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Guaranteed Ways to Lose Your eBay or Amazon Account

The Online Seller's News, May, 2014, Volume 14, Issue No. 8

Tips, Tools, News and Resources for eBay, Amazon and Independent Online Sellers
by: Skip McGrath

In This Issue:

Musings from eBay, Amazon and The World Wide Web

  1. Guaranteed Ways to Lose Your eBay or Amazon Account
  2. Where eBay and Amazon Look for Keywords
  3. What Does Amazonís Jeff Bezos Know, That Wall Street Doesnít?
  4. Niche of The Month - Arts & Craft Tools & Supplies
  5. New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

"Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else's." ~ Billy Wilder


Musings from eBay, Amazon, and beyond

Ina Steiner has a very interesting article about fraudulent ads appearing on eBay UK. Read it here. The article doesn't mention it, but this is also happening here in the US -not necessarily on eBay, but they have popped up on other sites.

And the AuctionBytes Blog has a great article by Julia Wilkinson, 5 Myths About Yard Sales.


Sellers: Updates to fees in select categories could mean more free listings* for you! Click here for info


Just a reminder in case you missed the last issue: We made a deal with a new printing company to lower our cost so, The Complete Amazon Marketing System is now available once more with free shipping.


Lots of folks are looking for alternatives to eBay, but I am usually reluctant to write about new auction sites until they have established themselves, but one that I like is TopHatter. What is different about TopHatter is that their auctions are live, sort of a cross between auctions and QVC. The auctions only last a few minutes. The site is now averaging over 50,000 auctions per week, so not anywhere near as big as eBay, but that is big enough to get some attention and there is far less competition than on eBay.


One of my readers has joined a new startup firm called SnapPost that is creating a new eBay mobile listing device. In order to get some attention, they are giving away eBay gift cards in a contest where all you have to do is look at the page and like it to enter. You could win one of six gift cards - One $200, one $100 or four $25 cards. Just go to http://www.snappost.com/win-ebay-gift-card and fill out a short form. As I said this is one of your fellow readers, so I hope my readers will help her out with this.


Book Review - I just finished a new book by James Altucher called Choose Yourself!

If you have an online business and are struggling or even if you are not and you want to grow, I heartily recommend reading Choose Yourself! I have never been a fan of popular self-help gurus and books, but this one is practical and will put money in your pocket as well as increase your self-satisfaction.


Have you seen the pay-per-click ads at the bottom of your eBay listings? Originally they would be for related items or even other things such as credit cards, but now eBay is running ads that directly compete with your product and often show your exact product at a lower price.

One of my longtime readers, Don M, contacted eBay about this and sent me this email:

Skip,

I just wanted to inform you that I talked to one of the people on the help desk about the PPC ads at the bottom of the pages. I showed him what was happening and how it was hurting us.

I told him, it probably wouldn't be so bad if it were for other related products, but not the same ones we were selling.

He agreed with us on the problem and said he would bring it up in the next meeting they had. He also said that no one else has ever said anything about them, so he never realized that they were the same products with lower prices in many cases.

I just want to send you a little good news for a change. It would probably help though if you put this in your newsletter and ask others to say something about it also. Maybe we could get them to change it, if enough of us said something about it.

Thanks' Skip, and have a good evening.
Don

So here it is in my newsletter and I agree. If enough of us complain, perhaps eBay will do something about -or perhaps not. With eBay you never know.

As long as I am on the subject of eBay, one of the things they do well is publish an annual selling calendar. Here is a link where you can download it for free in PDF.


Lets get started with this monthís articles:

[top]

1. Guaranteed Ways to Lose Your eBay or Amazon Account

Not a week goes by that I don't get an email from a reader who has been suspended or shut down by either eBay or Amazon. The reasons why often vary and there are a few things you can do on Amazon that you cannot do on eBay and vice versa. But there are many similarities too. Let's look at some ways to get in trouble with your account:

1. Poor Customer service - this comes down to feedback and star ratings. If they get too low on either platform you run the risk of suspension or having your account cancelled permanently. If you are merchant fulfilling on Amazon a poor record with A to Z guarantee claims and order cancellations will cause you problems. On eBay it can be things like cancelling sales because you can't deliver (this often happens when you are using dropshippers who run out of product that you have listed and you cannot fulfill the order).

