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14 CRO Tactics You Can Steal From Amazon’s Product Listings

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It’s rare to be able to learn about a platform or technology from the way that the owner uses it.

Facebook doesn’t tell us how they optimize their Facebook ads. Though Google has begun to provide some insight into how it optimizes its web presence for search engines, no right-minded SEO professional is going to wholly rely on their advice.

Amazon is different.

Amazon sells a huge array of their own products on their marketplaces. This gives us an opportunity to learn about how they present those products and the tactics they deploy to optimize product listings.

What follows is a review of Amazon’s own listings covering Amazon products (e.g., Echo), Amazon-owned companies (e.g., Blink), and Amazon private label brands (e.g., Ella Moon clothing).

I’ve pulled out specific tactics from each content area that you will be able to use to improve your conversion rates and ultimately increase revenue.

We’ll look at the following areas:

  • Product Titles
  • Images
  • Product Variations
  • Bullet Points
  • Enhanced Brand Content and A+ Content

I’ll show how Amazon:

  • Adapts its presentation of content to suit the type of product and pricing.
  • Knows when to communicate practical information and when to lean on emotional reasoning.
  • Consistently address customer objections and highlights benefits.
  • Utilizes additional sales features and optimization tactics to drive targeted, high-converting traffic.

Before we dive in, it’s worth emphasizing that simply copying what Amazon does is not a solid strategy.

Our aim should be to understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Then apply those learnings to our situation.

If you’re new to Amazon then feel free to get in touch with me through the bio link at the end of this article.

What Is Amazon Conversion Rate Optimization & Why Is It so Fundamental to a Successful Amazon Strategy?

It’s vital to always bear in mind that Amazon is a point of sale. It becomes a great point of sale if the user can find the right product at the right price in the quickest possible time.

To create this seamless customer experience, Amazon needs to know which products are most likely to satisfy the customer’s needs.

This is where conversion rate comes in. If product A generates more orders per 100 visits than product B then, with everything else factored in, it is product A that will reap outsized benefits from Amazon’s algorithms.

A best-in-class conversion rate not only means your products will generate more sales from your current traffic levels but over time this will also boost your presence across Amazon’s search and promotional media space.

This creates a flywheel of more exposure, more traffic, more sales, more customer reviews, more brand awareness, and higher conversion rates.

This is why conversion rate optimization must be a priority for all Amazon sellers.

If you’re from an SEO background, think of it this way.

Just as Google views a relevant and authoritative backlink profile as fundamental to high website rankings, Amazon places the same value on products with high conversion rates.

A Higher Conversion Rate Gives Amazon Sellers Competitive Advantages

Let’s now delve into the specific advantages that high converting products derive from the Amazon ecosystem.

Organic Rankings

Much like Google, no one really knows exactly how Amazon’s A9 algorithm works but Amazon does provides some insight. Here’s the most pertinent section;

“Factors such as degree of text match, price, availability, selection, and sales history help determine where your product appears in a customer’s search results.”

I’ve highlighted ‘sales history’ because this is what we’re really interested in.

Sales history is a catch-all term for performance metrics such as order defect rate but what it really pertains to is how well the product converts.

In any reasonably competitive product vertical, sellers will have done the basics of including keywords, keeping products in stock, and pricing competitively.

Any ranking advantage is largely attributed to sales history and, specifically, conversion rate.

As Amazon itself states, search is the main way that people find products.

Despite the increasing dominance of ads in Amazon’s search results, organic rankings are integral to revenue growth.

Improve conversion rates and organic rankings will improve, too.

Bid Auctions

A higher conversion rate means a lower customer acquisition cost. It also provides a competitive advantage in sponsored ad bid auctions.

This isn’t specific to Amazon. We see the same idea represented by Google Ads’ Quality Score metric.

Here’s how it works.

For a given keyword and multiple competing product ads, Amazon will favor the ad for the product with the highest historic conversion rate even if the CPC bid is lower than that of competitors.

The reason is simple. Customer satisfaction overrides everything.

From the seller’s point of view, acquiring sales at a lower CPC means the budget is spent efficiently.

That saving can either be banked, reinvested into expanding the ad campaign, or diverted to other marketing activity.

Merchandising Exposure

An often overlooked benefit of a higher conversion rate is the huge organic exposure this creates within Amazon’s additional merchandising features.

Take a look on Amazon and consider just how many impressions appearing in each of these widgets can produce.

Best Sellers (A List of Best Sellers Within a Category)

Amazon Best Sellers

Customers Also Viewed/Shopped for Carousels

Amazon Customers Also Viewed

Compare with Similar Items (Product Comparison Tables)

Amazon Product Comparison Table

These spots are highly dynamic.

While it may seem that they favor products that have been on-sale for a long time, Amazon’s algorithm does factor in recent performance.

