Amazon Is Stuffing Its Search Results Pages with Ads

And they seem to be working.

If it feels as though Amazon’s site is increasingly stuffed with ads, that’s because it is. And it looks like that’s working — at least for brands that are willing to fork over ad dollars as part of their strategy to sell on Amazon.

Amazon-sponsored product ads have been around since 2012. But lately, as the company has invested in growing its advertising business, they’ve become more aggressive.

See, for example, our search below for “cereal.”

The first three results, which take up the whole screen above the fold — everything visible before you scroll — are sponsored placements that appear as search results: Ads for Kellogg’s Special K, Quaker Life and Cap’n Crunch. (It’s similarly dramatic on mobile, where it takes up the entire first screen.) This is followed by a section featuring Amazon’s own brand, 365 Everyday Value, which was part of its Whole Foods acquisition.

Not until scrolling down halfway on the next browser “page” do organic search results — non-paid, non-Amazon brands — come up: Post’s Honey Bunches of Oats and Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats and Frosted Flakes.

Sponsored ads allow vendors to bid auction-style to have their products show up when consumers type in a related search term. If you’re Duracell, for example, you can pay to have your product show up above or among search results when someone types in “batteries” — or “Energizer.”

When searching for a specific product — “Kellogg’s Corn Flakes,” for example — ads for Kellogg’s own Frosted Flakes and competitor Nature’s Path Corn Flakes both show up as sponsored results first.

And in an unscientific Recode test, these types of ads showed up for every search term, from the vague to the hyperspecific.

“Nobody is scrolling beyond the first page when they do a search,” Jason Goldberg, SVP of commerce at SapientRazorfish, a digital marketing agency, told Recode. “If you want to be discoverable, you have to find a way to show up in search results.”

To get that prime visibility, brands are responding with more cash. Spending on sponsored products in Amazon’s search increased 165 percent in the second quarter of 2018 compared with a year earlier, according to data from marketing agency Merkle.

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