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Amazon is a vast mall filled with all your favorite things… and lots of dross too. That’s the problem! How do you sort the wheat from the chaff?
What Is Advanced Search?
The first thing you should know about is the bar to the left of any department sub-menu page. This lets you filter what you see. You can toggle it so you only see new releases, products on Prime (get your Prime membership here), and price. You can also tamper with it so you only view well-reviewed items.
Still, that’s often not enough. Okay, you’re not going to struggle to find the latest Star Wars novel or anything, but what if you’re looking for something more niche?
Let’s take a graphic novel called Pigs Might Fly as a real-life example. It’s pretty easy to pre-order in America, but in the U.K., it’s promoted as a paperback only — except I’d seen a gorgeous hardcover on Twitter, which I knew I wanted. Amazon UK didn’t show it, not even as an alternative option when purchasing the book.
Using Advanced Search, I located it in seconds.
This function is simple to find: just go to any department and look for “Advanced Search” in the navigation bar. You’ll notice that many categories don’t offer it (and depends on your region), but there’s a solution to that too, which we’ll cover later in this post.
You can use it to find books, music, DVDs and Blu-rays, and video games primarily. You can even use it to find books without knowing the title or author. Each iteration offers different search terms (ISBN numbers in Books, for instance), but do have a few uniting factors — namely, “Title”, “Keywords”, and “Sellers”. The latter lets you choose to filter results solely to Amazon and not third-parties.
Sadly, you’ll find dead links. Despite some iterations of Advanced Search supposedly offering more, support for most departments has ended.
How Do I Use It?
Searching solely for its “Title” will only work if you know the release exactly. Take the Avengers movie as an example. In America, it’s known as The Avengers (2012), but in the U.K., to avoid confusion with the classic TV series also sharing that name, it’s called Avengers Assemble.
That’s a well-known title, but it demonstrates the ambiguity that might account for rubbish results in searches for more niche items.
This is where “Keywords” come in. Sellers often add in hidden phrases that help the search, but aren’t seen by customers. This also searches product descriptions, so you’re more likely to find what you’re after. In most cases, having a title and artist/author will be enough information without adding in keywords anyway, but they definitely help.
ISBNs are the codes on books by the barcode, an identifier unique to that edition. They’re specific to the format, so they’ll differ between paperback, hardcover, and Kindle. Admittedly, very few know ISBNs. Even most authors won’t know without checking out a copy. Still, if you visit a publisher’s site, you should be able to find them there.
Beyond paperbacks, hardcovers, and ebooks, you can further choose formats, including CDs, releases through Audible, and PDFs.
It might also be worth setting the language criteria: this saves you being bombarded with cheaper offers, only to be disappointed to find the titles themselves are in Italian! This is especially an issue with graphic novels.
Which Other Services Offer Advanced Search?
If you’re looking for something not covered in Advanced Search, you have other options.
Your first port of call should be Jeviz, with a fantastic range of changeable criteria. Bargain hunters especially should check this one out as it offers a sliding scale of discounts. In fact, you can limit your search to products just with a 99 percent discount on RRPs, but it is just that: limiting. Nonetheless, setting it to a reasonable 40 to 60 percent should elicit solid results.
You can also apply minimum and maximum prices, and filter it to cater just for items with Coupons or through the Warehouse Deals section.
The list of searchable departments is extensive, even including Gift cards, then each breaks down into further categories still.
Amazon’s normal search will let you filter to four-star or above reviews. But look closely, as the results might be reviewed only by a couple of people. Perhaps most pleasingly, Jeviz gives you more peace of mind by offering you the ability to sort via “Most Reviews”!
As long as you sign up, you can also save your search parameters for next time. Fortunately, it’s free and assures users that they won’t receive loads of spam.
You’ll be redirected straight to Amazon after you input all your search criteria.
If you prefer a different interface, try Jungle Search. It’s very similar, but its main advantage is a “Quick Search” chart of bargains. All you have to do is click on the percentage discount from the respective department and you’ll be redirected straight there. It’s absolutely ideal to grab a quick overview if you are pressed for time.
The core issue with both of these right now is that neither offers search capabilities for international versions of Amazon. They just work on its American iteration. Still, once you find the product there, you can always copy its title to another version (though that doesn’t guarantee the same items, and obviously doesn’t take price, Prime, or Pantry into account).
Better still, copy the ISBN, or, in the case of DVDs and games, the EAN. But do keep an eye on them both as international counterparts are planned.
Other Handy Features on Amazon
Beyond Advanced Search, Amazon has a couple of features that can speed up your shopping; after all, it’s in Amazon’s interests to. The easier it becomes to use, the more you’re likely to visit.
The online store began as a great way of finding popular items — DVDs, books, and music — cheaper than in a high-street shop. To emphasize the bargains on offer, Amazon adapted to a generation using QR scanners to find the cheapest alternatives online. This is through Amazon Flow, an app that allows iPhone [No longer available] and Android users to scan a product’s barcode (via a smartphone’s camera) and find its online price. From this, it compiles a shopping list.
As with most scanners, however, the results vary, so beware Flow adding something to your basket that isn’t what you’re looking for! As long as you check what you’re purchasing before completing a transaction, Flow does speed up your day.
It’s perhaps most unpredictable when it comes to more niche items; then again, you’d be surprised at the amount Amazon does offer. For instance, did you know it has a section devoted to original art?
In fact, lots of these departments have specialized webpages that are far more aesthetically appealing than the plain Amazon homepage. If you know you’re on the look-out for, say, clothes for your summer vacation, head straight to its dedicated page.
There, you can check out subcategories: Fashion, for instance, boasts sections for Women, Men, Boys, Girls, Babies, and the latest trends. Art, meanwhile, lets you filter within price ranges, prints and photographs, and the type of painting if you’re enquiring after original work. Pretty neat, eh?
Two More Quick Tips for Searching
It’s not rocket science, but there are a couple of very simple tricks to keep in mind when using Advanced Search.
First: It’s tempting to throw in as many keywords as you can think of. Don’t. It actually lessens the chance of you finding what you’re looking for. Use three or four instead.
Second: Put a hyphen immediately before a keyword, and you can exclude it from your search. This is especially handy if you’re only looking for licensed products, in which case you could type “-unofficial” in the “Keywords.”
Do you use Advanced Search? What’s it most useful for? What further tips have you got?
Image Credits: Estrada Anton/Shutterstock