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How To Build An Amazon SEO Agency With Threepipe




Deepak: Okay. Hello guys. Welcome again, Vik and everybody, who's just joining us. I'm here with the wonderful Nick. 

Nick: Hi, everybody.

Deepak: If you're thinking about starting an Amazon SEO agency, if you're looking to understand how you can build a business around that niche, Nick's going to be talking to us about three key areas and also taking any questions that you guys have got. Guys, if you've got questions about Amazon SEO, please do start bobbing the comment section with questions. 

We'll be picking them up and I'll be asking Nick about three key areas. But before we get into those three key areas, what I want to do is pass the baton to Nick. Can tell you a little bit about Nick and Threepipe, who they are, and what they do. Nick, take it away, buddy. 

Nick: Thanks for the introduction Deepak. We are Threepipe Reply and we're a full-service recently acquired independent agency. We were acquired towards the end of last year by a group called Reply, who were based out of Italy and they own a network of about 120 different agencies that allow us to actually have a lot more capabilities within the marketplace itself. I guess where we're a little bit different from some of the other agencies as we are a combination of four different companies that came together over time. 

We started off as a PR agency then merged with a digital media agency and then merged with an SEO analytics agency. More recently, we acquired a creative agency that allows us to kind of provide all the different services that we were listing to our clients and customers in terms of what they needed from us.

Why and How to Start an Amazon SEO Agency?

I suppose as an agency itself, retail is a really big part of what we do. I think we have a lot of common retail clients across all the different services and departments that we manage. That's what leads us to Amazon really, in that, in retail you can't ignore Amazon anymore. 

In terms of when we develop services or products, I think that the same framework works across those different things. We probably have about three key stages that we go through, there's a discovery stage where we look at, what are the business problems? Who has these problems? How big is the opportunity? What the predators look like?

I think beyond the discovery stage then we come up with a service definition, right? So, what can we do? What are the skills that we have? What are the skills that we need? And I suppose that's where it gets important, is commercially, how do we make a profit out of this, right? 

Given the services we offer in it, especially around the Amazon area, there are a lot of fees on Amazon.

We have learned a lot over the past couple of years, but Amazon, I think one of the biggest challenges that we have where we're talking to businesses on Amazon is that there are a lot of different fees that Amazon take, depending on which type of selling model that you have or how you want to have to be on Amazon. Beyond obviously the referral fees, their warehousing fees, the storage fees, the fulfillment fees, the returns; it all starts to add up. 

One of the big questions for us when we're developing this is how do we get our fees in there on top of everything else? And how do we ensure that what we're doing is profitable across the different activities that we run?

Obviously, SEO is a big part of it, but we also manage them with the paid side of Amazon and I suppose a lot of the retail consultancy as well around the technology that we have. I suppose beyond the definition of the services and it's just about implementing, listening, observing, are people reacting the way they want us to react when we're talking about a certain thing.

And obviously, that's not just the clients, we spend a lot of time talking internally taking in the different teams through and just getting their feedback really with, is this exciting enough? Is this interesting enough? Is this something that maybe the market would like to have? And I guess the most important thing that is, what success looked like.

Deepak: What I'd love to know though, I mean, I'd like to know that I'm sure the audience would as well, is what made you decide that getting into the Amazon space was a smart business decision for Threepipe or for the agency that came into Threepipe? What was the thought process behind that? 

Nick: Yeah, well, I think there's probably two key points. I think one is that, yes, we do have a lot of retail clients and obviously it's really important to listen and observe the different questions that they have. We were getting quite a lot of different Amazon requests. 

It's not even being beyond running Amazon accounts, but just knowing what is actually going on in Amazon, is my market share being eroded, is 30% of my sales going directly through Amazon without actually going to my own eCommerce platforms? 

Also, I think it's important as an agency to keep your finger on the course really. You're seeing that every month there's a new stat on Amazon, I think, probably from 2018, it overtook Google in terms of share of product searches. That's probably one of the reasons why right now Google are opening up the shopping listings to, I suppose, organic results. Just to fight back in terms of the shopping and related searches. 

