Today we have Brian Johnson of Sponsored Product Academy (& PPC Scope) to talk to us about PPC and the REAL reason for the end of Amazon incentivized reviews.
This is a guy that has been in ecommerce industry for years. He started out selling banking equipment on eBay for seven years before a friend pulled him into Amazon. He began launching his own private label products. This was about three years ago when Amazing Selling Machine launched.
Today on the show, I have one of the first contacts I made when starting this show, David Aggiss. I had him on, all the way back in November of 2015. Since then, he has given up the day job and is his own full-time boss. He has a few business, one of which being an Amazon business. We’re going to dive in and find out David’s strategy for selling on Amazon.com.
David started learning about Amazon in April/May of 2015 and began receiving some training. In about four months, he started selling his own product. He took off quite well in Q4. At the time, incentivised reviews were still allowed so he made that a large part of his strategy. His sales exceeded his expectations going from 10 units a day to 30 on average. He launched his second product in Q4 last year and focused on his listing since incentivised reviews were no longer available.
There are a lot of techniques for finding products. David decided to simply look through Amazon. This is a great technique for finding good products. Look for lower prices and low competition items when first starting out. If you find a good product and the listing isn’t optimised, then there is definitely an opportunity for you to sweep in and take over. You can use Google Trends, Merchant Words to help you find what popular and what people are looking for.
David didn’t use any tools to find products, like Jungle Scout etc. He didn’t know what his products would be so he wouldn’t know what to search. Once he picked the products, he verified through Jungle Scout that there was a demand. Now he has about 5 products he’s working through launching.
He search Amazon to find his products. He narrowed his search to products between $15 and $50 and looked for products that interested him. If you are interested in the product then it’s easier to relate and figure out what those buyers are looking for. Then you can tailor your listing to those shoppers.
Getting reviews has become much more difficult since Amazon banned incentivised reviews. With this new world, you have to pay more attention to reviews since you can no longer give products away in exchange for a review. One thing to pay attention to when getting started with a new product is the number a reviews your competition has. If they have thousands of reviews, it’s going to be much harder to compete because it is more difficult to reach a competitive level.
Make sure you competitors only have a hundred or so reviews so you can better compete. Then you can use other services to help get legitimate reviews. You can also try to get traffic coming in from off Amazon.Ads on Facebook, Google, and Bing are great places to start.
There are also ways you can use Amazon to boost your listing. Spending heavy on PPC at the beginning is a good way to drive traffic when selling on Amazon.com. Once your listing gets going, then you can cut back to where it’s profitable. One thing David mentioned was participating in Lightning Deals. These deals on put on by Amazon that offers their shoppers very good discounts for a very limited amount of time. There is a link underneath your Advertising tab on the main screen of Seller Central. It’s not all the time, but Amazon will offer you a Lightning Deal when it’s relevant. This is a great way to drive a lot of sellers to you listing and gives a nice boost to new products.
Amazon sets the parameters. They will tell you the time slot, the minimum number of units, and the sale price which is based on your sales history. David, for example, recently got a time slot for 1am to 7am. Not the best time as many people aren’t looking at Amazon so early in the morning. Despite that, he had an additional 40 sales from the deal.
It’s offers more robust to you PPC advertising. The top banner ad on Amazon, that is usually a link to someone’s storefront, that’s Amazon Marketing Services. Sometimes there are ads under the Buy box, those are Amazon Marketing Services ads. It’s more exposure and drives more customers to your products which, in turn, could lead to more sales.
It’s only accessible to vendors. This used to be invite only until Amazon started Vendor Express, which is open to everyone. Now you can get access to Amazon Marketing Services once you have a purchase order. So once Amazon orders product from you, then you have access to AMS and all the benefits that come with it. To learn how to get started with Vendor Express, please check out my interviews with Will Tjernlund.
If you don’t want to go down the route of Vendor Express, there is a work around. You can sell Amazon a product that you don’t intend to keep in stock. Go to aliexpress and buy 10 units of some item. Tell Amazon that you want to sell it to them and they will request samples. Once that process starts, you should be able to then sign up for AMS. Once in Amazon Marketing Services, you are able to advertise any products, not just the ones you have in Vendor Express.
