Season 1, Episode 116
Optimization Hacks Don’t Work, and What you Should do Instead
[oo:00:01] Chris: Welcome back to Seller Performance Solutions. I’m Chris McCabe here with Leah McHugh in person. Live and in person. Not quite live. Sort of live. We’re here with Emma Schirmer Tamir of Marketing by Emma. Hello, Emma.
[00:00:12] Emma: Hello, Chris and Leah.
[00:00:15] Chris: How have you been this wonderful summer into fall? It still feels like summer here. It’s 80 something degrees in Boston today.
[00:00:22] Emma: Wow. It’s warmer in Boston than it is in Las Vegas.
[00:00:26] Chris: Very interesting.
[00:00:27] Emma: We’re having a little bit of a cold snap at the moment. I will say I was freezing this morning when I took the dog out and it was like 55 degrees.
[00:00:39] Chris: Oh, it was 55 this morning here when I got up, but it quickly went up to like 85 in a few hours.
[00:00:47] Emma: What is this world we live in?
[00:00:48] Chris: It’s a warming planet, apparently. So, I guess we have to get used to it, since no one’s interested in changing their behavior. Anyway, Back to Amazon. You’ve been a guest, I think, two or three times in the past on our podcast. We’ve introduced you to numerous brand owners, we’ve helped people get the right resources, the right knowledge, the right info on listing optimization, which is your forte. Obviously there’s other marketing, and promotional, and detail page work that you do. Can you give everyone just a quick rundown, not only of your background and what you guys handle, but what your focus is heading into Prime Day.
[00:01:26] Emma: Absolutely. Prime Day is literally around the corner. So we have specialized in helping brands really connect with who they are and who their ideal customers are to be able to compel people to want to choose them over all of the other options that are out there.
We all know that Amazon is Incredibly competitive and so it’s really key to figure out how to position yourself in a way to make your product the obvious choice. So that’s what we really specialize in both from the SEO side of things as well as the creative positioning. When it comes to preparing for prime day we really treat it like preparing for any other time of year. You need to be thinking about ways that you can stand out, that you can communicate your value proposition, that you can win over as many customers or the right customers as possible.
And so for prime day, I think one of the main things, of course, that changes is you’re going to have more aggressive deals and all of those types of things. You might even be spending more on PPC. Well, you probably are. And so if you want to be pulling all of those levers and really maximizing that spend, and still remaining profitable despite steep discounts, then having a really locked and loaded, optimized listing is a critical piece of that because otherwise you could very quickly get yourself into a position where you’re spending way more, you’re cutting down your margins, and then you’re actually left without any profit at all Which is I don’t think what any business is looking to achieve. It would be you know, a huge lost opportunity and just a loss overall trying to go into and establish as a strong start to the Q4 holiday shopping season.
[00:03:15] Chris: Yeah. Do you hear from people long before I assume the prime dates are announced because Amazon loves to give them to you last minute, but do you hear from people two months early and they want drastic changes on their detail pages? Piecemeal kind of minor tweaks. I mean, what’s the general average?
[00:03:33] Emma: I would say a lot of times the way the people come to us is less of,
“Hey, I want to get this ready for prime day due with X, Y, and Z”, but more of
“we know prime day, we know Q four, we know these big spending periods are coming, we feel like there’s opportunity here that we’re not fully capitalizing on. What do you see as opportunities here and is this something that you can help with?” So it normally starts more as a question or from a point of we know we need to change this. But I would say it’s pretty rare that people are coming to us with a fully thought through concept of all the things that they need to do. Of course we value that when it happens, but a lot of times it’s more of, we know that there’s something that can be done here, but we don’t know exactly what it is and how can you help us fix that. So then we get to put our investigative hats on to figure out what can we do to allow this product to be successful, and it becomes more and more challenging because we are just seeing so much competition in almost every category, so you’re needing to get much more focused with how you’re positioning your products in a way that you were not having to do, even just a few years ago.
[00:04:57] Leah: This time of year on our end, actually, like last month. September and October is when we see a lot of listing policy enforcement and compliance enforcement. And part of that is, Amazon cleaning up the catalog before the busy season, but I think another part of it is a lot of people having bad ideas when updating their listings for Q4. So, adding words that are restricted or just misrepresenting their product, in an attempt to try to compete in an ever more competitive marketplace.
[00:05:28] Chris: I figured some of this out. I think a lot of people we’ve talked to, I don’t know if this has been going on for years or more like months. They see a post on LinkedIn or Facebook or something saying, “Hey, you can double, or triple blank” , and they just assume that it’s TOS compliant because the service says it is.
