How to Rank Higher in Product Search Rankings on Marketplaces

Piyush Goel | Sep 14, 2020

Most marketplaces use a more-than-straightforward score-based algorithm to showcase and rank products and seller options on their website. There are two broad buckets or aspects that can be thought of when aiming to sell more by targeting marketplace product searches. First is about your products appearing in the search results when someone performs a search or browses the marketplace site for the products that they wish to buy. Second, when they do find the product they were looking for, making sure that you are the one whom the sale goes to. 8 out of 10 times the sale ends going to the seller who owns the buy button or BuyBox. Let’s look at the factors that affect there are two broad aspects.

I: Ranking Higher in Search Results

1. List the products under the right category

Chances are that someone who is searching for products is searching in ‘All’ sections of the marketplace site but if they have chosen the a particular section, say Sports, then fashion or lifestyle products are unlikely to show in the search results. This will also hold true when someone is browsing the site by clicking on the departments or categories of the website instead of searching. Hence, it is critical that you list your products under the right category and subcategory at the time of listing.

2. Listing Quality

The listing quality is one of the most important factors that will affect its ranking. The key components of the listing are Product Photographs, Product Title, Product Description, Key Bullet Points and FAQs. Enough has been written about the importance of good product photography which complies with the marketplace guidelines providing all necessary viewing angles, well lit, high contrast, white background, colour corrected and that have maximised product to white area ratio. Title should be brief and to the point capturing the brand name and important keywords like colour, capacity, size, type, style, etc which exactly describe the product and help differentiate it from the other listings of a similar product. Description should include everything that entices the visitor and encourages them to buy the product and equally importantly it should contain all the keywords and keyword phrases (2, 3, 4- word combinations) that associate with your product. Some marketplaces like Amazon also allow adding bullet points which show right under the product title. These give away the key features, attributes or benefits of the product and are a means to entice the reader. Moreover they are used by the internal search algorithm as well by Amazon to rank products. The keywords used in the title, description and bullet points not only aids in ranking the products on the marketplace, they also help in getting good rankings in Google or other search engine’s rankings which can bring direct traffic to your listings thus getting you more sales. Note that if you are selling branded products which may have already been listed on the website, then you may not be able to change these aspects of the listing and will just have to do ‘sell similar’ on whatever info is already present.

3. Sponsored Ads

Most marketplaces also offer paid product listings which appear at fixed spots on the first and every subsequent search results and category product listing pages. These may be fixated as the 3rd or 4th product on the page, a banner at the bottom of the page, in the right column, etc based on the offerings given by the marketplace. These are a good way to get visibility to your newly listed products which may not have any reputation of their own yet and thus may struggle to generate organic sales. So to kick start the sales, sponsored or product listing ads are a good way to start. Once organic sales start coming and you have gathered some reviews & rating on that product you could discontinue placing that product in sponsored listings.

II: Securing the Buy Button or BuyBox

All marketplace are compete with each other to provide the best buying experience to their customers, and for this they rely on the sellers. So, understandably, they prefer showing the sellers on their listing who delivery the best post-purchase experience to their customers.

Once someone lands on the listing based on the above factors, the reason why they buy from a particular seller is more often than not based on who has the BuyBox, in other words, when the customer clicks on the ‘Buy Now’ button then which seller is added as the default supplier of that product in the customer’s cart. The basic principle here is that the sellers who provide the best customer experience are the ones who usually get the Buy Box opportunity. Listed here are the factors that affect the chances of you having the buy box for your products in the descresing order of impact, ie, the most impact ful things are mentioned first.

1. Fulfillment by Marketplace

Getting into the fulfilment model by the marketplace (Eg. FBA) almost guarantees the BuyBox (exceptions will always be there) or at the least it will ensure that you are among the top results for that product search. This is the model where you store your products in a marketplaces operated warehouse and they ship the products to the customers as and when the orders come in. This is natural since marketplace operated warehouses are usually the most efficient and quick in shipping out the products to customers. This also guarantees that the product will be in stock when the order is placed instead of last minute surprises from 3rd party sellers about out of stock orders getting cancelled.

2. Seller Ratings & Reviews

Ratings and reviews are the single most reliable way for the marketplace to determine whether the customer had a good experience buying the product from the seller or not. This is why the sellers and listings with higher ratings and more positive feedbacks are the ones that, for obvious reasons, get ranked higher in the search results.

3. Shipping Time

Customers love their product getting delivered to them even before they imagined buying them, sooner the better. The next best thing is to get them delivered as fast as possible before they change their mind and cancel it or buy it from somewhere else who is promising to deliver it faster. The shipping time as specified by you in the product settings at the time of listing is what is displayed to the customer at the time or purchase. Since the marketplace wants to capture the sale, they will prefer a seller who has the least shipping time (assuming all other things being at par).

4. Landed Price

Buyers, especially online, are extremely cost conscious and they will always look the buy the product at the most effective cost. Notice that I did not say the cheapest, since the above mentioned factors also play a role for the customer to decide how much they are willing to spend. Some customers prefer to buy products from a seller with higher ratings and feedbacks, someone else may prefer buying from someone with the quickest delivery time, etc. The landed price which includes the Advertised Product Price, Discounts, Shipping Fee and Delivery Fee (if COD). The marketplace search results are shown in the descending order of the landed price in most cases on the seller listings page.

5. Order Defect Rate & Delivery History

Number of times that a seller has cancelled a customer order due to item not being in stock or shipped the item late due to a just-in-time procuremnt model challenges, then the ODR rating of the seller is affected. In some marketplaces this may be represented in terms of tiers like Gold, Silver, Bronze.

6. Query Response Time

Sometimes, customers may not be satisfied with the information given on the product listing page and may have a question or two about the product before buying. Or they may have had some trouble in getting their product delivered to them as per their expected time. Or when it did get delivered, then the item may not have been in the expected condition or as per the listing. In such cases, the customer would try to contact the seller via the marketplace provided messaging system. The time you take to respond to such customer queries also affects your overall score which determine where you would show up in the search results or whether you would get the BuyBox.

Now that you are armed with all the inside workings of product search results, go get your products to the top! If you have experience other factors that have affected your search results, do share them in the comments below.

About Author

Piyush Goel

Piyush Goel

Piyush is the Editor-in-Cheif of Piyush has many years of experience in Ecommerce, has had experience with marketplaces in Europe, USA and India since 2007, both selling domestically and dealing with imports and exports.

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