How to Choose the Best Amazon Product Category
By Tina Marie Bueno | April 26th, 2016
If a Seller is adding a new product to the Amazon catalog, choosing the appropriate category is a fairly straightforward task. What if there are better ways to categorize what you are selling? Could that improve your Best Seller Ranking? Yes!
What options do you really have?
I will use an Eye Mask as an example throughout this post. Before reading further, think of possible categories you might consider listing this product in. How many different options come to mind? How about Beauty… or Health Care… or Travel Accessories… or Sports & Fitness… or Industrial & Scientific? Naturally, a Seller usually has decided a category before launching a product. However, like the Eye Mask, there may be a slew of other categories not even considered during the preliminary period. Which category would be best? I will help you answer that question shortly.
Heads up, there is an underlying assumption in this article: This is for private labeled products. This means no one else has listed the product previously with the same UPC or name brand. In other words, your new product does not already exist in Amazon’s catalog. This is fundamental since a new product listing enables the Seller to actually choose a category rather than automatic placement due to an already registered product.
Classifying a New Product
As Amazon Sellers too, we at iLoveToReview know the enthusiasm surrounding a new product launch. Navigating the plethora of guidelines, regulations and how-to’s can be time consuming and often Sellers jump into a category without being fully informed or doing some worthwhile research on competing similar products.
On a side note: Don’t be impatiently tempted to use the Everything Else category if your product doesn’t match any of the other options listed or belongs in a category that requires approval, or is restricted or prohibited. The Everything Else category is for collectibles and other products that do not clearly belong in other categories but are not on the approval needed list.
Categories Requiring Approval
While there are more than 20 categories considered open for selling on Amazon without specific permission, get familiar with the ones requiring approval as it will take a few days to process. Only Sellers on the Professional Selling Plan ($39.99/month) can apply for approval. Why does Amazon limit instant listing access to those categories? It is a quality control mechanism.
The list below are the categories that currently require approval.
How to Request Approval
Fortunately, it’s not a complicated process to obtain approval:
- Use this particular Contact Us link.
- Fill out the form.
- Submit your request.
You will receive an e-mail response in approximately three business days stating approval for selling or requesting additional information.
After approval, there may be some additional communications necessary with Seller Support to assist in switching products into the approved category. Never assume it is completed.
Running a Reconnaissance Mission
One way to discover which category and subcategories could work best for your product is by conducting a search on page one competitors. Run a generic product search. In our example: Eye Masks –not travel masks, beauty masks, etc.
Select All Departments to get a better bird’s eye view of page one listings for Eye Masks.
Now look at the top one or two AND the lower ranking Seller that is still listed on page one. Follow this practice exercise and apply to any new product you are or will be listing.
I selected the following since it is ranked as the #1 Best Seller with over 4,000 reviews and an overall 4.5-star rating. Notice the main category displayed up front is Health & Personal Care. This is also the first category listed in the general search above.
Next, go to the product page and scroll to the Best Seller Ranking (BSR) to view the categories this competitor used:
Keep the product page open as a reference. Next, from your Seller account, go to the Add a Product page.
You could click through the automatic categories listed on the Add a New Product page…
however, it is a bit limited and does not show the category and subcategory pathways as seen in the BSR from our example. Odd, right? Here are a few examples to demonstrate that point…
#1 in Health & Personal Care > Personal Care > Skin Care > Eyes > Masks & Pillows
It stops at the Skin Care subcategory.
#1 in Health & Personal Care > Health Care > Sleep & Snoring > Sleeping Masks
It stops at the > Sleep & Snoring.
#1 in Sports & Outdoors > Sports & Fitness > Exercise & Fitness > Yoga > Silk Eye Bags
Sporting Goods is the closest for the Sports & Outdoors high-category used by the #1 Best Seller example.
Now that we know the automatic category listings are somewhat limited, we have another resource to access.
Still on the Add a Product page, fill in “Search for your product’s category” and click on “Find a Category” as shown below:
The left side provides an opportunity to Refine Your Search. Notice the same high-level categories in our example are showing up here…
Following through on the high-level category called Health & Personal Care, opens up to even more options:
Here is where we discover the two categories used by our #1 Best Seller example as seen by the red arrows.
Rinse and Repeat Variation
Go through that same process now with the lower ranking Seller on page one that is also a direct competitor.
Notice this Eye Mask only has 390 reviews with an average 4.4 star rating yet are on page one! Their BSR?
#18 in Health & Personal Care >Health Care > Sleep & Snoring >Sleeping Masks
As you can see, they too are using one of the same categories as the #1 Best Seller and only have 390 reviews. Can you beat the lower listing on page one using that same main and subcategories? That’s highly possible. As long as the basics are covered with: a quality product; excellent images, strong product descriptions/keywords, more quality reviews, competitive pricing, good Account Health metrics, and FBA.
Taking the time to go through this process for any new product listing reveals valuable information in multiple ways:
- Mirroring page one of competitor category paths
- Steering strategies to become a first page listing
- Improving SEO by collecting all of the category words for keyword search terms, ad campaigns, and product descriptions
- Inspiring possible new products in the same category
While this may seem time consuming at first, the practical side of this process leads to making sure you select the best category where there is room to be competitive, opportunities to earn first page listing, and move up in Best Seller Ranking.
Tina Marie Bueno is a global citizen with an MBA in Int’l Business plus over 20 years of content marketing experience both in the U.S. and overseas. As iLoveToReview’s Marketing Director, she strives to deliver relevant content to serve Amazon businesses of all sizes.