Amazon SEO Experts’s Sam Page on the Conductor Search From Home Podcast

Sam Page _ Blue Host _ Conductor Search from Home _ Mon. 04.27.20

Stephen: Hey guys, thanks so much for joining us for another episode of Search from Home. It is week six and we are here, but we are here with a vengeance. We’ve decided we’re going to mix it up this week, so we’ve got as usual or almost usual, my cohost, Patrick Reinhart. Didn’t even point where he was, that joke’s over with.

Patrick: Yes.

Stephen: It’s dead and gone as of today. Exciting times and we have Sam Page on LinkedIn goes by Samuel Page, happens to be more shorn on LinkedIn, if you don’t recognize him from his photo. He’s from Bluehost, awesome SEO. And we were talking, and he said, you know, I’ll be willing to come on the show, but I want to switch things up a little bit.

I want to talk about Amazon, and I want to talk about optimization for Amazon and I said, very interesting, Dr. Jones. We have not really gotten into that and that is not something that is by any means, a strong suit of mine. Pat, is that a strong suit of yours? Pat?

Patrick: No, no, not really. I mean, like, you know, it’s interesting because it’s different, right? Because it’s not a search engine, it’s a marketplace. So, we are mainly focused on traditional search engines. But that’s something that we constantly get asked. And it’s always a good discussion because, you know, I don’t have a ton of hands on experience optimizing for Amazon, so I’m always interested in the conversation because I need to learn more. And I mean, everyone needs to learn more definitely. But I’ve been excited for this when I heard what we were going to be talking about.

Stephen: Me too. So, Sam, by all means, introduce yourself. Give us a little background on you, tell us a little bit about how the heck you ended up in this Amazon world and then we’ll get started from there. Sound good? 

Sam: Yes cool, thanks. Yes, no, so my full-time gig is I’m the senior SEO at Bluehost where yes, a lot of my time is spent thinking about Google as a search engine. But also, YouTube and some of these other sorts of secondary and further down the line search engines. But yes, I started doing SEO originally as just at an agency and kind of just, it was a small agency, so I could wear a lot of hats and learn a lot.

And along the way, I kind of took a couple in house jobs and that kind of exposed me to some different things too, especially e-commerce. And then just naturally, like my brain is always trying to figure out something like a work around or like, it just, you know, I’m always SEO doing things, whether it’s Google or something outside of that.

But so, Amazon came along, and I was tinkering around with it. I wrote a little how to guide. It was like how to buy and sell cars for profit and it was like a 20-page thing and I threw it up there and I got some sales on Amazon and I was like, Oh, this is kind of cool. Like, let’s see how far I can take this.

And so, the next one I wrote was called the Big Green Egg Manual. So, at the time, this big green egg was like pretty new still. It’s I don’t know if you guys are familiar, but it’s like this [ inaudible 00:03:31] grill smoker. Uh, and it was something that was like super interesting to me, but also very expensive. So, I ended up wanting to just shell out the money. So, I was like, yes, I’ll make a manual, let’s see what happens, maybe I can make some money and put it towards the smoker.

 And so, I put it on Amazon, and you know, back then this was probably 10 years ago, like you could just get some new email accounts and like an Amazon gift card and go to town with some fake reviews. So obviously not the most white hat way of doing it, but I tried it out to see what happens. And yes, so like not much longer after that, the ranking started going up and the sales were going crazy. And before long I had enough money off of this eBook where I could actually buy this smoker. And, then I just said, okay, well let’s take this thing, crank it up to 11. And so, I started hiring some VA’s to write eBooks, VA’s to do the cover design and publish. And within about a year, I had about 300 e-books live on Amazon. And they were just cranking out and cranking out and yes, I was like, this is pretty cool. Let’s see what we can do with some actual products.

So, went to, this is all while I’m working, you know, at SEO jobs in the day. So, I went to source some products from China, to do some private label to sort of the, what you see a lot of now, if you’re in any sort of Amazon arena. But it was still relatively new and much harder to source. It wasn’t like just buying stuff off of Alibaba and putting it on Amazon but yes so.

Stephen: Hold on, so backup Sam.

Sam: Yes.

Stephen: So private labeling, just so that we’re all aware of that term. That basically means it’s like a white label correct.

Sam: Yes. 

Stephen: You got to come up with your own brand name, branding and so forth, and then you can slap it on the product itself?

Sam:  Exactly. Yes, so a lot of that you can get done at the factory too.  You can just negotiate that as part of the pricing. But these guys will make a product and it’ll be identical to another one. And you see this a ton on Amazon now, like if you search for like jar opener, there’s like 20 of the exact same jar openers just under different brands, you know? But they’re all from the same factory.

Stephen: Same product, different brand, 

Sam: Exact same product, different branding yes. So yes, that was kind of what I got into and I had a couple of successful products actually. And from there I sold those products, to another competitor. And then from there I started just floating around looking for a new product, but it was getting harder and harder on Amazon to compete and find good products.

So, people were coming to me, they were saying, Hey, you know, I heard you were good at Amazon and we need that for our products. You know, we’re kind of struggling to get results. So, I started doing some consulting work for friends and acquaintances, and then the network kind of grew to where it was basically a full-on agency.

