How to Make Sure Amazon's Recommendations Actually Work

Illustration for article titled How to Make Sure Amazon's Recommendations Actually Work

Amazon has a lot of information about you, which it uses to try and suggest other stuff you might like (to buy). If you notice that your recommendations are frequently unhelpful, then there are some tweaks you can make inside your user account to try and improve them. Here are the screens and the settings you need to head for.

Get yourself logged into Amazon, avoiding any tempting special offers or discount deals you see along the way, then click the Your Account box and Your Recommendations. This is the nerve center of the operation where your browsing and buying history is laid bare for you to see. The first screen shows videos, gadgets, music and more things that Amazon thinks you're going to like.

Click Improve Your Recommendations and you'll be invited to apply a star rating to some of the apps, electronics, DVDs and CDs you've bought lately. Be brutally honest about as many purchases as you can, or check the box marked Don't use for recommendations if you don't want a particular item to count towards your recommendations at all. That one's useful if you've bought the complete works of Dickens for a friend but are completely ambivalent about the writer yourself.

Illustration for article titled How to Make Sure Amazon's Recommendations Actually Work

Click through to Recommended For You and you can apply the same ratings system to items that Amazon thinks are up your street; check the Not interested box if the algorithms are way off. There's also the Your Browsing History screen that shows you everything you've ever looked at on the Amazon portal. Click Delete this item next to anything that you don't want to influence the recommendations shown. Amazon also advises adding items you like to your wish list or shopping basket to improve its suggestions.

Even just spending a few minutes clicking through your purchases, recommendations and browsing history should be enough to unearth better quality suggestions from inside the Amazon machine (over 200 million products on sale in the U.S. at the last count). And you might just uncover a book or an album you'd forgotten all about at the same time.

[Header image courtesy of Twin Design /]


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In addition to recommending every other version of what you just bought (most recently for me, external hard drives and an extensive variety of Android apps), Amazon has some other odd habits. They know I have a lot of Canon camera equipment, for example, and yet they keep recommending Nikon lenses, but not Nikon bodies, for me. And, yes, I spent a half hour the other day telling them I'm not interested in a considerable number of external hard drives. It has cut down, but not yet eliminated additional ones.