Amazon Listing & Brand Protection
- Key Threats to Your Product Listings on Amazon
- Brand Protection Concerns on Amazon
- Mitigating Threats to Product Listings and Brands on Amazon
- More on Brand Protection: IP, Software Monitoring, Cease and Desists
- Paid vs Organic Traffic for Amazon Sales
- Tips for Increasing Amazon Sales
- Selling on Amazon from Another Country
- Software Recommendations for Monitoring Amazon Listings
Dan: Hi, good afternoon, good morning, and good evening depending on where you are in the world. Welcome to SEMrush and our live podcast around Amazon listing and brand protection.
My name is Dan. I'll be your host for this evening. I'm going to hand you over to these three outstandingly intelligent gentlemen. Let me introduce you first, our speaker Mike, hand over to you, Mike.
Mike Begg: My name is Mike Begg. I'm one of the co-founders of AMZ Advisers and I'm our chief strategist. I focus a lot on helping our clients make the most out of their Amazon platform. We do everything from content creation to advertising management to marketing strategy on the Amazon platform, and we really provide a full service to all of our clients.
Dan: Awesome. CJ, would you like to introduce yourself?
CJ: We help Amazon sellers with account suspensions and listing suspensions and private label brand protection and if Amazon is stealing your inventory and not giving you back your money.
Dan: Last but by no means least, our other Mike.
Mike Jackness: I run a blog and a podcast called EcomCrew.com. I've met a couple of these guys speaking around the world at various times. I'm usually talking about marketing stuff and how to drive traffic, but these guys asked me to come in and fill a gap a little bit about listing protection.
I've been selling on Amazon since 2015. We're a multi-seven figure, almost eight-figure seller. We know our fair share in the trenches about listing protection and what happens with that stuff.
Dan: I'm head of performance marketing in a company called Ingenuity Digital, more importantly, I've been selling my own products and other people's products on Amazon since 2012: I started off with iPhone chargers. Now, I sell anything between running trainers, sheds. Mike, I'd like to hand over to you to talk about Amazon listings and brand protection.
Key Threats to Your Product Listings on Amazon
Mike Begg: Let's talk about two important aspects. That's listing and brand protection on the platform. We're going to start with the listing side. There's a lot of different things on Amazon that can happen to your listings that you might not even expect.
One of the first ones is keyword restrictions. If you use the wrong keyword in your listing, you can have other issues with your listing. Amazon can suppress your listing. You might get IP, intellectual property notices that you violated by using a brand name within your listing.
Amazon will shut down that if you're using it within your listing. You should always avoid including competitor names if you're trying to make sure that your listings don't ever get affected on the platform.
Another thing you really need to be careful with is including keywords within your product that can trigger things like the pesticides flag. For example, in the past, we've had clients that have been selling products that were antimicrobial or antibacterial and by including either one of those keywords within their listing, it triggered a flag that actually suppressed their listing. The only way that they could get it reinstated was by submitting a ton of documentation showing what types of materials were within their product. They had to take a course.
Similarly, there's also an adult category restriction. If you have keywords or search terms within your listing that are potentially inappropriate or relate to let's say adult sexual products, things like that, there's a good chance that Amazon will flag your product as an adult product, which means that your visibility on the platform is pretty much zero. You have to go to a special section of Amazon to find the adult products, so having that happen your listing is pretty terrible.
Beyond the keyword restrictions, other things that can happen to your listing is a category or an approval restriction. One example that we talk about here is grocery products. There's two very common keywords that a lot of grocery companies are using and that's gluten-free and organic.
If your product has either of those keywords on the front end, you better hope that you actually have the documentation from your manufacturer to back that up. If your product is flagged, if your product is taken down for an organic claim or a gluten-free claim, you're going to need to submit the actual process documentation from your manufacturer showing that everything is organic, showing that it doesn't contain gluten.
It can sometimes be a problem to track that down, so if you're not sure if your product's gluten-free or organic, it's probably better to stay away from those keywords to avoid having your listing restricted in that way.
