How to Launch Marketplaces for Your Company

(Originally published by me in 2015 at http://ecommerceconsulting.com/2015/08/launch-marketplaces-company.html)

If your company sells consumer goods, there’s a near 100% chance you want to sell those products online. Selling online is increasingly competitive. For most companies it makes little sense to invest a couple million dollars in a website to compete with eCommerce giants such as Amazon. Instead you should look at launching your products on all the major marketplaces.

What are the Major Marketplaces?

Amazon eBay Sears Rakuten Walmart

 

These links will take you to the requirements and steps for each marketplace:

No matter how many products or SKUs you have to sell, Amazon, eBay, and most likely Sears are the three marketplaces you should consider launching first. Most products are sellable on Amazon and eBay. Sears is more of a home goods focus – so technology items are less applicable there. (Technology marketplaces are a completely different ballgame, see Best Buy and NewEgg.) So whether you’re selling kitchen knives, or party supplies, you can sell practically anything on a marketplace. I’ve sold on these marketplaces with products including clothing, kitchen equipment, paper supplies, and more.

Why Should My Company Launch Marketplaces?

  1. Low Cost
  2. Easy
  3. Fast

First it’s super cost effective. Fees vary slightly but you can estimate a monthly hard cost of about $40 per marketplace, and a percentage on successful sales ranging from 8-12% plus 1-3% for payment services such as PayPal (eBay specifically). It roughly washes out to 10-12% overall. You could spend 2-million dollars on a state of the art website, or you could pay 10% of your sale to get your product in front of customers who are already in the purchase mood (that’s why they are at a marketplace afterall) and get essentially free advertising.

Dropshipping

Second it’s super easy. There is essentially no barrier to entry for the major marketplaces except Walmart. Drop shipping is the future of eCommerce. All the marketplaces are adding literally millions of products from anybody and everybody because consumers are flocking to the top tier eCommerce models. How long does it take you make a purchase on a random company website? 2-5 minutes if it’s decent, 10 minutes if it’s bad. On Amazon it’s 10 seconds. You can’t compete with that. Because of this marketplaces need you as much as you need them. So they make your barrier to entry to launch on them incredibly easy. You can pay a consultant such as myself to launch your products, which is the most cost effective and time effective method, or you can go to each marketplace and follow their guides to launch your products. The value of utilizing a consultant comes from the value of the optimization from using an expert. Just like a website has SEO, so do marketplaces. So experts can help you optimize your products from the get go and see huge lifts.

Third it’s fast. Most have a super easy application process and you can be live within 72 hours. eBay has the lowest barrier and you can start selling within minutes of creating an account. Some people don’t realize eBay is a marketplace, but it is. There’s major differences but in the end, it’s still a website people go to, are in a buying mood, and can find your product.

Steps to launch marketplaces:

  1. Have a product that can be shipped
  2. File applications at the marketplace websites (links to each application above)
  3. Satisfy launch requirements, including filling out product information, company information, payment and receivable constraints, and any policies on shipping and/or restrictions. (This is where a consultant comes in really handy)
  4. There isn’t a lot of post launch maintenance. Customer service is about all you need besides actually shipping products.
  5. Profit

Amazon Prime

 

Bonus – Go Prime

Marketplaces are increasingly adding warehouses across the country. Both Amazon and eBay have fulfillment services. Advantages include fast shipping (2 day), increased competitive product listings, and possibly even international sales potential (eBay especially.)

 

If you’re ready to launch on any of these marketplaces and need help, email our leading marketplace expert Steven Pope, or add him on LinkedIn.

Feed Me – A Guide to Feeds for Shopping Engines, Market Places, & PLAs

The conundrum of digital marketing is you need several departments to work harmoniously toward the same goal. And in the case of eCommerce feeds, you need the marrying of entrepreneurship, online sales, and technical aptitude. A feed is information that it sent from one point to another, translated carefully to be understandable at the end point. The consequence of which if not done right is the like of playing the children’s game of telephone.

Building a feed for Amazon, eBay, shopping engines, marketplaces, and more

So do you sell frozen peas or do you sell flea repellent? Well that depends on what your feed told the third party where your information is being seen. A feed should be refreshed on a request basis. Especially if you have price changes, limited inventory, or new products coming in.

eCommerce Requires MANY Feeds

The reason eCommerce requires multiple feeds is in this day and age you aren’t just selling products at one storefront. You’re selling on 11 types of channels. Most people would get 2 of these right off the bat, websites and marketplaces. But there’s many more to consider such as shopping engines, product listing ads, and even display banner advertising.

Optional Fields Are Mandatory

If you’ve ever built a feed, you’ve probably seen that only a few fields are mandatory. And many more are optional. The thing is, if all you do is send a PDF of the feed requirements to your IT team, all they are going to do is fill in mandatory fields and call it a day. I’ve seen this at several companies. It really isn’t their fault because they have piles and piles of requests on their desks and as long as the feed goes live they can move onto the next project.