Not only can you advertise products that are in your Seller Central, you can advertise products for items that Amazon doesn’t list you as the seller of. This is very beneficial if you have a Merch by Amazon account. If you sell Merch, you don’t have access to ads. With Amazon Marketing Services, you can then run ads for you t-shirts. You can check out my interview with Chris Green if you are interested in getting started with Merch by Amazon.
It may not be worth it, for everyone, to utilize Vendor Express beyond getting your foot in the door. There are many issues with it because they take over the listing and they tend not to optimise it so it converts. However, it’s almost a necessity for some. For example, Anthony has a friend that selling a health and beauty product that he makes from home. Since he makes it from home it is impossible for him to get ungated. However, by selling through Vendor Express he is now able to get past that since it’s technically Amazon selling it, not him.
Vendor Express is making strides to improve the listings by making some of it available to the sellers to be edited. Some aspects, like the title, you may need to ask Amazon and jump through hoops for, but it is possible to optimise your listing.
Get in touch with Anthony:
He has written two books about selling on Amazon:
Bootstrapping E-commerce: How to Import and Sell on Amazon
Bootstrapping E-commerce: Advanced Amazon Tactics
You can contact him at he publishing company
There are a few things to remember with an Amazon product launch. You need to get as much traffic and sales velocity for your product as quickly as possible. This is a given in any sales capacity. Also, you need to high rankings early, as in on the first page, using an important key word related to your product. Run a promotion when your product goes live which will get people talking and stimulate sales velocity. You can make your products even more visible by turning on the automatic sponsor ads. Lastly, go after some reviews and use family and friends, who will be sure to help your product out in the early days.
It goes without saying, you need to find the primary and most relevant keyword for your product. This is something that people will be able to identify and make the connection to you as the one selling said product. You should make sure the keyword(s) are in the title of your product AND inside the URL address. People can be very lazy so when they are looking for something they are overjoyed when they can find it with relative ease. You can run Facebook ads, external ads and even banner ads from Amazon Marketing Service. Aside from Anthony’s launch too, Zonblast, you can also use Keyword Inspector and Merchant Words.
This has a lot to do with the total views your product actually gets during an Amazon product launch. If you have a low number of searches in a month, say under 20,000, you could see sales velocity stimulation in one day, see some solid movement, as opposed to over several days. However, if you only spike with search hit one hour of each day, your average will be lower. It would be much better for you to spread it out over a number of days for better results. Anywhere from 4 to 7 days seems to be a good time frame in which to work from. It’s all about averages. If you can spread your views and sales over a longer period of time, it will average out to a total that will look much better to you as the seller and to a potential buyer as well.
Make sure you understand Amazon’s new Terms of Service. ‘Free’ sales or giveaways are now considered product manipulation. The big reason the Terms of service were put into place was to stop people from operating multiple accounts and thus being able to receive ‘sales’ of the same product anywhere from 50 to 100 times during an Amazon product launch. Specifically, Amazon are trying to stop buyers from receiving codes to allow them to do this for free. You can now have your product suspended for this. Always remember this and you’ll be fine: Real sales are unique sales to an individual.
Great customer reviews are always welcome but you should not depend on them to help boost sales of your product. While Amazon won’t remove or stifle a review if a customer got a discount on your product (remember though, no coupon codes for free) they can take down good reviews, paid in full by the customer, if they have been attacking the buyer accounts. There is also some unpredictability overall in terms of the reason or reasons why Amazon removes some reviews. All you can do is turn the review machine on, have a great follow up sequence in place, and get reviews as naturally as you can. The best way to success is to have a great quality product and then you can worry about everything else.
Brad runs a one-stop consulting firm that helps Amazon sellers and one of the strategies they use is not to think of a product or product sales life cycle one dimensionally. There are different phases a product goes through. You want to identify those phases and what is need for each phase. A lot of people are wondering what to do for an Amazon launch. After the review blast is over, what do you do?
They have something called “Spur the Machine” that they do for their ASINs and sellers. It’s a four phase approach to the first step of getting something up on Amazon. In their experience, it takes about three months to get a product up and running and there’s a lot going into this.