Making significant improvements to your conversion rate, increasing media spend, and tactical use of promotions can all contribute to increasing this exposure.

Non-Listing Conversion Optimization Strategies

It’s worth pointing out that, while we’re dealing specifically with listing optimization in this post, there are other factors that significantly influence conversion rate, namely:

  • The delivery method (use FBA or Seller Fulfilled Prime).
  • Price (the lower the better).
  • Discounting.

For more information on these head to the following destinations:

So, to quickly recap, we’ve learned:

  • How integral conversion rate is to the Amazon ecosystem.
  • The huge commercial advantages that can be gained from having competition-beating conversion rates.

Now, we’ll analyze each content element on a range of Amazon product listings to tease out the tactics they’re using to optimize their listings.

Product Title Optimization

Amazon provides very clear product title instructions. They even go to the extent of advising on the type of content that should be included.

For example, they suggest this format for small appliances

  • Style: Brand + Model Number + Model Name + Product Type, Color
  • Example: KitchenAid KSM150PSER Artisan 5-Quart Mixer, Empire Red
  • Example: Vornado 510W Compact Air Circulato

Descriptive, keyword-rich titles are the best approach but that can mean different things for different products.

Example 1: Highlight Crucial Tech Specs

Amazon Product Title

Emphasizing product compatibility is a classic sales tactic.

In this case, the charger is an accessory. Amazon knows that the first question people are going to ask is: “Have I found the right adaptor for my device?”

By addressing this straight-away they reassure users.

The title is also rich in keywords. By including device names, they are able to rank for ‘device + adaptor’ type keywords and ensure they’re attracting highly-motivated, high-converting visitors.

The phrase “Original OEM” might seem like an odd phrase to use but its included because Amazon knows there are a lot of cheap imitations.

OEM means “original equipment manufacturer”. The aim is to build trust that this is the real deal and a high-quality product.

One improvement I would make is to write this in layman’s terms (e.g., “Genuine Amazon Adaptor”). I didn’t promise that Amazon is perfect!

The wattage is included to reassure that people are buying the right version.

If you sell electronics, hardware or any other type of technical product, then be sure to include the most important technical specifications in your titles.

Example 2: Persuade with Key Product Attributes

Amazon Product Title Blink

A great title should be scannable, allowing the customer to pick out key benefits.

Here, Amazon’s Blink team highlights features such as high-quality recordings (HD Video), reliability, and low maintenance (“2-year Battery Life”).

Alongside the key benefits, Blink includes a key competitive advantage, namely cloud storage.

Example 3: Don’t Overcomplicate Titles

Amazon Product Title Echo

Sometimes simplicity is the best option.

This title tells you what it is, the color of the product, and that it’s the latest model.

Nothing more, nothing less.

This style isn’t going to be for everyone, but if your product doesn’t come in many variations and the customer isn’t prioritizing specific technical details then a simple approach can work.

Note that within Amazon’s website, the Echo faces very little competition so Amazon hasn’t overloaded the title with lots of keywords.

Improving Product Images

The image gallery is an opportunity to allow customers to explore the product in more detail. It should be used to provide context, such as:

  • Who it is for.
  • How it is used.
  • How it works.
  • What it comes with.
  • How it looks in situ.

Example 4: Visualize Unique Features

One of the key selling points of the Amazon Echo (2nd Gen) is the multi-room feature.

Amazon has made a big play of how families can use one Echo to control other Echo devices.

The image reinforces this innovative feature.

Amazon Product Image Echo

Example 5: Counter Reasons Not to Buy

Overlaying images with text gives so much more context especially when it’s difficult to visualize the feature.

Amazon uses the text to reassure customers of the product quality.

It’s not a stretch to surmise that market research has shown that people may doubt that the Echo sound is as good as a traditional speaker system.

If your customer research shows that people are reticent to buy because of apprehension about specific features then use the images to address these concerns head-on.

Amazon Product Image Stereo

The same tactic is used on the Blink camera system listing page. People may be concerned about exposing an electronic product to the weather so Amazon shows a wet camera.

The customer quickly understands the product is waterproof and that’s one less excuse not to buy.

Amazon Product Image Blink

Example 6: Highlight Product ‘Why-Buys’

There’s nothing particularly visual about the fire TV stick. What’s important is that it opens up a huge amount of TV and film content to the customer.

This is the core benefit.

Amazon uses the image to reinforce the range of accessible content (if you have Amazon Prime).

Consider what your core product benefit is and how that can be visualized. Place that in the first or second image slot to increase the customer’s exposure to this information.

Immediately hitting people with the strongest “why buy” and repeating this through the page is a great way of increasing the motivation to buy and increase your conversion rate.

Amazon Product Image Firestick

Smart Use of Product Variations and Selling Features

A simple yet often overlooked tenet of conversion rate optimization is that if you don’t offer the product the consumer wants then your conversion rates will be low.

