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Managing Your Search Results on Amazon

The eBay & Amazon Seller's News - April 20, 2016 - Volume 17, Issue No. 8

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

In This Issue:

Musings from and about eBay, Amazon and The World Wide Web

  1. Managing Your Search Results on Amazon
  2. Getting Wholesale Suppliers to Ship Direct to FBA for You
  3. Tricks to getting into Restrictive Categories
  4. New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

"Don't dream it, be it." ~ Rocky Horror Picture Show


Musings

I know this is a little late as there are only a few days left in April, but in order to reduce storage at FBA, Amazon is having a special promotion where you can recall inventory for free during the month of April. Here is the announcement:

Free removal of your FBA inventory until April 30, 2016

You may have slow-moving or low-selling inventory. Starting March 31, 2016, FBA is waiving fees for any removal order for return or disposal of your inventory that is currently in U.S. fulfillment centers. Learn more (You have to be logged into Seller Central to use that link)


One of my best selling books has been Make Money Blogging From Home which is a great companion to Make Money with The Amazon Affiliate Program.

The blogging book was last updated in 2014 but at that time we did not update the second section on setting up your WordPress site. My co-author, Marsha Perry is a WordPress expert. She wrote that section of the book and has just written a special bonus report, WordPress Update 2016, that updates the WordPress information.

Those of you who already purchased the book can get the WordPress Upate 2016 bonus report on the original download page. Anyone buying the book now, will have the latest up to date info delivered with the book.

And here is a time-sensitive extra bonus, good only through May 31st. If you buy Make Money Blogging From Home you'll get a $10 off coupon on Make Money with The Amazon Affiliate Program. The coupon is on the download page for the blogging book. Remember, the $10 coupon will only be available through May 31st of this year.


Interesting concept: There is a service called MyRealKarma.com that has been operating successfully in the UK for several years and has now moved into the US Market. Here is what it does:

eBay, Amazonand Etsy storefronts do not show up in Google search.

Here's how they solve it...

For every user they create a Seller Profile, which contains all of their customer feedback, social media accounts, friendly sellers etc. Users can display their Seller Profile on any website to build trust and sell more.

Also a Seller Profile is a full blown web page that is searchable by the Major Search engines. This can drive targeted high value traffic to users online stores and build web presence using their Seller Profile. Best of all, MyRealKarma.com is completely Free, not a trial or freemium.

So if you also sell from a website, I suggest you take a look at their service and give it a try.


One of the articles below is about getting approved to sell in restricted categories. But there are also several dozen restricted product brand names you cannot sell on Amazon. A lot of folks who don't know this, and are practicing Retail Arbitrage, make the mistake of buying these products and when they get home and try and list them, they learn they are not allowed to sell them.

Worst of all, Amazon does not publish the list - you don't learn you can't sell an item until you try and list it. However, I have been able to assemble a pretty good list of many of the restricted products. It's not 100% perfect, so if you have come across a restricted product that is not on my list, Please Click here to contact us and let us know and we will add it to the list.

Here is the link to my list of restricted brands on Amazon.


This is from Diana Ratliff who has written several guest posts for this newsletter. I thought my readers might benefit from this.

Ecomm Think Tank just interviewed my partner Marcus about retargeting for ecommerce.

He talks about what types of ads work best, how to use it for data-mining, choosing ad networks, determining a budget, and more.

here is the link

Trying to spread the word a bit and get some mileage out of the publicity - please share if you know anyone who might be interested.


Jungle Scout has just published an interesting post on Keyword Research. Here is the information:


One of the things that makes me most happy is to analyze data to make informed decisions. The maverick business person who operates on impulse and intuition is outdated...and foolish!

If you can quantify your decisions with good data, why would you not? I have based my Amazon FBA business around gathering the most important information to do product research. But once you have chosen your product, you can still use data to maximize your likelihood of success...

