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[Rumor] Did Amazon Change Its Sales Ranking Algorithms?

Rumor has it that Amazon has Changed the Sales Ranking Algorithms.

Every once in a blue super blood moon (or usually the first Tuesday of every month), Amazon changes their sales ranking algorithms.

This has been a pretty consistent occurrence for the past year or so, and for those of us that follow Amazon's patented A9 search technology, such changes are nothing revelationary or shocking (albeit disruptive).

The problem is that whenever these changes happen, it really sends a shockwave of confusion, panic, doubt, and unnecessary speculation as to what Amazon is doing.

Afterall, if we can put a finger on these changes, then we can find a way to “Crack the Code” and gain a competitive advantage.

However, this really doesn't serve us very well in the long-term.  The best thing to do is to try and understand what is happening, and then pivot and adapt the best way we can – and do so as quickly as possible.

So, What's the Rumor?

A tactic some sellers have been implementing or have implemented in the past is to give away their products at a really steep discount (greater than 50%).

The premise behind this strategy was that it would boost their sales rank (BSR) and (if the item was being purchased using a “super url” of some sort – which is considered rank manipulation by the way and against TOS) – they could also boost up their rank for keywords as well.

Panic or Not?

Now, I sense a lot of people are probably asking questions like:

  • If giving away products at a big discount isn't counting at all toward page ranking, then what do I do?
  • Do we NOT give products away at a discount at all anymore?
  • How is it possible for a new seller to rank to page one for a product?

All of these are valid questions and concerns.  So let me address these concerns one by one.

What Do We Do Now?

The first important thing to consider is, we don't know for certain if Amazon is NOT including discounted items sold in their sales ranking calculations.

It's a hypothesis.

But let's just use what we DO know to validate the theory.  We DO know that Amazon has been stripping reviews from listings where the purchase was made using a discount code of greater than 40% in many cases.

If Amazon is not allowing reviews for these items discounted greater than 40%, then why would they also count it in the sales ranking as well?

So the first thing you should try (if you have been giving products away at greater than 40%) is to stop doing that and adopt a launch strategy using discounts of say 25-40% instead.

If this positively impacts your sales and page rank, then you will have your answer.  If there is little to no change, then this confirms the theory is true.

Do We Bother Using Discounts Anymore?

Absolutely.  Discounts will continue to serve as a viable means of promoting your products.

You should use them but you should use them smartly.

But should you be using discounts to manipulate rank?

Amazon clearly is making a statement with this rumored change, that it does not want sellers arbitrarily inflating their sales or page rank.

They want customers to make the ultimate judgment (and rightfully so).

Remember that your private label product is likely being judged and tested against many others of similar products.  Amazon wants your product to win based on its own merits, on many factors, not just price.

How To Rank For Products Now?

Ah, so now we get down to probably the most important question in people's minds.  Ranking to Page 1.

Here are a few things you can do to get sales velocity:

Start an Amazon Sponsored Products Campaign (PPC) Right Away

Understand that when you participate in Amazon’s Sponsored Products program, you are “priming the pump” for not just pay-per-click sales, but ORGANIC sales.  Why?  Because whenever a customer purchases your product through a sponsored ad using a relevant keyword search term for your listing, it increases the relevance score for your product in the marketplace organically for that keyword.  This, therefore, helps boost your page rank and your sales.

*Important note about Sponsored Ads: it’s entirely possible to run your advertising campaign at a loss or break even during your first month or even two.  This doesn’t mean, however, that you aren’t profiting organically based on the sales from these campaigns.  Of course, you will want to consistently fine-tune and decrease your Acos ratio  (advertising cost of sales) over time – but this is a long-term and “forever” type of strategy – you don’t want to NOT advertise your products.

Utilize a launch campaign strategy

 A launch campaign is a great way to ramp up sales velocity.  A typical launch campaign consists of giving away batches of your product away at a steep discount for several days.  There are a few ways to go about this.  There is the fast (less effort on your part) and expensive way or the less expensive and long way (more effort on your part).   

  • The fast, more expensive way:  Sign up to a service like Viral-Launch.  Give them a total of 80 units to give away at 10 per day for no less than 8 days.  This will not just help you achieve sales velocity, but improve your page rank for the main keyword for your product.   You can get 50% off your first launch here
  • The slow and less expensive route (maybe):  This technique will take some time (8  weeks) and also require some knowledge about email marketing, list building, and good copywriting skills.  It involves building a Facebook page, conducting market research, creating a viral giveaway contest, collecting emails, and then promoting tiered discounts to the email list using time scarcity.   The details about this tactic are too lengthy to go into in this post, so look out for a supplemental guide and workshop in the future on how to do this!
  • Less than stellar results but may help give a boost in other ways:  Try an Amazon Giveaway!  When you do this, you are essentially buying your own product at “full price” which means that to Amazon, this is just like if someone made a purchase!  Obviously, this can temporarily boost your sales velocity and rank.  You can do this twice per month without Amazon blinking an eyelash, and if sales go stagnant, it can even help revive your listing! 

You can create an Amazon giveaway for your product by going to your Seller Dashboard and clicking the Advertising tab.  Then click on “Promotions.”  Then you’ll see this:

amazon giveaway set up instructions

 

Click on Create and set up a giveaway.  Now, follow the steps in this image (you may have to zoom in to read it clearly):how to create an amazon giveaway

 

 

Conclusion

No one knows for sure if Amazon is or is not using discounting sales in their calculations for sales rank.  And even if they are not, remember that sales rank is a moving target – it fluctuates hourly, sometimes even minute to minute.  So trying to base your performance and sales just on sales rank alone is probably not an efficient use of your efforts.

What is important is maintaining consistent sales velocity comparative to other competitors selling similar products to yours in the same category.  Selling consistently means driving traffic to your listing consistently and converting.  As a seller, your primary focus should always be on traffic and conversions.

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