You Can’t Game The System When You’re Selling On Amazon

You Can’t Game The System When You’re Selling On Amazon

Amazon KindleAlthough its position as the top search engine may not be in jeopardy, Google has definitely made some mistakes over the years. Other web giants like Amazon have been watching carefully, seemingly determined not to fall victim to the same problems. If you’re selling on Amazon and you’re worried about competitors trying to game Amazon’s system the way that many websites have been able to do with Google, here are some reasons to relax – Amazon is taking a different approach and it should be one which permits it to avoid these kinds of problems.

One mistake Google has made is providing page ranking metrics for anyone to see. It wasn’t long before SEO experts learned that page rank was exactly what it sounded like (surprised?). The higher the page rank a site had, the higher it appeared in search results. Website owners and SEO experts could add a few back links, make some tweaks to content and easily find out if what they were doing was working. With continued effort, site owners could keep boosting their chances of getting into the very top tier of search results.

Amazon does things a little differently. Rather than having page ranks, they have sales and author rankings. Author rankings are relatively meaningless (other than for the ego boost they can provide). However, Amazon sales rank does mean something – they denote how well a given book is selling compared to the literally millions of other titles available on Amazon. There’s no system to game here, it’s all about sales, which is just how Amazon wants it to work. If you want to increase your sales rank, the answer is simply to sell more books.

Amazon made the determination that the only metric that really mattered to them was sales, not relevance. Unlike Google, Amazon isn’t really in the business of helping you find information – they’re a retailer and that’s it. It’s not really important to them if your historical fiction is higher ranked than a rival author; they care about sales, pure and simple.

Another issue Google has is that they make it easy for anyone to find out what searches are trending. Sounds harmless enough, right? It does until you consider how many billions of pages of grade-Z content are out there based entirely on whatever search terms are big right now. As an author selling on Amazon, you may wish that Amazon had this kind of feature, so you could know what’s big at the moment, but Amazon doesn’t see things the same way, probably because they’re not selling ads.

The lesson Amazon learned from Google is that at least for a retailer, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to let users see what other people are looking for. You can of course still find a drop down list of suggestions in the Amazon search box, but these have nothing to do with trending searches. We don’t know what everyone’s searching for on Amazon and that’s by design.

Why Amazon Is (Still) Safe From Internet Marketing

Not long ago, there was a lot of hand wringing about how internet marketers were going to ruin Amazon with millions of quickly produced, poor quality ebooks – and of course, it never happened. The factors listed above are part of the reason, but what it really comes down to is this – the only way to get a high Amazon sales rank is to sell a lot of books. You can’t really game a system which is entirely predicated on sales.

Yes, you could sell your book for ninety nine cents and drain your savings account buying up thousands of copies of your own book in an effort to get a higher Amazon sales rank – but it’s not a great idea. Amazon knows better; in order to keep individuals (or publishers) from pulling these kinds of tricks, they don’t count sales that way. If you order thousands of copies of your own books, Amazon will count it as just a few sales.

Admittedly, there are some cases where this sort of tactic has yielded results. For instance, publishers and self-published authors with the means to do so have paid fees to “best seller” outlets who have worldwide networks of individual buyers who will pick up a copy or two of your book. This can and has worked, allegedly even producing more than a few New York Times best sellers.

Why can’t internet marketers just use this tactic repeatedly to build and maintain a high sales rank? There’s a simple answer to this: in order to truly succeed on Amazon, you need to have a book that people actually want to read. It’s not as simple as putting together a website crammed with trending keywords (which isn’t even as effective at tricking Google as it used to be). To create an Amazon best seller, you need a book which is good enough to sell, get positive reviews from readers and end up on also-bought lists and wishlists. If your book is no good, it’s going to get poor reviews, if it gets any at all and it will eventually sink under the weight of its own mediocrity.

Of course, quality content doesn’t matter to Amazon. Like the big publishers, they’re concerned with sales, first and foremost. However, the readers do care about quality. If you want your Kindle titles to do well, you need to write high quality books, write compelling descriptions and find covers that get the attention of potential buyers. You’ll also need to convince readers to write thoughtful reviews and of course, keep writing books that people want to read. Rinse and repeat and with a little luck, you can succeed as an author selling on Amazon. What you’re not going to do is trick Amazon with internet marketing strategies – they’ve learned from Google’s mistakes and they’re too smart for that.

Photo credit:  Hadrian /

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