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Amazon Product Classification – Leveraging Data

amazon product classification

Amazon Product Classification - Get It Right Initially
Your Success May depend On It

Amazon has been working on the re-alignment of the browse tree nodes, which affects Amazon Product Classification. Product classification affects ranking, which affects sales. They have been moving and re-aligning the classification of many categories and subcategories. This happens at least once or twice a year in different categories.

Are your sales and ranking inconsistent?  Many times, this is a symptom of classification issues.  Most products do not appear for the drilled down classification options that they should be ranking for.  

When a product has inconsistent sales fluctuations, the first place we check is the title and listing verbiage.  Is there anything that blatantly jumps out as being questionable or against TOS?  The second place we check is to ensure the product is indexed correctly, and ranking for the phrases that it should be.   Finally, before checking that the back end fields are correct and complete, we check to ensure it is ranking for the correct product classification options.  Most of the time, the problems are due to errors somewhere in those areas.

The message below is visible when you dig into the help section of the product classifier tool available within seller central.  This is the only mention of any change that we are aware of.

Amazon Classification Change Announcement

Amazon Classification Change Announcement

If the categorization of your listings is not already pinpoint defined in the back-end of your listings, you may find yourself shuffled to an inconsequential category disrupting your ranking, appearance, and sales.    

Product Categories

Amazon has over 120 million products spanning 22 unrestricted categories and now 42 restricted categories. Getting cleared to list in a restricted category does not guarantee that you will also be cleared to sell your product, it is a separate process for product clearance.

Books remain the strongest category with over 40 million sales per year. It is imperative for exposure that you get your products listed in the correct category and sub categories to launch.

How Do You Find The Amazon Product Category?

  1. 1
    Put your seller name in quotes into the search bar on Amazon.com. The categories that you sell in will be listed in the left column. you can drill down into subcategories by clicking on them which also reveals which products are listed in each category.
  2. 2
    It in on the product detail page just above the main images in the breadcrumb string.
  3. 3
    It is listed on each product page underneath the product Details section, listed under Best Seller Rank
  4. 4
    For sellers, it is listed in the Product Classifier tool in the backend which is under the Inventory Tab >Add Product via Upload.

This article will focus on the proper classification and listing of products using the Product Classifier Tool, the Browse Tree Guide and the Listing Template. When you finish this article you will have a clear understanding of exactly how to list a product.

You will also know exactly where to find what Amazon expects in each field. Listing your product the right the first time ensures additional sales and gives you a competitive edge over competitors.

What Is Happening?

Many Amazon sellers are reporting downward spikes in their ranking and placement recently, which is a result of the movement of subcategories within the browse tree nodes. Some sellers have mentioned losing all of their existing badges.

Other sellers are seeing their subcategories changed to fall under different higher-level categories.

Amazon has done this in the past. At times subcategories grow big enough, or trends change that warrant it moving up the browse tree structure. Whenever Amazon makes changes such as this, there is some shakeup of the SERPs as the items get re-indexed, and things settle down.

For the most part, things settle back into place after a week or so. If you had a strong, stable position leading up to this shakeup, the chances are excellent when it is over; you will be in or around the same location.

Should You Be Worried?

The problem arise when the back-end of your listing was never set up correctly in the first place,  establishing stable classification signals when it was first listed. A good 70% of listings that we see fall into this category.  

Most of the time, the seller has no clue that they didn't set it up right because the course they paid good money for failed to mention anything about it. Many times it comes down to the course writer having minimal experience themselves and unable to speak to the subject.

Many of them only know one method, and some focus on manipulation and shortcuts instead of teaching how to do things properly.

How Do You Check Your Listings?