And so, I made it more official, put up a website, ranked the website. So, using my SEO skills for Google, I got up to the top of Google for anything like related to Amazon SEO. And it was pretty cool. You know, I picked up quite a few new clients through that route and just kind of, the thing is, it’s just like any agency where it’s tough to scale clients.

Stephen: Yes, I was going to say, you’re doing all this on the side. So how does that give us a sense of how that all works? You know, because like a lot of people do a Moonlight gig, which is like one or two clients or whatever on the side to help them with like traditional SEO. I mean, it’s rare to find an SEO that’s not doing that but.

Sam: Right.

Stephen: But to then start to scale to your point and have like inbound rather than out bound in that way where you actually have an engine driving inbound, how are you managing that? Plus, you have a family

Sam: Yes, managing it very poorly I will say that. A lot of hours, you know, you just put in hours, you go to work all day. And then I’m also like one of those guys who like to check, I want zero in the inbox for my real job. I want to make sure that that’s all taken care of first. So, navigating that and then working late nights. Luckily, my kids are pretty little, so they went to bed pretty early, so after seven maybe spend a couple of hours with the wife and then hit it for a little bit longer.

But yes, I mean, it’s like, and it’s tough. This is actually an interesting thing because it’s tough to find someone who’s really good at Amazon that you can just subcontract work out to. It’s not like SEO where you can just find some good SEO guys in town or wherever, and you say, Hey, you know, I’ve got some extra work can I offload it to you? And basically, have you white label it.  Amazon still something that’s still pretty specific and harder to find. So, I’d be lying if I said that I was scaling up this Amazon business that at any point in time to being something much better or anything even akin to like some of these SEO agencies you see.

I just find the clients typically are more difficult in some ways because the results, they expect the results faster from Amazon. And in some ways, sometimes they can get results faster. Amazon’s algorithms, I mean, maybe we’re getting too far into the weeds here, but Amazon’s algorithm is a little bit quicker to respond to some of the changes you make that compared to like Google.

Patrick: And can you actually discuss just before we go forward, just what are the like ranking in Amazon versus ranking in Google, you know, just sort of for [inaudible 00:09:39]. What are the differences there? Because again, one search engine versus marketplace, like just for your experience, like what are the factors for Amazon?

Sam: Yes, it’s so, it’s totally different than what you might think of with Google, right? You might think of like Google, like links and content, some markup. But with Amazon, there’s really three deciding factors as to what makes your product rank well. And the three things are our sales. So, the more sales you get, the better your rankings are, the more reviews. This is a bit controversial, but I still hold true that the more reviews you get and the better reviews you get, the better you rank. And then conversion rates. So especially like the jar opener example, if you’re searching for jar opener and Amazon, you convert for that keyword, Amazon’s going to rank you a little bit higher there. 

Stephen: And so those all seem like lagging indicators though. So, like

Sam: Yes.

Stephen: It’s almost like it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, but backwards. So, it’s like.

Sam: It’s a perpetual algorithm yes.

Stephen: Yes, how do I get the sales if I don’t have the reviews? If I don’t have the sales, I can’t get the reviews. And then like conversions, obviously I want to convert, but like I need to rank in order to be found to convert. So, it kind of like, it’s a catch 22 I’m. I’m a little lost. 

Sam: Yes.

Stephen: Take me down, get me out of the, I know I’m in sort of in the weeds, but I want to be in the weeds. 

Sam: No that’s a great, that’s an absolutely, that’s the perfect question, right? That’s like what everybody wants to know. How do you get into that, break into that top few so that you can get into the ranking and perpetuity? And it’s honestly, it’s two things I mean, it, it skews heavily to big brands, right? If you’re a brand putting it on Amazon, you’re going to have tons of brand search volume coming in.

And all you do is just satisfy that search volume and you rank well. But if you’re not a big brand, what the really interesting thing between Amazon and Google is paid ads. So paid ads and Google, you know, it doesn’t affect your organic rankings. Paid ads and Amazon positively affect your organic rankings.

So, you can manipulate all three of those ranking factors with PPC. So that is really sort of, this is again all the white hat stuff like black hat SEO on Amazon is like running rampant it’s insane. But yes, for what you would do for your business or your client PPC is like, and running lightning deals, certain deals and coupons to generate traffic and sales. Those are the ways that you break into that.

Stephen:  Interesting. Is that how you build random also? So, like you talk about a white label brand right. So how do you take a white label brand and ultimately build a brand out of it? Is that your goal in a white label brand or is it just to look like at least minimally viable, like jaropener.com is your brand or are you going for something bigger? Like, I don’t know open everything. And then that’s like, can openers, jar openers, blah, blah, blah like all openers. 

Sam: It depends on the niche, you know, it’s going to depend on them. Like what does your landscape look like in the niche? Are you competing against big brands or are you competing against guys who are doing white label products like jar openers? So, and there’s like it’s insane how much sales are going through Amazon. You can have a jar opener that just balling, like just, you could make a year ago you could retire. I mean, maybe not a jar opener, but you can do really well with a lot of products that you don’t expect to do well. So, it’s kind of fascinating. 

