Amazon and Walmart are two of the biggest names in eCommerce, attracting millions of customers through competitive prices, extensive product selections, and super fast deliveries. To sell online, you should be on at least one of these sales channels. To succeed online, you should be on both.
But selling on Walmart and Amazon isn’t as simple as duplicating listings and copying ads. To be successful on both marketplaces, you must be seen on both. This requires an understanding of the relationship between paid and organic search results on Walmart vs. Amazon.
The importance of the paid vs. organic relationship
Online marketplaces have become search engines in their own right. In fact, 54% of product searches take place on Amazon, making it the second-largest search engine in the world after Google.
Just like Google, the marketplace search results page is a battleground for paid and organic results. Online sellers can optimize their listings to rank high for relevant search terms or pay their way to the top. Which should you focus on, paid or organic?
Well, actually, both are important for:
- Maximizing clicks – Reaching both the customers who click the first results returned (paid) and those who bypass the ads(organic).
- Establishing trust – Showing shoppers that you’ve earnt your way to the top through genuine purchases and positive reviews or your established enough to afford advertisements.
- Starting the flywheel effect – Using ads to gain views, clicks, and sales for new products that can’t yet rank on their own, generating the traction needed for organic ranking.
- Standing out from your competition – Appearing above competitors with an ad or directly below them as the first organic result.
Having a balanced paid and organic presence is vital on both Amazon and Walmart, but how you go about that is vitally different.
The differences between Walmart and Amazon paid search
From a shoppers point of view, paid ads on Walmart and Amazon seem to follow the same premise. You see a listing higher because someone paid for it.
But as a seller, there are crucial differences between Walmart and Amazon paid search that affects your cost, results, and ROI.
The first difference between Amazon and Walmart advertising is the type of ad you can run.
Walmart has recently introduced Walmart Sponsored Products, formerly known as Walmart Performance ads. These appear in search results or as carousels and banners on product pages.
Amazon has a slightly more comprehensive selection of Amazon advertising options, including sponsored listings that appear in search results and on product pages, sponsored brands that appear as a customized headline in search results, and sponsored displays that appear across the Amazon network.
Amazon and Walmart ads are both CPC bid ads. You bid on target keywords but only pay when someone clicks on your displayed ad. However, the bidding model is slightly different for both.
Walmart runs a first-price bid auction, where the highest bidder pays their full bid when their ad is clicked. Amazon runs a second-price bid auction, where the highest bidder wins the placement and only pays the second-highest bid when their ad is clicked.
That doesn’t necessarily make Amazon the cheaper option. Amazon’s second-price auction can potentially lead to inflate prices, with brands bidding high, knowing they won’t have to pay the full figure. Plus, Amazon has significantly more competition than Walmart, further driving up CPC prices.
It’s important to understand how Walmart and Amazon target paid ads to put them in front of the right customers.
Walmart Sponsored Products use keyword targeting. You automatically or manually select up to 220 relevant keywords per campaign, designating them exact, phrase, or broad match.
In Amazon, you can manually or automatically select up to 1,000 relevant keywords per campaign, designating them as exact, phrase, or broad match. You can also add product targeting, categories, and negative keywords to fine-tune your audience. Sponsored Display ads go even further, using browsing and buying signals to find relevant customers for your products automatically.
Eligibility and restrictions
Not everyone can advertise on Amazon and Walmart.
To qualify for Walmart Sponsored Products, your product must already rank organically within the top three pages (128 results), be winning the buy box, and be in stock.
To qualify for Amazon Sponsored Products, your product must own the buy box, be in stock, and not be a restricted product (i.e., an adult, used, refurbished, or closed category product). To advertise using Sponsored Brands, you must also enroll in the Amazon Brand Registry and have two or more products in stock.
These restrictions can make it difficult to advertise a new product, especially on Walmart, but once you’ve qualified, that means there is notably less competition.
Now to the all-important placement of your ads in the search results.
Walmart only allows two sponsored products per search results page, which means your ad has less chance of appearing but more chance of being favorably received by shoppers (ad fatigue is a dangerous thing).
Amazon is extremely ad-heavy, with paid results occupying a significant proportion of the first-page search results. This gives you more chance of being placed, but means you’re still competing for attention even when you win a bid.
Effect on organic placement
Although they’re in a different bucket, marketplace ads can positively affect the organic ranking of your listings. Walmart Sponsored Products directly improve the organic ranking of your listings, while Amazon advertisements indirectly improve organic ranking through increased clicks, sales, and customer reviews.
Finally, let’s look at the reporting functionality for Amazon and Walmart.
Walmart’s self-serve advertising is relatively new to the eCommerce scene. While its API allows you to analyze campaign performance, we expect far more detailed metrics to become available shortly. According to Pacvue, we should expect better data from Walmart. One interesting feature is the ability to map site search to in-store sales and performance, which can give you a deeper insight into the link between online and in-store behavior.