Another common one is the beauty and health category. Beauty and health is a restricted category, but if you're selling health supplement products like protein, sometimes your products may fall into the grocery category, other times they may fall into the beauty category.
It's very common that the categories get changed on you by Amazon without your awareness. If you're, for example, selling grocery, a protein product, you may not need approval to sell it, but all of a sudden if it gets switched over to health, your listing can get shut down because you don't have the necessary approvals.
It's really important to make sure that you understand the threats to your listing between the categories that they could be in and trying to be proactive in getting those restrictions or getting those approvals ahead of time so you don't run into those issues.
Another common one similar to pesticides is getting a hazmat or a safety restriction which is where Amazon will require you to submit documentation on the materials or the chemicals or something within the product that originally triggered the hazmat restriction. If there is no hazmat restriction, you actually need to submit a document (MSDS).
Other common issues that you can run into are hijackers which is where a lister or an unauthorized seller can start selling on your listing and this can create issues with your Buy Box, trying to maintain it, trying to win it. That can cause other issues that we'll talk about on the next slide.
Finally, the last issue is duplicate listings. Sellers can actually get on to Amazon, list your product and they may use a fake UPC code, which Amazon's slowly working on. Or they may use another way to list your products separately from the real listing that you're currently selling on, and that can really cost your brand and it can be confusing to customers to understand what the real product is.
That's an opportunity for other competitors to come in and actually steal that customer from you, and then all that work you've done to acquire that customer over time is pretty much out the window because now they're going with a different brand.
When you're losing the Buy Box, another common issue you can run into on your listing is that the content on the front end can change, and whoever is winning the Buy Box can change that content. If something in the content on the listing doesn't meet Amazon's brand guide or Amazon doesn't think it's accurate enough, they will actually change the listing. If a third-party seller changes it, it can be very difficult to get the listing back the way it was.
The main issue when the content changes is that it can have a significant impact on your SEO. Keywords that you may have been indexed for on the content that you added to your listing; you may become de-indexed if someone changes the content and you don't change it back quickly enough or you don't realize what's actually going on.
That can have a knock-on effect and actually impact how your advertising is doing. And when your advertising stops performing as well, your conversion rates drop and your SEO ranking is decreasing. It's going to create a negative feedback loop. It's going to continually make your product less visible organically on the platform. That's going to cause a huge problem for your sales.
The one thing we always recommend is that before, once you add your content to a listing, it's always good to keep a record of what the content was before, so saving this content offline, what did you have before? What were the bullet points, descriptions, titles?
Make sure you have that saved in like a Word document or an Excel file so you can always go back to it in the future if you need. What category, subcategories were you in? Because those can be changed as well and that can affect your visibility.
Then, finally, what other product details did your listing have that other sellers may get rid of if they win the Buy Box and change the content?
Brand Protection Concerns on Amazon
On the brand protection side, there's a lot of other issues that you can run into. I know CJ is kind of the expert over here, but we're going to talk about it a little bit more here.
The first thing that you need to consider when you're trying to protect your brand on Amazon and in general is that you need to have intellectual property for your product.
The most common forms of intellectual property that you'll see on Amazon are trademarks and copyrights. To be a member of the Amazon Brand Registry, you need to have a trademark that is either a basic word mark or an image mark. That is the type of trademark you could have with the Amazon platform and what they'll help you protect.
Then, what a copyright is for is you can use copyrights to protect the imagery that you're using on your product listing to ensure that other sellers aren't selling it. It can be common. I've actually seen it before where other third-party sellers will create a duplicate listing or a knock-off product or a very similar product to what we have, they'll steal our content imagery and put it on their listing. If you don't have it copyrighted, it's going to be very hard to fight that you.
You may be able to get Amazon to take it down or if you do some test buys and do some other things to check out the issues, you may be able to resolve the content issues, but this is a pretty common practice particularly for foreign sellers.