Stephen: And how do you even know where to like where to get involved with the drop shippers, the white labeling process? All of that stuff seems incredibly foreign and distant and I know there’s like a thousand. Listen, if you’ve ever been on Facebook, you know there’s every two minutes you hit by another ad of some get rich quick scheme. It is like some kind of Amazon like it’s got, it’s become a little bit more snake oil salesmen than even like. Google has been in terms of SEO, right? We’ve kind of gotten some of the muck off our reputations, but like Amazon just feels like a very, even SEO is a very like, Whoa. You know? 

Sam: Yes, no, I mean, it’s absolutely the case. I mean, we all, I think we all talked about where we remember where it was like that in SEO and PPC on Google at one point where there was courses that you would buy. And these guys a hundred percent were actually doing this to make a living. They were selling the course and, but it was absolutely the case. And actually, it’s funny because some of the guys I remember from the Google courses started up there on Amazon courses and now they actually have been way more successful with their Amazon courses. There’s a company here in Austin that was like that. 

Stephen: So, they’ve been successful at selling their Amazon course?

Sam: Yes right.

Stephen: Got it.

Sam: Yes, they were not as successful on the Google front as they are on Amazon. But yes, I don’t, you know, I think as this.

Stephen: I guess how do you break in without getting bamboozled?

Sam: You know what I mean, it’s not easy. But there is a good, I mean, there’s a good amount more resources available to beginners. Like. The Reddit/ Our Fulfillment by Amazon subreddit is really good and informative and kind of filters out some of the BS for new people. But there’s just, there’s a lot of good resources online now, some YouTube stuff. Just got to be careful, have your BS sensors up, try not to buy anything, spend your time learning by testing. And I always, you know, like with regular as you for Google, I always tell people this too. Like, you can start off just, you know, the Moz beginner’s guide is great place to start, but once you get past that, build a website yourself and test it, test some stuff that like, that’s the way you really learn these things and so the clients for Amazon. 

Patrick: Yes, and you know it’s really true of a lot of that, like a lot of people are very scared to just like they want to continue to read, they want to continue to learn. I get asked that question a lot, like, where should I go to learn about this? You know, I’ve point them to the Moz 101 lot because they’ve done, you know, they’ve always done a good job curating that. We have Conductor Academy which is really good. But like once you get to a certain point, you have to roll up your sleeves and do it. Because that’s really where you learn how to do this stuff. It’s good to know the theory behind it, but eventually, you know, it’s just like music. If you can read music that’s pretty good. Eventually got to pick up a guitar and start playing. 

Sam: No, that’s a really good point. 

Patrick: Yes.

Sam: I agree with that yes.

Stephen: So, in terms of those factors right which of those, like let’s say we started, let’s, let’s say we start from scratch. Okay we’re starting from square one. What would be the first thing you’d look to do when getting into Amazon? Like what would be the, you know, find your niche, right? So, if we’re doing the article, let’s say the chapter on find your niche, what are your highlights of that chapter? 

Sam: Yes, I think part of it is do something, you know well, right. I think you, if you’re, if you’re going on a new product that you have no experience or no specific knowledge on, you’re probably going to be behind the eight ball anyway. So, do something, you know well and then try.

Stephen: So, give an example, what’s something that you’ve done before that you knew well. 

Sam: Well, yes, no, I think for me

Stephen:  To opening cans or?

Sam: Yes, I mean, one I had the best, the best success with was a tins unit. So, it’s like I don’t know if you guys know what a tins unit is. But it’s like a little electrode pads you put on there and they send an electric shock to your muscles. So that’s like a massage type of, it’s like a therapy. So, I mean, I knew that landscape pretty well because I had a client at one point, I did consulting with on SEO, and they just never ventured onto Amazon. So, I, you know, after we ended our relationship together there, I started messing with it on Amazon. And it was, you know, that was the first step because I knew it and I knew that there was sales already existing and I just had the product. I just needed to find the product was the next step. And then a lot of Googling and a lot of asking around to find the right supplier and the right pricing. But this, again this was probably 9, 10 years ago, so it’s considerably more difficult than, than that now than it was then. 

Stephen: Because it’s saturated?

Sam: Yes, so it’s the market’s way more saturated and Amazon’s algorithm ranking algorithm has gotten significantly more complex. So, you know, a new product back then, you could list it. I mean, that product, I listed it, and then within six months it was doing like 80 or $90,000 a month in sales right. So, like, and that was with no PPC ads, so like, that’s unheard of now. 

Stephen: Wow.

Sam: It’s impossible to do that. Yes, so now you have to have like this marketing budget set aside, knowing that you’re going to have to run PPC and deals at a loss, to influence these organic sales eventually in the future. So yes, to get, not to get too far ahead of we there, but that would be the first step. And then next step, finding that supplier, and that’s where now is, I feel like that is where it separates successful sellers from unsuccessful sellers. So how do you do that? I mean, that’s, it’s, 

Stephen: Well, how do you differentiate? Yes, so I don’t know what’s going on with my mic. Is that me?

Patrick: Yes, I think it’s you. 

Stephen: My game could be off. How about now? Better? 

Patrick: Yes, sounds good now.

Stephen: Okay sorry about that guys. Yes, so I was saying how do you differentiate between like you just said it, the main differentiator could be who you choose to supply for you right? So, do, are there marketplaces of suppliers that rank them, classify them, make them trustworthy? Like, I feel like, you know, you’re dealing with probably in many cases, China, you knock boots on the ground there. It’s not like you’re going into touring the factory, right?

