Why Amazon search is bad for your business.

Amazon recently changed their search engine parameters and the results are pretty dreadful.

Whilst not perfect, before a couple of months ago, when entering “David E. Gates” as a search string, it would invariably return most of my publications on the first page.

Amazon Search

At best, I now only see my author page as the second result and my latest publication ninth on the list. However, the results now are very inconsistent and frequently return NONE of my books on their first page. Other results include anyone with “David” in their name or “Gate” in the title which overrides what one would expect from entering the full string of “David E. Gates”. One result which is always featured is:

Hamish and the GravityBurp (Hamish 3) by Danny Wallace and Jamie Littler

How on EARTH does the search return this in relation to “David E. Gates”?
For a long time, Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney always appeared at the top of my search results. Again, nothing in that title or author’s name that can possibly be linked to  “David E. Gates”. It still appears, though on subsequent pages. Baffling!
I contacted Amazon who simply fobbed me off every few weeks saying their “technical team” were looking into it. Confounded by potentially lost sales, with those not being able to see my publications when they search for my name, I wrote directly to Amazon’s head office with my complaint.
After a couple of weeks, they responded thus:
We are not able to modify the search results for titles on our site. The order of the items that appear when searching for “david e. gates” is determined automatically by our system from information such as past sales history, current availability and length of time the items have been listed on our site.”
I would suggest they change the criteria that returns results, as some publications have been on the site significantly less than mine and mine are all currently available in a variety of formats. I have no data regarding the number of sales but question why the sales history is important as a search result? Surely by increasing the relevance of results, you can anticipate more sales? Hiding results merely stops any potential buyer of my works from seeing, and in consequence buying, them!
It was a frustrating response from Amazon to which I wrote back the following:
“That is ABSOLUTE NONSENSE! What a joke! If J K Rowling or Stephen King’s search results brought up none of their books, I’m sure you’d sort that out!!!

Plus, it USED to work! YOU CHANGED SOMETHING recently and it suddenly – literally ONE DAY TO THE NEXT – STOPPED working!

Really not happy about this and if not sorted will remove ALL references to Amazon from my publicity and links. What’s the point of my directing people to your pages if a search on my exact name doesn’t even produce ANY results????

VERY disappointed and would ask that you refer/escalate this appropriately.”

I also told them to compare Apple’s search results I get on Apple’s iTunes store – a search for my name there reveals ALL of my books!


I received another response from them:
While researching this issue I took a moment to search for your book by typing in your author name and found all your book listed in our search results here:

– Page 1 = The Wretched
– Page 4 = The Roots of Evil
– Page 8 = The Ghost of Clothes
– Page 5 = Access Denied
– Page 19 = First Words
– Page 29 = Omonolidee (I’m on Holiday): Black & White Version

A search query on Amazon.co.uk functions much like an internet search engine, producing results for each of the words separately and in relation to one another.

The order of items that appear when searching for your title is determined automatically by our system from information such as past sales history, current availability, and the length of time it has been listed on our site. These factors change and the search results are continually being updated to reflect those changes.

I am sorry that I don’t have better news for you.”

Put my name into an Internet search engine and the results related to me FILL the first page. This occurs on www.bing.com AND www.google.com so it’s no comparison!
It’s like putting in “cat” and getting results about dogs!
They clearly don’t get what it SHOULD return. Apple get it right. Put my name into the iTunes bookstore and ALL my books are shown on the first page!!
Not spread over twenty-nine pages!! How likely is a potential buyer going to scan through two or three pages, let alone more than twenty?
Not only that, but their latest response was from a no-reply mailbox. We all know how annoying THAT is when you reply and get a message back saying “Undelivered!”
So, without any resolution from them after MONTHS of trying to get them to understand and sort it out, I’m removing all references to Amazon from my advertising/promotional materials. I’ll direct people to Smashwords to download the Kindle versions and Apple for the iBook versions. I’m working on the provision of a direct print-on-demand service I can utilise for the paperback versions so I don’t need to rely on Amazon for that either.
I don’t see why I should promote a company that does little to help people at least find my books! It’s hard enough trying to get them to sell without someone’s ridiculous search results hindering the process as well!
David E. Gates.

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