Amazon under fire for allegedly tweaking search to gain visibility

By Sasha Fedorenko September 18, 2019 - 10:10 am

Amazon are making headlines this week, with reports of the marketplace allegedly changing their product search in an attempt to double-deal the system to gain higher visibility over their marketplace merchants.

Last year saw Amazon tinkering with their search algorithms to manipulate their product results to their advantage so that the most profitable merchandise for the marketplace would get a higher chance to get discovered by the consumers, says The Wall Street Journal.

Amazon spokesperson, Angie Newman commented on the reports, saying that the marketplace did not change “the criteria we use to rank search results to include profitability. Amazon designs its shopping and discovery experience to feature the products customers will want, regardless of whether they are our own brands or products offered by our selling partners.”

“When we test any new features, including search features, we look at a number of metrics, including long term profitability, to see how these new features impact the customer experience and our business as any rational store would, but we do not make decisions based on that one metric.”

Amazon currently remains a go-to destination for product discovery. The marketplace are now outpacing Google as a product discovery channel, increasing their marketplace search dominance from 46% to 54% and Google declining from 54% to 46%, according to Jumpshot report. Consumers are increasingly using the marketplace as a platform for product discovery but also to research and cross-reference goods.

For marketplace sellers and retailers, Amazon serves as a good sales funnel which boasts reach and visibility, allowing traders to take their slice of the cake by using these powerful sales triggers to acquire shoppers and solidify loyalty.

The alleged move, if found true by authorities, would undermine the credibility of Amazon as a search engine of retail, opening the space for others to take their search dominance.

  • james
    11 months ago

    I’m still amazed amazon keep getting hammered for things ebay do brazenly.
    is this really any different from promoted listings?
    skew search results to whatever is most profitable for the platform first,
    sounds exactly like promoted listings to me. they advertise it as just that.
    – and if it’s okay for ebay to do it, surely it’s okay for amazon to do the same
    thing and give themselves a boost? when i buy advertising from myself i
    always give me a great deal.

    • 11 months ago

      @James, not at all like eBay, I am not saying they do not do it but not in the way you are saying. They may do that in their Best Match search results but I do not know.

      Sponsored listings on eBay are clearly marked as being sponsored, the same as on Amazon, where they too have sponsored items.

      This is about manipulating searches to show the most profitable item or usually the most expensive.

      I am being encouraged to join the “Seller Fulfilled Prime”, which I have done, and this apparently will send my sales sky high. The down side is: to cover the extra cost of using RM Tracked 24 and extra VAT / Amazon fees I am having to put up my prices by £3.30. This amount does not cover any extra profit for me.

      Prime Pay More = Amazon Make More.

    • james
      11 months ago


      Prime was never advertised as a budget offering, it’s a premium service, people know they pay for it, apparently twice now with seller-fulfilled but that’s a different story.

      I don’t think the issue is about seller-fulfilled or prime though, it’s about amazon floating their own prodcuts to the top, because apparently they make the most money (though i’ve heard the opposite is true, amazon profit most from 3p sellers, but the article doesn’t seem to suggest that’s the case).

      ebay floats whatever sponsored listing paid most to the top, it’s more brazen yes, but the outcome is exactly the same, most profitable item for marketplace gets top spot gets most sales. actual price or quality of item/seller is of less relevence.
      – in fact it’s a good bet the top paying sponsored listings on ebay are a really bad offering for the consumer. at least Amazon’s own items are generally a good offer.

    • 11 months ago

      @james People join Prime for a lot more reasons than free shipping or fast delivery, but like you say, that is not the issue it was just a side comment.

      The issue of manipulating listings is completely different to sponsored listings which are paid for, these are available on both Amazon & eBay.

      It is the natural search results on Amazon that are being manipulated, which could also happen on eBay with best match as sponsored listings will always be at the top as you would expect them to be.

    • james
      11 months ago

      @ Tyler.

      I think you may have nailed it – what’s a Natural search result?
      There’s no such thing. they’re all manufactured, and the order they come out in is the order the person who manufactured the search algorithm wants you to see.
      “Best Match” for who?
      We’re all certain that eBay do manipulate best match, but without any proof we’re just shouting in the wind, the sponsored listings on the other hand are advertised to do exactly that, manipulate search to put the most profitable for ebay at the top.

      just because it says ‘sponsored’ on it doesn’t change the fact that’s exactly what’s going on. Perhaps amazon are technically running promoted listings, but don’t feel the need to say promoted, because they’re promoting themselves. bit like ebay hiding argos’ feedback.

      Don’t get me wrong, i hardly consider the practice “ethical” on Amazon’s part either, but it’s mildly sneaky at worst.
      I go into any high street store, and someone has paid them to put their product in prime postion, to offer their extended warranties, to sign you up to some service, not because that’s the best one for me, just because that makes the store more profit.
      – we all expect this now, it’s normal. But when amazon does something similar it’s as if we’re all brainless sheep that don’t expect amazon to have amazon’s best interests at heart.

  • ifellow
    11 months ago

    No comments, because no one is surprised and this is highly expected.

    As per standard, ‘We are a marketplace’ so we are not liable for anything.

    As also expected every organisation that can do something, is too weak to do so.

    Long live Amazon & its tax fraudulent Chinese marketplace partners!

    • theghostofjames
      11 months ago

      I had actually commented earlier, but apparently i’m outright banned from tamebay these days. :-/
      never did nothing worth banning, and not even a warning too! i’ve been censored! lol.

    • 11 months ago

      Hi James, apologies it looks like your comments weren’t like by spam filters – let me know if they don’t appear in future

  • Bernard McNamee
    11 months ago

    Amazon are making headlines this week, with reports of the marketplace allegedly changing their product search in an attempt to double-deal the system to gain higher visibility over their marketplace merchants.

    Where’s the juice???

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