Patrick: Yes, and I mean, and with drop shipping, I mean, my old company used to be drop ship and like, do you join like a buyers group or anything like that? Or is it just like one off sellers? Like how to, like, I’m curious too, how do you manage the inventory.

Sam: That’s great, man. And that is really the trickiest part, I think because I’ve had the best success and I recommend finding someone trustworthy in China. Unfortunately, it’s still there, you know, also you can probably source some products in Portugal. It’s still good, it’s good manufacturing in Portugal at a reasonable price. If you want to avoid tear ups or what have you, the unknown. But yes, I mean still China’s a great spot to get it, and there is cultural differences. So, I have been lucky where I’ve spent enough time where I’ve found good connections there, people that I can trust to send the money to and it’s the product is going to come in.

Unfortunately, you know when you’re new, there’s a big risk you have to take with that. I would suggest honestly finding networking with other Amazon sellers that you can find. And asking around, you may have to, I don’t know maybe you have to pay somebody to connect you with their source, their factory sourcer.

But I don’t know. I just be careful with it. It’s really the trickiest and scariest part. I still get kind of worried even sending money over there. It’s until you have like a really good relationship with people, it’s sketchy. So, if you don’t have that appetite, look for some, I mean I love to find people manufacturing stuff here in the US. And there’s still lots of opportunity to get some products on Amazon.

You know Amazon, unfortunately it is like sort of a race to the bottom as far as pricing, but there is room for, there’s a lot of room on Amazon for products that are like priced as premium products, right? Not everybody wants the cheapest thing, and if you can market your product on Amazon as being the premium choice, there’s a lot of opportunity there still.

Stephen: Interesting. 

Patrick: Yes, I mean, for me I think one of the you know, for me it, like you said, you know, just sending the money off and is anything going to show up? You know that sort of thing and I remember when I used to run an appliance company where we would drop ship appliances all over. We were part of a commercial buying group, and that was all based here basically. So, a little less Chris there, but I remember when we were first looking for where to get suppliers from, it was truly nerve wracking because you were just like you don’t know these folks.

It’s just like, Hey, give me X amount of money and you know, okay. It’s like, Hey, is this stuff actually going to show up at this person’s door? Or, you know are they accidentally going to ship it to me which happened a lot. So there’s like, you know, so from a logistics standpoint, how, I guess it comes back to like going back to that, how often did you have to deal with people like sending stuff back or, and how do you do that if you’re an Amazon seller. Because most folks don’t want to deal with like customer service aspect of it, you know, does that ever come across your table?

Sam: Do you mean like customer returns or sending stuff back to the factory that you’ve?

Patrick: Both.

Stephen: I guess I know you don’t understand the difference. 

Sam: Yes, if you, okay, so from the customer, like if you’re the seller and the customer on Amazon’s returning items, then unfortunately that’s just cost of doing business on Amazon. Like just build that into your profit margin or what you take out at the end of the day and assume it’s going to be higher than what you expect.

But yes, it’s something that you just have to eat. A lot of times you’ll see customers who get products and it’s like not opened, it’s still a hundred percent sellable. So, if you want to risk your brand reselling a product that hasn’t been opened, maybe it’s not such a risk that you can resell that. But you know, some of them, they’ve been opened and tampered with. Next the thing I always recommend is just selling it as used either on Amazon or used on eBay to recoup some of those losses because 99.9% of the time, the factories in China aren’t going to take any of that back. They don’t once the sale is done, it’s done.

Unless you say, you know, unless you have a really good contract with a someone in, with a manufacturer in China that says, Hey, if you guys ship me defective products, I can return them back to you. And that’s actually probably pretty hard to come by too. It’s a lot of the risk you’re taking on yourself because a lot of the roar you’ll take on yourself too.

Stephen: Right, I’m sure that has to do with volume too, right? 

Sam: Yes, tons, yes and that’s, Amazon’s game is volume right now for a lot of products. It’s just make a penny on a product, and just sell a million of them. 

Stephen: So, explain to me Amazon’s choice, because that is like something that.

Sam: Yes.

Stephen: Everyone seems to gravitate towards that. Like in terms of the products been chosen by Amazon. 

Sam: Yes.

Stephen: It must be a whole process to become chosen by Amazon, right?

Sam: Sort of yes, I mean, it’s just, a lot of it is just ranking well for that keyword or having good conversion rates for that keyword. It’s not, there’s not too much to it. You know, have good reviews, have good conversion rates, and have good rankings for that keyword. And you’ll, it does change, you know, sometimes it changes, and Amazon will test Hey, well, what if we put your competitor here as Amazon’s choice for a day and see if they convert higher with this tag. So, Amazon’s really intelligent on these things. If they can optimize their product offerings, they’re going to do that so.

It’s interesting because you know, you guys know Google does the same thing too, right? You know, they’ll try, Oh, let’s put this site up for a day or two in the top three and see if it does something better. 

Stephen: Even though they won’t admit clicking through for at least for years.

Sam: Yes. 

Stephen: For years, they would lie to us and say that click through did not influence rank, which is exactly why I say, and we still say that meta descriptions matter. Because yes, they don’t directly impact your ranking, but they impact click through, and if they impact, click through, then they impact your rankings.