And so between all the stats that we were seeing in terms of the rate of growth but also, in addition to all the questions that our clients are asking us.

Is it a “Must” for eCommerce Companies to be on Amazon?

Deepak: If someone is in the process of launching their eCommerce business, whatever the business is, is your advice launch on Amazon first because that's where you need to be?

Nick: Well, I think it's important to look at the Amazon marketplace and even if you don't have any software or you're not paying for anything, you can actually look at a thing called Amazon's Bestseller Rank, which shows what are the products that are selling the most in any specific category, right? 

And on the back of that, you can start to look at used products that are selling. What's the price point? What are the product features? Does my product fit in there? And like I said, even without software, you look at the reviews, right? We know that every 15 or 20 sales, you get a review on Amazon. So if a product has 1,000 reviews, suddenly, you can work out that that product has sold X amount.

Deepak: Yeah, so 15-20 sales, you predict one review, and then based upon that, you can measure the volume of sales. Is that more or less what you use as a metric? 

Nick: You can estimate that and you can automate that when you're doing just some initial research. 

Deepak: Okay. Amazing. We've got the best seller rank, we've got the number of reviews. Are there any other considerations? Kristaller, I forget your name, sir, I'm so sorry, but I'm going to call you Kristaller. He's saying shipping is a problem in Scandinavia that for him, he's obviously, not decided to launch, or he is on Amazon rather, but he wants to understand, is that a big consideration because it must be a consideration from your side in terms of what you can charge clients when they look at their own margins.

Nick: Yeah, I mean, it is an interesting area and that's a question that we get asked a lot. On Amazon, you can either be a vendor or you can be a seller and not many people know they're two entirely different businesses. 

As a vendor, Amazon will buy in bulk from you. They'll control the pricing so if they see in other marketplaces the same product has dropped the price, they will match that price. But to be a vendor, you need to be a relatively large brand and it's invite-only.

The other option for kind of smaller, mid-sized businesses is to look at the seller central, which is pretty quick to set up. You sign up, it's like 29 bucks a month and you can list your products and start selling right away. But once you do that, you have two options right? And I think that's the question right now. 

The options are either to fulfill yourself and save about 66.7% on the margin or fulfill through Amazon; ship through their warehouses. And it's not such an easy question to answer in terms of profitability, because although you're losing some margin when you're going to Amazon's warehouses, your conversion rates are generally double when the Prime badge is on there.

It's not a question of either do you want to go small to kind of dip your toe into it and see, or whether they want to go volume and sacrifice a little bit of margin on the top of that. I think our recommendation, if possible, it's definitely worth looking at Amazon's warehouse first if you can get your products in there at the moment. 

Deepak: Okay. Now, brilliant. That's really, really amazing advice. Guys, the advice there is if you can use Amazon Prime, where, and when you can, because you get up to double the amount of conversions. You, of course, need to be strong on your unit economics, I think that's the word I heard the other day when I was Googling, I was like, "Oh, unit economics." The cost of the shipping, and then the price for your product and working out basically the returns per unit and understanding what your margin is.

Winning Your First Client as an Amazon SEO Agency

And Nick, you're obviously an expert, so let's go back to the first day when you won your first Amazon client. Let's go to that day and talk about that and switch the game up a little.

Nick: When you're trying to win your first client, it is definitely, it is challenging and a lot of hard work goes into it. I think in terms of new business perspective, what we wanted to do first was to use our existing network. 

As I said, we do have already a lot of retail clients, but we've also spoken to a lot of different businesses for one reason or another. Not all of it turned out into paid work. We reached out to those first, and then I think one of our big things was to kind of go with a smaller proof of concept, shorter-term contract system, just to show that this stuff works and what we're thinking, everything that we've developed actually works with it within the marketplace.

