Amazon.com has long been the main go-to place for online product search, but a recent Washington Post article finds that it is no longer giving customers what they want because advertisements are muscling out the real search results.
Running a search for “cat beds,” the Post found that the entire first screen of results displayed advertisements masquerading as listings rather than products arrived at because they provided the best combination of price and quality. The results included one ad that featured a dog in the picture, rather than a cat.
On the first five pages of search results, more than half of the listings were either ads or Amazon’s own products. A Profitero study found that Amazon lists sponsored products on its first page of search results at a rate twice that of Walmart and four times that of Target. Other online outlets, like food delivery platforms and Google and Apple’s app stores, have also started displaying ads as search results.
Amazon’s ad business grew 58 percent in 2021, making it the third largest online ad seller, according to a Recode article. Six high-volume sellers told Recode that to succeed on Amazon today, sellers have to spend between 10 and 20 percent of their sales on ads.
Amazon’s practices surrounding how it lists search results have been criticized before.
Stacy Mitchell, co-executive director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, an activist group, told CNBC in October that Amazon can “alter and steer buying behavior” through prioritizing its own private labels in search results while relegating non-Amazon items to lower spots in the results. The statement was made in the context of a complaint by Peak Design CEO Peter Dering, who said that Amazon had stolen many of the major features, including the name, of Peak Design’s camera bag to create a private label knockoff.
According to a recap of a webinar published on Search Engine Journal in 2018, 70 percent of customers searching for a product on Amazon never click past the first page of results, 35 percent click on the first product featured on the search page and the first three items account for 64 percent of clicks.
- It’s not your imagination: Shopping on Amazon has gotten worse – The Washington Post
- Basically everything on Amazon has become an ad – Recode (Vox)
- How Amazon’s big private-label business is growing and leaving small brands to protect against knockoffs – CNBC
- Amazon’s Search Engine Ranking Algorithm: What Marketers Need to Know – Search Engine Journal
- Why are Amazon’s brand knockoffs ‘foul play’ if other retailers do the same thing? – RetailWire