That strategy is called Keyword Research. We have just put together an in-depth run down of how you can do keyword research to optimize your listing for the most important, and profitable, customer searches on Amazon.

Here is the link to read the article.


For the past few years I have been recommending Barcodestalk as the place to buy UPC codes for your Amazon listings. However, Amazon (and eBay) will soon require UPC codes that are GS1 certified, which Barcodestalk does not yet do. So I have changed over to Nationwide Bar Codes as they do sell GS1 certified bar codes. Their pricing and service are very similar to Barcodestalk.com.


UK Amazon Sellers - A while ago I featured an article that listed ship and prep centers in the US and UK. Since then I have discovered a new one in the UK - FBA Prep & Ship. Best of all they are offereing a 25% discount to my readers. So when you sign up, use the Contact Us form on the website to let them know you came from my newsletter and you will get the discount.


Lets get started with this monthís articles:

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1. Managing Your Search Results on Amazon

Winning the buy box means you have to come up well in search when an Amazon buyer types search terms into the search box. How well you do your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on Amazon will determine how high you come up and allow customers to find your products.

The first thing you need to remember is on February 2, 2016 Amazon announced changes to its list of prohibited seller activities The new policies prohibit any attempts to manipulate the search and browse experience on Amazon.

So what we are not going to discuss is cheating the system, but rather, how to legitimately maximize your SEO results, or what SEO experts call "White hat" techniques (as opposed to "Black hat" techniques designed to cheat your way to the top).

Amazon uses a search algorithm to serve up results when a customer types keywords or product names into the search box on Amazon. The exact specifications of that algorithm are secret, but some have leaked out and are well understood in the industry.

Here are some of the things we know the algorithm looks for (not necessarily in order of importance - that I don't know).

  • Recent amount and quantity of sales - We know this one is important, as Amazon wants to feature items that sell quickly. So poor performing products (those with low search history or poor conversions) will not come up well in search. (I will discuss solutions to this below)

  • Your Seller Account Metrics - Given two sellers selling the same item at the same price, Amazon will feature the seller with better account metrics above someone with poor metrics. Say someone searches a term like "cuff bracelet." There are a lot of sellers who sell some type of cuff bracelet. Amazon will tend to list the sellers with excellent account metrics above sellers with poor metrics.

  • FBA versus Merchant Fulfilled - All other things being close to equal, Amazon tends to list FBA sellers above MF sellers to give their Prime members better results. Also most Prime members hit the Prime Only button when they search. When they do this, if your items are MF they will not come up at all in search.

  • Lowest Price - We know that price is one of the most important factors in search results and often determines who wins the buy box when a search does come up. When a buyer is searching in a specific category, there is even a drop down box where the buyer can search by price (plus shipping).

    This is one of the advantages of being in FBA. When Amazon compares pricing, if one seller is MF and the other is FBA, Amazon adds the MF seller's shipping cost to the price comparison. But, since they assume the FBA buyer will take advantage of free shipping, they add zero to your shipping price. So if you are at $29.95 + 7.95 shipping ($37.90), then I can be at $37.80 and Amazon will see me (the FBA seller) as the lower price by 10¢.

  • Content and Keywords - The very first thing the Amazon search engine does is look for content related to the search. If someone searches for a bracelet, they are not going to put up results for Lacrosse sticks. So getting the important keywords into your title and keyword field is critical. Don't forget to include the brand, full name of product, model number, and size (if any).

    Besides the title, the keyword field is also critical. I suggest you use a keyword tool such as Merchantwords that shows you the keywords people type when searching for something on Amazon. Amazon used to look for keywords in bullets and descriptions too, but they are getting away from this (although its still happening somewhat). Amazon has publically announced that eventually the only keywords they will search are the title and keyword field. But, this has not yet been fully implemented in all categories yet.

  • Recency and number of reviews - The more reviews and the more recent they are, the better you will come up in search. The reviews need to be within the past year at least. Three or four reviews that are a couple years old will not help much.

