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amazon algorithm changes July 2019

Last week, Amazon announced they would start suppressing listings from search results that do not comply with their guidelines. While Amazon has explained their methodology a little more in depth, the heart of the message is the same as always: they’re aiming to deliver the best possible customer experience. They’ve found shorter titles are more likely to convert shoppers, especially on mobile, so it’s no surprise they’re beginning to enforce this policy.

Once Amazon made this announcement, we reviewed the latest guidelines on Seller Central for any other updates to their requirements. MerchantWords is always monitoring Amazon to make sure that, as a seller, you’re in compliance with Amazon’s regulations. We’ve read through the information Amazon published and pulled out the most relevant information for you.

Amazon is Always Learning from Customer Searches

Machine learning and artificial intelligence enable Amazon to continually collect data from its users. They’re constantly learning what products customers are searching for and which keywords provide the most sales. Therefore, Amazon’s algorithm will only index the keywords on your listing that are the most relevant and related to a customer search.

At MerchantWords, we’ve known this for quite some time. It’s core to our algorithm and data collection. This knowledge helps us stay in step with Amazon as they change their algorithm, so we can provide you with up-to-date keyword data and trends directly from the Amazon search bar.

The Latest on Titles (as of July 3)

Since your product title is one of the first elements of your listing that appears on Amazon’s search results page, it’s always been important for listing optimization. However, with the news that Amazon will suppress listings with titles that violate their guidelines, it’s worth reviewing your listings to ensure you aren’t accidentally breaking any rules.

Amazon provides a complete list of guidelines on Seller Central, but in general, here are the most important points:

  • 200 characters maximum is the general rule unless your product is in a category that specifically limits the number of characters allowed for the title (e.g., Baby, Grocery, Jewelry, etc.)

  • Capitalize the first letter of each word (conjunctions and prepositions do not need to be capitalized)

  • Use numerals (e.g., 2 rather than two)

  • Use relevant product keywords

  • Do not include subjective or promotional messaging such as “best seller” or “free shipping”

Your Bullet Points and Description

While some sellers treat Key Product Features (aka bullet points) and the Description the same, Amazon offers specific recommendations for each section. Keywords should flow naturally within the content, but the type of keywords and styles will differ.

Your listing’s bullet points should highlight the top five features/benefits of your product. Think about how and why your shoppers would use your product. Amazon outlines bullet point formatting, but some of the key elements to note are:

  • Begin each bullet point with a capital letter

  • Write with sentence fragments; no need to include ending punctuation

  • Reiterate important information from the title and description

Note that important information can be emphasized in the bullet points, but you should take this opportunity to use different keywords to make sure you’re maximizing your discoverability. If you have multiple ASINs, Amazon also mandates that you need to maintain a consistent order across all your listings.

Use your description to describe major product features and to highlight what the product can be used for; this is also a good place to include any care instructions or warranty information. In this section, you should use correct grammar, punctuation, and complete sentences.

Backend Search Terms

This section is limited to 250 bytes. A byte corresponds 1:1 for alphanumeric characters, and becomes variable when dealing with more complex characters like letters with umlauts, or Japanese or Chinese characters.

There has been some discussion amongst Amazon sellers on whether or not to use commas when entering keywords in this field.

MerchantWords Founder, George Lawrence has some thoughts on the debate:

“My advice has always been to use spaces because Amazon had a byte count on the whole entry. For example, ‘hello, world’ would count as 12 bytes towards my limit, but ‘hello world’ would only count as 11 characters towards my limit. You’d be wasting that comma.”

Well, Amazon has finally spoken out:

"Use a single space to separate keywords. No commas, semicolons, or carets are required."

Some of the most important recommendations include:

  • Use synonyms, but not pluralizations

  • Include spelling variations, but not misspellings

  • Don’t use stop words (e.g., “by,” “for,” “with,” etc.), subjective terms (e.g., “best” or “cheapest”), or temporary statements (e.g., “new” or “on sale”)

Removing commas, other punctuation, and superfluous words will allow you to fit more keywords into your Search Terms. To best utilize this field do not include brand names or competitor ASINs. There is a huge opportunity to improve your discoverability and increase traffic to your listing if you use Search Terms correctly, so take the time to thoroughly review the keywords you put here.

What Does This Mean for You?

Every update from Amazon is meant to increase their sales and make customers happier. As a seller, this means that your goals are aligned.

Amazon is an expert at helping customers find what they’re looking to buy. While you may read different “hacks” about how to get around these updates, we recommend sticking to the guidelines from Amazon directly. This is especially important as Prime Day approaches; you don’t want to risk your listing getting suppressed on one of the largest online shopping days of the year.

After you make sure your listing aligns with these algorithm changes, the next step is to make sure you’re ready for Prime Day in less than two weeks. Your title and product images are paramount to preparing your listing, as these are the first elements seen by a customer in the search results.

Finally, don’t panic. Amazon is infamous for updating its algorithms, but with every change, they improve the customer experience. By ensuring that listings are consistent across Amazon, it’s easier for both the algorithm to find products accurately and present them to shoppers and increase your sales.