The same applies if you have the right product but the consumer doesn’t know you sell it.

Example 7: Consolidate Variations to Reduce Customer Effort

This is why the correct use of Amazon’s product variation features is so important.

Here, not only is Amazon offering an incredible variety of colors, patterns, and sizes, but they’re also (not unsurprisingly) correctly using the parent-child relationship feature to full effect.

Amazon Product Variation T-Shirt

Often, Amazon sellers split their products on to separate listings. Doing so is a mistake precisely because you’re making it harder for the customer to find the right product.

By consolidating all product varieties onto one page, the customer is more likely to complete their purchase and, what do you know, higher conversion rates follow.

Example 8: Use Additional Selling Features to Build Confidence

This is a relatively new feature rolling out across the Amazon ecosystem. Everyone knows that DIY can be a frustrating experience.

If you’re not into that type of thing or you’re unfamiliar with installing electronic devices, then the idea of installing a $229 doorbell may well deter you from purchasing a Ring product.

Amazon Product Variation Installation

Amazon offers an installation service to address this concern. That’s another excuse not to buy ticked off by the Amazon team.

Amazon offer a range of similar features for other types of products.

Product Listing Bullet Point Optimization

This is the most influential part of a listing page, as well as your best opportunity to sell the product and overcome any concerns that may stop a user from purchasing.

As Amazon advises, keep the copy concise and emphasize key benefits.

Think of the bullet points as a consultation with the customer. You’ve got a short time period and limited space.

The best bullet points are laser-focused on quick comprehension of the product and how it will benefit the user.

Example 9: Keep Copy Concise & Transactional

Another thing the Ring Video Doorbell listing does well is to educate the user and overcome concerns.

As a recent innovation, video doorbells provide a clear benefit but most people will be unfamiliar with how they work.

Amazon understands this.

It’s building up a persuasive argument by emphasizing benefits such as:

  • Compatibility.
  • Providing a free trial.
  • The peace of mind that comes with real-time notifications.

Amazon Bullets Alexa

The language is concise with a little flair.

Don’t underestimate the power of this approach. An Amazon user is highly motivated to purchase.

They’re likely to be far down the purchase funnel having already done some research and knowing exactly what type of product they need.

This transactional approach matches the user intent.

It’s fair to say that understanding intent is fundamentally important to achieving high conversion rates.

Example 10: Simple Products Don’t Need Embellishing

Don’t over-complicate the copy.

If you’re selling a simple, easy-to-understand product then just provide the necessary information.

Amazon isn’t trying to over-sell with flowery language and doesn’t feel obliged to use the full character count.

Amazon Bullets T-Shirts

Take these bullet points for a T-shirt set. The price is $18 so it’s not exactly designer clothing.

Amazon understands what the customer wants to know to be able to commit to the purchase.

  • Easy to wash
  • Size
  • Suitable for everyday wear

Nothing more, nothing less.

Example 11: Emphasize Features of Functional Products

Selling a product is often about conveying the benefits – how will this product make you happier, healthier, wealthier, and so on.

Let’s be honest, not every product can make these types of claims. But no matter what you sell, your customer will always want to know if it’s the right product for their needs.

If you’re selling technical products, this invariably means providing specifications such as size, color, power ratings, and safety information.

Amazon Bullets Adaptor
Amazon doesn’t get distracted by trying to pitch this adaptor as anything other than a very functional item.  There’s no attempt to show how it improves people’s lives.

If they were selling a higher ticket item that genuinely made life better, then absolutely the copy would promote benefits.

It’s all about knowing your product’s place in the world!

Enhanced Brand Content & A+ Content Storytelling

Many product listings will display a block of unformatted text mid-way down the page. This is the traditional product description.

Amazon Product Description

Amazon advises to use this space to tell your brand’s story and, if appropriate, share important usage information such as ingredients, materials, settings, etc.

In a nutshell, use the space to educate the customer.

Due to the formatting limitations, many product descriptions end up looking like this. Pretty dull, right?

This is hardly going to contribute to a high conversion rate.

But, all is not lost.

If you are the brand or product owner, you are entitled to display what’s called Enhanced Brand Content (EBC). Brands selling through Vendor Central will have access to a similar service called A+ Content.

If you take a look at Amazon’s product listings, you’ll notice that the vast majority present a lot of visual information instead of this standard text description.

So what can we take from that?

Well, given the creative resources that are required to produce the content, EBC must strongly correlate with higher conversion rates, otherwise, Amazon wouldn’t display EBC/A+.

If you’re a Vendor account holder, then no doubt your Amazon account manager has encouraged you to invest in A+ content.

If you’re not a Vendor account holder then the secret is out!

Here’s how Amazon makes the most of Enhanced Brand Content.

Example 12: Communicate Core Value Proposition

Different sections of the page fulfill different jobs.