2. Conspiring with other sellers to fix prices - this is a very serious one and in fact is not only against eBay and Amazon Policy - it's also a violation of a Federal Law called Price Fixing. Never contact another seller and mention anything about pricing -even if you are doing something innocent, it's easy to be misunderstood. You don't have to necessarily contact the seller directly. I know of one case where an Amazon seller mentioned a product and the seller's name on a Facebook post and said something like "I wish this guy would raise his prices up near mine so we could both make money." Someone forwarded the post to Amazon and the seller was hit with a warning and a policy violation.

3. Selling fake, knock-off or counterfeit merchandise - this one is easy to run afoul of. There are dozens of companies that sell fake branded goods including fashion names like Ralph Lauren, Coach, Tommy Hilfiger, Channel, Dior and so on. And it's not just fashions - there are companies selling fake iPods, iPads and even iPhones and their accessories. You might think you are getting the real thing, but if you list it and someone complains you will get shut down.

Look at the two screenshots below from AliExpress. Notice the seller doesn't use the brand name, but the logos are identical to Tommy Hilfiger and Channel.

If you list those items, even if you do not claim they are the real brand, you could get a complaint because you are using a trademarked logo and/or essentially selling fake goods.

4. Item Not as Described - Get too many feedbacks on eBay or returns on Amazon for this reason and you could get in trouble fast. Make sure you always provide a full and accurate description.

5. Selling non-permitted goods . One good example on both eBay and Amazon are any accessories or parts related to Assault Rifles such as the AR16 or AK-47. Even if a part is not made for those rifles but will fit them, eBay or Amazon may shut the listing down and issue you a policy violation. Currently I am appealing a case with Amazon because I sell leather slings for hunting rifles.

Amazon said they could be used on an assault rifle so they ended the items and issued me a policy violation. I won the appeal sort of. My sling comes in two colors, tan and black. So far they have reinstated the tan one, but have not yet approved the black one. What's interesting is that Amazon sells a nearly identical sling but from another company. And theirs comes in black, tan and camo.

Also Amazon has restrictions on certain types of products by category. If you log into Seller Central and then go to this page you will see a list of categories on the left side of the page. Click on the category and you can read about what products or type of products are restricted or not permitted. http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_left_cn?ie=UTF8&nodeId=201414190

Many of the items such as alcohol, tobacco and drug paraphernalia are restricted on both eBay and Amazon. On eBay there are also certain brands that are restricted such as Tiffany. If you only do this occasionally you will just get a policy warning, but repeated attempts to sell restricted goods will eventually get your account cancelled.

And just as a final note - I actually asked a contact at Amazon for the top 3 ways sellers can lose their accounts and this is what he said:

  1. Make sure your customers get their stuff by the promised delivery date
  2. Answer customer inquiries within 24 hours
  3. Accurately report your inventory so that you're not forced to cancel orders if you run out of stock

Number one and three can be avoided altogether by using FBA. They only affect merchant fulfilled sellers. Number two is something I check four or five times a day. My average for answering customer questions is under 4 hours but you definitely want to keep it under 24 hours.

I know of one case where a seller got suspended because she was taken to the hospital and ended up being away from her computer for over a week. She did get the account back by sending Amazon a note from her Doctor, but if something like that happens to you and you can't respond to customer emails, ask a family member to open a support ticket telling Amazon that you are ill or what the circumstances are and that might prevent a suspension.

[top]

2. Where eBay and Amazon Look for Keywords

In the last issue I showed you some keyword tools to help find the right keyword for your eBay and Amazon listings. But where do the Amazon and eBay search engines look for those keywords?

Let's look at eBay first

When a buyer types something into the eBay search bar, the eBay search engine looks for matching keyword and keyword phrases in 3 places:

  • The title
  • The first 100 characters (including spaces) of the item description
  • Item Specifics

Title - eBay gives you 90 characters in your title (including spaces) so in addition to the correct name and brand of the product, you want to make your title is as keyword rich as possible. This would include things such as color and size as people often shop that way. For example - men's button down collar shirt in dark green size large Having the words green and large in your title will increase the odds of getting a hit.