I think, Panasonic was the first client back in early 2019 and that was around SEO, so we're looking at a lot there.

Deepak: And was Panasonic a client you already had within the agency?

Nick: Yes. I've been doing some work with them, I guess, across the different teams, but I think the important thing is that, in the beginning, I would say when you're pitching to these businesses, you kind of roll out the tank every time, right?

You do as much work as possible and you give them everything. We were just pitching pretty regularly and have over the last 18 months or so. Even before we started, we put a list of clients that we wanted to go after. 

Blueprint for Launching an Amazon SEO Service

Deepak: If there's someone in the audience who thinks, “Nick, I'd like to try and pitch Amazon SEO and see if I could launch it as a service”. What's your advice to anybody in the audience on the agency side, who's like, how can I emulate that, Nick? What will be the blueprint for the first three things that you would do if you were to start from scratch and to launch an Amazon SEO service? 

Nick: Think about who you want to approach first because you can have a great service, but no way to get out to market and it's going to be quite a challenging thing, right. Understanding what are the markets that you think that you have specialisms in? 

And obviously, there are Amazon algorithms and Amazon things, but better knowledge about each of the marketplaces is also quite important. Understanding who your target market is, there is a level of investment in, on Amazon service or any service really, and you're going to have to have, and this is an SEO skill: patience and persistence.

In the first few months, you make a change and it takes a few months before for those to materialize. I suppose, be prepared to start bare-bones, manage the hands-on work as much as you can so you can position to grow that team. 

I think the last thing is just observing and listening, right? Because even in the beginning, we had a lot of services, a lot of things didn't make it through after the first two or three pitches. We thought that that didn't really resonate or that's not that interesting or that doesn't really work. Just listening and refining, right, because I think, if the first thing you go out with it's perfect, and probably haven't thought big enough. 

The Value of Software for Amazon SEO Agencies

Deepak: You're a hybrid agency in terms of having also the software side of it. Let's first talk about what made you decide that, I mean, day one, you didn't have software right. Day one you were manually looking at stuff yourself. What made you decide to, I mean, have you built software, first of all, for clarity?

Nick: We have built software in the past, outside of Amazon. A lot of stuff around paid search, tracking so just to automate. On the Amazon side is probably two considerations: we built two different pieces of software. I think one is more around marketing intelligence, and again, this probably stems from SEO as well, all the work that we do around scrapers, right?

When you look at Amazon, you think that there's a huge amount of information that you can actually get on a list page or on a product page, but Amazon don't share that information. The intelligence software is out of necessity because we didn't have the data that we need to do the things that we generally do in digital.

I think the second part, the software developed is around Amazon's advertising. If anybody's ever done PPC, they go into Amazon and it's kind of like Google. Quite a few years back, you weren't able to do lots of basic things like Ad scheduling at different hours of the day, or automated bidding around some of the different areas. 

We worked out that there is a lot of that goes into the advertising side of Amazon and it takes a lot of time. If we were to kind of upfront invest in some of the software to do that work, that actually allowed us to be a bit more competitive in terms of pricing of the services that we offer. 

Both those software, we generally use it only for our own clients. It's pretty to be outward facing but it's been really useful and impactful within the narrative that we have. 

Services and Deliverables for an Amazon SEO Agency

Deepak: I'm going to take the questions that we've got in the audience because I'm seeing there's a stream of comments that have come in. What are your services and deliverables? I mean, give us the golden egg. 

Nick: Well, we probably sell in two areas; marketing and retail consultancy. I think on the retail consultancy side, it's something that we didn't envisage when we started it. We realized that a lot of people don't know a huge amount about how to do it on Amazon. 

Deepak: Is that looking at a business who's currently not on Amazon, or has a very limited exposure on Amazon and you present them with a package to say, "We'll increase your presence and therefore increase your business." Just to make sure that I understand it correctly. 