Amazon has the benefit of experience with analytics, offering sellers targeted, campaign, search term, placement, and performance over time reports. However, sellers are still critical of the detail that Amazon’s reports go into, and many hope Walmart will offer a more insightful experience
- A deep dive into Walmart Sponsored Products
- Amazon Advertising – A guide to setting up your first campaign
- Differences between optimizing your ad strategy on Walmart vs Amazon
- A brief primer to advertising on Amazon and Walmart
The differences between Walmart and Amazon organic search
The relationship between Walmart and Amazon paid search gives sellers a lot to consider, but it doesn’t stop there either. There are significant differences between Walmart and Amazon organic search results, too.
The placement of paid ads directly affects where the organic search results begin and how crucial it is for you to rank in the first positions.
As mentioned, Walmart allows only two ads per search results page, giving organic results the most real estate. This means that ranking high organically is crucial, whether or not you’re running ads. For an expensive CPC keyword, you may have more chance ranking in the organic search results than the paid.
It also means that there’s plenty of room for organic listings on the first page of the search results, which means you can still drive traffic even if you’re not yet at spots #1 or #2.
In contrast, ads dominate Amazon on all platforms. We’ve noticed a difference in the desktop and mobile browser and app placements on our end.
- Desktop and mobile browser = Sponsored Brand > Sponsored Products > Amazon’s Choice/Best Seller > organic.
- Amazon app = Sponsored Brand > Amazon’s Choice/Best Seller > organic > Sponsored Products > organic.
As you can see, ranking in the first one or two organic spots is crucial if you’re to have any chance of being seen on the Amazon browser or mobile app.
To appear high in the organic search results, you must optimize your listings accordingly.
The Walmart and Amazon search algorithms are similar in many respects, both looking for:
- High-quality product images, including different angles, details, closeness, and product uses.
- A clear product title/name, using relevant and descriptive keywords.
- An informative product description/details, using keywords, bullet points, and detailed information.
- Positive customer reviews about both the product and the seller.
Where they differ is where the marketplace asks for and displays different information about a product.
For example, Walmart sellers can add rich content such as demos, 360 photographs, and manuals, key features (also known as Highlights), and product attributes. Amazon sellers can add questions and answers, additional product details, and category information.
The basic rule is that the more relevant information and keywords you can add to your listing, the better.
While we’re on the subject of keywords, their input differs slightly on Walmart vs. Amazon.
Walmart takes keywords from your listings, namely the product name, description, and key features. Previously, sellers were only able to bid on the product level, with your ads shown based on relevance. Last year, they introduced keyword bidding, which allows merchants to specify exactly which keywords they want to go after.
Amazon takes keywords from your listings but also allows you to add keywords and search terms in the background. This gives you more to work with, but also more to think about.
Listing and keyword optimization aren’t the only methods of increasing your position in the organic search results on Walmart and Amazon.
Walmart boosts listings that offer Walmart TwoDay Delivery, are winning the Walmart buy box, and offer competitive pricing, especially against Amazon. Check out our analysis of the Walmart website preferences when it comes to 2-day delivery.
Likewise, Amazon preferences listings that qualify for Amazon Prime, are winning the buy box, and are competitive on price.
Finally, the best way to improve your organic search presence is to ensure that you’re in the search results in the first place. Both Walmart and Amazon have different rules for unpublishing listings.
Walmart operates a pricing rule, which means any listing considered uncompetitive or unfairly priced (thereby affecting the shopping experience) is removed automatically. This includes products that can be purchased and shipped significantly cheaper on Amazon. Be sure to read more about the top reasons for a Walmart de-listing.
Amazon operates a pricing error rule, which means any listing it thinks is erroneously priced is deactivated automatically, to avoid a potentially negative customer experience.
A listing on either platform with no inventory or not complying with listing requirements (e.g., character limits), is suppressed until corrected.
- An introduction to Amazon’s A9 algorithm
- 8 ways to optimize your Amazon listings
- Walmart listing optimization quick wins
Walmart vs. Amazon: Paid vs. organic
This isn’t a guide on whether Walmart or Amazon and paid or organic search is better. That depends on how long you’ve been selling, what you’re selling, and how it’s selling.
Walmart receives five times less web traffic than Amazon and is fairly new to the self-serve advertising game. However, with significantly fewer sellers on the platform, the 14:1 rule of selling on Walmart means that it’s far easier to rank in the paid and organic search results and convert customers. Plus, we’re expecting new and extensive features to be released over the next year or two.
Amazon is a hugely competitive marketplace for organic and paid search, which can be costly and difficult to master. But, that’s because it has a vast and diverse audience. This means that if you can rank in the paid and organic search results, you can generate significant sales.
On both platforms, paid search gives you a helping hand to the top of the search results where you can win more clicks and conversion, or brand awareness and recognition. Organic search gives you an earned spot at the top, where you can convert customers based on reputation and trust, or qualify to advertise your products across the rest of the platform.
The only important factor is that you know how to get to the top of the search results in the quickest and most cost-effective way.