What To Check?  Drill down into the correct browse categories in the left column of the search results. Do you appear in the right categories and subcategories? What about the extended features? It is something that must be established when the listing gets created.  Amazon shuffles the categories often, be sure to verify that you are coming up under the different classification options at least a couple of times a year.  Have your sales been inconsistent or they dropped off out of nowhere?  Check to ensure that you are appearing correctly for the drilled down classification options.
It can be a long, arduous process of getting it corrected
Amazon Browse Tree Subcategories

Amazon Browse Tree Subcategories 

Very few sellers get categorization correct and/or know what to do. Nor do they understand that Amazon uses specific info from the listing back-end to aid it in the classification. One reason for this is that it is a little different from category to category.

If you aren't logged into your account as you read this, I suggest that you log into your account and follow along so that you are sure you understand and hopefully have a better listing when you are finished.

Here is a simple test. Look at the backed of one of your listings. Switch to the last tab on the right. Is it blank? If so, you are missing out on sales. That third tab is where Amazon gets the specific details that it uses to aid in adequately categorizing listings.

A Simple Test

Another simple test is to bring up your item in the search results using one of your keyword phrases. In the left column of the search results, you should see specific product features similar to the image presented.

When you click the features that apply to your products, are you still appearing in the results?

How Do You Fix Product Classification?

How do you find out what Amazon expects to be in those fields? First, let me say if you look at that last tab in the back-end and think none of it applies to you, think again. The features that appear in the left column of the search results are on this last tab.  

FYI: Some of those fields index as well. 

Go back and look at the left-hand column in the SERP's for your product again. When you drill down, do you notice it is mainly Amazon and Vendors left the further you go? That is because the methods Vendors use to create listings is different than 3p sellers and vendors fill this out in many cases by default.

You have the same ability to do it, very few 3p sellers do because they were never shown how to. Listed below, I will walk you through how to fill this out and where to get the expected entries from.

The Amazon Product Classification Tool

In Seller central, choose 'Inventory,' select 'Add Products Via Upload,' choose 'Download An Inventory File.' Don't use the search tool. Instead, use the Product Classifier Tool to drill down your product to the specific category and subcategory that it belongs in.

Amazon Product Classification Tool

Amazon Product Classification Tool

Using the Product Classifier Image to follow along, we chose a soft-sided dog carrier as an example.

  1. 1
    The full Browse Node classification of the product. A and B are parts of the node. Choose each step: Pet Supplies Dogs Carriers Travel Products Carriers, until you reach the final classification: Soft-Sided Carriers
  2. 2
    Soft-Sided Carriers are your final classification. Choose Select, and this carries down to the Summary underneath it. In that summary area, Amazon provides two fundamental data points for you.
  3. 3
    Amazon always provides the item_type_keyword field here, which is the most important field in a listing because it is the main indicator or category that you enter into the back-end of your listing under 'Category (item-type)' on the Vital Info tab.
  4. 4

Item Type Keyword - Product Type

Item Type Keyword

If you leave the item_type_keyword field blank on your initial listing submission or if you get this wrong, you may end up wherever the amazon crap shoot decides you belong. It is incredibly difficult to get this corrected afterward.

We've all heard about the so-called 'honeymoon period'.  It is essential that you have your listing classified right from the very beginning to maximize your results during this time and to help Amazon clearly understand exactly what the product is.   Do not close this page as we will continue using it.

Most sellers stop right about here. They do very little to fill out the details that go beyond the basics, which is why they never get into those feature search results.  The significant issues start when sellers fail to finish listing the right way, and Amazon makes changes like it just did.  

You may have initially been classified correctly, but as Amazon refines this process, those who have it right from the start will benefit the most.

Product Type – The product type field is a additional required field if it exists in your template. The value of this field further classifies an item within its category on Amazon.   Amazon only allows specific values for this field. If this field exists in your back-end and you overlook it, it will absolutely cost you lost sales.  

Amazon Product Listing Template File

When you create a listing, do you struggle with understanding what to put in specific fields? You are not alone. How would you feel if I told you that you had had the information at your fingertips the entire time? Essentially, this is part of the building blocks of an excellent listing.

If you weren't taught this by someone you paid good money to, I'd be questioning the integrity of some of them right about now.