Nick: Yeah, that's correct. For people that aren't on Amazon, thinking about getting Amazon. Even a few of our clients are not planning to do Amazon at all, but they want to know what's happening on Amazon because that affects their retail space. 

I think that kind of wider understanding of Amazon definitely helps and that kind of leads them to the specific service based on the assessment and opportunity that we come with in each of the categories. One of the things we always look at is, as I mentioned, the size of the category, who's playing in that category, and where our clients potentially fit, depending on what the search demand is for brands or generics. We start to build out a bigger recommendation and how we would actually drive visibility and sales across their products. 

Deepak: How does that translate into audits versus ongoing optimization? I mean, are you selling recurring services? Like how does it all play out? 

Nick: Yeah, I mean, even on the SEO side, from our perspective, we prefer, I guess the retained work. You always incorporate the market analysis, do the audits within kind of the day to day activity, right? Because you look at COVID and the patterns are changing every week, every month. This is something that is not a one-off audit of your competitors, it's ongoing. 

Fundamentals of Amazon SEO

Deepak: Can you explain how SEO works on Amazon? I want to take this question because it must be part of the sales process because you must have clients saying, "Well, how does Amazon SEO work anyway?" And it'd be great to get your insights on that question. 

Nick: I think there are definitely a lot of similarities between regular SEO. There are a few different factors that we look at, like with SEO, your title tags, your bullet points, your descriptions on there as well are really important to make sure that you're actually matching against the different queries on there. 

I think one of the biggest differences between Amazon and Google SEO, is Amazon actually takes some consideration of sales data. You can have the most optimized listing, and you've got all of your images and your video and your A+ content and your, I don't know how many thousands of words of descriptions and bullet points. But if you're not generating sales, Amazon isn't going to index you for those queries. On Amazon, SEO and PPC actually work together a little bit more than on Google. 

But there's a lot of other factors Amazon looks at outside of what we can do on the page. Obviously, there's backend keywords as well in Amazon so, with typos and words that maybe doesn't fit the description but it's relevant, you can use the backend keywords up to a certain amount of characters on there. 

But beyond what we can do with the copy, it comes down to Amazon's algorithm and they do look at engagement across the different products versus the conversion rates versus glance views, which is Amazon's terminology for page views. They look at your history, they at look at your stock. If you start to run a little bit low on stock, you're looking like you're so large, your sell rankings are all starting to drop across those different terms. 

But yeah, there are definitely a lot of similarities between the SEO that we know; the keyword research, enhancing the products with those keywords, talking about the relevant things that people are looking for within a product. 

How Can Sellers Increase Their Amazon Reviews?

Deepak: We're dancing between the agency side, as well as those people who are Amazon product sellers themselves. Dan or Kristaller was asking your question before, how can we get more reviews? How can we entice more reviews? Is there a kind of strategy that you recommend to clients? 

Nick: Yeah, I think Amazon clamped down on reviews probably.

Deepak: I mean, I saw services where you can get review sharing, review swapping.

Nick: It's like old school link building. But look, I think what's important is that you have strong customer services on Amazon. I think that there are some third-party software that you can use anything with, if it is AMZ, feedback and a few others that allow you to automate that process a little bit more. 

It certainly helps; everybody there that makes a purchase gets an email after two weeks or so asking for a review, if you can get a few more than that generally helps, but there isn't a huge amount of ways around it. 

Amazon has their own service called Amazon Vine and that's open to sellers as well, where you pay to give products to Amazon to give to their premium reviews, to leave reviews of your products. 

It does say Amazon Vine within the views page, and then maybe people don't trust those reviews as much as a regular review, but the most important reviews are the first few that you have on the product. Once you get over four or five in a category, then it will start to happen naturally. 

Deepak: What's your go-to then for getting the first four or five reviews? Is it that you ask a friend to buy one from Amazon directly?

Nick: To be honest, if you're a relatively small seller then, yes. Just to ask a few friends to buy them. Obviously, don't go too crazy on it, but we generally try to work with Amazon Vine because that's the most white hat way of doing it to just put a set of products aside, shipping it out and get some of those reviews just to initiate it really. 