Sam: Yes.

Stephen: So, it’s like, come on.

Sam: Yes, I mean, you know it’s funny because on Amazon you also have another thing to worry about and that’s Amazon taking your product and manufacturing it themselves from the same manufacturer and selling it under Amazon Basics brand or their own brand. And you don’t have to worry about that in Google, right? You don’t have to worry about Google making a website that competes with you unless you’re a domain seller. 

Stephen: Hold on so you mean because this is foreign to me. So, you mean to tell me that like, okay. So, when I go to CVS, you’ll see the CVS brand of like Tylenol or ibuprofen, right? And you’re like, okay, well I guess that’s okay because you know, they can’t have a monopoly on all of it. But this is just to say that if you become too good at what you’re doing on Amazon, Amazon might just choose to like make the Amazon brand run the same product. 

Sam: Yes, exactly and so they have all of this sales data at their fingertips right. And it’s just insane like they’ll say, okay, well this is a great product right now this thing’s on fire, let’s make our own. And they have buyers in Shenzhen or wherever in China that they manufacture it from, and boom, it’s now an Amazon Basics product. And guess who ranks well, right. They’re not going to rank themselves behind anyone else.

Stephen: Wow.

Sam: Yes, 

Stephen: That’s amazing! That’s news to me I’ll tell you that. I didn’t realize that was the case so. But I guess they have to get their ideas somewhere, right? So why not source them off their own system? It’s tried true and proven, so I mean you can’t blame them, can you? 

Sam: Yes, it’s anti-competitive at best.

Stephen: True. 

Sam: But I don’t think Amazon cares about monopolies, so.

Stephen:  No, you said it.

Sam:  You know, it’s funny because I’m too, like just how we were talking a second ago, I touched on how like kind of the black hat SEO stuff on Amazon is so rampant. It’s almost like too, in some ways, like Amazon doesn’t care about it. Because this, the search volume within Amazon’s ecosystem is going to be there regardless of the product they’re offering.

So, who cares if it’s a black hat seller that ranks there, or a mom and pop shop who ranks there? So, you know, it’s gotten to be very difficult to navigate, especially certain niches. But it’s even trickling down into to other niches too. So, we’ll see how it pans out. I mean, maybe Amazon eventually says, Hey, we need to really crack down on this because it’s hurting their reputation. Or the customers just say, I’m tired of getting this really subpar quality stuff on Amazon. But so far, you know, there’s no indication that bill, they’ll crack down on it. 

Stephen: That’s weird. That seems weird to me that seems like a brand that’s so worried about it’s, I mean even Google, right cares about the results. And we can argue that Google’s market share is so far and beyond everyone else’s. I mean, they would be more worried about losing their trademark for the name, you know, simply based on the ubiquity, right of people. So it’s just, it’s amazing to me to think that like they would care a little about whether or not like shady stuff, ranks with wrong product descriptions, bad return policies, things that are just like, you know, fly by night situations.

 You think they want to clean their ecosystem, but I guess it costs more to do that than to just take the hit from brand perspective, there must be a way for them to measure that, I’m assuming, right? It’s like almost like a trust factor. Right. And then it’s like the trust needle moves to the left or to the right, depending on how much of that stuff actually ranks and people buy from it.

Sam: It’s probably some function of like return rate, right? When you get a guy, who ranks in there and their returns are going through the roof. They would probably start; they probably start scrutinizing that product a little bit more. Maybe drop it down its cause they’re going to have the whole keyword set or niche. They’re going to have all the data of what the typical return rate for that would be. And you know, if one’s an anomaly, then they probably try to mitigate that there. But some, some of these niches are just so flooded with that or quality stuff that it probably deletes the, the return rate, you know, their baseline. So, it’s, uh, you know, also a lot of it, a lot of the Blackhat stuff occurs in like Eastern Europe and China, where, you know, it’s much harder to, to stop at scale.

They can hide behind different proxies or it’s in China, especially from, I’m familiar with, they can get an account shut down and create a new account within hours or minutes. I’m using like one of the main verification methods that Amazon uses is like a business ID like your EIN. And it’s much harder, the EIN is way more transparent in the US like you can tie that to the person’s social security number or whatever. But in China and the EIN or the business IDs, they’re much easier to come by and way harder to track. So, kind of lends itself to having China be the epicenter for this black hat at siesta.

Stephen: Yes, you’ve tempted us a little too much with the word black hat, so I don’t know how much you’re allowed to share, but I’d love to hear like one or two examples. Aside from like account creation, which I agree on, it’s just that’s just denial and reset up. But like what are some of the shady things, not that anyone wants to try these things, but that, you know of, that you can share with the group so that we’d be aware of it and how to almost avoid that, right? Like,

Sam: Right. Yes, well, I think it’s obvious, like fake sales and fake reviews. It used to be way more common where you would see like random people in the US would be getting packages. Like I would read on like the New York Times or some magazine where they would do an expose where people were just getting random items sent to their house. And they were just receiving these items from Amazon, and then they would get that, you know, that was a verified purchase review that they were manipulating. 

