Making it to #1 on Amazon Best Sellers list will give any seller a rush.
No matter if you are an experienced Amazon guru seller or you have just started your seller journey.
However, most sellers will quickly discover that their place on top can rapidly descend into a vicious game of “King of the Hill” as every other seller looks to topple them from their spot.
Unlike the childhood game that no doubt got banned from your school playground to keep you and your classmates from shoving each other off the top of the ‘hill’, Amazon Best Sellers Rank embraces the competitive nature of the real-life game of ecommerce.
One minute you could be on Amazon top seller list, the next you could be at the bottom of the pile.
How this is even possible is a total mystery to many Amazon sellers.
Fortunately, while no one except Amazon knows the exact science behind the algorithm that feeds the never-ending game of “King of the Hill”, it is possible to break down Amazon BSR to examine what it is, how it generally works, and how to use the metric to your advantage.
What is BSR (Amazon’s Best Sellers Rank)?
There are hundreds of millions of products on Amazon.
Being the ecommerce giant that it is, Amazon has found ways to not only identify each product but also track the sales of each one over time.
Tracking sales allows Amazon to know which products customers prefer so that they can sell more of them and make more money. Pretty simple.
The algorithm that communicates this information to Amazon produces what is known as the Amazon Best Sellers Rank.
Products that rank higher in the system get greater exposure on the overall best sellers list, as well as on the various category and sub-category pages where different products can be found.
You can also find a product’s Best Sellers Rank (BSR) in the product details sections of its individual listing.
The Amazon BSR for the category and sub-categories that have been selected for the product will all be listed.
But what do these numbers really mean and how much should you care about them?
In a nutshell, all that these numbers are communicating is how many orders one product has received in comparison to all the rest of the products in a given category within a certain timeframe.
The best-selling product in a category will have the #1 BSR for that category, the second best-selling product will rank #2 and so on and so forth.
As simple as the Best Sellers Rank may seem on the surface, it gets a little more complicated when you stop and ask: ''What does Amazon actually mean by ‘best-selling’?''
How Does the BSR Work in General?
It gets even more complicated when you take into account that Amazon does not share its algorithm for determining the BSR.
Everything we know about the Amazon Best Sellers Rank is from observing how the metric operates and responds to new data in real time.
On the bright side, we can extrapolate quite a bit of information just from this type of observation. On the frustrating side of things, we can never know exactly how is Amazon BSR calculated.
And, to add a drop more of frustration, Amazon tends to change its algorithms on a regular basis. Whether this is to improve customer experience or just to keep us all speculating, we don’t really know.
So, while the definition of ‘best-selling’ is a calculated science for Amazon, the rest of us are left to work in less definite terms.
However, though we may not know exactly how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together, we can get a pretty good picture by simply laying out the information that we have.
Here’s what we know:
1. The BSR Is Extremely Dynamic
The BSR is in a constant state of change.
Amazon has even acknowledged that they update the sales rank every hour. And, from observation, it appears that the sale of a product will be calculated into its sales rank within 2-3 hours following a purchase.
Because of this dynamic nature, you’d be hard-pressed to find a product that maintains the same BSR over the course of a day, or even a few hours.
In fact, even just one purchase can swing a product’s Best Sellers Rank by tens, if not hundreds of thousands of places.
It is not uncommon to see dramatic fluctuations in a product’s sales rank every time Amazon updates the BSR.
Unaware of the dynamic nature of the BSR, many Amazon top sellers tend to lean on the metric as an absolute indicator of a product’s overall sales.
Yet, at best, it is a relative snapshot of past sales.
There is no such thing as a “yoga mat that is ranked 100,000” or “a yoga mat that is ranked 950,000.” There are simply yoga mats with a current ranking of 100,000 or 950,000. With a few sales (or lack thereof), the yoga mat with a BSR of 950,000 could quickly gain a BSR of 95,000.
All the sales rank really tells you is how long it has been since someone last purchased the item.
If you want a more reliable look at how well a product is selling, you would need to follow that product’s BSR over the period of a day, week, month, or more.