The first 100 characters -I like to repeat the title of my listing possibly using different words in the first 100 characters of my description. Since I get 100 characters instead of just 90 I can often add another word that would not fit in my description. For example I might add the brand such as

Hathaway men's button down collar dark green cotton dress shirt in small, medium and large - Made in USA, New with tags.

That sentence has a few additional keywords such as cotton, Hathaway, dress, small and medium and Made in USA, that I may not have been able to fit into the title. That sentence is more than 100 characters, but remember it's also your item description, so you want to put all the relevant information a shopper would need. What you do not want to do is use those first few characters to say something like Welcome to my auction.

Item Specifics - When you create a listing on eBay, eBay asks you to fill out item specifics. Here are the item specifics for a dress shirt:

A lot of sellers get lazy and just fill out a few of the item specifics, but the more information you put into these fields the better chance you have of matching a keyword. For example, what if a buyer also typed in the words button cuffs. If you did not fill out the cuff style you would miss that keyword match.

Now let's look at Amazon

Amazon looks for keyword matches in 4 places. I am listing them in order of importance:

  • Title
  • Bullets
  • Keyword field
  • Description

Title - the title is obvious and just like on eBay you want to get important words in there that folks might search. The length of the title is different by category. For example in sports and outdoors you can have up to 250 characters whereas in jewelry you are limited to 105. So you want to check you the style guide for the category you are selling in. If you don't you might see your listings show up as warning listings in your seller central.

Bullets - Unlike eBay, Amazon has an area above the description called Key Product Features. These are shown as bullets right at the top of the listing, just below the title and price. This is the second most important area that Amazon searches for a match.

Keyword Field - When you create a listing on Amazon one of the item creation pages is called Keywords. On that page the system asks you questions such as Target audience, subject matter, other attributes and so on. It also brings up a keyword field box that looks like this:

This is the search box for a fashion cuff bracelet I have listed in the Jewelry category. Notice that I do not have the word bracelet in any of my keywords. That is because it is already in the title and appears several times in my bullets.

There are a few rules for using this box. First do not use punctuation as Amazon ignores commas. Also do not repeat any keywords or keyword phrases that are already in your title (but it's ok to repeat words in your bullets or description).

This is one area where Amazon is actually pretty helpful. I have printed the Amazon help file on keywords below. It's both accurate and complete:

Use detailed product names: Each individual word in the Product Name (Title) is searchable on its own. A product called Blue Queen-Sized Pillow Cases (300 Thread-Count) is better than Blue Pillow Cases.

Here are some recommended details for Product Name, with examples:

Brand and description - Laura Ashley Pillow Cases
Product line - Sophia Collection
Material or key ingredient - 300-Thread-Count
Color - Blue
Size - Queen
Quantity - Set of 2

Using these terms, the full Product Name might be: Laura Ashley Sophia Collection 300-Thread-Count Pillow Cases (Blue, Queen, Set of 2).

Do not re-use words in the search term fields: If your product name has the word "blue" in it, you don't need to repeat this word in your search terms. This won't increase the placement in results. Using the Pillow Cases product example above, additional search terms not already appearing in the product name might include: luxury, cotton, and shams. (Note, however, that you can get useful keywords from your product description and featured bullets, and from the names of Amazon.com browse nodes - for example, Bedding Ensembles.)

Don't use quotation marks in search terms: Single words - including several words in a row - work better than demarcated phrases. When you put words inside quotation marks, you're limiting the search results to customers who type in that exact phrase. For the Pillow Cases example, using the search term phrase "luxury cotton shams" means that customers searching for luxury pillow cases or cotton pillow cases won't be likely to find the product. But if you enter the three words without any punctuation - even in the same search term field - your product will turn up in the results of such searches.

Use only relevant search terms: Choose your search terms with care. They should relate to the product. For a set of blue, queen-sized Laura Ashley pillow cases, it would be inappropriate to use search terms like Ralph Lauren, king-sized, or paisley. Customers resent getting irrelevant results when they're searching for a different type of product. "Keyword bombing" increases clutter in search results and is simply not useful - the truly relevant matches will always rise to the top of the search results list. In addition, Amazon may remove products from the catalog if they're found to contain inappropriate keywords.