The problem is that you haven't provided Amazon with enough info yet to lock in the classification of your product and leave the algorithm no doubt how to classify your listing. The algorithm is far from smart as they portray it.  You need to tell it what your features are. We accomplish this with the next few steps.

First, scroll down further on the product classification page. You will see the title, Select The Type of Template.

Amazon Listing Template

Advanced Or Custom

These templates indicate what Amazon expects from you and accepts in every single field of your listing. You have two options. Advanced is for new listings, and Custom is if you are only updating a specific section of the listing, like the products name, as it allows you to choose what parts to export.

If you have never done this before, choose advanced as you will learn many things that you never knew before. Click 'Generate Template,' and the files that you see below appear under the template window. Click the blue link to download your template file.

Listing Template Export

Now the fun starts. The process of drilling down in the earlier section of the product classifier tool enabled you to indicate to Amazon exactly what product classification template to provide you with.

Template Download

Download the exact file generated above so you can follow along and fully understand the example Amazon Product Listing Template. This is an excel spreadsheet form Amazon that contains a macro which validates all of your listing info for you.

I put it in a zip file, so it doesn't trigger any virus detection. Browsers do not like downloading macro enabled data.These templates are also known as bulk upload templates.

Template Uses

For example, if you opened a print on demand shop featuring 50 designs with variations, you would use this template.

Do the math - POD T-shirts, 50 designs in 8 sizes each with each size coming in 9 colors, and six styles each, B/G Toddler, Boys, Girls, Men and Women, and each style offered five variations: v-neck, crew-neck, pocket-vneck, pocket-crew-neck or sleeveless. 

That seems simple enough, right? That is a total of over 133,000 different listings for 50 shirts. Yep, wrap your head around that. Been there, done that. The sweet spot of these templates is you will always have a place for answers concerning what goes into a filed moving forward. 

Listing Template Variations

The update that amazon just did to the browse nodes included a significant upgrade to these templates. In fact, in the 13+ years that I've used them, this is by far the best and most complete they have ever been. Once downloaded, double-click the file, open the excel file within it, and if excel gives you a warning, you can click that you trust it and me.

Template Components

Open the file in excel and proceed to the very first tab, Instructions. Read through them. The spreadsheet contains 7 visible tabs. this sheet is customized to your account by amazon when you download it to provide you with the exact details they are expecting for each field, etc..

  1. 1
    Instructions - Obviously a bit self-explanatory, this sheet explains how to use the spreadsheet to your advantage
  2. 2
    Images - This gives product image specs as well as shows examples of acceptable vs. unacceptable images
  3. 3
    Example - This is an example of what a bulk upload template should look like when completed. It shows several examples, regular listings, parent-child listings, etc...
  4. 4
    Data Definitions - This page and the Valid Values page should be your new BFF. This page defines every single field in the back-end of your listing and tells you the type of information accepted. It also tells you what is required and not required.

    TIP:  Don't be lazy and only submit the required info. If that is all you do, expect close to no sales! The only way to be lazy and get sales is through black hat, manipulation, and stupidity. It may get you sales today, but it will also get you banned for life one day.
  5. 5
    Template - This is the actual template that you fill out if you are going to use this to upload or alter listings. It does the same thing as using the backend interface, except this provides you with a ton of guidance as well.
  6. 6
    Browse Data - This is simply your item-type-keyword copied here from the step from the product classifier tool
  7. 7
    Valid Values - This is your gold mine. This sheet gives you the actual phrases that Amazon expects for each field. This is where you find the feature lists for your product and ensure you are entering the correct info into the back end

If this post is useful and or you have gained any value or knowledge from it, please share it with others that can also gain value from it. At Ecommerce Optimizer, we have a reputation of being very knowledgeable about Amazon since we have been selling and involved with the platform for over 15 years.  

For additional Amazon tips and strategy, check out our Dominate Amazon Products Series.  This includes articles on Product Sourcing, Listing Optimization, Launching without Giveaways or Rebates along with many other great articles.