    Having said that, be careful of trying to rig the review system, or use third-party services to get reviews. This is one of the prohibited activities in the new guidelines that can get your account cancelled if they catch you doing it. A better way is just to ask your customers to post reviews and not offer anything in return. You can do this with a service like Feedback Five or Feedback Genius that automatically sends your customers an email asking them to post both feedback and a product review (The emails contain clickable links they can click to do that).

So there you have it. Those are the key items the Amazon search engine looks for to bring up search results. Now, how can you improve your chances?

  • Slow moving products - If a product is not selling the first thing you want to do is determine if it's a search issue, or a conversion issue. Go into your business reports and look at the Detail Page Sales and Traffic Report. This shows you a report by ASIN. If you are getting a lot of page views and low sales, then its probably something wrong with your listing. (Photo, description, bullets, price, etc.) Try revising your listing (or lowering your price) to see if that solves the problem.

    If your page views are low, then it's a search issue, so take a look at your keywords.

    My philosophy has always been to lower my price and get rid of slow moving items as I want to free up that cash to put into products that are selling more quickly. But if you are convinced a product will be successful if found, then think about investing in Amazon's pay-per-click advertising program (Sponsored products). If that improves your sales history it will almost immediately benefit you in search.

  • FBA versus MF - If you are now merchant fulfilling think hard about moving into FBA. We were strictly MF from 2006 to 2010. When we moved into FBA in 2010 our sales went up by several hundred percent within a matter of a few months. Today we are 100% FBA and we average selling about 30 items a day.

  • Poor account Metrics - this all comes down to customer service and how well you run your business. Look at your account metrics report in Seller Central, identify the areas you are weak in and work on improving them immediately. If your total feedback score is low, then just a couple feedbacks can give you a bad score. If you are merchant fulfilling, then slow shipments and taking too much time to enter tracking can hurt you. If you don't check and answer email from Amazon customers quickly, that can harm you. One thing I did notice is that when we moved into FBA, it really helped my account metrics.

  • Pricing - I am not one who favors stiff price competition on Amazon. I prefer to use the other methods we have covered above, creating bundles, or private label products as a way around that. But sometimes you just have no choice. As I said, I like to get rid of slow moving products. One of the reasons a product may be moving slowly is too much competition - and sellers that constantly lower prices. When I see that my philosophy is to move on to another product. I am constantly sourcing, so I find it fairly easy to replace poor performing products.

    Readers often ask me how I research to find the best products. The honest answer is I do very little research. (I look at the product on Amazon to see how much competition there is and what the sales ranks are, but that is about it. Mostly I trust my gut and I experiment a lot to find out what sells.

If you are having problems in search and winning the buy-box, then try these techniques and they will be sure to improve your business.

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2. Getting Wholesale Suppliers to Ship Direct to FBA for You

It is possible to get some of your wholesale suppliers to ship direct to Amazon for you.

Typically, only the smaller companies will do this. Large companies and large distributors have systems in place that make this difficult to do. But, I have 5 different suppliers - all small companies, where I can communicate direct with the owner who I have trained to do this.

The key to making this work is to give your suppliers highly explicit directions. Here is a recent email I sent to one of my suppliers (in this case the owner of the company) explaining how to create a shipment:

Hi Andy

You said you were willing to try this, so here is a new order for 24 each of the two piece combo __________ sets.

Here are the steps you need to do - Please read carefully as Amazon is very strict about how this is done.

- I have attached a PDF of the product labels

- You need to print those out and place the label over the UPC code on the package so the UPC is completely covered.

- Amazon does not permit Styrofoam peanuts or shredded paper in their shipments

- Put all 24 in one box

- If there are any bar codes printed on the box please X them out

- If the polybags have an opening greater than 5 inches Amazon requires a suffocation warning label on the poly bag.

