If you have been following the saga of keywords on Amazon for any length of time, you know that the most accurate answer to the question, “What is Amazon actually doing?” is “It depends.” This whole thing started this time last year when Amazon updated their Vendor Central documentation to include a new maximum keyword limit of 250 bytes/characters.
Since that time, we have been watching the situation at Amazon carefully and talking to many of you about what you are seeing with your own titles. The results of that continued investigation have not been very fruitful, only serving to reinforce the idea that Amazon’s application of this new standard is inconsistent at best. It appears that the keyword limit of 250 bytes is being applied in some cases but not others.
We’ve seen a new wave of updates from Amazon on this issue recently, and we’re getting the sense that these requirements are finally being applied more broadly. However, Amazon has thrown some new recommendations into the mix that are likely to make things even more confusing:
1. The company now states that the 250-byte limit does not include spaces or punctuation, and that keywords should, ideally, not be separated by semicolons. This recommendation breaks from standard industry practice and the ONIX recommendation, based on Library of Congress preferred practices, of using semicolons as a separator.
2. In addition, the new recommendations say words should not be repeated in the keywords field.
We assume that Amazon wants to maximize the value of the words provided in the smaller keyword space allotted by removing duplicates. That makes sense when combined with their note that “Amazon determines the relevancy of search terms using a machine learning model.” We have known for a while, thanks to the intrepid work of Chris Sim at Kadaxis, that Amazon’s machine learning algorithms combine keywords into derived keywords. So, if you give them “cookbook recipes diet keto” (without any semicolons or duplication) their system should show your book in the search results for “keto cookbook,” “keto recipes,” or “keto diet.”
All that being said, the recommendation about not using semicolons is just that: a recommendation. We don’t recommend worrying about that limitation at the moment, as it just makes compliance with industry standards harder.
[Update 3/25/2020: Amazon has confirmed that “the use of semicolons and spaces are accepted for keywords, though optional, and do not count toward the total limit of 250 bytes. Publishers can continue to submit keywords with semicolons and spaces following EDItEUR best practices, or just semicolons if following the BISG best practices.”]
Changes for Eloquence on Demand
In an effort to help our clients become more compliant with the 250-byte limit, we are now offering a solution for publishers who send keywords to Amazon. The Eloquence on Demand service can automatically limit the number of bytes we send to Amazon on your behalf to keep you under the limit. If you choose to turn on this feature, our cloud will find the 250-byte point in your list of keywords, back up to the previous semicolon, and truncate the list at that point in your Amazon feed.
This new option allows publishers to meet the requirements for Amazon without affecting the number of keywords entered in Title Management or sent to other trading partners, like Apple; they are currently accepting up to 1000 characters’ worth of keywords.
To have this feature implemented, contact our support team. No action is needed if you do not wish to limit the number of keywords sent to Amazon. If you would like to discuss other options, or if you are concerned about how to best implement keywords within your team, our support team can help.
Keep an eye on this space for further news and thoughts about this change and others.