The Takeaway: The BSR is a relative snapshot of recent sales and is not the most reliable indicator of how well a product is selling unless you track that product’s BSR over a longer period of time.
2. The BSR is Relative to Other Products
Another common misconception is that the Best Sellers Rank is a linear representation of the number of products you sell.
Sellers begin to think that their product exists in a vacuum in which all that matters to get a better BSR is to sell more of their product.
While that usually helps, the logic is slightly off.
The key to getting a better BSR isn’t necessarily to sell more of your product, but to sell more of it than anyone else in your category.
This is because the Amazon Seller Ranking is relative to the other products in your category.
If someone were to buy one of every product in a category in a single transaction, no sales rank would change.
Similarly, if you sold one yoga mat between 3-4 pm and someone else with a higher (i.e., worse) BSR sold three yoga mats in that same time period, your sales rank would likely drop while theirs would rise.
It is also important to note that a single product can be listed in more than one category.
This is why one product may be ranked #23 in a sub-category – say, Countertop Blenders – and #2,463 in an overall category – in this case, Kitchen & Dining.
Categories are a very convenient way to organize the products available within Amazon, and it’s much more favorable for sellers to compete for a BSR among like products than to compete with the hundreds of millions of products available for purchase on the platform.
But understanding the relative nature of the BSR according to each product and category is important when it comes to judging whether or not a product is a good investment.
The safest bet when selecting a product to sell is to aim for the top 1% of a given category. But, like the BSR, the size of the top 1% will vary by category.
A blender ranked #50 on Amazon could be selling 70 units a day while a book ranked #200 could be selling 500 copies a day.
The difference is that the blender is only competing with 30,000 other items, while the book is competing with millions.
The Takeaway: The BSR is not a direct linear translation of the number of sales a product is making. Sales and rank will both vary by category and by the number and type of products within each category.
3. Recent Sales Hold More Weight in the BSR
Just from observation, it is strikingly clear that the single-most important factors in calculating the BSR are the amount of time that has passed since the most recent sale and the number of sales that have recently been made.
These two things, more than anything else, will determine your BSR.
Timing is everything. Sales today are more heavily weighted than sales made last week, last month, or last year.
Even a product that had six sales a year ago will rank lower than a product that only made three sales six months ago.
The older product has more sales, but the three-sales product is more recent, winning the overall BSR equation.
For that reason, one of the best ways to utilize the BSR as a metric is to simply view it as a measure of the period of time since an item last sold.
The Takeaway: The more recent a sale, the better the BSR. Starting from one hour after a product sells, its BSR will worsen until another sale is made. The more time that passes between sales, the worse the BSR will become. Conversely, the more sales made, the better the BSR (relative to other products sold, of course).
4. Sales Stability Comes Second
Historical sales also play into the overall BSR algorithm. What is unclear is exactly how much weight those past sales have in the calculation.
From what we can tell, however, the most significant impact of past sales on the BSR is what they indicate about the product’s long-term sales stability.
Historical data from the sales made in the past weeks, months, and years indicate the popularity of a product overall.
If a product’s sales history shows relative consistency or inconsistency, this can affect its BSR.
For instance, a product that has a history of selling well tends to maintain a more stable BSR, even if no one has purchased it recently.
Conversely, a product that has not sold well in the past and jumps from 950,000 to 95,000 after a couple purchases will see its BSR quickly sink back to its former position unless it makes more sales.
The Takeaway: The more consistently a product performs, the more stable its Amazon Seller Ranking. BSR is an indicator of both how well a product has sold in the past and how well it has sold in the last few hours. You cannot know exactly which of the two is represented by a product’s BSR unless you track it over time.
5. Other Factors May Influence BSR
It is unclear if or how other factors influence a product’s Best Sellers Rank.
For instance, there is quite a bit of speculation about how a product’s number of reviews and review ranking play into its BSR. Some argue that it has no effect, others say that it is critical.
Without knowing Amazon’s exact algorithm, we really can’t know.
What we do know is that reviews are important for other reasons, so don’t ignore them simply because you can’t confirm that they are part of the BSR calculation.
