A Better Way to Search Amazon.com

Which Beatles’ album is the one best loved by fans? I’ll answer that question below in a new and unique way, but first a brief detour…

A few months ago I wrote an article (A Killer Feature for Amazon.com) about how much I love Amazon.com and its gazillion product reviews but, at the same time, how difficult it can be to take advantage of all that useful information. An example may help to illustrate the problem…let’s say you’re looking for a cordless phone so you search amazon with the keywords “cordless phone”. By default, you get a bunch of hits (as of today, 31,256 hits!), sorted by relevance, but what you really want to know is “which is the best cordless phone?”.

Of course, “best” is a subjective term but one useful definition is “which of my search results has the highest average rating”? OK, we can do that – Amazon lets you sort your results by average customer rating but when you do that, you get page after page of hits with high average ratings based on a low number of reviews. It’s not very interesting to know that three people gave a product a perfect 5 star rating – I want to know which product got high ratings from hundreds or thousands of people. If you multiply the (normalized) average rating by the number of ratings you get a kind of overall quality factor, which leads you directly to the best reviewed products. In the case of our cordless phone search, the product with the highest “quality factor” was found eight pages into the Amazon results!

With this problem in mind, I’ve devised a specialized search engine I call AmaZoom (because it helps you zoom in on the best products). You can try AmaZoom yourself here.

In addition to helping you find good products, it answers some interesting questions, like the one I posed above about the best reviewed Beatles album. It turns out to be a close call but, as of today, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” barely edges out “Abbey Road”. For completeness, here’s a screenshot showing the top ten best reviewed Beatles albums on amazon.com:

So now you know which Beatles album is, in some sense, the best loved of all time, courtesy of thousands of amazon customers. But more than that, thanks to amazon’s vast repository of product reviews and “the wisdom of crowds”, you now have an easy way to find the best reviewed products in the world’s largest department store.