- When the shipment is ready, please email me the weight and dimensions of the box. I enter that into my Amazon accounts and Amazon generates a shipping label. I will then email you the PDF of the shipping label.

- The shipping label comes in two parts. Both parts are used on the box - but one thing Amazon requires is that neither label can cover the slit in the center of the box that gets cut open when they open the box. So put one label on each side of the box center.

This is so when Amazon opens the box they do not cut through the label.

- Then you just give the box to UPS and Amazon charges me for the shipping.

- IF you want to come up with a small charge to cover your supplies and time, I am OK with that. Most of the vendors who do this for me charge 25¢ per item.

I know this sounds complicated but its really not, and it doesn't take all that much time.

Product labels attached - I use Avery 5160 labels which come 30 to a sheet. And for the shipping label you need a full size 8.5 x 11 sheet label

If this is too complicated, let me know and we can go back to the old way. But this really saves me shipping cost both to here and to Amazon and that means if these are more profitable, then I can buy more often.

This email was our first shipment and it went fine. Notice that I offered him 25¢ each for doing this. But he did not charge me for that and did it for free. Out of the five vendors who ship direct to FBA for me, three of them charge me a fee and the other two don't. Even with paying the fee I save both money and time. I only pay one shipping charge and it's the lower Amazon shipping concession charge, and my items get to Amazon much sooner so they sell faster.

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3. Tricks to getting into Restrictive Categories

Several product categories on Amazon are Restricted in the sense that you have to apply to be admitted to sell. There are also certain specific products that require approval. These include:

(Note - the hyperlinks below will take you to the page describing the restrictions, but you must be logged into Seller Central to open those links).

Categories and Products Requiring Approval

I picked the jewelry category (which we sell in) as an example of what you will see on the page. At the end of the page is a button that says "Request Approval." Hitting that button will take you to the application page. Here is what the Jewelry Restriction page looks like:

Jewelry

Amazon limits the addition of new sellers in the Jewelry category to ensure that customers can buy with confidence from all sellers on Amazon.com.

The requirements for selling in the Jewelry category reflect buyer concern for product quality, product branding, and consumer safety. Adherence to import and export restrictions is also important to ensuring that buyers can purchase authentic, high-quality Jewelry products.

Sellers must meet the requirements listed below to sell products in the Jewelry category. Please read this list of requirements and consult our Help pages if you have questions about specific policies. Meeting these requirements does not guarantee that Amazon will approve sellers to sell in Jewelry. Amazon reserves the right to review the quality of each seller's products and listings, including checking that products and listing data meet all applicable requirements. Please note that Amazon may remove your selling privileges for failing to meet these requirements.

General requirements

  • All products must meet Jewelry Quality Assurance Standards

  • All items must be properly setup according to Amazon's Categorization of Fine vs. Fashion Jewelry guidelines.

  • Listing of items priced over $125K is not allowed in the Jewelry category.

  • All sellers who apply to sell Fine Jewelry must pay a non-refundable application fee. No fee is required to apply to sell Fashion Jewelry. See the Fine Jewelry Terms and Conditions for more information.

  • Sellers without a Professional selling plan must upgrade to a Professional selling plan once their application is approved.

Seller minimum requirements

Sellers must meet these performance criteria to be eligible to apply to sell in the Jewelry category:

  • Order-Defect Rate of 1% or less

  • Cancellation Rate of 2.5% or less

  • Late Shipment Rate of 4% or less

View your current metrics in the Performance section of your seller account under Account Health.

If your account does not meet the minimum criteria, your application will be rejected . Please take corrective action and ensure your performance metrics meet the minimum criteria before completing the application.

Product quality requirements

  • All products must be new. No used products are allowed in the Jewelry category. We do not allow the sale of pre-owned vintage or antique jewelry.

  • All products must be authentic. We do not allow counterfeit, replica or knock-off products. We respect the intellectual property of others and require that sellers posting on our site do the same. If you believe that an item offered on our site violates your intellectual property rights, please submit your complaint using this online form.

