The Listing Quality Flywheel: Explained

Paul Capriolo

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June 16, 2021

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Listing quality is the unsung hero of ecommerce. With more than a billion products listed for sales across marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart and eBay today—the power of a thoughtfully constructed listing is undeniable.

Put another way, a listing serves as the packaging for your product. It sets the stage for what a buyer comes to expect out of your brand and has the power to influence a purchase. Moreover, when you compromise the quality of your listings, you compromise the quality of the entire customer experience, setting off a flywheel effect that can either help or hurt your business. 

In this blog, we’ll demonstrate the role of a product listing through the concept of the Listing Quality Flywheel. We’ll dissect the various components of the flywheel and cover steps for ensuring that your brand is set up to reap the benefits of high-quality listings.

What Is the Listing Quality Flywheel?

illustration of a positive listing quality flywheel

Your product listing is, in essence, the first thing your buyers see about your brand and the last thing they may remember, even after receiving their products in the mail. The ideal business setup (or flywheel) begins with a high-quality listing, which yields better rankings on marketplaces and attracts more eyes on your product.

With greater visibility, your brand has a higher chance at converting a sale. And if your listing is truly up to par in its descriptions and product presentation, then your buyers benefit from a smoother customer experience

This means that upon receiving their product, your buyers feel that they received exactly what they expected. You avoid receiving complaints and returns as a result of unmet expectations—and, on the flip side, earn more positive reviews from satisfied customers.

The flywheel comes full circle as more five-star reviews boost your listings higher up in search result pages. Over time, your listings climb higher and higher up the rankings as sales accumulate and customers share about their positive experiences with your brand. 

Signs of a Broken Flywheel

image of a negative listing quality flywheel

Conversely, a broken flywheel has the opposite effect on your business. Poor-quality listings can severely threaten sales as well as your standing with the marketplace itself. 

However, it’s not always obvious that your brand is suffering from low-quality listings. Many sellers tend to audit other parts of their operations before turning their attention to their listings, assuming that product quality or logistics are to blame for customer dissatisfaction. 

Here are several signs that your listings are actually at the root of the issue:

  • High return rate due to “item not as described”
  • Exclusion from filtered search result pages (i.e., when a customer filters search pages by certain features that they value)
  • Low volume of impressions and sales during peak selling seasons (this could be a sign that your listings aren’t appearing in search result pages at all)
  • Regular listing errors or suppression by the marketplace 
  • High impressions, low conversions (which indicates that buyers are leaving your product pages for your competitors)

How to Ignite a Positive Flywheel: 5 Steps

A positive listing quality flywheel often comes down to understanding the nuances of each marketplace, speaking to the right audiences and establishing the right processes to protect listing quality.

Follow these five actionable tips to steer your brand in the right direction and notice how they impact your business’ performance for the better. 

1. Translate Your Product Categories and Attributes Properly

Even though Walmart.com may look and act like Amazon.com, the two sites are not identical. Each has its own taxonomy and listing requirements that make listing a product more complicated than just uploading the same attributes, copy and categories to all marketplaces. 

For example, a dress shirt may be listed under Clothing, Shoes & Jewelry > Men > Clothing > Shirts > Men’s Shirts > Men’s Dress Shirts on Amazon. Meanwhile on Walmart, it’d be listed as Clothing > Mens Clothing > Mens Dress Shirts. Selecting the wrong category—especially on less-established marketplaces where algorithms depend on the right categorization to match items to customer queries—can hamper brand visibility.

Going one step further, Amazon requires different attributes and formatting than Walmart. For instance, when listing a dress shirt on Amazon, you are expected to provide neck size and sleeve size, whereas on Walmart, you can simply use an alphanumeric size. 

sizing difference between amazon versus walmart

There are other technicalities to keep in mind, like understanding when and how to set up variation listings, content requirements and image requirements per channel. Failure to heed certain rules will result in listing suppression, so it’s important that you don’t handle all marketplaces the same exact way.

Pro tip: Zentail’s SMART Types offers an automated way to properly categorize and map product attributes across multiple channels. With SMART Types, you can avoid having to learn the ins and outs of each platform individually, or having to manually input the same data over and over again. You simply enter in your product details once and let Zentail translate the data for you. 

2. Customize Your Copy to Each Marketplace

In addition to having unique listing requirements, each channel attracts a unique audience. This is the prime reason why a vintage Toy Story lunch box may sell like hot cakes on eBay, but fail to gain traction on Newegg. 

While you can technically list similar products to many marketplaces, it may not always be worth your while to do so. Or, conversely, the product-market fit may be there, but you may need to tailor your listing to heed marketplace SEO and check that your copy resonates with buyers. 

You’ll want to evaluate everything from your title to your bullet points for each channel, checking that they highlight the right values and speak the language of your target buyer persona. For instance, if your audience is environmentally conscious, point out how your product is eco-friendly. Or, if your audience is price conscious, showcase the durability or extra features of your product to help connect the dots between price and value. 