I don't know how many times I've gone on Alibaba looking for products and I've seen images that I've done for my clients showing up on the manufacturer listings on Alibaba. It's pretty common. It's a good way to protect yourself on Amazon by actually having the copyrights you need.
The Brand Registry Program will give you tools that can help protect your brand on the platform, but there's a few requirements you need to be able to get Brand Registry. The first one, of course, is the trademark, which is why I said you need the basic word mark or the image mark to help protect your listing and to get registered into the program.
You also need a website where you can include your product, you can include all the information there, it's for sale so that other people can buy it for the platform. Then, Amazon can go to that website and check it.
This is going to be very helpful in the future if you need to get a content change, because Amazon will ask for proof that this is the correct content and if you have the right content on your website, you can send Amazon to there and that'll make it more likely that you'll be able to get your content changed back in the future.
The other requirement you're going to need is an email and the email needs to be at the domain of the website to avoid issues with the Brand Registry process. We've gone through it before with other clients that haven't used the email or haven't used an email that has the @domain of their website. That can cause the Brand Registry application to be rejected or it can cause delays to actually get everything approved within the platform.
The great thing is once you have been approved, you get access to a lot of different brand protection tools in the platform and a lot of different programs. The first one being Amazon transparency, which allows you to put QR codes on your product and that's one way to help guarantee that your product is authentic, sellers can scan the QR code, see exactly where it came from, they know that it's a real product and they don't have to worry about that.
It also allows you to easily identify fake products on the platform if the product does not have a transparency QR code, and that can make it easier to protect your listings and protect your brand.
Another great tool from Amazon has been Project Zero, and Project Zero was rolled out, I believe earlier this year, to help Amazon sellers protect their listings better. What Project Zero does is it creates some automations to go through the Amazon platform and help remove duplicate listings or remove intellectual property violations automatically, but it also gives you the ability to do image searches.
If you have your own product images or your logo that are trademark protected, you can upload it, and then it'll scan the Amazon platform to find listings that are using this. You can verify whether that is the correct use, whether it's your listing, whether you're allowing them to use that content on their listing.
You can also submit your own violations through the Project Zero tool in Brand Registry and help resolve intellectual property issues quicker and make sure that your brand is well represented on the Amazon platform.
Outside of Amazon, there's a few other things you can do. One of them would be a MAP or a minimum advertised price plan with your distributors. Within an MAP, what you're saying is that your distributors cannot list your product online below a certain price, but you can also specify what channels they're able to sell on.
If you don't want competition on the Amazon platform, one good thing to include in your MAP is to say that you're the only one that is authorized to use the Amazon platform as a sales channel. Any other third-party sellers on there you know are not going to be authorized resellers, so you'll actually be able to hopefully, protect your brand better that way.
Another great tool you can use in part with minimum advertised pricing is product serialization. By serializing your product or including product serial numbers on each item, you're able to track exactly where that inventory is going so you know that X amount of units, numbers 1 to 500 went to this distributor.
Then, if you do a test buy online and you buy it from an unauthorized reseller, you can see what the serial number is, and then track it back to exactly what distributor sold it to that unauthorized reseller. Then, you can take whatever actions you've laid out in your MAP program to help protect your brand on the Amazon channel.
One other thing that I've seen in the past, but honestly I'm not as familiar with it anymore is using non-transferable product warranties to protect your products and protect your listings on Amazon. What this means is that you can create a product warranty to protect your brand or protect your product and that warranty is only transferable to your distributor.
If your distributor is selling the product direct to consumer that is fine. The warranty is there, but if they're selling it onto a reseller, and then the reseller is selling it that warranty is voided.
Mitigating Threats to Product Listings and Brands on Amazon
Now that we've talked about the threats to your listing and brand, let's talk about some of the different actions you can take. The first thing you should consider using is third-party software. There's a lot of programs out there that can help track what's going on in your product listing, you can see as new reviews are coming on, you can be notified when content is changed. This can help you rectify the issues quicker and stay on top of what's going on with your listings.
