Improved Amazon Subcategory Rank

Rank Subcategories


Subcategory ranks at Amazon now extend beyond the top 100 bestsellers in the subcategory.

This is a nice improvement, I think.

Customers see a Kindle sales rank of 500,000 at Amazon and wonder why it’s not selling much.

But how many of the better selling books are completely unrelated to the type of book that the customer is shopping for?

Maybe the book is in a special niche.

A book that ranks 500,000 overall might rank 150 in its subcategory.

When a customer sees 500,000 overall, it can deter sales a bit.

When a customer sees 1,000,000 overall, it can deter sales a lot. In fact, a book can sell once a week or so on average, but as soon as it reaches 1,000,000, often its sales diminish significantly, unless and until it gets a much-needed sale to return to the low 100,000’s. It’s the same book, same cover, same Look Inside, same description, same reviews… but that different sales rank changes some customers’ perceptions.

Not all. Some customers ignore sales rank. Some don’t know what it means. But some do understand sales rank.

But if the customer sees that the book ranks 150 in its subcategory, that has appeal.

So this is a nice change.

It’s one of many improvements that Amazon has made to product pages recently. Amazon has even improved Kindle Unlimited recently.

Amazon could take this a step further:

  • Don’t even show the overall rank unless it’s more likely to drive sales than deter sales.
  • Only show subcategory rank (and possibly category rank) unless overall sales rank will help with sales.

Authors can see overall sales rank from Author Central, so this really isn’t needed on the product pages.

Suppose a book is ranked 500,000 overall and 150 in its subcategory.

Until recently, it only looked like this on the product page:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #500,000 Paid in the Kindle Store

Now it looks like this:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #500,000 Paid in the Kindle Store

#150 in Books > Category > Subcategory

I propose that it should look like this instead:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150 in Books > Category > Subcategory

In my opinion, this is more likely to drive sales.

Amazon has kind of shot itself in the foot with sales rank.

It used to be that a book selling once a day on average had a sales rank around 50,000.

This number is going up. It could have a sales rank around 200,000 now. Pretty soon, 500,000 might be selling once a day.

But people remember how it used to be. They remember that 500,000 used to be bad. It was bad when there were 1,000,000 Kindle books. But it’s pretty good now that there are 3,000,000 Kindle books.

Amazon doesn’t just want to sell the top 50,000 books. Amazon could improve its sales of books ranked 50,0001 to 3,000,000 by not showing its overall sales rank at all.

Just show the subcategory rank only, unless the overall rank is good enough to help sales. Don’t show customers ranks that are more likely to deter sales.

Yes, if they adopt my idea (doubtful, unless perhaps several others—maybe you—take the time to contact Amazon with the suggestion), customers would learn that if there is no overall rank, that book isn’t one of the top sellers. But they will see the subcategory rank and realize that it’s selling fairly well in its subcategory. They won’t know if the overall rank is 50,001 or 3,000,000 (but the subcategory rank will make it seem more like 50,001 than 3,000,000).

Anyway, it’s just a thought.

I’m a fan of the new subcategory ranks.

Amazon used to show subcategory rank only if the book was in the top 100 in its subcategory. Now subcategory extends way past 100.

I think this is a cool change.

You can probably expect to see continued changes to the product pages as Amazon further tests out ideas that may improve sales.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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30 comments on “Improved Amazon Subcategory Rank

  1. I just checked all of mine. Surprisingly, an older title holds my best genre rank. Is this a clue that I should update the category for the newer one? Can I do that without losing all my reviews and such?

  2. Thanks for the update! Amazon is slowly creeping toward a more friendly self-pubbing atmosphere. But I think it is a good idea to offer them comments. They may not respond immediately, but now that they have gobs of competition, ideas may hit the CEO’s round table more often!

    • I receive encouraging responses even when I submit a suggestion through KDP, CreateSpace, (hard to find, but it’s there), ACX, or Author Central. And I’ve used all these options over the years…

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