According to sources at Amazon, the web giant has changed the search algorithms in order to rank both its own products and more profitable products higher in the search results.
The Wall Street Journal writes that the change was made at the end of last year. As a result of this intervention, Amazon's more profitable products are now be placed higher up in the search results to the detriment of more relevant products or those items that sell more frequently. Internally, there was a lot of resistance to this change, especially from the developers of the search engine.
Any change to Amazon's search system has wide-ranging implications, not least because their rankings can make or break a product. The site's search bar is the most common way for shoppers to find items online and most purchases are made on the basis of the first page of search results.
Amazon's dual role—as a marketplace manager and as a seller of its own products—is currently the subject of an investigation by the European Commission. They are investigating whether Amazon is using sellers’ data to see which products are selling well and whether the company then abuses that information to sell similar products at a lower price.
In similar circumstances, Google had a fine of 2.42 billion euros imposed by the European Commission two years ago. In the search results, the search engine would have favoured its own Google Shopping service.
Out of fear of such sanctions, Amazon lawyers have ultimately insisted that the amount of profit per product should not be directly taken into account as part of the search algorithm. In practice, the programmers have included other variables in the algorithm that have ensured more profitable products still rank higher in the search results.