I think the one that’s really the most concerning to me, and it’s happened to me, it actually happened to me on that tins unit product where I got to ranking really well and I got a lot of good sales. And one day a competitor came in and bought about 20 or 30 of them. And flagged all of those as a counterfeit and Amazon just shut my account down. No recourse, nothing you can do. Hey, you’re a counterfeit seller now you’re done. And, yes so like that’s really easy for them to do. And it happens all the time 

Stephen: Where they send to the same location or a different location or like?

Sam: Yes, I think they were just all over. It’s sort of like how they do their verified reviews. They just send them all to random addresses and   whether or not it gets there or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s just at that point it’s a verified purchase and then they can say they can flag it as counterfeit.

Stephen: So, you mean for them, the cost of paying you? Well, they don’t end up paying anyway, right. Cause the money comes back to them. 

Sam: Yes, they could say it’s counterfeit and return it. Why not? I mean, if they’re, if it’s an expensive item, yes, for sure that’d be the case. But generally, you know they’re going to be, there’s more money for them to make in me not ranking up there anymore. And then taking up another spot or two.

Stephen: Wow. That’s a talk about understanding your ROI down to a very specific number to know that it’s worth spending that money on 20 units just to knock your competitor down or out for a little while. And then, yes, I guess the recourse action, so what do you do in those situations? Is Amazon any good at dealing with those things? 

Sam: No, they’re terrible. Like Amazon support for sellers is like notoriously bad. So, and it’s just like we were talking earlier, I mean, Amazon doesn’t really care if you’re there or if it’s someone else, the sales are going to come in. So, for me, they like sort of dragged their feet. I’ve provided them, you know, all of the information they ask. And actually, it took me like another year or so before I got that account back in working order. And by that time,

Stephen: Wow a year?

Sam: Yes, by that time I was done basically with that product. So yes, it was a really interesting learning experience. Now there’s a few things you can do where you can register your brand and trademark within Amazon so you can protect your listing a little bit. But there’s still sort of this cottage industry of attorneys who specialize in Amazon Law. So, and those guys that contest a lot with counterfeit items, or like somebody copying your product or someone hops on your product listing and claims they’re selling the same item and you don’t authorize them to. There’s all of that at play, so it’s, it’s going to be interesting to see how it evolves.

Stephen: Wow. So, you mean to tell me, so you actually made an allusion to having multiple accounts. Is that what you have to do then in that case? Cause then you’d have all your eggs in one basket if you were to like have been selling everything through one seller account. But selling different types of products, then that would probably hurt you, right?

You probably want multiple accounts in order to deal with multiple product lines just so that this can never happen to you. Because being shut down for a year if that’s a substantial source of income for you. That’s beyond sucky. 

Sam: Yeah. 

Stephen: Sucky being a technical term, by the way. 

Sam: No, it sucks, man. It, but there is, yes you can’t. So, like within Amazon’s terms of service, you can’t actually own, a person can’t actually own multiple accounts. But if you own a business that has an account and then you’re on another business that has an account that’s more within the realm of, you know legal play or fair play within Amazon, I recommend doing that.

You know, set up like an LLC for a specific product line if you have to, especially if you’re in one of these high-risk niches. There’s just no, no way that you should be putting yourself out there with just one account. It’s just too risky. But you know that’s just sort of the way it is on Amazon.

But it’s funny because, you know, like on Google, you don’t think about, Oh, do we need two websites anymore? I remember there was a time where it’s like, we would create like a micro website or something like that. Like, Oh, you know we ran up here now, but let’s create a micro site and try to rank it up there too, you know, for lead gen or whatever. But that’s not even that’s not even a thought anymore. So, it is on Amazon, so it was on lags a bit as far as it gets sophistication, but it’s catching up to Google really quickly as far as how many data points and things they look at. 

Stephen: So, do you parlay the two together or are you parlaying how well Amazon ranks in Google as a factor for product choice?

Sam: It’s something I think about and it’s something I strive to do. Like I definitely want to rank products highly in Google, the Amazon listing. And if you’re an eCommerce person, if you’ve got a product man, if you can have the number one spot for your keyword for your Amazon listing and your website, you know that’s good real estate to have.

And there’s, yes, I mean, Amazon is a trusted domain that you can rank it really pretty well. Before one of the things, like maybe five or six years ago, you could just spam an Amazon listing and the domain authority would just, you could not, I could, it would not get banned in Google and you would see a lot of that going on, but now it’s definitely cleaned up a bit on Google.

So, but it’s still some, it’s definitely still a strategy that, Hey, claim that spot in Google. You know, Google wants to show an Amazon listing for eCommerce search terms, it’s a good high converting people. A lot of people will search for a product and then Amazon in Google, right? So, they’ll say jar openers, Amazon and Google, and they’ll click through from Google to Amazon.

So that’s still part of it, but Google doesn’t like that, right? I mean, Google wants to dominate more. They’ve given up a lot of ground, I think for those lower funnel search churns to Amazon. I think a lot of searches begin on Amazon that used to begin on Google. And so, I think that Amazon or Google was actually taking steps, I read this just a couple of days ago to diversify the shopping feed.

Stephen: Yes, I mean, it’s free now right? So that I was about to as, that was my next question to you is, do you think the free shopping in Google is now going to be like a thing.

Sam:  It’ll be, you know, it’s hard to say. It’s really early to, I don’t, I haven’t seen it happen, anything happened yet. But it’s supposed to combat against Amazon. I still think like most buyer behaviors are going to be how many people have a Prime subscription? If they see Amazon, they trust it already, they know it’s going to be free shipping and on time, and they can return it for any reason.

