Employees Say Amazon Tweaked Search Algorithm to Favor Its Own Products

News Amazon Search Algorithm Featured

There’s no doubt that shopping online makes things easier. There’s also no doubt that shopping at Amazon makes it even easier. It makes it so we don’t really even have to search too much: just go to the app or website, type in what you’re searching for, and you get an entire list. You don’t even have to go through the entire list, as what you’re searching for is often right there at the top.

Except it’s not really that cut and dry, as by not looking through the whole list, you’re actually doing yourself a disservice. People who have worked for Amazon claim the company worked on that algorithm to boost their own brand, such as Kindles, Echos, etc.

Amazon’s Search Algorithm Tweaks

If this is what Amazon is truly doing, adjusting its search to favor its own products, it could find itself in trouble with antitrust regulators.

The algorithm was last modified late last year, with the Seattle-based retail business and the Palo Alto, California-based search team, known as A9m going up against each other.

The A9 employees claim they were pressured by the retail branch to make the Amazon products place higher in the search results. While the two groups were kept separate before, now they both have the same boss, Doug Herrington, the head of retail.

News Amazon Search Algorithm Kindle

“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,” claims a company spokeswoman, denying that the algorithm was changed to take profitability into account or to push its products more.

But by pushing items that are more profitable, it could mean they are pushing the Amazon brand more. There are other things that are taken into consideration in the search algorithm, and it’s possible that third-party products may be more profitable for Amazon than its own label.

This news just doesn’t come up at a good time for the company. Amazon and the other big tech companies – Google, Apple, and Facebook – are being investigated in a federal antitrust probe in the United States. The European Union fined Google $2.7 billion for manipulating search results to promote its own brand, and Apple tweaked its search algorithm for the App Store so that its apps weren’t always ranked at the top.

Erosion of Trust

The problem with all this is the erosion of trust in the big four. The more and more the public hears stories of them promoting their own brands and making questionable marketing decisions, the more the public loses trust in them.

For what they’re selling, and the rate at which the public’s reliability on their products multiplies, trust is needed. But those big four may have hurt their images too much at this point.

What do you think about Amazon promoting its own products in its search algorithm? Do you see it as antitrust? Let us know your thoughts and concerns in the comments below.

Laura Tucker Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.


  1. ” the company worked on that algorithm to boost their own brand”
    NAH! Amazon wouldn’t do THAT!

  2. Why such outrage at Amazon for its ‘generic’ brands? Grocery stores have been doing this for quite a while and for the most part the store brand is less expensive and as good as, sometimes even better than ‘brand names’.

    1. Yes, grocery stores have been selling house brand products BUT they have not been relegating brand name products to the back aisles which, in effect, Amazon is doing by fudging the algorithm to show their products first. Independent psychological research has shown that most users do not look past the first 2 or 3 search results, let alone second or third page.

      Next time you go to a grocery store, notice how products are displayed on the shelves. It is the brand name products that get the prime display space (on eye level shelves and endcaps) while the house brands are placed on the topmost and lowest shelves, and towards the ends of aisles. If you walk down an aisle, you literally trip over special displays of name brands. Amazon is doing the exact opposite. They are prominently featuring their brands to the exclusion of others.

  3. Sorry to disappoint, but at my local grocery market the store brand is displayed right next to the brand name. Also, for any special displays, well the brand name corporations pay a lot of money for that placement. I shop a lot on Amazon mostly for products I cannot get locally or by driving all around town (gas money). For each product, yes Amazon will make a recommendation, but you can scroll down on the same page to see your numerous (sometimes too numerous) choices. Although Amazon does make recommendations the ultimate choice is your own.

    1. One local grocery store does not represent industry-wide practices. Besides, I did not say that store branded and name branded merchandise is segregated. What I said was that name brands get the prime display spots. ex. store brands rarely, if ever, are displayed on the endcaps at the front of the store.

      “you can scroll down”
      Yes, you can but relatively few people do. Most people usually do not go past the first two or three entries. Only the most persistent go to the second and further pages. You may be one of those but do not generalize based on yourself and/or your local store.

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