Amazon calls them “hidden keywords” in their documentation, but I’ve heard them called many things, including search terms, Amazon keywords, product keywords, and backend keywords.
I’ve also heard varying methods for determining what those words should be, what they shouldn’t be, and how to generate them for use.
But one thing that I’ve consistently heard and seen is that this option should not be ignored – don’t leave those fields blank!
Before we go into generation or even implementation, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page as to what these are and why they matter.
What Are Amazon’s Hidden Keywords?
Hidden keywords are the 250 characters per field (up to five fields) that you can supply to Amazon to help boost discoverability in their search results pages.
Hidden keywords are terms returned by Amazon after, for example, a sponsored product ad shows for an item, the ad is clicked on, and the product is purchased.
They’re queries a customer entered into Amazon search, granted, and they could be the same as a hidden keyword.
(And yes, the fields in which you enter these hidden keywords in the Amazon UI is called “Search Terms” as well. Not confusing at all…)
The report that you download from Amazon for reporting on these search terms for advertising efforts is called a “Search Term Report.” In Google paid search, we’d call it a “Search Query Report.”
Calling hidden keywords just “keywords” also gets confusing, especially when you think about choosing keywords for sponsored product campaigns.
And while I hate the name with every search bone in my body, it is what Amazon calls it and it does help to differentiate.
How to Think About Hidden Keywords
Here’s the best way I can think of to help you determine how to think about these terms, how you might best use them and where you might source future terms from:
Remember the party game Taboo? You broke up into partners or teams and pulled a card – the card would have a word or object on it and you had to get your partner or team to guess the word on the card without saying the actual word or several other restricted related terms before time ran out.
If you did say it, the other team would “buzz” you, and your turn was over. For example, the main word is “football,” but you can’t say football, touchdown, end zone, pigskin or NFL – what words would you say to get your team to say “football”?
Let’s use a product example. If the item was a brand name shoe, you’d include the brand name, type of shoe, size, and attributes like a color or pattern all in the title or, if not all of that in the title, you’d capture the rest in the product description, plus additional details like material type or comfort.
Those details in the title and description are not what you’d want to use for hidden keywords – you want to use terms that would help someone find your product if they hadn’t searched for what you visibly provided on the page.
You might in this case try to use: slip-on evening closed toe under 50.
Amazon Help gives these examples:
But even those examples wouldn’t begin to fill the first search term box of 250 characters. It can actually be quite hard to fill each search term slot without resorting to extreme stuffing, especially if you’re inputting manually.
Choosing Hidden Keywords
Choosing hidden keywords is where I see the most cross-over between search on search engines and search on Amazon. What tools can you use on one for the other?
A lot of blogs recommend the Google Keyword Planner, Keywordtool.io, Ubersuggest or search query reports from Shopping Campaigns.
I don’t disagree with those suggestions at all – but only for ideas or starting points.
The way people search on Amazon and the way Amazon surfaces results is different than Google, so the best way to populate and perpetuate this field is using data from Amazon or your own listings whenever possible.
So a Search Terms Report, a client-provided list, product details, attributes, or features work best in terms of compliance and upkeep.
Similar to search keyword lists or text ads, you can’t supply inaccurate or misleading information, promotions (like buy one get one), subjective claims, or profanity.
You’d use a single space to separate terms and nothing else, which again makes the search person in me cringe – I want to add that comma or semi colon so badly.
This also means that when you review a bunch of hidden keywords for a product, it looks like a nonsensical line of gobbledygook, even if you follow best practice and use a logical order with your best keywords first.
Also, thanks to the good ole “+variants” exercise that Google has put us search folks through, you no longer have that reflex to put in common misspelling, title case, and pluralization. The same goes for hidden keywords, making it even more difficult to keep adding, especially by the time you reach search term box four and you’ve run out of ideas.
However, one big difference that I tend to forget as a search person, is that these hidden keywords don’t hold relevancy or scores or rank the same way we they do on Google – if you change them out regularly to keep up with incoming queries and impressions on Amazon, that’s a good thing.
You’re more likely to have a product page be listed in a search results page. Particularly if Amazon is finding some of the terms you submitted as not relevant or not using them – replace and re-submit.
Adding Hidden Keywords
To add hidden keywords to a product, you can do it on a per product basis in the Amazon Seller Central UI.
- Log in to Seller Center and click the Inventory tab
- On the right, look for the “edit” button and click it
- Here you will see the “offer” tab – click on “keywords” to open the hidden keywords section
It’s on the time-consuming side, but if you have an army of content writers or interns to do it for you, have at it.
You may not like the re-assess and adjust time though, especially if you have a catalog size outside of a few hundred products.
You might investigate what your feed capabilities are, whether you’re using a feed tool provider you’re generating your product feeds in-house and sending to Amazon. Depending on the level of sophistication, there are dynamic generation possibilities that can scale this process for sellers with large catalogs. The output would more closely resemble my earlier gobbledygook comment than if a human were to enter them manually, but again, scale.
How to Check if Your Hidden Keywords Got Added
Unfortunately, the only way to really check whether your hidden keywords have been added is through random spot checks, and it’s incredibly manual.
Copy the entire string from a search terms box (wait at least 24 hours after submittal before doing this), and search for it on Amazon.
If the product listing that is supposed to be associated with those search terms appears, it’s working. If not, then try another group of terms from another search term box and repeat.
If the product listing still doesn’t appear, it may be that not all the terms you provided were used (there may have been an error, editorial or duplicate) or you need to keep going, through all five boxes.
I’ve seen where only one of the five boxes is picked up, indexed, and used. It’s not a great system in terms of being able to track and adjust.
Fun tidbit: if you have a time machine or remember Yahoo SSP feeds (also known as paid inclusion) this whole process and indexation may ring a bell – sending content via a feed to supplement Yahoo organic search results, with possibly faster and more frequent information than a 2008 crawl.
While we may not be able to agree on what to call these terms at times, we all agree that just like on Yahoo circa the 2000s, you want to send them in to increase discoverability.
Now, excuse me while I try and find the tiny hourglass that always somehow gets separated from the Taboo game box.
More Amazon Optimization Resources:
- How to Kick Ass at Amazon SEO
- How Amazon’s New Brand Registry Helps Protect Your Brand
- The Complete Guide to Amazon Alexa SEO
Featured Image: Casimiro PT / Shutterstock.com
Screenshot taken by Elizabeth Marsten, January 2018