UNDERSTANDING AND PICKING AMAZON CATEGORY NODES
FIRST, A QUICK ANECDOTE
A long-term client recently came to me with concerns regarding her Amazon listing and a dramatic drop in sales over the past few months. Up until the tail end of 2018, this particular client had been enjoying a solid year of steady income, selling weighted blankets.
Of course, a sudden dive in sales could be attributed to multiple variables. Unless you are patient or savvy enough to rule out each potential possibility, it can be nearly impossible to hone in on the culprit.
This client’s issues just so happened to coincide with Amazon’s introduction of their beta version of Seller Central, so I was first curious to see if this client’s Seller Central was updated and cataloged properly. It wasn’t.
But before I explain what was wrong with the particular listing, let’s first clarify what category nodes are and how they work.
WHAT IS A CATEGORY NODE ON AMAZON?
In short, a category node is a funnel of subcategories used to catalog your product on Amazon. A category node on the top left corner of a listing, as shown below:
However, the category node doesn’t appear on listings for customer-facing Amazon pages, so you may have to go through your Seller Central account to find what category node your product is currently listed in. Another trick to check the category node of a listing is to delete the section in the URL that corresponds with the Seller SKU Name, found here:
By erasing that section of the URL, the category node of a listing will appear on the listing.
Until recently, when a person set up their Seller Central account, they would simply type in the name of their product in the category item type field, and Amazon would use that information (as well as differentiators in other backend areas) to classify a product.
Now, with the new Seller Central roll-out, you can select the category node you want your product to be found in via the Product Classifier Tool. This is important to understand because the category node that you choose could potentially impact how your listing indexes, ranks, and with whom it competes against.
HOW TO PICK A CATEGORY NODE USING AMAZON’S PRODUCT CLASSIFIER TOOL
Through your Seller Central Account, find the Product Classifying Tool by searching for it in the search bar. Once you get to the page, you’ll input the name of the product you are selling in the search toolbar, as shown below:
Based on what you entered in the search tool, Amazon will spit out a list of possible category nodes for you to choose:
When you find the category node that best suits your product, selects it. It’s important to note that there isn’t always a “right” or “wrong” way to classify your product – there are just bad ones, better ones, and the best one depending on how you want your product to be found on.
Once you’ve selected the category node that best fits your product, hit the “GENERATE TEMPLATE” button and that will initiate the category node change. (You can save the flat file that this button creates for personal use later, but it isn’t necessary.)
WHY ARE CATEGORY NODES SO IMPORTANT?
Where your product is listed on Amazon can influence how you are found and what products you are competing against.
Let’s use cheese boards as an example. Say you typed in “cheese board” into the Product Classifier’s search tool. These are the category node options that that phrase would generate:
And while “cheese boards” and “cheese servers” may not seem all that different at face value, when you compare the chain of subcategories in all the available nodes, you realize that there really IS a difference.
For example, if you weren’t paying close enough attention and you selected one of the category nodes under “Industrial and Scientific” as opposed to “Home and Kitchen”, your product would be up against commercial-grade cutting boards as opposed to decorative serving platters. Overlooking that “minor” detail could potentially create long-term consequences.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR COMPETITION
The majority of products on Amazon have a fairly obvious category node with which to be listed under. However, that isn’t ALWAYS the case.
For instance, if you are selling a drink tumbler on Amazon, there is a wide selection of category nodes you could potentially be in and all of them would have value. Narrowing it down to one is all about strategy and understanding your target audience and competition. If your travel bottle is designed more for athletes who are into sports and outdoor activities, then you’ll want to be in a category node that best aligns with that. If, however, your tumbler is geared more toward tea and coffee drinkers for in-home use, it doesn’t make much sense for you to be in Sports and Outdoors.
A good way to figure out which category node best suits your product is to check out where all the competitors are listed. This can help guide your decision on picking the best node for your product.
BACK TO THE CLIENT WITH THE WEIGHTED BLANKET
A quick review of her listing revealed that she was in the correct DOMINANT category, but she wasn’t deep enough in a CATEGORY NODE. Virtually, all of her competitors that were selling weighted blankets were in the following node:
Home & Kitchen > Bedding > Blankets & Throws > Weighted Blankets
But this particular client’s listing was in:
Home & Kitchen > Bedding
This means she wasn’t JUST competing with weighted blankets – she was competing against any product that was in bedding. Obviously, “bedding” is a significantly broader and larger pool to compete when compared to the more specific sub-category of “weighted blankets.”
While being in the best category node for your listing isn’t a guarantee that your product will do well, it certainly increases your chances. This is particularly true on mobile, in which the customer is often redirected into departments other with fewer steps than on desktop. Furthermore, the keywords or keyword phrases you decide to go after when creating campaigns or PPC might change based on which category node your listing resides.