Will Amazon’s 250-Character Indexing Impact Listing Optimization?
Rumors of Amazon’s change of reducing indexing to a maximum of 250-character count have been circulating since the early part of 2017. It wasn’t until the end of August 2017 that Amazon officially verified this “new feature improving the quality of search results.”
Amazon has always been discreet when it comes to their optimization guidelines, in true Amazon fashion, they have remained utterly quiet about their new indexing implementation… until now. It’s official.
Amazon will now only be indexing 250 keywords instead of 5000.
Why the large decline in characters and what does this mean for your listings and optimization?
The Basics of Amazon Indexing
“Indexing” refers to the algorithmic process of linking your product listing’s keywords with the search results page. Basically, Amazon’s software knows which products should show up in a search based on the indexed keywords. These keywords can be found in the title, description, images, and backend keywords fields.
Amazon indexing has intricate nuances that have made winning the optimization game a challenge. With Amazon’s regular silence on matters of optimization, the selling community is often optimizing based on speculation, incomplete data, and common sense. But now we have slightly more clarity—even if we don’t like it as much.
Before the change, Amazon indexed up to 5,000 characters on the backend. This means that the algorithm would take into account 5,000 characters in your “search terms” and “platinum keywords” areas. These are those areas that aren’t
visible on your product listing but contribute to search results and visibility. Additional indexing in the frontend, such as in the product title, bullet points, and product images, would then double this effect.
But Amazon has officially stated in seller’s threads and on the Seller Portal that this former process of backend indexing will no longer work. In fact, using 5,000 characters will penalize you so none of your keywords are indexed.
Why The Change In Amazon Indexing
Amazon conducted research and found that sellers with over 100 keywords limited the effectiveness of their keywords and product listing optimization. Those with 35-40 terms were more likely to pop up in search results, and they had higher click-through rates and conversion rates.
Limiting the length of generic keywords has been shown to improve the quality of search results. The fewer keywords, the more relevant the search results will be for consumers. Limiting the number of characters and keywords makes keyword indexing more specific and significant, which will boost customer experience and conversion rate.
This can also help sellers by allowing them to better target their specific audience. It will remove non-relevant products from the search results, which will keep competition low and honest.
Basically, this is saying that when a customer searches for a “red teapot,” they will receive search results that are only for a red teapot. Your competitors won’t have character space to put “red teapot” in the backend search terms when they’re really selling a blue teapot or red teacup.
The goal for the 250-max indexing count is to enhance specificity and relevance of search results for both consumers and sellers.
While this is positive in theory, it’s going to take a lot of work on your part as the seller in order to ensure that you are properly indexing for your target consumer.
The Specific Changes In Amazon Indexing
- Only 250 bytes or characters are allowed within the search terms and platinum keywords backend. This character length is true for all marketplaces except China, India, and Japan.
- The character count applies to the total content in all five fields in the backend. This means that all five search term fields function as one unit and contribute to the same character count for a total of 250 bytes.
- If you exceed 250 characters, your entire “search terms” will be inadmissible. Exceeding the limit knocks you out of the indexing game altogether.
- Bytes are considered alphanumeric characters. Other characters may count as additional bytes, such as £ (2 bytes), € (3 bytes). Spaces and punctuation don’t contribute to length limit. Nevertheless, punctuation between words is considered unnecessary.
- This change will apply to new and existing ASINs and listings.
- Generic keywords will be normalized. This means that you do not need to take into account upper and lower case words or singular and plural of the same keyword. In the past, you would need to optimize for every keyword combination; now, Amazon’s system is smart enough to understand how slight variations of keywords are related to one another.
- Amazon will no longer do partial matching of generic keyword fields. This means that you need to have the exact key phrase in order to show up in the search results.
- The 250-character count only applies to the backend. The SAO rules for product title, description, bullet points, images, and enhanced brand content are remaining the same for now.
How To Utilize Amazon’s 250-Character Count
Because of the above changes, you need to approach your Amazon optimization with a new methodology. Here are Seller’s Choice top 12 tips for working in tandem with the new indexing process.
(Note that these tips relate to backend content, which is where the change has taken place.)
- Do not go over 250 characters. For reference, that is approximately 40 words.
- Use all of your 250 characters. Fill it up as much as possible without going over.
- Use descriptive, specific keywords that relate to your product. Don’t add irrelevant keywords; they don’t help conversion and there isn’t enough space for them.
- Do not use brand names or other product identifiers in the search terms.
- Don’t repeat keywords, even in long-tail key phrases.
- Don’t repeat keywords that are already in the visible attributes, like the title, description, and bullet points. Amazon will still optimize for these areas as well. However, you may want to use synonyms of those keywords in your visible elements as a way to widen your keyword reach.
- Placement of the 250 keywords doesn’t matter. The order and distance of different words are no longer relevant. You can use as few or as many of the five field areas as you would like; Amazon’s software will still read all five lines as a single unit.
- However, you should put your keywords in the most logical order for better visibility. For example, “kitchen cleaner” is more appropriate and searchable than “cleaner kitchen.” This will give you exact search terms, which will boost your listing’s visibility in the search results.
- Use hyphenated keywords. This will help avoid repetition and will boost your key searches. It will optimize for the hyphenated word a key-phrase and for the individual words separately.
- Omit filler words like articles and prepositions. For example, stick to “kitchen cleaner” as opposed to “cleaner for kitchen.”
- Avoid punctuation like exclamation points, question marks, or quotations. This is a waste of characters and will only show up if an individual typed that punctuation into the search results (which is incredibly rare).
- Use single spaces in between keywords. Commas are not necessary.
Choosing And Indexing Keywords
Now more than ever it’s crucial to have the right keywords associated with your listing in order to stand out in organic searches. With limited space comes a heightened need for specificity and relevance.
It’s important to perform thorough keyword research to see which keywords are most searched and relevant for your industry, marketplace, and audience. You want to pick those terms that are highly searched but also unique and distinct from your competitors’. Learn more about choosing keywords, doing keyword research, and overall SAO with our article, The Ultimate Guide To Amazon Listing Optimization.
If you’re looking for a free Amazon keyword research tool, we recommend Sonar. It will help you find the best keywords with search volume estimates and related recommendations.
Want to see if your listing is indexing (showing up in search results) for a specific keyword? Do a reverse ASIN lookup.
- Locate the 10-digit ASIN code for the product.
- Put that ASIN code in the search bar.
- Also in the search bar, add a + sign and the keyword for which you are looking to index. Don’t use any spaces.
- If the product is indexed for that keyword by you or a competitor, it will show in the search results.
- If it is not indexed, it will say, “your search did not match any products.”
- If you’re not indexing, check to ensure you are not going over the 250-word count in the search terms.
The Bottom Line
The rollout of this change has been slow, and it doesn’t seem that this new indexing rule is applying to all listings. In this way, you should check to see if your current listings are indexing for keywords by doing the above index search. If you are still indexing, you may be able to keep your listings as is for the time being. If not, you’ll want to reduce your bytes to 250.
Less space in the backend means you need to be especially cognizant of those keywords in your products’ search terms and platinum keywords. You’ll have to spend more time optimizing keywords and following strict data metrics.
Nevertheless, Amazon believes that this new indexing will result in higher quality search queries, which will then boost product visibility and conversion rates.