[00:05:45] Leah: There’s also a lot of tools that recommend keywords without considering compliance. Even Amazon’s own tools.
I’ve heard from a few sellers who SAS rep recommended that they add words to their listing and I’m like, that’ll get it suspended. Right.
[00:05:59] Chris: Because they don’t have compliance training or knowledge, but also, on the service provider side that gap is there and it could create an ASIN suspension, right? Which is the opposite effect of doubling or tripling your sales. How do you thread that needle? Do they ask you about these things or do they just say, look, do you give me TOS compliant methods and you say yes and then you move on.
[00:06:19] Leah: They’re like, we’re going to use this word no matter what you say.
[00:06:21] Chris: Yeah or do they just reject what your advice is.
[00:06:25] Emma: It’s always a tricky balancing act to play. So we, from the very beginning have always taken approach of you’re hiring us because we’re experts. And so it is our responsibility to arm you with as much information as we can, and to try to encourage you to make a decision that’s going to be in your best interest. Ultimately, they are the business owners, and so at the end of the day, if they really want to do something and we’re telling them that’s not advised, we have no say over whether they do it or not, so we just try to at least provide as much, both insight and also practical real life examples to demonstrate why this may or may not be a good idea and what the risks associated with it might be. And some people are very, what’s the opposite of risk averse?
[00:07:22] Chris: Risk embrace?
[00:07:24] Emma: And so they’re like well, you know, I mean why not see if I can make a boatload of money. And others aren’t. So I think I’m very much of the approach of play it safe because ultimately, if something goes wrong with Amazon, you don’t know how long it’s going to take to fix it. And you don’t know sometimes even if you’re going to be able to fix it. And then when you add in the holiday season on top of it, and there’s all of that intensity, and there’s so much riding on it, and you’ve probably invested a lot into additional inventory, and you have this whole plan It can very quickly spiral, and then if you’re already making risky choices, and then you’re now panicking to try to fix it, that’s also when you’re more likely to make even more bad choices that just escalate the problem and make it even worse. But that’s also why we recommend not preparing for the holidays right on the precipice of the holidays. Allowing that time because there’s sometimes even that you’re not doing anything wrong and Amazon flags things just for whatever weird reason. And so allowing some of that buffer room that if something weird happens, you are not with your back up against the wall and you have time to consider decisions about how resolve this in the most effective way possible instead of freaking out. I mean, you guys obviously can speak way more to that then I can.
[00:08:52] Chris: No well said. I agree with everything you said.
[00:08:56] Leah: We do get a lot of people coming to us freaking out.
[00:08:58] Emma: Understandably. I mean, I would freak out if it was the eve of Prime Day or Black Friday,
[00:09:07] Chris: A certain amount of it isn’t avoidable. It could be a glitch, could be technical stuff on Amazon’s side, could be competitor attacks, but we are trying to get people in the right frame of mind where you button up everything on your side as much as possible so that you at least cut that out of the equation so that you know, it’s not a stumble, a mistake, an error on your side.
And the quicker you can narrow the possibilities, the quicker you can address it with the appeals process.
[00:09:36] Emma: That’s such an interesting way of putting it that I never thought about, but that the value and making sure that you’re crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s and doing everything exactly how it needs to be.
So then you can directly kind of limit your pool to it’s most likely X, Y, or Z because we know that A through F has all been done.
[00:09:58] Leah: Particularly with listings, I recommend that everybody uses flat files because it gives you a paper trail.
[00:10:03] Emma: Yeah.
[00:10:03] Leah: And it gives you a paper trail that Amazon can also follow.
Whereas if you’re doing it manually or if you’re doing it using the API, it’s a lot more difficult. You will have the paper trail on your side with the API, but the catalog team can’t see it. So that way, if somebody does put in keywords that aren’t supposed to be there, you can very clearly show them that it wasn’t you.
And you can also, if you’re familiar with flat files, it’s a lot easier to correct the listing, whereas when it’s blocked, sometimes manual changes just don’t go through.
[00:10:32] Emma: Right. It’s important to remember that it’s not just about Amazon’s rules, but also being mindful if you’re selling anything that might be under FDA regulation and things like that. To ensure that you’re following any rules and regulations to make sure that you’re marketing your product in the correct way. So, you know anything that’s topical, anything that’s ingestible, you’re going to need to be mindful of the types of claims that you’re making and how you’re stating certain certain things. But that can even extend to products for children.
