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What Google’s Leaked Documents Might Reveal About Ecommerce Rankings on Amazon

From User Engagement to Listing Optimization: Adapting Google’s Strategies for Success on Amazon’s Increasingly Competitive Marketplace

  • June 13, 2024
  • /
  • Patrick Donelan

Now that Google has admitted that the recently leaked internal documents are legit, what’s the next step for ecommerce sellers? 

This big oopsie from Google has provided a rare glimpse into the closely-guarded algorithms and processes that power the world’s most popular search engine. The leaked files have pointed a floodlight on the factors that Google considers when ranking websites, as well as the intricate systems and techniques they use to determine search result rankings.

Why should this matter to ecommerce sellers? 

Canopy Management’s head of Data Analytics, Cory Chin, and his team combed through the available information as well as digging deeply into the massive pile of information. It’s not a huge leap to see the similarities between what was revealed, and what we think we know about Amazon’s own algorithm.

How Google Domain Authority and Amazon BSR Rankings Differ

One of the key revelations is Google’s likely use of metrics such as “Domain Authority” and “Homepage PageRank” to assess a website’s overall authority and relevance for ranking purposes. These metrics could play a significant role in determining how well a website ranks for specific search queries. 

When you type a phrase into Amazon search, you’ll see results based on its search ranking. Best Seller Rank indicates how a product ranks within the specific category. 

Still, the steps that online sellers take to improve Amazon BSR – including selecting the most relevant product categories, optimizing listings for search visibility, setting competitive prices, and leveraging advertising feels like it has a lot to do with the same tactics you need to employ to be found on Google. 

Google “Sales?” 

User interaction data, particularly click-through rates from search results, appears to be a major ranking factor. Google seems to differentiate between “good clicks” and “bad clicks,” using this information to gauge the relevance and quality of search results. Websites with higher engagement and user satisfaction are more likely to rank better. 

That sounds like Google’s version of a sale to me. 

Sandbox “Authority” Filters? 

The documents also hint at the existence of a “Sandbox” filter, which may delay new websites from achieving high rankings until they establish trust and authority. This could be a measure to prevent spammy or low-quality sites from quickly gaining prominence in search results.

Like many of you surely do, I see parallels to Amazon’s dependence on reviews to determine the trustworthiness of a newer ecommerce brand on the Amazon marketplace. 

Amazon Native Brands Anyone? 

Interestingly, Google may have a “whitelist” system that gives preferential treatment to authoritative websites during major events like elections or pandemics. This suggests that Google prioritizes trusted sources of information during times of heightened public interest or concern.

During the dark days of the recent pandemic, instead of brands bidding for the high profile slot at the top left of Amazon’s listings, the massive online marketplace began using this position for its private-label items, raising antitrust concerns.

The leak also indicates that Google may incorporate data from its Chrome web browser, such as page views, into its ranking algorithms. This data could provide insights into user behavior and engagement beyond just search interactions.

Niching Down, or Potentially Troublesome Territory? 

Several sophisticated systems and processes are mentioned in the documents, including “Mustang,” “Ascorer,” “NavBoost,” and “Twiddlers.” These systems appear to be involved in scoring, ranking, re-ranking based on user clicks, and making adjustments to search results. 

“Twiddlers,” for example, seem to act as filters that can boost or demote results based on specific factors like skin tone detection. 

Google “Listing” Optimization

The documents reveal that Google heavily analyzes anchor text (the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink) and may demote pages if there is a mismatch between the anchor text and the content of the linked page. This highlights the importance of relevant and accurate anchor text in both internal and external linking.

Again, it’s hard not to view this through the lens of Amazon SEO and the importance of search term prioritization in Amazon listings. 

Another notable system mentioned is “Panda,” which apparently determines a “Site Quality Score” based on user behavior signals and backlink analysis. This score can be used to boost or demote entire websites, indicating that overall site quality is a significant factor in Google’s rankings.

More Similarities with Amazon’s Ranking Factors

Other signals and factors that Google considers include content freshness, recency, backlink velocity patterns (how quickly a site acquires links), and version histories. The documents also suggest that feedback from human “quality raters” may impact rankings, providing a human element to the largely automated ranking process.

These factors quickly bring to mind the importance of an Amazon brand launch, reviews, and sales velocity. 

Google seems to collect a wide range of data points, such as content length, author expertise, and domain details, which likely contribute to its assessment of a webpage’s relevance and quality. Interestingly, there may be a promotion signal for personal or small websites, potentially giving them a boost in certain situations.

What This Means to Amazon Sellers

The leaked documents offer brand new insights into the complex and multifaceted nature of Google’s search algorithms. The combination of user signals, website authority metrics, content quality analysis, and sophisticated ranking systems highlights the immense effort and consideration that goes into delivering relevant search results to users. 

More importantly, they show that even though Google and Amazon’s algorithms are designed to do two very different things, the path they take to get there is pretty similar. 

What does that mean to ecommerce sellers? My first thoughts have to do with PPC targeting campaigns and off-Amazon traffic. 

As time goes by, I’m sure that leading online entrepreneurs will have a lot to say on the subject. In the meantime, If you’d like to follow along with what Canopy Management has been able to uncover, check the Canopy blog page here, to find the latest ecommerce news. 

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