Does Your Price Affect Ranking?

triple dollar sign - red stencil text on a paper price tag against rustic wood

What factors are considered in the Amazon search algorithm has been a discussion debate people in the private label circles have had for seeming ages. Everyone has a theory, and those theories range from conspiracy level ridiculous to well thought out and tested.

One theory that has been presented more than a few times is that price is a ranking factor. This stems from the idea that Amazon is concerned with profits and therefore would logically give rank weight to items that make them more money.

While that SOUNDS logical, it is very easy to debunk. If that were the case, higher priced items would necessarily rule search results more frequently. And even though relative conversion rate is a big factor, you can’t just dismiss the pricing fallacy based on that. Amazon also has been known to rank products they sell with more vigor (i.e. less rules) and if we know they exercise that ability then it stands to reason they would know more exposure would get more sales for expensive inventory. Thus, those premium priced items would have MUCH more prevalence than they do now.

By this logic we would also see much larger rank movement with our promotions based on sale price (which we have not seen). All in all, this theory holds no water.

However, it has evolved since, and now many are claiming that LIST price is the weighted factor. The idea being that profit POTENTIAL is a consideration. I must admit, when I first heard this I thought it was totally loony. However, after examining it a bit, I am reminded of the change Amazon made a few months back to the list price on detail pages. For listings that had never SOLD at the list price, it disappeared from the details. Only products that actually sold at their list price were allowed to keep it on their listing.

This would prevent sellers from just inflating list price dramatically and then setting a reasonable sale price. This would also enable the ability for Amazon to gauge profit potential.

While I was still very skeptical, I thought the idea had enough merit to run some numbers on. Below is what I found.

The Results

I randomly searched popular keywords in as many categories as I could think of. I tried consumables, but could get no meaningful data due to subscribe and save as well as so many obvious blackhatters:

consumables

I also attempted some electronics and cell phone categories, but couldn’t get anywhere there either because many products don’t list a top level BSR (the only gauge we used in this for sales velocity). For the remaining categories, this is a very rudimentary and small data collection.

Essentially, if list price IS a factor in ranking, then necessarily we should see higher priced items with similar or even higher BSR’s than lower priced items winning search rank. While there are so many factors in ranking, judging by sales velocity and price (without knowing conversion rate) we should see a pattern appear.

Listed below are the keywords used and the top eight search results with their list price (not sale price) and BSR. Below that are the notes regarding whether the data supports the theory that list price is weighted in the search algorithm.

“Baking Mat”

#1 $13.95 BSR 77

#2 $13.99 BSR 487

#3 $40.99 BSR 38493

#4 $29.95 BSR 1780

#5 $35.00 BSR 3688

#6 $29.95 BSR 2205

#7 $24.99 BSR 472

#8 $12.26 BSR 383181

Number three appears to be an outlier, so we won’t count it in this analysis. Number five is beating out number six, despite having a higher BSR. This supports the theory. Same with number six over number seven. However, why number seven is being beaten by number two is odd. Beyond that, it appears these numbers support the idea that list price weights rank in favor of higher pricing.

 

“Carseat Cover”

#1 $29.95 BSR 184

#2 $44.99 BSR 725

#3 $15.99 BSR 208

#4 $22.49 BSR 638

#5 $34.99 BSR 1590 **

#6 $39.99 BSR 1220

#7 $17.99 BSR 643

#8 $39.99 BSR 670

** Means I couldn’t get an accurate list price because no one was winning the buybox. Number two beating out number three and number four supports the theory. So does number six beating number seven.

 

“Garden Hose”

#1 $69.97 BSR 1643

#2 $34.40 BSR 2120

#3 $22.99 BSR 1634

#4 $50.22 BSR 981

#5 $29.99 BSR 1860

#6 $34.99 BSR 976

#7 $8.57  BSR 150

#8 $23.28 BSR 1807

Number two beating out number three supports the theory. Number three beating number four DOES NOT (as well as number two beating number four). Number five beating number six also does not.

 

“Footstool”

#1 $32.34 BSR 1141 **

#2 $8.99  BSR 22

#3 $42.00 BSR 1515

#4 $24.99 BSR 1864

#5 $59.99 BSR 4292

#6 $36.09 BSR 3588

#7 $15.99 BSR 1042

#8 $27.10 BSR 4344

Number five beating number six and seven supports the theory. Number six beating number seven also supports the theory.

 

“Electric Toothbrush”

#1 $39.99 BSR 16

#2 $49.99 BSR 8

#3 $69.99 BSR 54

#4 $9.99  BSR 1717

#5 $26.21 BSR 199

#6 $15.99 BSR 20102

#7 $159.99 BSR 112

#8 $219.99 BSR 63

Number one beating number two does not support the theory. Number four beating number five also does not support the theory. Number six appears to be an outlier, so we won’t include it. Number four beating numbers seven and eight also doesn’t support the theory.

 

“Oven Mitts”

#1 $19.97 BSR 1195

#2 $11.95 BSR 1389

#3 $6.99  BSR 1389

#4 $19.99 BSR 14147

#5 $8.40  BSR 3865

#6 $30.00 BSR 5359

#7 $29.99 BSR 5636

#8 $35.00 BSR 3530

Number two beating number three supports the theory (all things being equal, the higher price won). Number four appears to be an outlier. Numbers six and seven beating number eight does not support the theory.

 

“Foam Mattress Topper”

#1 $48.99 BSR 3079

#2 $139.99 BSR 16

#3 $119.99 BSR 76

#4 $24.50 BSR 4931

#5 $69.99 BSR 211

#6 $209.99 BSR 12592

#7 $24.99 BSR 16685

#8 $43.70 BSR 79939

Number one beating numbers two and three does not support the theory. Number four beating number five also does not.

 

“Crib Mattress”

#1 $66.00 BSR 63

#2 $32.73 BSR 175

#3 $13.89 BSR 33

#4 $84.76 BSR 921

#5 $36.99 BSR 636

#6 $49.99 BSR 517

#7 $113.99 BSR 1630

#8 $69.99 BSR 1260

Number two beating number three supports the theory. Number four beating numbers five and six also supports the theory. Number five beating number six does NOT support the theory. Number seven beating number eight does support the theory.

 

“Pet Gate”

#1 $32.99 BSR 81

#2 $32.00 BSR 13

#3 $14.99 BSR 17

#4 $89.99 BSR 140

#5 $27.20 BSR 762

#6 $29.99 BSR 131

#7 $74.84 BSR 1428

#8 $74.99 BSR 2326

Number one beating numbers two and three supports the theory. Number five beating number six does not. Number seven beating number eight also does not support the theory.

 

“Exercise Bands”

#1 $49.99 BSR 461

#2 $44.98 BSR 48

#3 $14.99 BSR 166

#4 $13.09 BSR 3469

#5 $39.99 BSR 229

#6 $39.99 BSR 349

#7 $39.97 BSR 3715

#8 $44.99 BSR 1071

Number one beating number two supports the theory. Number four beating numbers five and six does not. Number seven beating number eight does not.

 

The conclusion I draw from this is that there is no obvious pattern. In the lack of presence of such there is not sufficient evidence to support the theory that list price is a factor in Amazon’s search ranking. While I do understand this is a small sample size, I can also speak from experience in blasting similar products with varying prices (both sale and list). I have not noticed my product pricing have any effect on the amount or level at which rank improvement was attained.