It can start to generate sales on this product because before you get reviews, it's kind of like chicken and egg, right before you get your reviews, you're driving traffic, but nobody wants to buy it until somebody else has bought it first.

Amazon Vine, it's open to sellers and vendors now, as long as you've got a brand registry. It's a good way to just get started. Friends and family helps too, I mean, get a few off of them then go for it. 

Deepak: Guys, you had it here first, Amazon Vine, depending upon the size of business that you've got. If you're small, then ask a few buddies, ask friends and family, have them purchase a product where, and when it makes sense. 

Pricing Structure and Growth for Amazon SEO Agencies

Greener SEO was asking, how do you charge for the service? We know that you charge a monthly retainer fee, but what about the Ad side of it? Like what do you do? Do you charge like the PPC model where you charge it as a percentage? 

Nick: On the AMS side, PPC side, yeah, it's a percentage of the spend with a minimum fee. I think if we get to that, but generally what we'd like to do is price up a total package with just a rate based on the value that we're offering, right. 

It's not just purely the amount of time that you spend on it but we do look at that. We do look at how much time it takes to audit a catalog, optimize it, do the SEO, set up the campaigns. Yeah, it is a percentage fee sometimes. The answer is we're generally quite flexible on the pricing. We don't have one pricing for everyone. 

Deepak: I've got a question that was in the webinar description that I wanted to ask, which is, you're a team of six people now I hear, that's pretty darn good. Let's talk a little bit about the growth of your team because clearly this is a clearly defined enough and profitable enough service for it to support six people. I'd love just to get your comments on the growth of your actual Amazon business unit. 

Nick: Well, yes, the team are six, but we do have skills within the agency that are a bit more dynamic, so sometimes there's a campaign set up. We will kind of reach out to the wider agency to help us out so I think we were fortunate in that sense that, yeah, there are six, but we're probably managing more clients than a team of six but luckily we have a few that can help us. But I think your question is more related to building the team, I suppose. I guess we start off with myself and Joe who kind of co-heads up the team.

Upfront we did all the groundwork, the legwork, the research, the service development, of course, and getting to the pitch process and the narrative in terms of how we can get out to the market. Initially, we just got our hands dirty really, and we didn't actually get anybody else in the team. We did the optimizations, ran the activity, and after getting more clients, then we started to build that team. 

Where we looked first was within the agency itself, the different types of skills within the agency, it's not just, I suppose, the hard skills the 10 years of SEO experience or five years with PPC, but also some of the, I suppose, different skills around people who we're maybe a bit more creative creators because we know that when you're building something new that there's a lot of uncertainty.

With that uncertainty, you need different types of people to help it grow from the ground up. I think we did look at some of those different areas: who's a bit more creative, who's maybe a bit more functional in operations so that we have a good plan of how we service those clients from an account management perspective, from general operation's perspective.

General Amazon eCommerce Advice

Deepak: What general advice do you have for someone who's looking to get started in the Amazon eCommerce game? 

Nick: Well, I mean, I think it's a relatively straightforward process to set up an account, get your products on there. If you have SEO skills already, some of those will come real handy when you're actually researching demand on Amazon, what people are actually looking for so that you can optimize those listings to drive some traffic. 

I think even on Amazon, it's a little bit different from PPC. They've designed different advertising formats that it's pretty much plug and play. They've got these things called Automatic Campaigns where it's an Amazon's algorithm to determine where to promote your products. If you even you have no PPC or search experience, you can set up a product, run an automatic campaign, it actually starts to generate some sales pretty quickly.

I think that it's a tip when you're testing the water; that is fine. Over time with the automatic campaigns on Amazon, when they spend the money, you're going to be fine with your different reports, but it's probably not the most efficient way to get profitability on there.