Alternatively, if you don't have that big of a catalog, you can check your listings daily or a few times a day to make sure that nothing's changed on the listing. This is obviously a little bit more time-consuming.
Utilizing listing merges or identifying duplicate listings on the platform, and then submitting cases to Amazon to merge the two listings into one is another good way to protect your brand on the platform or protect your listings to make sure that no one's confused about what the real product is. This is a good way to just make everything look cleaner on the Amazon platform as well.
Another type of technique you can use is a variation merge. In a variation merge, I'll use the example of apparel. If you have 10 different color shirts, you can list all 10 of those shirts on one listing. If the content is changed on one listing, the visibility may not be expected as much because all the other listings should still be indexed, and then you can go back and change the content on that one listing and fix what you need to. It's a good way to protect your SEO and not get hurt as much if someone does manage to win the Buy Box and change the content on your listing.
Finally, some of the brand protection strategies that you can consider using for your listing. Making sure that you have your image, your Word or image trademark that you can use to get Brand Registry that you can use within the Project Zero tool to make sure that no one is knocking off your brand on the platform or misrepresenting your brand.
Alternatively, if you know someone is an unauthorized reseller on your listing, you can try issuing a cease and desist letter which sometimes works. Dealing with it, sending a cease and desist can be one way to get an unauthorized reseller off the platform.
You can also do MAP enforcement which is restricting your channels, making sure that only certain distributors are allowed to sell on Amazon or no one's allowed to sell on Amazon except for you.
Product serialization, so tracking exactly what products are serialized, where the inventory is going through an MAP program as well as being ready, making it easily identifiable if someone is knocking off your product if it doesn't have a product serial number.
Then, finally making sure you're doing test buys if you see a knockoff or a bootleg of your product, identifying what the product differences are. Then, submitting them to Amazon through the Brand Registry tool will be the best way that you can actually protect your listings and protect your brand on Amazon.
With that, I'm pretty much done with my presentation. I know I'm sure CJ and Michael or Mike have a lot to talk about when it comes to this as well.
More on Brand Protection: IP, Software Monitoring, Cease and Desists
CJ: First of all, that was a great, great presentation and a ton of information that is like dead on. When it comes to brand protection, okay, the first thing is really developing your IP rights, which is getting your trademark filed and we don't do it anymore for sellers because Amazon created the IP Accelerator Program where if you don't have your mark yet, you use one of Amazon's lawyers.
They're in bed with Amazon. They'll do the application for you and you'll get Brand Registry within like a week or two rather than taking nine months to get the approval. It doesn't matter if they're in bed with Amazon, they'll get you the mark. They will get you into Brand Registry.
The software monitoring of it I think is vital. I don't care if you have one listing or five listings, set yourself up for success, okay? You're putting your heart and your soul into your business: use software monitoring.
In terms of stopping other sellers by the cease and desist letters that Mike was talking about, they have generally an over 60% success rate of getting sellers to amicably stop selling your products. Why is that good? One, I don't believe in needlessly putting anybody out of business and every time you make a complaint that's what you're doing, and number two, any seller out there, large or small, can totally hurt you.
They can have their friends, relatives, Facebook, whatever buy products, break them, return them, drive your ODR rate through the roof, leave you garbage reviews, so when you could amicably resolve an issue, that's the way you want to do it. It's fast. It's easy. It's cheap and it's very, very effective. You only want to make complaints when you really have solid grounds.
Don't ever make a fake counterfeit complaint, even though it's really easy to do on the platform. Only make complaints for sellers who you know are selling counterfeit products or they're not delivering what you can deliver, because it can harm your brand and also needlessly harm sellers.
But the brand protection, those are the steps; develop IP, monitor, cease and desist, and then only make valid complaints when they're absolutely necessary.
Dan: Mike, have you got anything you want to add to that?
Mike Jackness: Yeah. As I said before I'm more of kind of like the marketing guy, but from being in the trenches, I can just give a few things to talk about here. First of all with this stuff, if you're selling on Amazon all this stuff is a matter of if not when. If you sell long enough on Amazon, you're going to have these types of things happen. You should try to get the emotions out of it and just work towards getting the thing resolved as quickly as possible.
