Last week, Amazon announced the latest line-up of Echo devices for their 2020 release. Amazon’s 4th-generation voice-control devices are getting smarter features, a climate-pledge friendly design, more colors, and even panda-shaped exteriors.
(Product shot from the 2020 Echo Dot (4th Gen) Kids Edition, Panda.)
Smart devices on the whole have rapidly become more widespread. With that growth and the accompanying technological advances, businesses are beginning to wonder how SEO is evolving to account for voice control. So how do Amazon sellers and vendors optimise for success when it comes to voice-enabled shopping? We’ve got some tips and strategy to keep in mind.
(The Amazon.com homepage after the announcement of new Echo devices, 25 September 2020.)
There is quite a bit of information available on SEO best practices when it comes to voice search overall (Google SEO hacks, iPhone tips and tricks for Siri, etc.). But there’s currently a gap in how to leverage this information for selling on Amazon. Let’s start with what we know and what sellers can do to impact their conversion over Echo devices.
What can customers do with Alexa?
The first Amazon Echo device launched in the fourth quarter of 2014. Echo is Amazon’s brand of smart speakers and devices. Alexa, on the other hand, is the A.I. powering the device, and also the “wake word” users call on to activate a voice-controlled personal assistant. Alexa is permanently in the cloud, and is constantly being updated. Alexa was also made to improve constantly over time, and it definitely has. Likewise in the cloud, your user information is constantly being updated to improve and hone the experience. Customers can play music or podcasts, set alarms and reminders in a totally virtual calendar, control smart devices like thermostats and security in their homes, search the internet, pull up a recipe, call contacts, play games, set parental controls, and much more. And it is Amazon. So of course you can shop and make purchases directly with Alexa without touching your computer or device.
In the years since launch, voice-controlled devices have gone beyond early adopters and into the mainstream. According to eMarketer, estimates from 2019 suggest that 111.8 million people in the US were using a voice assistant at least monthly, up 9.5% from 2018. This is equivalent to one-third of the total population. What’s more, 2021 estimates increase almost 10% more, with voice technology constantly developing, improving, and expanding. Microsoft estimated that by 2020, nearly three-quarters of homes will have at least one smart speaker.
If you’re in e-commerce, hopefully you know a little bit about SEO. Now is the time to expand that thinking for how to improve your relevancy and product ranking. Your goal should be to ensure Alexa users can purchase your products, wherever they go.
Voice search and Alexa shopping
When Alexa launched, customers could only shop by re-ordering previously purchased items from their account on Amazon (Alexa, re-order batteries). A 2015 update changed the dynamic considerably and allowed customers to purchase both physical products and digital items (Alexa, order coffee beans) at their leisure. This requires Alexa to take into account semantics and intuit personal choice for the customer. What item will Alexa add to the customer’s basket from the millions of products listed on Amazon? Especially in a wide category, Alexa must determine which product the customer is most likely to want, all without the customer even seeing it or browsing the site. Does all traditional SEO logic go out the window in this format? If you want Alexa to sell your company or brand’s items, here is how you do it.
Sell Prime-eligible items
Your products must be Amazon Prime-eligible for customers to be able to purchase them through Alexa-enabled devices. This means you must be a vendor (selling to Amazon directly), be an Amazon Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) seller, or be eligible and enrolled in Amazon Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP). As of autumn 2020, SFP applications are seemingly not being processed, so focusing at least some of your products on FBA would be prudent. When a customer asks Alexa to purchase an item, Amazon will first search through the customer’s order history and determine if there is a Prime-eligible item that fits the query. If so, that is the item it will add to the customer’s basket and ask for confirmation checking out.
How to get Amazon’s Choice
Have you ever noticed a prominent badge on some search results, and wondered what Amazon’s Choice is? When you shop on a mobile device or computer, your search query will return a list of products, one of which will have an Amazon’s Choice badge above it. You might think this is for the website, but it was actually developed specifically for Alexa.
(An example of the Amazon’s Choice badge on an Amazon search results page.)
Amazon’s Choice was established and developed in order to make voice-enabled shopping easier for consumers. If a customer asks, “Alexa, order men’s shampoo” and Amazon determines the customer has not purchased this type of product before, the Amazon’s Choice selection comes into play. This algorithm-based distinction let’s Amazon suggest a product that has a high ranking, is Prime-eligible, and is the best fit for the customer’s given query.
If there is no Amazon’s Choice product available for the category (or as close as possible) based on the customer’s query, Alexa will suggest the top-ranking Prime-eligible product for that keyword query.
Of course, how exactly Amazon assigns Amazon’s Choice is a bit of a mystery. Brands cannot pay, request or apply for this distinction. But you can bet Amazon’s A10 algorithm bases it on a magic formula of sales ranking, conversion, and all of the other factors typically influenced by traditional listing optimisation practices. This means having a good price, always keeping the product in stock and available to buy, keeping a low return rate, nurturing positive customer reviews, etc. The good news is, if you want your product to be a contender for Alexa purchases, you need to optimise your listings in the same way you would for a traditional SEO and rankings boost.
Shop deals with Alexa
It’s common knowledge that many Amazon shoppers head straight for the Today’s Deals page (also known as the Gold Box page) when they shop. It’s also possible to seek out deals and savings and use Alexa to help. Customers can prompt, “Alexa, what are my deals?” to hear items on sale and with a discount.
For sellers and vendors, this is another way to capture the audience of customers who are using voice control. Alexa will offer the customer the Deals of the Day, and possibly Lightning Deals. If you want wider exposure, consider applying for these deal positions in Seller Central or Vendor Central. Keeping in mind popular shopping times and periods (like the upcoming holiday season) is also prudent.
Connecting Seller Central to Alexa
One of the cool things about Alexa is that new skills are always being developed that assist both customers and businesses using the device. If you are using Seller Central and have an Amazon Echo device, you can link your account and perform Alexa functions with voice command. Check your sales, pricing, inventory management, advertising campaigns, buyer messages, and more. Here are a few of the functions this skill enables.
You can learn how to connect your account and activate this Amazon-backed skill in Seller University.
Need more help with voice control SEO?
At eCommerce Nurse, we help both sellers and vendors optimise listings for SEO. We also stay on top of the latest Amazon algorithm developments, including Alexa voice control updates. If you have questions or want to make sure your business is performing its absolute best, please contact us.