The top of Amazon’s listing pages tend to be highly functional and aimed at closing the transaction. The EBC content is designed to appeal to emotional purchase drivers.

Amazon takes the opportunity to tell a much richer, visual story.

In this case, the Fire TV Stick is pitched as a window into a cinema-quality world of entertainment all from the comfort of the home.

The value proposition is clear for all to see and leaves the customer in no doubt as to the excitement on offer.

While the copy is interspersed with functional information this is still consistent with key messaging around the quality of the experience.

Everything is tightly aligned towards this central entertainment message.

Amazon EBC Firestick

When creating your Enhanced Brand Content, think about the core message you want to convey.

Next, consider what emotions this should elicit in the buyer. The trick is to produce a visual format that reflects the sentiment you want to create.

Example 13: Use EBC Modules to Aid Decision-Making

Amazon provides a helpful comparison table within the EBC.

Here, they’re using it to simply display the differences across the Kindle range.

Amazon EBC Comparison Table

Comparison tables aren’t unique to Amazon’s websites. They allow users to research, compare and build confidence in their decision-making.

It’s this increased confidence that nudges a prospective purchaser into completing the transaction.

Remember that without EBC, it’s impossible to convey this type of information. This is why it’s crucial to deploy EBC if you’re conversion rates need a boost.

Example 14: Unfamiliar Brands Need to Communicate Their Story

Amazon is a huge global brand. It doesn’t waste any space by introducing who they are or what they stand for.

The opposite is true for Amazon’s private label stores.

Take this Ella Moon listing, for example. Very few people will have heard of the Elle Moon brand.

Instead of telling a product story as Amazon do with Echo, Fire TV Stick and other well-known products, this time the focus is on introducing the Ella Moon brand positioning.

If people are unfamiliar with your brand or your insights suggest your company story is a key conversion driver, then use the EBC to introduce your brand.

Amazon EBC Brand Intro

Try some of these classic brand communication tactics

  • Heritage
  • Credibility
  • Trustworthiness
  • Ethical principles
  • Founder story (What motivated you to create the company and/or products?)
  • Awards
  • Testimonials

In Summary

So we’ve seen why conversion rates are fundamentally important and the virtuous circle of growth that products and brands enjoy when they achieve high conversion rates.

Amazon takes listing optimization seriously. Whether it’s a low priced T-shirt or a $229 doorbell, there’s attention to detail throughout each listing.

That doesn’t mean the same tactics, messaging and visual styles are deployed across each product.

It means that Amazon has understood the importance of:

  • User intent.
  • Core product benefits.
  • When it’s appropriate to highlight features and technical information.
  • When it’s best to play on emotional drivers.

We’ve also seen how Amazon has made the best use of each listing feature to reinforce key brand and product positioning.

Countering customer objections and emphasizing how each product meets the customer’s needs are crucial to producing high converting listings.

Take time to understand what these are for your products and how to best communicate those on the listing page.

Make the most out of features such as product variations and Enhanced Brand Content to present choices, comparisons, benefits, and specifications.

More Resources:


Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, July 2019



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How to drive digital innovation necessary during the pandemic

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30-second summary:

  • COVID-19 has kept consumers in their homes, which has led to significant spikes in internet use and companies scrambling to digitize in order to meet customers where they are.
  • The ability to quickly develop digital capabilities will continue to be critical for meeting customer needs and ensuring organizations’ survival.
  • To remain competitive, companies must enhance the digital customer experiences they offer through upgraded social media, optimized conversion, strategies, better marketing research, an effective internal website search, and fresh customer touchpoints.

Emerging digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing enticed leaders with their agility and efficiency. Many companies planned to make digitization a goal for the new decade.

In hindsight, they probably wish they hadn’t waited.

The novel coronavirus upended every aspect of our lives. As businesses and governments around the world try to combat the pandemic, millions of consumers sit inside their homes. And where do people go during a government-mandated lockdown? Online.

The unprecedented shift to remote work and online learning, combined with a dramatic increase in movie streaming, videoconferencing, and social media traffic, has led to significant spikes in internet use. In this same time frame, big tech companies — the businesses at the forefront of digital innovation — have flourished, as have brands that capitalized on the power of social media engagement.

The biggest trick to digitization right now is meeting customers where they are. For example, my company, Teknicks, is working with an online K-12 speech and occupational therapy provider. When schools began transitioning to remote learning, students’ needs changed, too. We helped the provider pivot its value proposition and messaging to accommodate school districts’ new realities. By focusing on teletherapy tools and reassuring parents, we’ve seen substantial growth and brand recognition during the pandemic.

