sellers it's imperative to check what you are indexing for BEFORE making any knee-jerk changes. To help you do this here are some tools I recommend:
1. KW Index Checker (Chrome Extension by AMZ Power Tools). $39.99 one off cost.
2. Helium10 5k Checker - More expensive but effective ($97 per month for full suite of various tools). You can also track keyword rank with their Keyword Tracker.
3. The Old Fashioned, Manual & Cost-Free Way! Enter your product ASIN followed by the term or keyword phrase into Amazon's Search Bar (from All Departments as below).
Note: manually entering will be a more laborious process.
If the keyword has been indexed for your product listing, it will show as 1 Result. If not it will show 0 Results.
As you can see from the examples above and below, the word "charger" has been linked to that ASIN whereas the term "earphones" hasn't.
USEFUL TIP: If you are not already, create a spreadsheet for listing amendments. Each time you make an edit, log and track with date. When making keyword changes it's also important to leave enough time for the Amazon robots to detect, index and rank. This process takes time. So adding new keywords, getting frustrated after 24 hours when they haven't yielded the results expected, then removing, moving or changing them is a bad idea! Be patient. Wait at least 7-10 days. Let the algorithm work its magic.
SO NOW YOU'VE CHECKED INDEXING. WHAT DO YOU DO NEXT...
1. If you find your backend keywords are still ranking then leave them be for now. Tempting as it is to re-gig, remove and add, it can significantly disrupt the keyword ecosystem. As mentioned above, I have seen sellers who have deleted out their search term keywords only for sales to then fall off a cliff - and because they didn't track indexing beforehand they had no idea what they were ranking for. A painful and costly strategy.
2. If you find your search term keywords are no longer indexing, it's time to carry out research to uncover new targeted keywords (250 byte total not including spaces). And by targeted I mean single terms, phrases and long-tail keywords that are super relevant to your product. The 250 bytes can either be added onto line 1 or 50 bytes per line, across 5 lines.
Take care not to repeat phrases and keywords (in a particular order) that are already in your title, product features or description (as you'll just be duplicating and it's a waste of real estate).
Now check if your listing is indexing for these new search terms. If you use a tool like KW Index Checker then this can be done quickly.
If not, the best way to index keywords is to move them around on the search line(s). If you are still struggling to index then try adding to the front of your listing - in the title, product features or description.
Note: When adding new keywords to your listing (front or back), leave 20-30 minutes between each change for the system to full propagate.
WHAT TO AVOID ACCORDING TO AMAZON...
Here's what Amazon's product listing guidelines have to say (updated as of September 2017):
So it's time to say goodbye to loading up your search terms with competitor brand names and non-relevant terms - avoiding, where possible, special characters that count as more than 1 byte ('&' uses two bytes, the french é three bytes etc).
ONE INTERESTING OBSERVATION...
Sellers often ask whether they should use single terms or keyword phrases in their search terms. Take a look at row two below ... Amazon are stating that "nail pounder", "nail puller" and "ripping tool" are acceptable keywords to use. Why? Because this is how customers search. Most shoppers will expand their search query if they don’t find what they’re looking for on the first couple pages – known in the SEO world as ‘long-tail’ keyword search.
As this is how customers naturally search it makes sense to offer the algorithm a little helping hand. Think of it like this: keywords are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The closer the pieces are together the easier it is to complete the bigger picture. Phrases are going to be faster for Amazon's AI to connect together than single jumbled up terms. "Large dog grooming brush" will be easier to index than "brush large grooming dog".
And since Amazon are themselves suggesting phrases as examples of good keywords then there must be some method in the madness!