As another example, if your buyers are predominantly mobile shoppers, you’ll want to keep your copy relatively short and punchy so that it’s easy to digest on a smaller screen. In this same vein, you’ll want to pay attention to the content guidelines of each marketplace. These guidelines will give you an idea of what components of your listing matter most to ranking algorithms. Some algorithms, for example, are more reliant on exact keyword match than others. In these cases, you’ll want to showcase your keyword (or other variants of it) early on in your listing. 

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that copying-and-pasting your content between channels is harmless. More often than not, you sell yourself short by doing this and wind up leaving money on the table.

Pro tip: Listing your products to multiple channels can get tedious quickly because it requires you to log into multiple dashboards and somehow keep hundreds (or thousands) of different item specs organized. Fortunately, you can centralize your catalog through listing automation platforms like Zentail and leverage capabilities like QuickEdit or bulk actions to customize listings in half the normal time. 

3. Provide Advanced Attributes

When you’re in a time crunch, it can be tempting to publish your listing with just the basic required fields. However, this is a big misstep. You severely hurt your chances of ranking or appearing for relevant search terms when you neglect to include advanced (or recommended) attributes.

You additionally limit your ability to appear within filtered search results, whereby buyers whittle down their options by the features that they’re looking for. If you don’t include these attributes in your listing, then your item won’t appear on filtered pages at all.

amazon filter menu on batteries result page

"Every item actually has its own specific requirements," Product Manager at Walmart Jeffrey Lee points out. "Like if you're selling a lunch box and you don't have the material attributed...that's [a missed opportunity because it’s] important for a customer to actually figure out [if a lunch box is] plastic versus metal."

Providing advanced attributes reassures your customer that your product meets their needs. This also guides customers in making a more informed decision and bridges the gap between seeing your product, but not being able to physically touch or ask questions about it like they would be able to in a store. 

You can hone in on which attributes to include in your listing in a few different ways:

  • Perform keyword research using tools like Jungle Scout or by typing into the search bar of your marketplace to see what search terms or auto-fill options are most popular 
  • Observe the filter menus on search result pages—these indicate which attributes are most important to consumers on a given site when they browse for items in your product category 
  • Check which attributes your competitors include on their listings
  • Leverage tools like Walmart’s Listing Quality dashboard available in your marketplace seller account
  • Tap a tool like Zentail that can auto-fill and auto-suggest advanced attributes for you 

4. Watch Your Images

The importance of product images can’t be stressed enough. Today, 93% of consumers say that visual content is the number one deciding factor for making a purchase. Some social shopping sites have similarly said that a listing’s primary image is a main—if not the main—driver of clicks and visibility on their sites, and that customers increasingly expect clear, professional photos.

While marketplaces tend to have strict requirements for how primary images are formatted, they’ll often grant more flexibility when it comes to secondary images, which can be used to highlight specific features, variants or use cases. 

Note that the main goal of your images should not only be to present your product in an attractive way, but to also communicate important details like who your product is intended for and how it should be used. It can help to reinforce details that they might miss when skimming through your listing and prevent misunderstandings like the true size of your product.

5. Address Listing Errors ASAP and Anticipate Future Changes 

You never want to sleep on listing errors, which, when ignored, can lead to listing suppression or even account suspension. Listing errors are generally easy to resolve but often get deprioritized in light of other tasks. It’s also not uncommon for sellers to receive a cryptic message telling them to resolve an error, then struggle to understand what the message is referring to. 

Read Also: WTF Do These Amazon Listing Errors Mean? 

When this happens, consulting seller forums or a marketplace expert can be helpful. Zentail’s QuickFix and Listing Status Dashboard additionally exist to help decipher errors and pinpoint the cause. The Listing Status Dashboard in particular is a popular tool for tracking which SKUs and specific attributes in your catalog need immediate attention so that you don’t go days without properly listed (or inactive) products on any channel.


Remember that just because your listings meet listing requirements today, that doesn’t mean that they’ll remain compliant in the future. The reality is that marketplace requirements are constantly changing. In November 2020, as an example, Amazon sellers were thrown into a frenzy because of a sudden change to apparel listing standards. These new standards required significant formatting changes, plus additional details, for every apparel listing on the marketplace. And for sellers without an automated change management solution, this meant hours upon hours of manual work. 

When you sell on ecommerce marketplaces, you should always expect a degree of unpredictability and establish a way to be able to adapt your listings on the fly. 

The Bottom Line 

The quality of your listings can easily slip if you’re not careful, but by establishing good habits and understanding the components of a strong Listing Quality Flywheel, you can keep your brand in good standing, both now and in the future. 

For more information or help building your own flywheel, chat with our team. Learn how to maximize your success across every major marketplace that you sell on. 

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