Until we find a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, your customers will likely engage with you through online channels. The ability to develop digital capabilities quickly will continue to be critical for meeting customer needs and ensuring survival for your organization. With that in mind, here’s how you can enhance your digital customers’ experiences:

1. Upgrade your social media

It’s not hard to be good at social media marketing — it’s hard to be great. As you build your audience on websites like Facebook and Instagram, be sure to engage with followers consistently. Create a content calendar mapping out your posts and sharing strategies and stick to it. These platforms are also a great channel for customer service, allowing you to provide personalized support and become instantaneously useful (something that customer support tickets and chatbots never seem to be).

If you already have a sizable engaged audience, it’s time to work on your content strategy. Don’t build your content strategy around keywords. Instead, focus on your audiences’ needs. A truly effective content strategy will be customized for the platform you’re on and will account for the user behavior most characteristic of that platform. Naturally, you will use keywords and phrases that are optimized for discoverability while maintaining authenticity.

One key strategy is to conduct marketing research using a survey. This tactic goes well beyond traditional keyword research and generates content ideas directly from your targeted audience, not a keyword tool. Surveying your prospective customers allows them to tell you what type of content they want to consume, significantly increasing the likelihood of engagement. Often, this strategy is the key to successful marketing strategy. I’ll go into more detail below.

2. Focus on and prioritize conversion optimization

Ideally, your website looks good and loads quickly, but those qualities alone don’t make a website great. The user experience that your website offers is ultimately what determines whether customers bounce in droves or actually stick around. Attempting to boost your initial traffic will exponentially increase customer acquisition costs, so improving your conversion rates via website optimization is a more affordable (and profitable) solution.

We often see double-digit increases in conversion rates on our first test. We typically focus on the most trafficked pages to increase the likelihood of big, impactful wins. There is an entire science behind conversion optimization, but the core fundamentals have remained the same for years.

To make sure your website’s architecture is seamless and intuitive, develop a conversion rate optimization strategy that works for you. This will require you to ask visitors for feedback, experiment with different messaging options, and regularly review your analytics, among other things. The idea is to get to know your visitors well. It takes work, but it will pay off over time as the incremental conversion rate increases impact top-line revenue.

3. Conduct marketing research surveys

With the right insights, you can turn every engagement into a memorable and valuable experience for both you and your customers. The best way to get customer insights is to ask. Design a survey of up to 10 questions in a variety of formats along with some screening questions to make sure the feedback you get is actually useful.

When designing, consider your potential customers’ preferences and pain points. For example, if you know your audience is mostly on Instagram, asking “What do you like about social media?” won’t be as effective as “What makes Instagram posts better than Facebook posts?” Once the survey’s drafted, post it to your social channels and send it out to your mailing list. You want to understand which messages resonate with your audience before you spend a cent on marketing. Learning how to conduct marketing research is one of the most important marketing skills you can attain.

Asking individual customers how they feel about various messaging options can give you a goldmine of useful data to help inform the language and design choices you make. Not every customer will choose to participate in a survey, but some will. Show them you appreciate their input by offering a small discount or another incentive once the survey is completed. You’ll be surprised by how many responses you get and how beneficial the precursory information is.

4. Review your internal website search

As much as you’d love for every visitor to spend hours exploring every nook and cranny of your website, most will want to get on with their lives after they’ve found what they came for. To make the process faster, you should offer some sort of internal website search functionality. If you don’t already have one, add a search box to your navigation menu.

Not every website has one, and even the ones that do have very surface-level functions. However, search bars are a valuable asset that can increase internal sessions and conversion. Internal website searchers are 216% likelier to convert, according to WebLinc. Search bars assist your visitors and expand your understanding of user behavior, providing you with the information you need in order to adjust your website accordingly.

Evaluate the effectiveness of your internal search, taking notice of how it finds and organizes the content after a search. Most native search functionality is very basic and just looks for the presence of “search term,” but you may want to test out more advanced filters that help users more effectively find the information they are looking for.

I recommend looking at the search data monthly to see what users have been looking for. Be sure to review what searches yielded zero results and which searches brought up irrelevant content. Identify areas that can be approved and understand your content gaps that need additional content to support the demand.

5. Identify new customer touchpoints

Innovation is all about using new technology to improve old processes. While your typical customer journey might depend on your industry and business, chances are good that you can find ways to enhance it with emerging technologies.

Evaluating whether an emerging technology is a fit for your business and whether you should invest in testing it out, starts with (drumroll …) a survey. As we discussed earlier, surveys can answer just about anything you want to know about your target audience. Go ahead and ask your audience if they own or use the emerging tech and validate its place in the customer journey.

Take the new home buying process, for example. David Weekley Homes, the largest privately-held home builder in the U.S., wanted to better understand whether voice-enabled devices can play a role in the customer journey. The company also wanted to propose a voice app idea to the audience and understand how they felt about the emerging technology concept. By conducting a survey, we uncovered that 81% of the respondents would consider the voice app idea to be somewhat to extremely valuable and 70% would possibly to definitely use the voice app if it existed.