Deepak: Makes sense, makes complete sense. Do what you can to rank your products, and then look at the automated ads that Amazon offer to get your initial swipe of sales alongside Amazon Vine to actually, either use that as a platform to solicit free reviews from Amazon itself, which makes it ethical. And then perhaps move on to the Ad space where you can run a $1,000 campaign and see what that chucks out. Is there anything else that you would add to that? 

Nick: I think one of the things, yeah, that I could add as well, if you are selling a product on Amazon, one of the options that you can have that you don't have on traditional PPC is targeting other people's products.  You can actually target products that are similar to yours, maybe the same marketplace, maybe a little bit more expensive, maybe slightly worse reviews. We get a lot of results in terms of not just targeting keywords or categories, but targeting competitive products or complimentary products.

Quickfire Q&A on Amazon SEO and Amazon eCommerce

Deepak: There you go. Guys, we're coming into the last six minutes of today's webinar. I'm going to put a little bit more pressure on Nick because I'm going to do some round Robin questions. Question number one, Christopher Borlongan... If Google has a sandbox, does Amazon have something similar?

Nick: Not as far as we're aware, we know that new products do get a preference. When you're launching a new product upfront, you want to drive as much traffic to those listings as possible because it counts more in the beginning but there isn't a sandbox.

I think maybe there is a sandbox in terms of seller history. If you're relatively new and you don't have many reviews around your seller, you may not be prioritized around your products, but over time, as you build that trust and then just like SEO, I suppose, I guess that will be not so much of an issue. 

Deepak: Second question. If you are launching on Amazon, are there particular niches that you think do better on Amazon than others? 

Nick: Right now, Coronavirus essentials, face masks, sanitizers. They do really, really well, but I think what's important is like, we can't ignore that COVID is going to be around for a while then right now, the biggest categories that we see are around this stuff that you do at home, the salon closures, the hair clippers, the fitness at home, dumbbells, barbells,, cleaning products, grocery they're essentials. 

Deepak: Perfect. Next question that we've got is, what are the top three mistakes that you see that Amazon eCommerce owners make? 

Nick: Well, I mentioned that it's easy to start out, so running automatic campaigns. But I think once you're a little bit more mature in Amazon, you want to run those as only a keyword harvesting part of your advertising activity and see that a lot of, I guess, owners will run those campaigns and they're advertising it in a lot of different areas that aren't relevant to their products, some different keywords that aren't relevant to their products. 

For example, I was looking at one, which was bath toys for a toys company that we work with and they were running automatic campaigns and advertised them for bathtubs. Those automatic campaigns are great to start, but over time, I think it's a mistake to have to heavily rely on them. 

The second point is definitely the SEO bits. And even when we started looking at it, I just didn't understand why there was no information on these product pages. This is just like general principles in retail. You're selling your product, you want to get as much information that people are looking for within your products. And you look at some of the big brands and you look, there's no bullet points. The titles don't tell you what the product is, it's just basic SEO, best practice. 

You'll be surprised how many people get it wrong here and I think probably around images and video. That is getting all the relevant images, to the best practice, different angles, getting your video on those listings, getting your A-plus or Enhanced Brand Content underneath just to make the product page more engaging, and sell it. All these things do benefit your Amazon SEO.

Deepak: Ian is asking, what is the best tool for Amazon keyword research from your experience? 

Nick: We use Amazon's Retail Analytics. It's actually pretty interesting because it gives you every search term that's used on Amazon on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. If you have access to that, it's pretty cool. The only thing is, they don't give you search volume; they give you search frequency. They just rank the 400,000 keywords in order of popularity from one to 400,000. But we use that a lot in our research, but I'm not sure if I'm allowed to mention other companies.

Deepak: We have come to the end of the webinar with Nick. If you want to get in touch with Nick, Google Threepipe and Google his name, and I'm pretty sure you can get a hold of him. Check out Sellerly, which is the SEMrush Amazon tool. And thank you, everybody, for watching, do catch me next time.

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