Amazon quietly changed its search algorithm last year to favor products that earn the company a higher profit, instead of those that are most relevant or best selling, people who worked on the project told The Wall Street Journal.
Any change to Amazon’s secret search system can have a major impact on the products and brands involved, as most purchases are made from users clicking on the products displayed on the first page of search results, marketing analytics firm Jumpshot told the Journal. Amazon sells more than 10,000 products under its own brands, including AmazonBasics, Presto, and Lark & Ro, the Journal said, citing research firm Marketplace Pulse.
Engineers on the search giant’s A9 search team said that they were frequently pressured by executives to make Amazon’s in-house products appear higher up in search results, leading to the change to emphasize profitability, according to the Journal.
While those involved with the project said this is a recent change, Amazon said a product’s long-term profitability has been a part of its search algorithm for many years. “We have not changed the criteria we use to rank search results to include profitability,” an Amazon spokesperson told the Journal in a statement.
Amazon disputes the Wall Street Journal’s report, calling it “not factually accurate,” according to a statement emailed to CNET. “We feature the products customers will want, regardless of whether they are our own brands or products offered by our selling partners,” the statement said. “As any store would do, we consider the profitability of the products we list and feature on the site, but it is just one metric and not in any way a key driver of what we show customers.”