The big thing is to take a snapshot, then stop and review your data. People tend to keep going and make small adjustments along the way. Doing that makes it difficult to see what’s happening and what’s causing it.
Some research was done on this topic. They gathered data from millions of SKUs and they found that the number of reviews stop mattering after 21 reviews. After that, it’s the amount of stars you have. Reviews matter for sure. Intuition would say that a product with 3000 reviews would do better than one with 100. However, according to the data, what really matters is the star rating.
Brad has found that when you run promotions, there is a higher rate of reviews that comes from people buying your product. The normal rate is about 1-3% of people who buy your product, will review your product. That number jumps up quite a bit when you run promotions. Usually, you don’t have to give away more than 30-50 units on products with a lower price point. With product over $100, you could probably get away with less.
A Facebook crowd around your brand is a great resource. You can promote new products there and get a good response
If you have built up a following around your brand. i.e. A Facebook page or group. You can leverage that following to help you. When you have an Amazon launch and are trying to get a new product out there, you can post about it on your page or group and tell them about your promotions, and ask them to leave a review. It’s a great resource if you have that following.
You can. It’s the idea of making your Facebook community feel special.
It’s hard to say. Within Amazon, it’s an individual person making the call every time. They have their SOPs that say if someone is given a promotion for a review, take it off. If it’s in a grey area, Brad has seen them overreach their bounds too much. However, there should be nothing against giving away promotions for your products.
It shouldn’t. It’s such a new thing and Brad doesn’t know what the internal procedures are but it’s not an incentivised review. You’re not saying, “Here’s a product so that you’ll review it for us.”
Brad could see that argument between two VPs as he has seen in the past, however, he doesn’t have much more insight than that. All he can really go on is the success of promotions in that past that his firm has experienced.
Today we are continuing with our giving-up list. What are you going to give up in 2017? Before you start doing something, you need to stop doing something else. You must free up your time, money, and mental focus. Today we will be discussing sponsored ads, or Amazon ads. Amazon calls them sponsored ads. Broadly speaking, they are one of a few ways you can that drive traffic that is moderately guaranteed to work.
If you have a product with terrible conversion rates and a decent amount of reviews and that’s not shifting over time, and you’re driving traffic with pay-per-click, then you have a problem with your product or listing. But if you have decent sales and the conversion rate isn’t terrible, not below 10%, then what is going to determine your profit will be the balance between the sales price and the cost of goods sold. A big percentage of that is your Amazon ads.
If you increase your price you could negatively affect your sales, however, if you reduce your cost, by reducing money spent on Amazon ads, then you will increase your profit while maintaining your sales. Which is obviously a big win for you.
It is very important to use negative keywords if you’re using auto-campaign. I always suggest using auto-campaign to start with because you can gather a lot of data and tune the algorithm to your listing. But after a while (say 1-2 weeks usually) you shouldn’t be spending a large bid-per-click on that.
Go through your search term report, and anything you’re spending a lot of money on, that doesn’t bring you sales, is something you want to put in negative keywords fairly soon.
How soon? Well, if you are really serious about your products, you have signs of good success on your hands, and deep pockets, you might want to run a loss on that campaign for a rather long time in order to gather data.
If you have 50 clicks on a keyword and no sales, that pretty certain that it’s not working. You’ll want to make sure that’s a negative match keyword. However, to get 50 clicks, you likely spent a lot of money and you might want to have a cutoff at 5, 10, or 20 clicks.
The next thing you want to look at is the keywords that are making sales. These are probably going to be a small percentage of all the keywords you’re using. Over time, you’ll start gathering your long-tail keywords, but starting out, it’ll likely be around 10-15. That all depends on how much you’re willing to spend before you make sales.
Unless you want to be really harsh, after two to three weeks you’ll have your 10-15 keywords that are making you sales. You’ll want to look at those and reduce the bids on those which are costing you too high of advertising cost of sales.
One caveat, don’t allow advertising costs of sales to be your main guiding point. When you launching products, you’ll be raising your prices over time. For example, if you’re spending $10 on advertising on a product you’re selling for $10. That’s 100% ACoS (Advertising Cost of Sales). Over time, you might raise the price to $15 which change that ACoS dramatically. So I wouldn’t recommend using that as a metric. It can be misleading until you land at a stable price.
