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Does Amazon Favor Their Own Products in Search Results?

Search engine optimization, commonly abbreviated as SEO, is nothing new. In fact, it’s an art form that has been mastered and refined throughout the years. Used to optimize a website or other piece of online content in order to maximize its exposure through modern search engines, SEO is a legitimate field that employs many successful experts and entrepreneurs.

However, as useful as SEO is, it can also be used for nefarious purposes. Some use SEO to falsely advertise their services; all to receive more clicks than their competitors. Others, as recent reports allege, could use SEO on their own site to advertise their own brands over the products of their competition.

According to a recent investigation, led by the team with The Markup, that’s exactly what Amazon is doing.

The Problem With Amazon

Per a recent report, Amazon has been suspected of fudging their search results for quite some time. While some brands, particularly those from small businesses, can take months or even years to attain placement in the top search results, some sellers on the site are noticing a disturbing new trend. Whenever Amazon introduces a new brand of its own, it seems to rank amongst the top search results almost immediately.

But Amazon is adamant that this not the case. In 2019, they told U.S. Congress that its site-based search results never factor in the brand of a product. However, they recently clarified this statement by adding an exception for products that are featured from their brands.

An Amazon spokesperson was recently quoted as saying: ''“We do not favor our store brand products through search. These placements are clearly labeled to distinguish them from search results. The type and amount of merchandising shown to a customer depends on many factors, including the customer's query, the product the customer's shopping for, and whether the customer is shopping on desktop, mobile browser, or in our app.”''

Digging Even Deeper

The Markup took their investigation one step further with a national survey. According to their survey, nine out of 10 respondents failed to identify Amazon’s top-selling brands. Apart from Amazon Basics, which has the brand listed right in the title, the majority of the survey’s respondents failed to identify any of their other brands – including Whole Foods, Goodthreads, Solimo, Champion, Brooklinen, and more.

It’s also important to note that this isn’t the first time that Amazon’s come under fire for similar practices. In 2020, they denied allegations that they were using data from their third-party sellers to develop and sell new products within their existing Amazon brands. Jeff Bezos, who was still Amazon’s CEO at the time, said that they were expressly forbidden from using data from their sellers in order to benefit their own brands.

According to some experts, Amazon could be accused of being a monopoly if their search results do favor their own, in-house brands over their competitors. Interestingly enough, all of this comes at a time when U.S. congress is considering a series of new anti-monopoly bills, many of which are aimed directly a IT companies like Amazon.


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