We have just as much experience off of Amazon, on the web and with many other Ecommerce platforms as well.  We focus on helping sellers grow their businesses to incorporate more than just Amazon reducing your dependence on any 1 platform while exponentially growing their audience.  

In addition, we also have our Free Pinterest Traffic Domination Workshop, a Pinterest Launching Service, 1 on 1 Coaching and several other workshops as well.  Let us help you make 2020 your best year ever!

How to utilize the Templates strengths

We are going to review this, and I'll show you where to get the most critical data. First, we need to download one more file. The Browse Tree Guide, which is category-specific. The download page URL is located on the instructions tab of the template, but this is it as well https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/1641

The BTG contains a lot of the same information as the template, but it does something that the template does not,. It identifies the exact features that you need to concentrate on in your category for classification. It is a brilliant idea to keep an updated copy of this for each category that you are in handy. Most sellers do not do this.

The more that you do, the more you will be separated and above the majority of sellers.

Watch the video below for a walk-through of the template. I checked 996 listings in a subcategory. Only 18 of them were applying the right fields to get categorized right. If all you do is get yourself classified correctly, you will increase your exposure to highly motivated buyers that your competitors do not care about!

Not every category and subcategory has these classifier terms, but a lot of them do. Regardless, you must make every effort to make sure that your products are classified to take advantage of the Amazon product classification schema.


Unbelievable Results But You Saw It Too!

I must say this an eye-opener. Less than 2% of sellers in a product category had their items classified right. Still, people wonder why the failure rate among new sellers is at 95%.  Obviously we know that far more than 2% of sellers have been through the different courses.  

If your mentor, teacher, or course followed never mentioned this, then its time to question what other information they never covered.

Black Hat

Selling on Amazon is not that difficult. If you spend a lot of money on a course or mentor who portrays themselves as honest, but they reveal themselves as black hatters, you need to put your foot down and demand your money back.  

I'm talking about things like purchasing secret competitor reports from shady Amazon employees, review manipulation, fake product testing groups, review for rebate scams and things like that.

They are putting your business on the line.   Don't think for one minute that when Amazon goes after them that it wont cast a shadow on you as well.   Furthermore these people are sellers also.  If you dont think they mine your information, in many cases you are wrong.  

Amazon is the only place where it is, for some reason, not seen as a major conflict of interest.    Do you notice not one of them has large corporate brands as clients?  That is because they wouldn't hire someone that also sells.  I would lose my largest clients, fortune 500 brands, if I was competing or selling.  

Many course sellers and so-called mentors never talk about this stuff because they are far from qualified at what they are trying to do. If instead, they told you that buying insider blackhat reports, giveaways, rebates for reviews, review groups, and manipulation are the way to success, then I'm sorry, you got scammed.

All of that effort that they teach, for strategies that eventually disappear may equal sales when first applied. Still, they also guarantee that you will be scrambling for the next shiny ranking method when the current process is outlawed, losing effectiveness.

Conclusion

Why would you trust someone that has a position of influence, yet blatantly brags about manipulating the system? Someone is getting screwed. Next time it might be you. I'm sorry, this is just not that complicated. The responsibility also falls on sellers' shoulders to due their due diligence.

I know for a fact that several people do talk about this besides me. I heard Brad Sutton and Kevin King touching on it not that long ago. They have a decent reach with their group, so I know more than 2% are aware of this. I am also aware of several other of my peers that discuss this because they understand the importance.

Putting all of that aside. Do you want to be one of 996 or one of 18? If you read this and don't make an effort to ensure that you are classified right, then it is on you. I can share everything I know. I cannot force you to do a thing. If you do nothing else but fix your classification, you will be ahead of 98% of your peers.

Make your own luck; it won't come to you if you are not making the RIGHT effort. Work smarter, not harder!

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About the Author

Joe Reichsfeld is an Ecommerce Consultant with experience going back before 2000. Specializing in listing optimization and marketplace expansion, Joe currently assists clients with over 3.5 million sku's.

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