What I would recommend looking at is the overall spend on advertising divided by the overall sales. A very simple, robust metric that you should monitor weekly at least.
This isn’t something Amazon will give you because they want you to spend money on advertising.
It’s very simple to calculate. Get the same time period for both; you can get your advertising costs from the seller central “Advertising” tab, and you add up how much you spent. Then you go back to your business reports, and add up the sales you made in the same exact period period. Then just take your advertising costs and divide them by your sales.
The main thing is that it’s not about the advertising cost of sales, it about profit. If my profit margin on an item, before advertising, is $3, then I can spend $3 on advertising before it becomes a loss.
Another thing to consider, is that, if you have a decent selling product, you may be willing to run at 100% ACoS. That is, you’re running a loss on those sales from ads. You will still rank organically because of the ads, and you can make your money from organic sales.
I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re not being aggressive and really looking to grow your sales volume. I prefer to keep my ACoS where it is break-even. Let’s say I am selling a widget for $10, and my total cost before Amazon ads, including Amazon fees and fulfillment costs etc, is $7. That means, before ads, my profit margin is $3. I would not want to spend more than $3 per sale averaged over all my ads. That means that all sales gained via Amazon Ads are at breakeven or better, and that all organic sales represent profit.
I know this is complicated and it’s not really meant to be an instruction guide for pay-per-click ads. If it’s the sort of thing you need help with and you want to get in touch with me, I do offer a one-off call with you through Clarity FM. It’s $2/minute so it’s an expensive way of working with me. You’d be better off joining my mentorship program if you want ongoing help. Although I’m pretty strict about who I work with, I do have room for one or two more people. If you’re interested, still apply, and don’t assume I won’t work with you. Just read the guidelines and FAQs first though.
Another, inexpensive, way to work with me, as well of several others, is to become a part of the mastermind group. The London mastermind is in full swing and we’ve had meetups with about 6-10 people, which is perfect. We have dates set from January to June if you’re interested in working with me and up to 10 other people.
One last word on pay-per-click, I am trying out some software called PPC Entourage which they claim will help you manage your pay-per-click very quickly and easily. I haven’t had a chance to really dive into it but I will give it a test run and report back to you. If you want to try it, you can get a copy at http://ppcentourage.com/.
Need more personalised input on issues like this? Live in the UK in or near the South-East? You might want to consider joining us for monthly meetings where we can thrash out all the issues like this one for YOUR business. Check it out here.
Welcome to part 2 of what I’m not going to do in 2017, my stop-doing list or my giving-up list, if you will.
The next thing on my list after giving up products that aren’t profitable or don’t sell, is to think about the marketplaces that you might stop selling in as well. Certain marketplaces will be better suited for certain products. For example, if you wanted to sell barbecue equipment in the UK right now, while it’s in the middle of January and it’s freezing cold, you won’t do well. You might get a few hardened people (like me!) that walk around in shirts while it is 5° C, but not many. Certain products aren’t going to work out in certain marketplaces at certain times.
It may be that you sell a product in one marketplace and it does really well, then you try to sell it in another and it does poorly. You have to make sure to do the right things. You have to dial in your pay-per-click and your keyword research needs to be specific to each marketplace. Don’t be lazy and transfer over what you already have because it can work quite differently. Especially if you’re a UK seller trying to sell in the US marketplace or vice-versa. Don’t assume the keywords are the same, they often aren’t.
Let’s say, even once you’ve done that, and done your pay-per-click properly, and did a proper launch, your product isn’t taking off. I wouldn’t say to kill it, but maybe pause that listing and let your inventory sell off. This isn’t a product you’d want to re-order.
Classic example, I had a generic product in the US marketplace, we’ll call it a blue widget, sold great, but only at a certain price point which wasn’t profitable. If I raised the price, it would drop to page five and sales would disappear. Now a niched-down version of that product, call it a stainless steel blue widget , did much better. I sold 1200 units in six weeks at a 25-30% margin.