There’s no, there’s no risk hardly for them. So. You know, we’ll see how it pans out. I just don’t see, it’s sort of like how Google treats Apple stuff in some ways. You know, it’s like they try to keep it at arms distance, but they understand the search intent. So, I feel like it’s just going to continue on a bit like that., 

Patrick: Yes, and I mean, like even talking about the relationship between Google and Amazon in general. We actually have a great question in the chat: Jesse asked what advice do you have for traditional retailers who keep getting outranked by Amazon on Google? 

Sam: Yes, I think that optimizing the listing with content on the listing, like you don’t have to worry about the off-page SEO, if you will, for Amazon. I think finding a way to make your listing really convey like the design and the feel and the product differentiation from the other products is going to be the most important thing you can do. Because if you’re getting out ranked, it’s likely because you’re getting outspent, like your competitors are just spending more money than you.

So, you have to find a way to do this value add or a differentiation to get people to buy from you. And then if you can, if you could play that up well enough, then presumably your sales will continue to rise and maybe then your rankings will continue to rise. That’s a great question. 

Patrick: Yes, really good question, thanks Jesse. 

Stephen: Do we have any other questions while we’re at it? Put them in the chat if you want. 

Sam: I like the Q & A part. 

Patrick: Yes.

Sam: So, what do you guys think? What do you think is going to be the trend for Google compared to like YouTube search? Like, I think a lot of these people are starting searches on YouTube now that they used to start on Google, and then also the trend from to Amazon, and then maybe even like Instagram or Reddit for some of these discovery type of searches.

Stephen: I personally, my mic is going crazy today. I don’t know what’s going on with this thing. Okay I think I’ve directly talk into it today or else it’s going to be very angry with me.  I would say personally, I see the future as a lot more content that’s been created recently, and that’s because everyone has a webcam. So, I have never seen an influx like I have on LinkedIn, for example, or any of the other platforms have more content being generated by me hate to say it, random people. And when I say random people, I mean people that did not try to be influencers before are now flooding the market.

So now you have the flood of influencer marketing, you have a flood of content creators, you have, frankly, a flood of content. In fact, I’m waiting for YouTube to put out some kind of stats on the amount, more content that’s been created during the Coronavirus. Typical, like they, I don’t know how many terabytes of data they were saying was being uploaded per minute on YouTube, which already was massively more than human society could consume right. 

Yet, we’re still creating it, so it’s nuts. So, I don’t, I think early stage, I still don’t think Amazon has a good way of answering early stage queries. I think their answer is late stage query, they go, here’s all the products right. And I’ve found that a curated search. And this is where I think the commerce sites can actually fight off Amazon. No offense whatsoever to Amazon, but just putting the context where I think it needs to be. Amazon is a cold, hard place, it’s a cold, hard place in that brands aren’t really brands on Amazon in mind. They’re all just thumbnails, the thumbnails and your thumbnail can be, it’s not like walking through, let’s say a high-end department store where you would literally seek a curated, department for you.

It’s, you’re going to see that no name brand right next to that really well-named brand. It might be filtered based on your availability. It might be filtered based on price. A lot of the time the matching won’t necessarily work that well. So, if you were to say like I’ll give you an example. I went through a while ago last year with a major retailer.

Animal prints was a big thing for fashion, right? And so, if you looked up like animal print dress in Amazon, you didn’t give enough data aside from just animal print that you were just barraged with all sorts of like not very well curated content. 

Patrick: Yes.

Stephen: Not even content, but products right. Whereas if you were to go and look that up in Google, you’d find essentially a mini store at one of these retailers that had a very finely curated group. And what was really interesting was this particular retailer, super smart, was actually looking at the click through. On the main images, main product images, they would put up at the hero banner style kind of stuff to see if people were actually clicking on that and they were refreshing and optimizing based on what they were seeing being done on the page.

Now that’s a lot of UX and that’s a lot of good tie back. But what that was doing is, is retaining your user. It’s which at the end, if we know that Google’s looking at the bounce back rate right. We know that they’re actually including this and taking it into account. That was a really smart mechanism it also meant that it was a curated experience that you felt like you were walking into. And when you get into more things that are much more subjective, like cute black dress, cute is very subjective right? 

Sam: Right. 

Stephen: It’s very subjective. So, all of these terms, I’m not sure if Amazon really knows how to deal with cool or cute.

Sam: I think that’s a good point. I think they try; I think they’ve tried a couple of times, you know, especially with like the clothing examples, a good one where I’ve seen them try to curate different clothing styles or. They use influencers too. They’ve had, they’ve opened it up for some affiliates to do try that, but it just isn’t as successful as what you can find on a website or on social media.

Stephen: I also think they can’t seem to get down this concept of like I’ll equate this actually to a store, a real-life store example. So, if you were in the New York Tristate area and you’d ever been to, Century 21. Century 21 in fact, most people who are tourists to New York city will come to Century 21 right down by ground zero.