Use legitimate alternate spellings and synonyms: Alternate dictionary spellings often make good keywords. For example, aeroplane for airplane or racquet for racket. You may also want to use synonyms for important words in the product name, such as pants for slacks, TV for television, or wireless for cellular.

When entering several words as a search term, put them in the most logical order: A customer is more likely to search for big stuffed teddy bears than for teddy stuffed bears. This is something to consider when you enter a string of keywords into one search term field.

Minimize use of abbreviations: Use only the most common, standard abbreviations. If the manufacturer provides an abbreviation in the title of their product, this is probably a good one to use.

If you aren't getting the sales you expect, keep experimenting with your product names and search terms. To determine if a keyword will be useful for your product, do a search first on Amazon.com using that keyword. If you get a high number of matches, try other keywords to see if you can narrow the results.

More tips:

Do not use misspellings as search terms. Amazon.com's search engine compensates for common customer misspellings and also offers corrective suggestions.

When entering several words as a search term entry, you don't need to use punctuation. Our system ignores commas. Just make sure to put spaces between your words if you want them treated as separate terms. The word pillowcases is a different search term than pillow cases.

You don't need to use simple stemming variations. Our search engine performs basic stemming. For example, it will treat a search for gloves the same as a search for glove.

Description - The Amazon search engine does look at the description, but it does not carry a lot of weight. The best use of the description is a place to romance or sell your item. This is the place to put lists of accessories, specifications and any detailed information a customer might want.

[top]

3. What Does Amazonís Jeff Bezos Know, That Wall Street Doesnít?

If you have watched the performance of Amazon stock over the past few months, it is obvious that Wall Street is no longer in love with Amazon or founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos. Amazon stock has dropped over 25% in the past six months and fell 9.9% in one day after Amazon's last earnings report.

Wall street looks for increasing earnings and has a very short-term outlook, whereas I believe Jeff is looking longer term. Amazon sales and gross profits have continued on an upward trend for the past few years, but bottom line earnings have fallen. That is the main reason Amazon's stock is in the dumper.

But Wall Street is missing the big picture. Consider some of these things that Bezos has been doing for the past two years:

  • Opening new warehouse/distribution centers. Amazon now has over 30 distribution centers around the country with more on the way. The rate of expansion will slow down, but continue probably continue for a few more years. This is where most of Amazon's money went that would normally go to profits, but Amazon now has the largest and most sophisticated distribution system in the world and that will be hard to compete with in the future

  • Amazon Prime is nothing less than ingenious. Members get 2-Day free shipping on eligible products and free streaming movies. It really helps impulse buying and cash flow because millions of members pay the $99 fee in advance

  • Amazon's new Fire TV device competes with Apple, Google and Sony

  • in the TV device arena and lets you watch Amazon streaming movies, Netflix and Hulu Plus -and it's voice activated. Just say the name of a movie you want to find instead of selecting keys and having to type in those boxes on the screen.

  • Rumored to be almost ready - Amazon supposedly has a smartphone that will no doubt include built-in shopping features. I suspect it will have Dash built in and maybe Fire TV also.

  • Last week Amazon enhanced Prime with Prime Pantry. Prime members can buy up to 45 pounds of food and other supermarket items with a fixed shipping cost of $5.99. Most of the eligible items are large multi-paks like the kind we now buy from Costco, but it costs me more than $5.99 round trip to Costco for gas, so it's a no brainer for me. I just placed my first order yesterday.

  • Amazon recently introduced a new mobile device called Dash that lets you re-order common items by scanning them or speaking into a microphone. It's not available in all areas but should be nationwide by the end of the year. Take a look at this short video to see how it works.

Along with Prime Pantry, Dash could revolutionize grocery shopping in the US and there really isn't any way for the likes of Wal-Mart to compete without the in-depth distribution network Amazon has.

We may never see the drones like the one's featured on 60 Minutes delivering our packages, but I am sure Mr. Bezos has more ideas up his sleeve to keep growing business. Wall Street just needs to have a bit more patience with Mr. Bezos.