With those same products in the UK, it was a different story. The generic blue widget version did a few sales a day at a profit. However, the niched-down version, the one that sold 1200 units in a few weeks in the USA, was very disappointing. It, maybe, sold one or two units a day, even though it was still on page one, albeit at the bottom. For me, that’s not worth the time and effort to keep doing that. I was then able to reallocate my money and focus into something else.
This isn’t so much giving up an Amazon marketplace as such, but rather, giving up a certain product in a certain marketplace. I encourage you to look at your numbers. Make decisions based on the data rather than what you wish was the situation. Just because you invested a lot of time, money, and effort into something, doesn’t mean you have to stick to it. You have to be willing to walk away if the data shows that it’s not working. It’s called a sunk cost and it’s an incredibly important discipline for all business people.
Need more personalised input on issues like this? Live in the UK in or near the South-East? You might want to consider joining us for monthly meetings where we can thrash out all the issues like this one for YOUR business. Check it out here.
Today I have a simple but powerful marketing principle: Triple M. This isn’t so much about your mindset, but rather about understanding the mindset of the consumer. By that I mean a shopper that has the potential to buy from you. I feel like people don’t truly understand this and therefore there is an opportunity for you on Amazon.
This is key in driving sales and conversions. Let’s unpack this in non-internet terms. This is a fundamental process that applies in any market in any medium whether it’s face-to-face or online or wherever.
If I was in a room full of cat-owners and they hated dogs, I could offer them the best dog food in the world. I could say, “it would make your dog leap for joy and it will make him/her the happiest and healthiest dog and add five years to their lives. It is normally £50 and I will sell it for £3.” How many responses would I get? Zero! Now, if I had a room full of dog owners, the response would be much different. Message to market match is crucial.
Amazon does its best to ensure there is good message to market match because it leads to happier consumers. Happier consumers will like and trust Amazon more and keep coming back.
Keep in mind that we are leveraging people’s trust in Amazon. When someone does a search on Amazon they are saying, “I am looking to buy xxxx.” Amazon then looks at all the listings it has available. Then compares keywords that are in the title and the bullet points. Then determines whether those keywords have helped that product sell, and delivers the best matches to the consumer.
If you are selling dog food, and the shopper puts in the word “cat food”, you have to hope that Amazon does not display your listing. If it does, then it is just a waste of everyone’s time because the cat owner isn’t looking for your product.
You need to be very clear about the market you’re going after. Instead of trying to find keywords that will help you sell a product, you should be thinking of the customer’s search terms, and finding a product that will fulfill that search.
Let’s use “red dog bowl” as an example. Here is a great way to find a niche market where demand is high but the obvious keywords, dog bowl, are hyper-competitive. It would take a lot of work and giveaways to gain any traction. Now, let’s say you search for red dog bowl and the search results show a black dog bowl, and a silver dog bowl, etc.
That means that Amazon couldn’t find an exact match for the terms had to display similar products that aren’t exactly what you’re looking for. That tells me that there is an opportunity. If I am a shopper that is looking, specifically, for a red dog bowl, and my search results come up with one red dog bowl and the rest are different colours, then I will likely click on that one. This will help your click-through rate and this is called dominating a niche market, which is internet marketing 101.
The other thing to think about is when people have gotten on your listing, they are pretty likely to buy. As long as you don’t actively put them off, they are likely to convert. So you will be getting better click-through rates as well as conversion rates. Therefore, if you’re buying Amazon ads then you will be getting a better return on your investment.
Let’s say you’re paying $1 per click for “red dog bowl” and 30% of people that click end up buying, then the cost per sale. Averaged out, will be $3. Whereas, if you were to pay $2 for the keyword “dog bowl” and people click on it, then see several other listings that are very similar and end up clicking on another product. That conversion rate will be much lower. Let’s say the conversion rate is closer to 10%, you are going to end up paying $20 per sale.
You can find a niche market. Also, if you can find a niche market where you can supply the exact thing that people are searching for and no one else is supplying it, you can secure niche dominance and will have very good click-through and conversion rates. This will lead to fantastic sales since there is less competition.
The next stage in message to market match is believably. If you are selling that miracle dog food to a room full of dog owners. This time you’re giving it away for free. That raises the question of whether or not they can trust you. That question, I will answer, in the next episode.