I know lots of sellers who focus on Sales Rank when scouting. And this can be a great way to tell an item’s current ranking. But remember how susceptible Sales Rank is to recent sales. It’s very easy to be fooled by an item with a Sales Rank that is artificially low due to a recent sale.
I mention this because over the weekend I ordered a book with a Sales Rank of 3.5 million (what can I say, I have unique tastes!). A few hours after I ordered it, it had dropped to about 200,000. A book that may only sell a few copies a year now looks like it sells one every few weeks. That’s a pretty big difference!
An even more extreme example is a story I heard from a seller late last week. She sold a book that she’d been holding for over 2 years with a sales rank of about 9 million (talk about long tail!) At the next update, the Sales Rank was around 300,000. And now a few days later it’s still under 500,000.
There’s no way to avoid this confusion, unfortunately. Just be aware of it and consider other factors, like your product knowledge and other available offers before jumping on an item just because of its current Sales Rank. Product reviews can be a valuable way to judge a book’s popularity as well. High Sales Rank items with few sales are likely to have fewer reviews than more popular items with more frequent sales and more frequent reviews.
The next time you’re buying something based on its Sales Rank, consider how that number can be misleading. Or else you might be holding onto a long tail item a lot longer than you expected!