[top]

4. Niche of The Month - Arts & Craft Tools & Supplies

One of the key business categories that has proved itself pretty much recession proof is supplies & tools for artists and crafters. Artists and hand crafters tend to be somewhat passionate people when it comes to their art or their craft, and no matter how bad things are they will always find time for their supplies even if the have to eat Ramen five nights a week to afford them.

There are three interesting things about this niche:

  • There is a good market for used as well as new
  • Both new and used products in this category are easy to source
  • These types of products really lend themselves to bundling so you can sell at higher price points.

In the used category, it's not so much the supplies -as a lot of them tend to be consumable and most artists would not think about buying a half-filled tube of paint. So the things to look for are the tools. Really good paintbrushes are fairly expensive and if you can find them in good condition used brushes sell fairly well. And then there are the large items like easels, potting wheels, work lights, magnifying glasses, jewelry and beading tools and so on.

What is really interesting is that there are a lot of folks who try their hand at various arts and crafts and then lose interest. This means a lot of these things show up at garage and yard sales and in thrift shops. My wife volunteers in our local Soroptimist Thrift Shop. I was there one day and saw an entire section of art and craft goodies. And I cannot tell you how many painters' easels I have seen at garage sales over the years. They are almost as common as camera tripods.

Another great source of supplies are the dollar stores. I have seen a lot of very inexpensive items that are perfect for creating bundles. Here are a few listings of suppliers and tools now selling on eBay. I have tried to select items you can find and bundle and items you can find used at garage sales.

Just go to the eBay search bar and type art supplies and then craft supplies into the search and you will get an idea of what is selling. The listings shown above are all active, but if you log into eBay and click on completed search or look on Terapeak you can see what has actually sold and for how much.

And remember when selling any used item - condition is everything and be sure to describe any flaws, damage or missing parts.

[top]

5. New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

Ok - Let's look at some new sources.

Supermarket Distributors of America sells a large line of health and beauty products.

Drugstore Products Discount Wholesale sells almost all the health and beauty products as well as personal care products that you might find at any drugstore.

La Valencia sells several types of specialty cookware.

Bullseye Wholesale is a liquidator of health, beauty, some fashion and food items.

Great Lakes Wholesale offers 2,000+ high-quality products such as grocery, dry goods, pet supplies, cleaners, and health & beauty items. These tend to be low cost items but they lend themselves to multi-packing.

Brand Name Distributors sells brand name products at true wholesale prices: Food, paper, candy, coffee and tea.

Iconeum offers a wide range of Religious Products including Religious Jewelry, Rosaries, Icons, Crucifixes, Crosses, Prayer Cards, Rosary Cards, Statues, Catholic Stickers, and more.

STRIDER BIKES simple, no-pedal design builds confidence and eliminates fear by allowing kids to have their feet on the ground and progress at their own pace. The U.S. Patented STRIDER balance bikes are the lightest balance bikes in their category.

Accessory Wholesale has been a wholesaler to the Fashion, Bridal, and Tourist Industry since 1985. Their fashion line includes stretch bracelets, pendants, matching earrings, and hats.

Penguins Kid Wear is a wholesaler of Children Apparel Specializing in brand names clothing. Brands include: Disney, Marvel, US Polo, Calvin Klein & more. No minimums and Same Day Shipping.

Anima is a Manufacturer and designer of small pet products such as carriers, purses, clothing, apparel, beds, harnesses, collars, treats, toys, and other accessories. Use the Contact Us form on the website to setup a merchant account.

Achiever's International is a distributor of tack and other horse riding gear,

My Favorite Beads Pandora Style Jewelry, Gift Sets, Handmade Beaded Jewelry, all at competitive Wholesale prices.

LiquiTech Electronics sells new and refurbished electronics in a wide range of categories.

Nashville Wraps is a Gift Packaging and Gourmet Gift Basket Supplies Wholesale Resource. They carry a wide selection of gift packaging supplies.

Thatís it for now Ė see you in a couple of weeks with the Mid May issue.

Skip McGrath
The Online Seller's News

P.S. If you missed the last issue, click here to read it.








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