The increasing usage of voice search and voice-enabled devices also offers an opportunity for consumer brands to make it easier than ever for customers to find their products. Tide, for example, has capitalized on marketing on Amazon’s Alexa Skills platform to remove a step from the purchasing process. Customers can use the company’s skill to order Tide products without having to pull up the Amazon app or go to the Tide website. In that way, new tech makes an old process (purchasing detergent) more frictionless than ever.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made digital innovation a business imperative. Regardless of your industry, you should look for ways to anticipate and meet customer needs. Your customers expect a seamless digital experience. If you can’t provide it, they won’t have to leave their homes to find someone else that can.

Nick Chasinov is the founder and CEO of Teknicks, a research-based internet marketing agency certified by Google in Analytics, Tag Manager, and a Google Premier AdWords partner.



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Core Web Vitals, E-A-T, or AMP?

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30-second summary:

  • The biggest Google update of the year is called the Page Experience update.
  • Core Web Vitals are part of that update, and they are definitely ranking factors to keep in mind, especially when optimizing images.
  • AMP is no longer the only way to get a “Top Stories” feature on mobile. Starting in 2021, any news webpage can become a “Top Story”.
  • Combining AMP’s privacy concerns and cost of operation might mean that AMP will disappear within a couple of years.
  • E-A-T is not a ranking factor right now, and we don’t know if it will become one in the future.

2020. What a year. History is happening around us, and Google? Well, Google keeps on revamping their search algorithms. Over the years, there have been many many major algorithm updates, as Google worked to keep us on our toes. 2020 was no different: in one fell swoop, we got the news about a Page Experience update and AMP news. All the while the debate about whether or not you need E-A-T for ranking rages on. How do the Core Web Vitals stand in changing the search game in 2021?

Let’s go over each of these innovations and see which will change the way we do SEO, and which will fade into obscurity sooner rather than later.

1. Importance of core web vitals for SEO

Core Web Vitals were part of Page Experience update, and, by far, caused the biggest ruckus.

There’s a lot to learn about Core Web Vitals, but they boil down to the three biggest issues on our webpages:

  1. LCP — Largest Contentful Paint, which deals with the loading speed of the largest single object on the page.
  2. FID — First Input Delay, which means the reaction time of the page to the first user input after (whether they click, tap, or press any keys).
  3. CLS — Cumulative Layout Shift — this is the measure of how much the content of the page jumps while loading content, mostly visual content, after opening.

How core web vitals influences rankings

Of course, some SEO experts think that the entire Page Experience update is nothing special, and could even: “[…] distract, […] from the core mission of communication and storytelling,”.

And, sure, most of Page experience update is simply an assembly of things we’ve known for a while: use HTTPS, be mobile-friendly, control your page speed, and so on.

But Core Web Vitals are a bit different and can influence the SEO practice in unexpected ways. Key factor that’s already changing rankings is Cumulative Layout Shift.

As most SEO experts know, for a while an important part of image optimization was using the <decoding=async> attribute in the <img> tag to avoid losing page speed while rendering the page.

Using <decoding=async> could lead to some seriously janky pages if coders didn’t specify the height and width of every single image to be rendered. Some websites did it anyway, for example, Wikipedia on most of its pages has a predefined space for images created ahead of time.

Core Web Vitals and other ranking factors for 2021 - Wikipedia

But as SEO experts we didn’t have to worry about pages being jumpy all too much, as that didn’t influence the rankings. Now with CLS being formally announced as a ranking factor, things will change for a whole slew of websites and SEO experts.

We’ll need to make sure that every webpage is coded with CLS in mind, with the needed space for every image defined ahead of time, to avoid the layout shifts.

The verdict

Overall, of course, it’s too early to tell, and more work by SEO’s around the web needs to be done here. However, it seems that if you aren’t used to focusing on technical SEO, Core Web Vitals becoming ranking signals might not influence your day-to-day work at all.

However, if you are conducting complicated technical SEO, then Core Web Vitals will definitely change the way you work in as-yet unexpected ways.

2. Importance of AMP for SEO

The AMP’s relevance today is kind of an open question. While it’s always been great as a quick-and-easy way to increase page speed, the privacy concerns have been voiced over and over again since the technology’s very inception.

But in 2020, significant changes are afoot, since, within the same Page Experience update, Google announced that there’s finally no requirement for us to create AMP pages to occupy the “Top Stories” SERP feature.

That’s a pretty huge step for anybody trying to accrue as many SERP features as they can, and, in particular, for news websites.

Core Web Vitals and other search ranking factors for 2021 - Top Stories

How AMP influences rankings

If we believe John Muellers’ words, then AMP is not a ranking factor. Seems plain and simple enough. But of course, things aren’t so simple, because AMP comes with pretty significant gains in page speed, and speed is an important ranking factor.