  • Sellers must employ quality control and inspection procedures. All products must be properly stamped with the country of origin and metal type.

  • All products must meet North American product safety standards. (For more information, see our Consumer Product Safety Commission Guidelines Help page.)

  • Our materials specifications follow FTC guidelines for the jewelry industry. Amazon has also established Jewelry Quality Assurance Standards for all products sold on our site. Sellers must ensure all items comply with both sets of standards.

  • All products must be sold as listed and as characterized in the descriptions, images, and specifications shown on the detail page.

Product listing requirements

  • Sellers must follow Amazon listing standards for any product sold on Amazon.com.

    • Sellers must have reviewed Seller Central listing guidelines and agree to classify their products appropriately and accurately.

    • Sellers must submit product titles, bullet points, and product descriptions that are clearly written and help the customer understand the product.

    • Sellers are directed to read and understand FTC guidelines for advertising jewelry, as well as Tips for Listing Fine Jewelry, and list their items in accordance with this guidance.

  • Sellers may not match their item listings against existing items in the Jewelry category unless the item is from a major brand. Sellers must create their own detail pages for all jewelry products that are not from major brands; matching these products to existing items created by other sellers is not allowed.

  • Branded jewelry and jewelry accessories must be listed using the manufacturer's UPC code. Sellers of branded merchandise without UPCs can request UPCs from the brand owner/manufacturer. Learn more about Adding UPCs, EANs, and ISBNs for Your Products.

    • Sellers who produce their own branded merchandise may apply for the Amazon Brand Registry, which provides an exemption from this UPC requirement.

  • Buyers must be able to complete all aspects of ordering and purchasing a product using only the Amazon website. Customized items that require buyers to communicate customization information to sellers must use the Amazon Custom platform, which allows sellers to offer personalized products.

  • All listing data and images must be suitable for all ages and appropriate for our global community. Listing data and images may not depict or contain nudity (including unclothed mannequins) or pornographic, obscene, or offensive items.

Item data requirements

Product listing data for all Jewelry items must meet Jewelry-specific standards.

  • Sellers must follow the Jewelry Data Requirements published in Seller Central. These requirements are enforced systematically. Any items not meeting these standards will not be accepted.

  • For the purposes of product classification, item specifications, and quality assurance, we distinguish between fine and fashion jewelry based on several criteria. These criteria include, but are not limited to, metal type, gem type, and pearl type. Learn more about Categorization of Fine vs. Fashion Jewelry Materials.

  • Data requirements vary by product silhouette and materials. For example, we include different specifications for gold and diamond earrings than we do for a crystal and steel ring. Our data requirements reflect these differences.

    • When selling products with diamonds, sellers must disclose cut, color, clarity, carat weight, stone shape, setting type, stone treatment method, stone creation method, and some product-specific information (for example dimensions and ring sizes).

    • When selling fine gemstones, sellers must provide total gem weight, stone shape, setting type, stone treatment method, stone creation method, and some product-specific information (for example dimensions and ring sizes).

    • When selling fine pearl items, sellers must disclose pearl type, pearl minimum color, pearl shape, pearl luster, pearl uniformity, pearl blemishes, size per pearl, number of pearls, setting type, and some product-specific information (for example dimensions and ring sizes). In addition, pearls must be disclosed as being cultured, simulated, seed, or natural pearls.

Next step: request approval

If you would like to apply to sell Jewelry on Amazon.com and if you meet the requirements listed above in the Seller Minimum Requirements section, please click the Request approval button below. If you plan to sell any items with fine materials, please indicate this on the request and your application will be processed accordingly.

When you request approval the system will ask you for several things. One of them is a website address where Amazon can look at your items and images. Remember to check the Amazon Image guidelines to make sure your images comply. As for the website, if you do not have one, an easy way to go is just set up an eBay Store and list about a dozen items - again making sure to include the Brand name, UPC code and an approved Amazon image for each item. Then just give Amazon the URL address of your eBay Store.