It was always been there; it’s been there longer than possibly longer than the World Trade Center was. It was there for a long time. And family owned business that then expanded throughout the Tristate area. Century 21 used to be, and if you went to their main flagship store, that was right by Ground Zero, it was like a bargain bin. You would get last year’s good stuff, but it was like picked over. It was crazy you’d go in the store was a mess. Like there was, you could find great deals, right? But you had to hunt. It was very much the TJ Maxx, JC Penney, old fashioned approach of like, you get your bargain, but you work to get your bargain.

And in some way the shopper enjoyed that, right? Because it was the hunt, the thrill of the hunt and the find. But it was very overwhelming, like you would walk into a store full of tourists and it was just like, Whoa. Okay, so how do we equate that to online? 

What Century 21 then did is they recognize whoa, whoa! This is cheapening the brand. Actually, our price points will be slightly higher, and in fact they should be, but we can’t have the stores in disarray. We have to be constantly maniacal about not having bins and making sure things are hung and making sure our associates are going through and constantly making the store experience more of a department store and something you expect out of a Macy’s rather than a cheaper brand kind of approach in doing that. 

Not only were they able to get better satisfaction rates out of their consumers and so forth, but their brand notoriety actually increased. Now I know Amazon doesn’t really care about its brand notoriety right because it’s ubiquitous right? But I will say you get a little bit more of the bargain basement feel in Amazon than you ever would the Saks Fifth Avenue, Macys.

Patrick: Oh yes.

Stephen: We’re so far from Louis Vuitton with Amazon that like, it’s almost like the need to open many stores curated Amazon experiences that only allow a certain seller group to enter into it and build an experience that’s different than Amazon in order to charge higher prices in order. Because I only think of Amazon as a way to find a best deal on something, not necessarily or most convenient deal. But not necessarily where I’d buy, like high price items. I don’t know if that’s just me. Pat, are you the same way about that or not? 

Patrick: Yes, pretty much. I mean, Amazon was something that’s necessary that you need it now and is, you know,

Stephen: I got you frozen, buddy you were very frozen on that last one. It wasn’t a good look. Alright, I’ll kick it back over to you Sam. So, I said a lot there. What are your thoughts on? 

Sam: No, I think that there’s. I think there’s only so much value you can convey in a listing that has six images, maybe a little tiny video, and then some of the enhanced brand content. So, I think you’re right on that, but I think that, you know. And this is something that we always talk about too, like how, what your shopping behavior isn’t what the entire world’s shopping behavior is, right? So, because you may think, Hey, pits, spend two grands on a watch on Amazon, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a huge amount of people that do. 

And it’s interesting because I’ve had some jewelry clients on Amazon and they were selling, you know thousand plus dollar pieces of jewelry and they would get sales every day, like multiple sales in a day. And it was fascinating for me to see that because I’m like, you were, I would, I’m not going to buy something high end. But let’s say you live in like Anchorage, Alaska, you don’t have that much access to high end stuff right there and nearby. So, it’s kind of interesting to see how it all plays out. 

Stephen: That’s a good point. Accessibility is a huge factor in that, I guess as a seller, does Amazon break that down for you by geography? Are you able to, or you just see that based on what you’re shipping?

Sam: Yes, typically I just saw that based on where I’m shipping, you can pull certain reports. It’s not, so the Amazon is not as, their dashboard for sellers isn’t as easy to manipulate. And there’s some tools coming out that are pretty good tools that kind of plug into your dashboard and you know. But it’s still a long way from what we have with Google analytics or Conductor.

Stephen: Sure.

Sam: So that stuff. It provides a lot more information into the customer and user behavior than what you see on Amazon so. A lot of it’s just packing it and shipping it. 

Stephen: So that’s really interesting. I didn’t, it’s a good point. Thank you for checking me on that. Cause I definitely was being like, this is the way I think. And then you got to take the blinders off. See, that’s a great example of marketers right then and there. I’ll take the hit. No problem. Fall on my sword here. Blinders, man. You assume that like everyone’s kind of like you and maybe it’s because I’ve been in too many social media bubbles recently. 

And if there haven’t been social media bubbles in your life that you haven’t spent any time on Facebook recently. But man, does it feel like we’ve become trapped, not only in our homes, but in our own social bubbles online where I keep seeing the same people’s feeds and the same arguments, just different people liking them.

So, it’s been interesting. But, Sam, I appreciate you so much for coming on today. This has been really awesome. Enlightening. I know I learned a ton just about stuff I had no idea about. So now I’m more scared than ever to wade into Amazon because that stuff is dangerous and hard, 

Sam: I’m getting all the bad news here. There’s still a lot of opportunity, but.

Stephen: Oh, I’m sure. 

Sam: Thanks.

Stephen: I’m sure. I’m sure. And dude, thank you so much for joining us. I think we learned a ton. Thank you, guys, all so much for joining today. We really appreciate it. Tomorrow we’re going to have Bahman from Zimmet Con he’s going to be getting into ADA compliance. All the stuff you need to know and probably don’t even need to know but should know because he’s kind of the man when it comes to all that stuff. He’s the one we always turn to when we have questions on ADA compliance because he’s really, just like the expert. So be sure to tune in for that same time, same channel.

And in the meantime, as we always say, stay home, stay safe, stay connected, and we’ll see you tomorrow. Thanks for joining. Thanks, Sam. 

Sam: Thanks. Appreciate it guys. 

Stephen: Thanks. Bye.

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