Thanks to AMP’s pre-rendering combined with some severe design limitations, AMP webpages often really do win in page speed, even if not in ranking as is.

The “Top Stories” SERP feature, however, was a huge benefit to using an AMP for any news agency with a website, and it’s easy to understand why. Just look at how much of the page is occupied by the “Top Stories” results.

Not only do “Top Stories” automatically get top 1 ranking on the SERP, but they also sport a logo of the website posting them, standing out even more from the boring old blue-link SERP.

This means that for a few years now news websites were essentially forced into using AMP to get into a “Top Stories” SERP feature on mobile since it absorbs a whole lot of clicks.

On the other hand, it takes quite a lot of resources to support AMP versions of the webpages, because you are basically maintaining a whole additional version of your website.

Added to which, a page that’s been properly optimized for speed might not need AMP for those speed gains, as well.

The verdict

While it’s tough to imagine that AMP will fade away completely within the next couple of years, AMP’s privacy issues combined with the cost of maintaining it might spell the end of it being a widely used practice.

Now, with the “Top Stories” becoming available to non-AMP pages, there’s virtually no reason to jeopardize the users’ security for speed gains you could get by proper optimization.

3. Importance of E-A-T for SEO

Expertise. Authority. Trust. All perfectly positive words and something we should all strive for in our professional lives. But what about search optimization?

Coming straight from Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines, E-A-T has been the talk of the town for a good moment now. Let’s dive in and see how they might change the way we optimize for search.

How E-A-T influences rankings

For most of us, they don’t really.

Sure, Quality Rater Guidelines provide valuable insights into Google’s ranking process. However, E-A-T is one of the lesser-important factors we should be focusing on, partly because these are nebulous, abstract concepts, and partly because Google doesn’t exactly want us to.

As Google’s official representatives informed us, E-A-T is not in itself a ranking factor.

Receiving follow-up questions, Google’s John Mueller then reiterated that point, and Ben Gomes, Google’s VP of search engineering confirmed that quality raters don’t influence any page’s rankings directly.

However, in practice, we often see that the so-called YMYL websites already can’t rank without having some expertise and authority established. A very popular example is that it’s virtually impossible to rank a website providing medical advice without an actual doctor writing the articles.

The problem here is that expertise, authority, and trustworthiness are not easily interpreted by the search algorithms, which only understand code.

And, at the moment, there seems to be no surefire way for Google to transform these signals into rankings, except to read the feedback of their quality raters before each algorithm update.

The verdict

While using E-A-T to rank websites might sound like an inarguable benefit for the searcher, there is a couple of concerns that aren’t easily solved, namely:

  1. Who exactly will be determining the E-A-T signals, and according to which standard?
  2. The introduction of such factors creates a system where the smaller and newer websites are punished in rankings for not having the trustworthiness that they couldn’t realistically acquire.

Responding to both of these concerns requires time and effort on the search engine’s side.

As things stand right now, E-A-T is not something to keep in mind while doing day-to-day SEO operations.

Let’s imagine a fantastical scenario where a webmaster/SEO expert has some free time. Then they might want to work on E-A-T, to try and stay ahead of the curve.

On the other hand, there simply isn’t any proof that Google will actually use E-A-T. Or that, even if used, these signals will become major ranking factors. For this reason, E-A-T shouldn’t be your priority ahead of traditional SEO tasks like link building and technical optimization.

Additionally, consider this. The entire Quality Rater Guidelines is 168 pages long. However, a comprehensive explanation of what E-A-T is and why it might be calculated a certain way will take many more pages than that.

Conclusion

As of the time of this writing, the Core Web Vitals seems to be the most important ranking news to come out in 2020 in practical terms. However, search is an extremely volatile field: what worked two weeks ago may not work today, and what works today might not work for most of us.

The matters are further complicated because we’re fighting an uneven battle: it’s simply not in search engines’ best interest to give us a full and detailed picture of how ranking works, lest we abuse it.

This is why it’s crucial to keep our hand on the pulse of optimization news and changes occurring every single day. With constant efforts from our SEO community to work out the best way to top rankings, it’s possible for us to close that gap and know for sure which trends are paramount, and which we can allow ourselves to overlook.

Aleh Barysevich is Founder and CMO at SEO PowerSuite and Awario.





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30-second summary:

  • Partial match domains refer to when your domain name has partially included the main keyword that you are trying to rank for.
  • There are many aspects that make it different from how the exact match domain works.
  • Tudor Lodge Consultants share a quick guide to help you succeed at partial match domains, understand the caveats, and optimize effectively.

Partial match domains refer to when your domain name has partially included the main keyword that you are trying to rank for.

Commonly used by SEO professionals to gain an advantage when it comes to ranking in the search engines or from business owners who have a company name that is closely linked to the services they offer or area they work in.

