Amazon has made a change to Seller Central that could lessen the likelihood that Seller merchandise will be found in searches conducted by Amazon customers. Here is the latest on Amazon search term character limits.
What Changed in Regard to Amazon Search Term Character Limits?
Amazon is now limiting the number of bytes (essentially, characters) indexed in back-end keyword fields (AKA “keyword banks”) to 250 characters instead of the 1000-5000 previously believed to be the limit. While some believe it was doubtful Amazon was actually indexing all characters allowed previously, the new Amazon search term character limits clarify that, at most, 250 characters in keyword banks will be searchable going forward. If you exceed 250 characters, your keyword fields will not be indexed and keywords placed in those fields will not show up in searches.
While it might not feel like it at the moment, the keyword limitation is actually a refinement. Ultimately, customers will have a better experience finding the items most relevant to their searches, and merchant listings will be found by shoppers who are more likely to buy.
Why Was This Change Made?
According to Amazon, the Amazon search term character limits change was made to “improve the quality of search results.”
How Does It Impact Me?
It impacts all Seller Central accounts, especially those which are still being indexed for the previous character limitations (1000 characters per field) . Depending on how you’ve structured and placed your keywords currently, the algorithm may not recognize them in customer searches for your products.
When Will This Begin Happening?
Amazon already started quietly limiting which search terms they will index. The Amazon character search term limits change was begun abruptly in April by Amazon, with little to no lead up or warning before the announcement on August 28th.
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What Should I Do?
Firstly, accept the fact that you will need to act in order to remain competitive. There will be no grandfathering of the way Amazon used to enable shoppers to find your listing. Familiar with strategies on optimizing your listings.
Secondly, you should review, re-optimize and re-prioritize search terms in their product listings. The days of throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the keyword bank are over. Now, only the first 250 characters (approximating about 40 words) matter in that bank. And those 40 words should be the keywords you could not fit smoothly and sensibly into your title, bullet points and product description.
Optimizing your keywords involves several steps. You will need to:
- Determine the most relevant search terms. This will entail doing some searches yourself within the Amazon marketplace to see which are the most popular ones used for items like yours.
- Review each of your current listings individually, making sure the most relevant of the search terms you want to attribute to them are dispersed, as keywords, among your title, bullet points and description.
This does not mean you need to front-load all the keywords into your product’s title and first couple of bullet points. You can spread them out evenly throughout your listing, but whatever relevant keywords you did not use in the title, bullet points and description should be the first ones included in your 250-character-limited keyword search bank.
Specifically, when optimizing to make the most of this Amazon search term character limits refinement:
- Determine if your products are indexed for a given keyword(more on this, below)
- Don’t bother wasting your valuable 250 characters on variations that include variations on spacing, punctuation, capitalization, pluralization and capitalization of plural forms. “Normalize” your keywords as Amazon’s search engine automatically includes different case forms, word forms, and spelling variants for searching.
- Keywords should be “normalized” (i.e., should not include capitalization, pluralization or dashes, periods, colons, etc.)
- Don’t bother to repeat keywords that already appear in the title, description and subject keywords; repetition of keywords will not rank you higher in searches (unless you are trying to index for specific “longtail” keywords) and will merely waste the opportunity for additional keywords
- Don’t bother going beyond the 250 character limit in your back-end keyword bank. The Amazon search term character limits system ignores any generic keywords beyond the 250 characters for every category; if you exceed the 250 characters in your keyword bank, the words they comprise will be randomly selected by the algorithm, giving you less control.
- Amazon will no longer partially match generic keyword fields, probably because they have determined it is unlikely anyone will search for paragraphs of keywords
Checking to See If Your Keywords are Working
Remember, Amazon determines which keywords are relevant. To optimize your keywords, you first need to determine whether they are among those Amazon sees as relevant for a product like yours. To do this, you must actively go through and update all search term fields for all your ASIN’s. This is called a manual reverse ASIN lookup:
- Type into Amazon search the ASIN
- Type a plus sign (+)
- Type the keyword you want to check
- Make sure there are no spaces
- Example: “B00063ULM+mixer” (see graphic, below)
- If your listing shows up, it is indexing
- If your listing does NOT show up, you are not indexing (see graphic, below)
- Sometimes products in restricted categories may not show up until a specific category is selected first
There are some 3rd party tools that include extensions to show you keywords. In most cases, specific detailed results are generally not pulled directly from Amazon by these tools but rather a database managed by the tool creator.
Additional Tips and Tidbits Regarding the Amazon Search Term Character Limits
- About “Characters”:
- A “character” is standard alphanumeric characters (a-z, A-Z, 0-9)
- Some special characters could count as 2 or 3 “characters”
- For international sellers:
- India’s marketplace allows up to 200 characters
- Japan’s marketplace allows up to 500 characters
- All other marketplaces (including all three North American marketplaces, CA, US and MX) are 250
- The Amazon search term character limits apply to total of all search term fields combined
- Some categories and listings allow 5 search term fields on back end
- Other categories only have one
- Either way, it is a TOTAL of 250 characters
- Spaces and punctuation do not contribute to length limit
- This change affects all new AND existing ASIN’s
- Amazon pulls words from your listing as “candidates” for indexing
- Amazon does not consider longtail keywords (search phrases) based off of your content
- For this reason, putting the words in your search term phrases in the right order won't matter.
What other optimization tips are there to make the most of the Amazon search term character limits?
- Don’t repeat words
- Don’t include anything already in other places of your listing
- Brand Name
- Bullet Points
- Product Identifiers (such as part number, UPC)
- Competitor brand names
- Do include related content
- Common misspellings
- Be sure to follow all of Amazon's other basic product detail page rules.
The below image is the statement from Amazon:
Optimize your keywords to make the most of this policy change. With all your listings re-optimized for those most relevant keywords, you may experience fewer overall shoppers visiting your listings, but you will likely experience higher conversions from those who do.
Policy changes such as this can require taking the time to make the necessary adaptations, Finding the time to stay competitive on Amazon is not a luxury most sellers have. If you want to get started NOW on a keyword optimization project that will help maintain your competitive edge, call us at 1-(800) 238-1811.
The Amazon search term character limits may feel a bit overwhelming, especially if you have a lot of ASINs. As always, we stand ready to help you adjust to Amazon’s evolving policies so that you not only adapt to, but perhaps thrive as a result of such changes.
Visit our Amazon Consulting page for more information.