It’s a very wide range of things and understanding where your liabilities are and then how to maneuver around that when you are marketing your product, but not in a way that’s going to open yourself up to really big lawsuits. Because then it’s kind of like with taking a big risk and then getting suspended right around the holidays.
It’s like, okay, you can make a bunch of sales, but then if you end up getting tied up in some… huge litigation you’re at a much bigger loss than you were that temporary gain and saying what you shouldn’t have
[00:11:42] Leah: Yeah, and we are seeing a lot more enforcement by government agencies. And we’re also seeing a lot more sellers versus sellers or brands versus seller lawsuits as well In the last few years.
The lawsuit thing is something that doesn’t get talked about a lot but is definitely something that sellers should be aware of.
[00:11:59] Chris: A lot of people, their listings get taken down, but they’ve been through that before and they got it reinstated in the past. So they assume, well they make a couple of assumptions.
One, that their overall account health won’t be impacted because it wasn’t in the past, which actually they’ve kind of changed that now where account health reps might call you and say, you’ve got an unresolved ASIN issue or two or three, and it could threaten the entire account. But a lot of people are assuming, well, I had this flag the same time last year for the same reason. I’m sure they’re going to flag me every year for this, and it’ll take about two or three days to fix or two hours to fix. So they go ahead and do it again, and I just think that’s the wrong way of approaching it. This year isn’t necessarily last year, and the global impact on your entire account might be different now than it was in the past, especially if they consider you a repeat offender.
And appeal strategies don’t stay stagnant. They change from month to month, not just year to year. And I don’t hear a lot of brands talking about that. And that’s something that you might hear about when they’re trying to massage some of the content on the detail page. And I’m sure you kind of give them the idea that maybe they need to think about that again.
[00:13:12] Emma: Yeah. I think sometimes, you know, we’re like the spoilsport that’s like “you want to do that?” And I would say along the same lines as maybe people seeing that they get away with something in the past. So taking that as permission, I think the same thing applies to taking what you see other sellers doing as legitimizing whatever strategies as something that you can also safely do.
And the fact of the matter is, is that that’s just not how Amazon functions, and it is responsive rather than checking everything from the get go. So, somebody might be getting away with something now, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not something that they won’t be penalized for in the future.
And so, that extends to everything from what you see on the product page to what you see in the inserts, and how they’re communicating around reviews. If it feels like it’s too good to be true, or if it’s making these like crazy promises and you’re starting to get all googly eyed and drooling over the potential, those are the times when you need to really take a step back and ask yourself if this is something that is legitimate, and worth putting your business on the line for.
[00:14:32] Leah: Yeah. These are all conversations I have with sellers every single day. And they usually don’t like what I have to say about it.
[00:14:40] Chris: You guys, before we go, you guys have a audit that you offer. Is it a checklist? Is there something that you can summarize quickly for people and then we’ll link to it, of course, so they can reach out to you directly.
[00:14:52] Emma: Yeah, so we are always happy to take a look at your listing or storefront, and all of this is done manually by a real life human taking a look at your listing. They have a lot of experience reviewing hundreds and thousands of listings. They understand what works and what doesn’t. So taking a look at it and providing some key takeaways of things that either you can take and do yourself, or if you’d like to work with us, we can implement all of those changes and help you take your listing to the next level.
So that’s at marketingbyemma.com/freeanalysis. We’re also happy to look at a product page off Amazon if you’re so inclined. But we’re always happy to provide some insights and give you those tips that you can use to hopefully not only prepare for a strong Q4, but also always keeping in mind the long game and really prepare for a solid future for your business. Whether that’s an exit or generational wealth or just continuing to, to grow and figure out this wild and crazy world of Amazon.
[00:16:05] Chris: Terrific. All right. Thanks. So we’ll link that down below. Thank you again for your insights. I’m sure you’re helping a lot of people get ready for Prime Day and of course, Black Friday is just behind that, right? So peak holiday coming up pretty quickly here and I’m sure you have many, many people that you need to talk to so we’ll let you go. Thanks again for joining us, everybody. We’re with Emma Schermer Tamir of Marketing by Emma, and if you have any questions for her, they can reach you best at marketingbyemma.com correct?
Marketingbyemma.com, whether you want WhatsApp, or phone, or contact form, what have you, it all lives there.
[00:16:44] Leah: Awesome.
[00:16:44] Chris: Awesome. We’ll talk to you again soon.
Hosts & Guests
Emma Schirmer Tamir
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