There are other arguments that the BSR is order dependent and unit independent.
This would mean that an order of 90 items would hold the same weight as an order of one. We don’t have enough information to confirm this one either.
We also don’t have enough information to confirm or deny whether or not factors like customer complaints, list price, browse category, or product availability influence the BSR.
They could, but we can never know with certainty.
Where we do have slightly more information is cancelations & returns.
If an order is cancelled soon after the purchase was made, sales rank usually goes unaffected.
If an item is returned, on the other hand, this can negatively affect the BSR. However, it will not return it to where it was before the purchase was made.
The Takeaway: Other factors could influence BSR, but is unclear how much of an impact they have or if they have an impact at all. The main factors like recent sales and sales stability are weighted much more heavily and are much easier to test and track.
How Can You Use the BSR?
A lot of Amazon sellers will use the Amazon Sales Ranking as if it were a law set in stone by which they can judge a product’s potential and performance.
As we have seen, this isn’t true by any measure.
The BSR is much more like an ocean of information – relative and dynamic – than a law set in stone.
However, that ocean of information is still one of the best measures we have to conduct product research and benchmark how well our own products are doing in comparison to the competition.
Understanding the points in the last section can help us better use the BSR to do both.
1. Product Research
While the Best Sellers Rank is not a great tool for determining the exact number of sales for a given item, it is a good tool for measuring demand for a product.
If you’re looking to invest in a new product, the first question you should ask is whether or not the product can generate enough demand.
BSR can tell you that in general terms.
The best tactic is to have a buying formula that works for you.
We mentioned earlier that it is best to look at items in the top 1%. Some people may have a higher tolerance for risk and don’t mind trying products in the top 10%. Figure out what you are comfortable with and then stick to it.
If the Kitchen & Dining category yields 30,000 results and your risk tolerance allows you to look at the top 10%, ignore any product above a BSR of 3,000.
If your risk tolerance is at 1%, go for the top 300.
If you aim for these products, you can be relatively confident that they will sell well. But sales rank isn’t everything, so be sure to examine other metrics and utilize all tools at your disposal before selecting a product.
The second way you can use the BSR is to benchmark the performance of your current products.
You can see how well your products are selling in comparison to other products in your category and make adjustments where necessary.
Even after conducting your product research and selecting an item to sell, it is important to keep the BSR in mind for your own product and your competition.
Keeping tabs on your competition and benchmarking your product against theirs will allow you to make better decisions about if and how you can optimize your own Amazon listing.
How to Categorize for the Best Seller Badge
The final question we have to address when it comes to Amazon Sales Rank chart is how you can get to the very top of the ‘hill’ and snatch that Best Seller badge for your product.
If there is one thing that we know, it is that having that Best Seller badge will give your product more legitimacy in the eyes of your customers, bump up conversion, make you an authority, and inspire more trust.
Fortunately, you have the opportunity to choose the category and sub-categories for your product.
This gives you the chance to pick the one that will give you the highest chance of obtaining the Best Seller badge.
Here’s how to make your selection:
Go to the back end of Seller Central and type in “product classifier tool” in the search bar.
The tool will pop up in the help menu on the right-hand side and you can then open it and type in your main keyword.
Once you do, anywhere from 10 to 20 different browse note (i.e., category) recommendations will appear.
For each sub-category, go to Amazon.com and take a look at the top seller in that category.
Do this for every single browse note recommendation until you find the one where the top seller is making the lowest number of sales.
This can be a little tedious, but it will pay off quickly by giving you a much better chance of snatching that Best Seller badge.
Just be sure to select a category that is relevant to your product.
Amazon doesn’t always recommend categories that are relevant to your product, so use common sense and stick to the numerous category recommendations that fit your product.
The Amazon Best Sellers Rank is an important metric, even if it is largely misunderstood.
Both ignoring and overemphasizing the importance of the BSR can be a hindrance to your success as an Amazon seller.
Read and reread this article to get down the basics and then use the BSR along with all the other metrics available to you to know what will sell and how to improve what you’re already selling.