Why BSR is (and isn’t) as Important as You Think

How can you improve your Amazon sales rank? Better yet, do you need to improve your Amazon sales rank? It’s time for a BSR crash course.

Your Amazon sales rank is the numerical representation of how well your product sells against other products in your category on Amazon. Also known as your Best Sellers Rank (BSR), your Amazon sales rank functions as a litmus test of your sales overall, albeit one that is constantly fluctuating. It’s a trailing indicator of sales velocity. Even though Amazon updates this hourly, those data points can sometimes be a few days old. 

Seller rating, product defect rate, sales, profit margin, ROI, advertising cost of purchase…

As a new or aspiring Amazon seller, it would seem there are always a “TOP 3 METRICS YOU NEED TO KNOW” – and with a name like Amazon Best Sellers Rank, your BSR makes a pretty strong claim to the throne.

We’re here to break down what you need to know about your Amazon sales rank and why it may not be a metric worth losing sleep over.

The Essentials of BSR

First, what does your Amazon sales rank really mean to you as a new seller on the platform?

Here is the Best Sellers Rank defined by Amazon:

“The Amazon Best Sellers calculation is based on Amazon sales, and is updated hourly to reflect recent and historical sales of every item sold on Amazon.”

As explained by their own definition, Amazon sales rankings are in a constant state of change. This is simply due to the fact that, at any given moment, the millions of products being sold on Amazon are being purchased at different rates. It’s this controlled chaos that allows sellers to compete with each other (and is at the heart of “e-capatilism” in 2020).

Additionally, it’s important to note that your Amazon BSR is a relative number. This means that being ranked at 5,000 in February of 2020 when the Amazon marketplace was relatively normal means something very different from being ranked 5,000 in April of 2020 when COVID-19 completely changed the economy. 

Sales Velocity

To better understand the Amazon sales ranking process, we need to take a look at the inner workings behind the scenes. Sales velocity is the number (and dollar amount) of your sales in a given month. Why is this information important as a ranking factor? A high monthly sales velocity will help you find favor with the Amazon ranking algorithm.

All this to say: more sales = stronger sales rank. The lower the number, the better; #1 being the best BSR you can have in a category. 

It’s important to note that Amazon does place limits on sales velocity to protect its customers. This is common for many new sellers who experience spikes in sales as their brand grows. Sales velocity limits are based on the ratio of sales to factors like available inventory, seller feedback, and past sales history. It’s Amazon’s way of determining, “Is this seller generating a realistic/legitimate number of sales or is something fishy going on?” These sales velocity limits are typically in place for listings and accounts that are less than 6 months old. 

When you approach or exceed your sales velocity limit, Amazon will conduct a sales velocity review. This means a temporary hold will be placed on the funds in your account along with possible product listing suspensions. Don’t panic. This is a relatively standard process. Do not worry about starting the review process ahead of time – Amazon will reach out to you if a sales velocity review needs to take place.

To learn more about how to accelerate the account review process, read what Amazon has to say about the matter here.

Sales Consistency

Yes, your product’s sales volume can influence your Amazon sales rank. However, it is also entirely possible for your sales to remain the same and your product’s BSR to drop. This would be an indicator of a shift in the market. The market may be expanding, bringing with it a stiffer competition. Even though you have been doing everything right (maintaining a steady stream of sales), your market share is shrinking.

You may be at a current rank of 1,000 in the “Outdoors” category, but you can’t compare yourself to the entire 1 million+ products in that category. 

Your broad category is not necessarily your market.

That’s why we created Market Tracker. This new Amazon market tracking tool from Helium 10 allows you to hyperfocus precisely who you want to compare yourself against and reveal your authentic market volume.

Monitoring your market share is critical to staying a step ahead of your competition and evaluating your industry’s overall health. 

Data from Amazon’s Best Sellers Rank drives our Amazon sales estimator within Market Tracker to make these insights possible.

What is a “Good” BSR?

This is a question we get from Amazon sellers all the time. What does Bradley Sutton, Director of Training at Helium 10 have to say on the matter? It may surprise you.

“BSR is meaningless to me. With Helium 10’s chrome extension Xray, you get estimated sales for competitors. For your products, you already know what your sales are – from seller central. Your total sales are what matters, not your total sales against everyone else.”

BSR is great for data gathering. As we mentioned, this data helps fuel Helium 10’s Amazon seller tools to extrapolate sales estimations. This data is changing throughout the day – staying on top of it allows us to give you the most accurate snapshot possible of your competition.

However, for the majority of online sellers, the Amazon Best Seller Rank is a vanity metric.

Selling on Amazon is not a race to the #1 BSR, don’t get fooled into thinking otherwise.

Focus on maintaining (or increasing) your sales month to month and keeping your margins healthy. Remember, having a good Amazon sales rank is meaningless if you’re losing money on every sale.

Another thing to think about. If you were to buy a new workout tank top on Amazon, would you go to the best sellers page for the entire “Clothing, Shoes, and Jewelry” category, or would you start your shopping with a more specific search?

Most customers don’t visit Amazon to window shop. Do not try to game your BSR standings. Not only is it against Amazon’s terms of service, but it won’t do you much good in the long run anyway.

Think Again Before Using BSR for Product Research 

Since Amazon seller rank is such a prominent (and let’s face it, glitzy sounding) metric, many new sellers assume Amazon’s BSR list is a great place to start their product research.

As an example, take this adult coloring book. Using Helium 10’s free Amazon chrome extension (specifically the Xray function), we can look at any product’s BSR. More importantly, we can check its BSR history.

When we look at this product’s BSR history over the past 90 days, things look pretty promising. Remember, with Amazon’s Best Sellers Rank, the lower the number, the higher the rank. This adult coloring book has been hovering around 1,000 (and even much higher-ranked than that). You may begin to make some product decisions of your own based on this information. 

Before you start calling up manufacturers… let’s take a moment to “zoom out.”

Let’s sort BSR history looking at the past one year.

A simple change in perspective can change the whole story. In this expanded view, we can see this product’s rank was previously much lower (a higher number) than it looked like in the 90-day view. After a (presumably) normal ranking bump around the holidays, this adult coloring book began to sink in the ratings around January and February. Suddenly, mid-March rolls around, and the product starts performing like an Amazon bestseller. 

What happened in mid-March? 

COVID-19. 

Instead of just a pinhole view of seemingly useful data, we now have an informed explanation of a sales trend. This is a cursory example (more research would be needed to generate actionable info), but it still illustrates my point. 

Don’t miss the forest for the trees!

Bonus Product Research Tip

Many of our free Helium 10 users know about Black Box, our revolutionary Amazon product research tool. However, many don’t know you can include BSR as a filtering field for any product category or keyword search. For all the filter freaks out there (like me), this is heaven. 

For example, I can run a search for products within the Pet Supply category but tell Black Box to only show me products with a top 200 BSR. However, Black Box is much more than merely a glorified Amazon sales rank chart.

Use the drop-down menu to continue filtering and drill down to get the specific data you’re after. Just don’t forget to check BSR history with the Xray chrome extension (like we mentioned earlier) to avoid misreading sales trends!

How Do I Improve my Amazon Sales Rank and Beat my Competitors?

The answer is: DON’T get hung up on improving your BSR. Instead, focus on increasing your sales. Yes, of course, when your sales increase, your BSR will improve. But at the end of the day, your sales will dictate your success. 

If you were mining for gold, you wouldn’t race the other miners to the core of the Earth. You would take your time to find where the best gold deposits were hidden around you. 

Now grab your sifters and get to it.

Brian Wisniach
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