Examples of partial matches include having vital keywords like “insurance”, “loans”, or “casino” in the domain name or adding words like “hub”, “network”, or “quick” to the beginning or end of the domain, such as casinohub.com, everydayinsurance.com or quickmoney.com

This is different from an exact match domain (EMD) which stipulates the exact keywords you are trying to rank for in your domain name e.g carinsurance.com, plumbing.com, bestcasinos.com

Content created in partnership with Tudor Lodge Consultants.

Why can partial match domains be an issue?

Historically, having an exact match or partial match domain was a sure-fire way to rank top for your target keywords – only for Google to weigh this down considerably in recent years as a way to make SEO positions more ‘earned’ rather than ‘gained.’

Partial match and exact match domain have been shown to have a higher click-through-rate (CTR) in search results – largely because they mention the exact words that the customer is looking for. Unsurprisingly, these domains can be worth thousands and are put on sale through the likes of GoDaddy and 123 Reg.

Whilst having a partial match domain can be an advantage for SEO, there is always the risk of exposing your business to a Google penalty, especially as Google’s guidelines become more strict and give preference to brands that demonstrate good use of the content, link-building, varied traffic sources, and user experience.

Although you may demonstrate very good SEO results initially, you may find yourself compromised during the next algorithm update, which could have a massive impact on your website and its rankings – and make it very challenging to recover from the penalty. Not to mention, the financial implications to you and your client.

Therefore, being conscious of partial matches and how they work for SEO is of vital importance.

When partial match domains are high risk

Partial matches are high risk when optimizing in an industry that is very highly competitive and prone to algorithm updates – such as casino or gamblings, loans and credit, finance and insurance, web hosting, FX, and more.

Reason 1: There is a risk that you may use too many keywords in your URL, meta-data, and content and this is deemed as keyword stuffing by Google and is therefore penalized in the next update.

Reason 2: You may be generating links back to the site, but getting your brand name linked back to the site might be considered overkill if it mentions high-risk words like “casino”, “loans”, or “insurance” too often.

When partial match domains are low risk

Partial match domains are low risk when targeting local SEO searches (that is, a location) or the keywords are not competitive.

After all, if you have the domain name malibu-hairdressers.com, there are only going to be a handful of hairdressers in the Malibu area to compete against and this is a viable name for a company in that area. Also, local SEO searches are not often included in algorithm updates, which makes them a safer bet and you can always gain good and free exposure through the three results that feature on Google Local Listings.

If your keywords are not competitive and you are more or less the only person in your industry, you should be low risk, since you may not need many optimizations to get to position one of Google and the role of keyword stuffing does not come into play as much.

In addition, if your website is an information resource, you are trying to capture lots of search phrases and not heavily relying on just a few that might be struck by an algorithm. A website that is full of guides or news, should generate content and links more naturally, even though it has a partial match domain. Successful examples of sites like this include searchenginewatch.com, moneyadviceservice.co.uk, and smcrcompliance.com.

How to optimize partial match domains

1. Be as natural as possible

If you have a partial match domain and are already optimizing it, try to make the SEO as natural as possible. Create good quality content guides or blog posts and when getting links, drive them towards these pages, not your money pages.

If you are linking back money pages, use anchor like ‘read more’ or ‘find out more’ to hyperlink back to them. Try to stay clear or exact match or partial match anchor text as this could be seen as too spammy. It’s not too late to message all the links you have generated so far and get them redirected to safer pages or blog posts on your website. This approach may take longer but will be much more safer and effective long-term.

2. Manage your keyword stuffing

Try and avoid using the main keyword like “casino” or “insurance” too often. One of the simplest ways is to mention it one only in the meta-title, meta-description, and URL too.

Rather than: quickcarinsurance.com/car-insurance

Use: quickcarinsurance.com/car

3. Try to avoid using one from the start

If you can avoid using a partial match domain from the start, this would be ideal. As SEOs, we never know what is round the corner with Google’s guidelines, but we can certainly see the trend of brands taking center stage on page one. So with this in mind, try using a brand name if you can.

Be clever with your domain name: You do not necessarily have to include the money word to get the value of a high-click-rate. You can be smart with your domain choices, such as the company Fetch.com which is a pick-up delivery app, or Paw.com for dog accessories, or GetIndemnity.co.uk, the large business insurance broker. Think of good synonyms or words connected to the brand, without compromising your Google ranking.

4. Manage the expectations of your client

The majority of SEO clients want quick results, even though we really need six to 12 months (or longer) to show the full impact of our work. When pitching to a client with a partial match or exact match domain, you need to manage expectations that there might be a fall in rankings during the course of a year due to an algorithm change – and you may need to make changes for this to recover. Someone with a long-term view on their SEO will appreciate this, but someone who wants quick results will not and will likely demand their money back before you know it.



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