The other thing you guys both mentioned just to kind of reiterate software monitoring. I mean there's tons of tools out there. I don't endorse any particular one, but we're at a point, again, where we're doing high seven figures.
We have a team of 16 people, there was a time when we had a full-time person doing nothing but this. Now, they spend half an hour to 40 minutes a day or whatever looking through this. It'll alert you of everything, image is changing, running out of stock, another seller hopping on, any other changes to the listing.
One other thing Mike was going through a great presentation of all these different “got yous” in terms of things that can get your listing shut down. We sell some products that are FDA registered. Amazon's really going crazy about that right now. If you sell anything that's FDA registered, make sure that the FDA logo or their name is no longer on your listing.
That blowback thing is pretty serious. It's actually one of the most scary things about Amazon right now. I mean like anybody you could shut anybody down in a matter of a couple of days with more than one tactic. That's something that's scary. There's so many effective tactics.
Mike Begg: I mean it's true. There's so many ways for sellers to just do unethical things. There are so many platforms out there like Fiverr, Upwork where people would just leave negative reviews on your products. You can hire as many as you want and there's so many ways for sellers to actually hurt you more. Like you said CJ, I mean the majority of sellers that are doing this that are reselling, they're small.
Paid vs Organic Traffic for Amazon Sales
Dan: We have got a ton of questions. I'm going to start with the first one from Eric in India. He's asking, what is better, paid traffic or organic traffic?
CJ: This really is not my area of expertise, but it seems like organic is better, but these guys Mike and Mike can answer that way better than I can.
Mike Begg: There's no way to answer that in one word. Organic's great because it's free, but organic's not going to get you growth over time on Amazon so you need the paid side.
Mike Jackness: Yeah. I mean long-term organic. I mean we shoot for two-thirds organic, one-third paid. We feel like that's a healthy listing and if we can do more organic all the better, but you can't survive on all paid and you can't get organic without doing some paid.
Dan: This is how you know these guys actually know what they're talking about because if they had picked one-word answers, you didn't know that this was not the real deal.
We've got another one here about Brand Registry. It's an interesting one for myself as well because I've dealt a lot with the healthcare profession in terms of Amazon and items that normally in the UK would be fine to sell, but in the States there's different laws, different registries as well.
Tips for Increasing Amazon Sales
Lynn would like to know, “I have a Brand Registry with vitamin d3,k2, magnesium, and digestive tea. I optimize my listings and my PPC campaigns often, but I only get around 5 to 10 units sold a day. Have you guys got any advice around this?”
Mike, I think this goes into a lot of what you were saying about the keywords and being targeted and having those red flags on there because I know when I've done certain vitamins and supplements, different components have been those red flags for me.
Mike Begg: The supplement category, in general, is really difficult and whenever we come across a client that is in supplements, it's always going to be a challenge. Primarily what I would start looking at is just your keywords and your bids, because I'm assuming the bids are really high. I mean some products I've seen like in health supplements like protein... $25 a click or more. It could just be that you're bidding too low.
Another idea that you could try to start getting a little bit more traffic is using some product targeting on other products that are in that vitamin space, whatever the components are, and that you have some product differentiation, whether it's you have more reviews or you have a lower price point or something, you might be able to start stealing more sales through product targeting on the sponsored display or the sponsored product side.
Mike Jackness: One of the things that we've really noticed is sending outside traffic helps a lot, especially with these ultra-competitive niches. We advocate doing this in a white hat way. I mean there's a lot of blackhat things you can do which I am very against because I think that black hat stuff is very binary. It works until it doesn't and when it doesn't, you're out of business.
But in a white hat way, I mean getting your products in the hands of influencers on YouTube and stuff like that that eventually start to send traffic over. Working on building a blog that gets organic traffic from Google and eventually that traffic ends up on Amazon.