The other thing Amazon usually asks for, are copies of invoices from real wholesale suppliers (not retail stores). They typically want at least three separate invoices - each less than 90 days old. The best way to get these is just buy some jewelry from suppliers with low minimum orders and list the items to sell on eBay until you get approval from Amazon.

So the first thing you have to do is read all the regulations on the restricted category page and build a checklist to make sure you meet all of those. Then fill out the online application. Don't be surprised if you are denied - I have spoken with sellers who were denied at least 3 or 4 times before they were accepted.

If you are denied, do not open a support case, just reapply. The bad news is Amazon does not always tell you why you were denied - although sometimes they do, such as telling you your images were not acceptable or something like that.

One more thing - In addition to categories, Amazon also requires approval to sell specific products. Here is their list

Products Requiring Approval

Even if selling in a category does not require approval from Amazon, selling certain products may require approval:

For certain specific products such as Wine, Amazon requires you to have a liquor license from your state. If you don't have one, then done even bother applying as you will never be accepted.

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4. New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

Remember - not all of these websites are wholesale sites. When you run into this, just use the contact us form and send an email that looks like this:

Hello

I am a retailer located in _____________. I would like to carry your products. Do you have a rep or distributor in our area, or may we deal with you directly?

Here is our business information

Smith Specialties

1212 Main Street

Oakmont, PA 15139

Tel 412-555-1600

PA State Resale number - B26 7759 18

Sandra Smith

Owner

OK let's list some sources.

Memorial Day and July 4th will be here soon and that is a good time of year to sell American flags and décor. Here are some flag suppliers

Wholesaleflags.com

Highest quality flags, flagpoles, pennants and banners at the best prices.

Ultimate Flags Co.

Buy flags with confidence from our unique online flag store. All state and national designs are authentic and delivered swiftly to your door.

American Flags Wholesale

We stock all forms of American Flags and we sell them wholesale to anyone that wants to buy. We have a full supply of American Flags for Memorial Day, Flag Day, July 4th Independence Day, 4th of July, Veterans Day & we supply Cemeteries, Graveyards, Realtor's & public municipalities with American flags and stick flags.

Now some other sources

Huafu International Trading

Huafu International Trading offer woman handbags, woman wallets and accessories.

Ltv. Imports

A wholesale supplier of handbags, tote bags, and more.

Olympic Eyewear

Olympiceyewear is a true importer of sunglasses. They offer attractive prices to retailers and wholesalers. They use higher quality materials and ensure high level of quality control on all sunglasses we make.

Bobster Eyewear

Internationally recognized, Bobster® Eyewear is a global leader renowned for revolutionary functional eyewear systems.

MSC Distributors

offers a big selection of t shirts including wildlife t-shirts, funny t shirts, skull t-shirt. They also offer flexfit hats, headwraps, biker t-shirts, and more.

Wholesale Pins

Wholesale Pins provides custom Lapel Pins for all your needs. You may choose from cloisonné, enamel, die-struck, and other styles of Lapel Pins.

State Line Bag Co.

State Line Bag Company manufactures genuine cotton bags in a variety of designs and sizes. Current lineup of bags consists of premium cotton drawstring backpacks and collection of cotton muslin bags.

Specialty Bottle

Buy Glass Bottles, Plastic Bottles, Glass Jars, Plastic Jars, Tins, Metal Containers, Glass Vials, Pet Bottle, Wholesale Containers, Candle Jars, Glass Bottle and Glass Jars.

Surefire is a manufacturer of a wide variety of illumination tools

TickleMePlants Sensitive TickleMe plants! Grow your own fun tickle me plants and sensitive plants with your own seeds. A great scientific and educational project. Touch the plant the leaves close!

Thatís it for now. See you in early May.

Skip McGrath
The eBay & Amazon Seller's News

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


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