Amazon is the biggest name in the game for selling products online. But with 1.9 million selling partners, the competition is fierce.
To claim your market share, you need to show up in the searches people are performing.
And that starts with keywords.
Just as if you were optimizing a webpage for Google, you need to include the right words and phrases on your product page to ensure you’re showing up in relevant searches.
Your titles, features, and descriptions must be optimized, but that’s not enough.
There’s another factor Amazon takes into account when delivering results to queries, something many third-party sellers aren’t aware of: hidden keywords.
If you’re completely unaware of what these are and how they work, or you want to discover the secret to using them to your advantage, you’re in the right place.
In this piece, we’ll take an in-depth look at Amazon’s hidden keywords and show you everything you need to know to put them to work for your Amazon store.
What Are Amazon’s Hidden Keywords?
Hidden keywords, sometimes called backend keywords, are any words related to your product that aren’t included in the title or description.
For example, they’re the terms Amazon returns after a sponsored product ad shows for an item, the ad is clicked on, and the product is purchased, or the queries a customer entered into an Amazon Search.
They’re any words related to your product that aren’t in the product title or description. These could be generic terms or synonyms for your product.
And they should be included in the 250 characters per field (up to five fields) that you supply to Amazon to help boost discoverability in their search results pages.
So, search terms, right? Not exactly. I know this isn’t very clear, so we’ll try clarifying things.
(And yes, the fields in which you enter these hidden keywords in the Amazon UI are also called “Search Terms” to make things a bit more confusing.)
Plus, the report you download from Amazon for reporting on these search terms for advertising efforts is called a “Search Term Report.”
In Google paid search, we’d call it a “Search Query Report,” which seems to make more sense, but apparently, Amazon disagrees.
Calling hidden keywords just “keywords” also gets confusing, especially when choosing keywords for sponsored product campaigns.
And while I hate the name with every search bone in my body, Amazon calls them hidden keywords, which does help to differentiate.
How To Think About Hidden Keywords
Here’s the best way I can think of to help you determine how to think about these terms, how you might best use them, and where you might source future terms from:
Remember the party game Taboo? You broke into teams and pulled a card with a word or object.
Your goal was to get your partner or team to guess the word without saying it or several other restricted-related terms before time ran out.
If you said a forbidden word, the other team would “buzz” you, and your turn was over.
For example, the main word is “football,” but you can’t say football, touchdown, end zone, pigskin, or NFL – what words would you say to get your team to say “football”? Those would be your hidden keywords.
Let’s use a product example.
If the item were a Michael Kors shoe, you’d include the brand name, type of shoe, size, and attributes like a color or pattern all in the title.
And if you couldn’t get all that in the title, it should be in the product description, alongside additional details like material type or comfort.
Those details in the title and description are not what you’d want to use for hidden keywords. Instead, you want to use terms that would help someone find your product if they hadn’t searched for what you visibly provided on the page.
You might, in this case, try to use: slip-on evening closed toe under $100.
Amazon Help gives these examples:
But even those examples wouldn’t begin to fill the first search term box of 250 characters. It can be quite difficult to fill each search term slot without resorting to extreme stuffing, especially if you’re manually inputting.
Choosing Hidden Keywords
Choosing hidden keywords is where I see the most cross-over between search on search engines and search on Amazon. What tools can you use on one for the other?
Many blogs recommend the Google Keyword Planner, Keywordtool.io, Ubersuggest, or search query reports from Shopping Campaigns.
I don’t disagree with those suggestions at all – but only for generating ideas or starting points.
The way people search on Amazon and how Amazon surfaces results differ from Google, so the best way to populate and perpetuate this field is using data from Amazon or your own listings whenever possible.
That means a Search Terms Report, a client-provided list, product details, attributes, or features will work best in compliance and upkeep.
Like search keyword lists or text ads, you can’t include inaccurate or misleading information, promotions (like buy one get one), subjective claims, or profanity.
You use a single space to separate terms and nothing else, which makes the search person in me cringe (I want to add that comma or semicolon so much).
This also means that when you review a bunch of hidden keywords for a product, it looks like a nonsensical line of gobbledygook, even if you follow best practices and use a logical order with your best keywords first.
Also, thanks to the good old “+variants” exercise that Google has put us search folks through, you no longer have that reflex to put in common misspelling, title cases, and pluralization.
The same goes for hidden keywords, making them even more difficult to add, especially by the time you reach search term box four and run out of ideas.
However, one big difference I tend to forget as a search person is that these hidden keywords don’t hold relevancy or scores or rank the same way they do on Google.
That’s why you should change them regularly to keep up with incoming queries and impressions on Amazon.
This keeps your product pages more likely to be listed on a search results page.
This is particularly true if Amazon is finding some of the terms you submitted as not relevant or not using them. If this is the case, replace them and re-submit.
Adding Hidden Keywords
Now that your hidden keywords are selected, it’s time to add them to your product. Here’s how to do that on a per product basis in the Amazon Seller Central UI.
- Log in to Seller Center and click the Inventory tab.
- On the right, look for the “edit” button and click it.
- You will see the “offer” tab; click on “keywords” to open the hidden keywords section.
This can be time-consuming, but if you have an army of content writers or interns to do it for you, have at it. If not, you may want to brew a new pot of coffee because this could take a while.
You may not like the re-assess and adjustment time, though, especially if you have a catalog size of more than a few hundred products.
You might find it worthwhile to investigate your feed capabilities, whether you’re using a feed tool provider or generating your product feeds in-house and sending them to Amazon.
Dynamic generation possibilities can scale this process for sellers with large catalogs depending on the sophistication level.
The output would more closely resemble my earlier gobbledygook comment than if a human were to enter them manually, but again, scale.
How To Check If Your Hidden Keywords Got Added
Unfortunately, the only way to check whether your hidden keywords have been added is through random spot checks. And unfortunately, this is a manual process.
Copy the entire string from a search terms box (wait at least 24 hours after submittal before doing this), and search for it on Amazon.
If the product listing that is supposed to be associated with those search terms appears, it’s working. If not, try another group of terms from another search term box and repeat.
But what if the product listing still doesn’t appear? It may be that not all the terms you provided were used (there may have been an editorial or duplicate error), or you need to continue through all five boxes.
I’ve seen cases where only one of the five boxes is picked up, indexed, and used. As you can see, it’s not a great system in terms of being able to track and adjust.
Fun tidbit: If you remember Yahoo SSP feeds (also known as paid inclusion), this process and indexation may ring a bell. In 2008, you sent content via a feed to supplement Yahoo organic search results meant possibly faster and more frequent information than a crawl.
Final Thoughts On Hidden Keywords
Hopefully, by this point, you’ve developed a working understanding of Amazon’s Hidden Keywords and how to add them on the backend to generate more traffic to your product pages.
Finding the perfect mix for your needs is a bit labor-intensive but is well worth the effort.
Just remember to keep up with it. Keep testing and identifying which keywords are working and which ones aren’t.
Replace the underperformers with new keywords until you find the perfect mix. And then do it all again.
Amazon is an amazing tool for online retailers. And using backend keywords is a great way to ensure you’re receiving the traffic – and making the sales you need.
Featured Image: Krakenimages.com/Shutterstock