Amazon really incentivizes you basically for sending outside traffic. Again, if you're doing it in a white hat way like we're doing, it can produce some pretty amazing results. If you're in an ultra-competitive niche like supplements, you better have a strategy to combat all your competitors and most likely they're doing a bunch of black hat stuff to rank and unless you're willing to go down that path, then you're going to need to come up with a way to compete with them because it's ultra-cutthroat.
Dan: Outside sales from coming into Amazon are the best ranking factors that I could ever recommend in this sort of sphere. Just to take that a little bit further and you will get people that are doing black hat. Like we said it's the world we live in.
There's always going to be people that want to try and push it that little bit, but as Mike said, you will get penalized for it. If you live and die by it, then you're going to die more often than you're going to live.
Mike Jackness: I learned the hard way. I've been an affiliate marketer since 2004, so I have an SEO background and it took a couple of times of Google de-indexing us; typing your brand and you can't find anything about you on Google because they wipe you off the face of the earth. You go from making mid-five figures a month and making zero the next day. It's a pretty brutal reality.
In e-commerce, the stakes are higher, because in affiliate marketing if that happens, at least, all the money you made up to that day is already in the bank. With e-commerce, now you have all your inventory in a warehouse somewhere that you can't sell any other way. You're not going to get rid of it on eBay because the volume is not anywhere near the same.
Selling on Amazon from Another Country
Dan: Grace has asked, “can I sell on Amazon while stationed in South Africa and what's the procedure?” Now, I've got clients pretty much all over the world and when I saw that question, I've had to really rack my brains and not only have I not got any clients out there, but I've actually not even spoken to anybody that's selling in South Africa at the moment.
CJ: We definitely have clients who are located in South Africa and there's a list of countries where there are some limitations. I don't know where South Africa falls on the list. I tend to think that there's no issue selling from there, because I know we've had clients from there, but I don't have the list memorized.
Mike Begg: Yeah. I've had clients in South Africa as well. It's definitely possible to sell on there. The process I'm sure is probably maybe different for each country like CJ is saying, but it's definitely possible.
Dan: Yeah. One thing I have found is even when we were registering our first brand in the UK, and then registering one for the US, and then registering for Australia, even the seller central looks completely different to me. It's one of those things when you're not used to it, it can be a little bit of a take-back, because you think, when we've been doing it as long as we have, you're not expecting to see any surprises.
Mike Jackness: If you're in a country that's a high-risk zone or something, I mean they might lock your account if you log-in from that IP address, and maybe you want to use a VPN, but if you're just traveling or just stationed somewhere temporarily, nothing really changes.
Software Recommendations for Monitoring Amazon Listings
Dan: Melissa Torres would like to know, Mike, can you provide recommendations on software monitoring? I spend many hours checking our images, listings, inventory, and levels.
CJ: Well, we have a client of ours who I've just gotten to know over many years and his company is called MAP Services Inc and he developed his software to monitor MAP pricing for brands in a particular niche market. We then use his software customized for us. That's what we use, but there are other solutions out there.
Do some research, see what's going to work best for you. If you want to email me or contact me, I'll give you my honest opinion on what I think is best for you and you take it from there.
Mike Jackness: If you're a smaller seller and maybe aren't quite ready for the level that CJ's talking about... Jungle Scout, for instance, has this built-in now. And Helium 10, you probably already have a subscription to that and if you don't, you should, because you should be doing listing research and other types of monitoring and keyword research anyway.
Dan: In terms of free tools as well. I mean I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the elephant in the room. The one that SEMrush uses. I use it a lot because I'm cheap. It's a free tool. It's called Sellerly. They've recently added the function to have brand protection, so you'll get notifications about listings, images, etc.
We're going to have to call it time because we are five minutes over and that is time for us guys. If you're trying to get a hold of me, it's firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively, I'm @dansaunders86 on Twitter. That's probably one of the best way to get hold of me.
Mike Jackness: Thank you. Thanks, everybody, have a good day.
CJ: Thanks, guys.