Examples of Mandatory Fields:

  • Product Title
  • Product Description
  • Inventory (Stock)

Examples of Optional Fields:

  • Color
  • Material
  • Manufacturer

Findability is Key to Accessibility

The reason optional fields matter? In an information age, the more you inform the consumer, the more transparency you use, the more likely they will be able to…

  1. Find your product
  2. Understand your product
  3. Buy your product

Example: Let’s say your company sells clothing. Well if you don’t list color in the attribute field, and the consumer is looking for a black dress, and not just a dress, then they’re going to find your competitor’s item and buy it, not yours. Simply putting “black” in the title of the product, or the description is insufficient. Take a look at this screen shot where it shows how on Amazon you can filter for color:

Optional field attributes make a big difference in feeds for marketplaces

None of these products in this screen shot have black in the title, but they all probably uploaded black in the field for color. On the bottom left you can see where black has a check mark, indicating this particular search is for only items that are black.

One of the Fastest Ways to Grow eCommerce is Feeds

I’ve talked about how there’s a lot of money to be made selling in marketplaces in two other articles.  How to Launch Marketplaces like Amazon/eBay/Sears and If you’re not on Amazon, you’re irrelevant.

But you can build feeds for many other channels. I’ll briefly touch base on shopping engines and product listing ads. Both are basically the same thing. PLAs are just Google’s shoping engine.  Shopping engines include websites like Shopzilla, Pricegrabber, Become.com, and hundreds of others. A user interacts with these shopping engines by searching for a product they want, they find multiple companies to compare from, and then go to the company’s website to finish the purchase.

The distinction here, between a marketplace and a shopping engine, is where the consumer makes the purchase. With a marketplace, they buy directly from the marketplace. A user shops directly on Amazon/eBay/Sears etc. But with a shopping engine, you control the transaction. And generally, you are paying these shopping engines by CPC (Cost Per Click). Then there’s also affiliates, which you pay a cut of the actual transaction. Feeds aren’t as necessary in an affiliate model, but could also be valuable depending on the partnership.

The reason feeds help you grow eCommerce is you’re going directly to where the user is already comfortable shopping, and presenting the information they are looking for. They’re already in the buying pattern, and they’re likely going to buy regardless – the question is, did you build your feed so they can find your product – instead of your competitors?

Okay, Feeds are Important, What Now?

If you already have a feed in place, audit it. Map every attribute, and read the documentation for that feed’s setup. If you need to set a feed up, it’s probably easier to just hire a consultant to do the work for you. A person outside of your company can also audit your feed to make sure it’s accurate and getting you as many sales as possible. I’ve setup feeds for practically every type of product-based industry and can help you out.

To Get Help With Feeds, Email eCommerce Expert Steven Pope

Ecommerce Consultant Steven Pope can help you build feeds to Amazon, eBay, Rakuten, Shopping Engines, to help you sell products

You may also like:

How to Launch Marketplaces like Amazon/eBay/Sears
If you’re not on Amazon, you’re irrelevant.

10 Reasons to NOT Launch Amazon & 10 Reasons to Launch

Sometimes I take a consulting opportunity where the company just wants my expert opinion. And even though I’m an avid fan of using marketplaces, in fact I literally said, “If you’re not on Amazon you’re irrelevant…” there are some risks and challenges to know about before launching. So I present to you, 10 Reasons to NOT Launch Amazon.

#1 Execution

  1. Every eCommerce opportunity has an opportunity cost. The biggest one for marketplaces comes from execution. It takes a lot of time dedicated to an idea to see it to fruition, and this non-unique argument can be largely applied to the unknowns. For most companies who are deciding to launch marketplaces for the first time, that’s an unknown.
  2. Requires multiple departments to be successful.
  3. Requires feeds.
  4. Requires time investment.

#2 Nexus

  1. This is not an actual risk… yet. However, Amazon is self policing themselves at this time. This will become a risk when it becomes a risk for everyone. That is, when the internet becomes taxed by the state or federal government in all 50 states.
  2. There is conflicting “grey” information on the interwebs. Your accountant may Google something and claim that nexus will exist if you sell on Amazon. Or if you sell on Amazon Prime. So while there isn’t a risk, there’s a perception of a risk. And it may require internal education to pass through this challenge.

#3 Branding

  1. If you could buy Victoria’s Secret at Walmart, would it be sexy? Probably not. Some brands may not want to be associated to the ongoing brand found on the marketplace. This might seem obvious, but you don’t sell clothing on Newegg. Similarly, technology pieces like a video card, aren’t the best sellers on Sears. And demographically, maybe you have a luxury brand, and part of the lure to your brand is the sales process. On a marketplace, you lose some control. This could impact your brand.
  2. For most companies, there’s no brand impact. But it could DEFINE your brand. It could force your company to become more efficient with cost and shipping times. It could require you to improve your quality control, and improve your customer service response rates.
  1. Competition
  2. Margin / Fees
  3. Data Management (Building the Feed)
  4. Warehousing & Inventory Management
  5. Ops – Order Management
  6. Customer Service Impacts
  7. Shipping
  8. Amazon’s SEO on Google
  9. Amazon’s PLA version of your product
  10. Prime Risks
  11. Wholesale Prevention (Future Risk)
  12. Time Involved – Opportunity Cost
We can have the January 8th call focus on benefits/opportunities.
  1. Your SEO on Amazon
  2. Brand Exposure
  3. Unique products thrive on Amazon
  4. Revenue
  5. New Customers
  6. Additional Transactions / Growth
  7. Prime Benefits Including Faster Shipping
  8. Free Shipping Benefits
  9. Benefits From Building Feed Improve Database
  10. Other Marketplaces such as eBay/Sears/Rakuten

SEO – How to Drive Real Traffic Growth

Get Search Engine Optimization help from an SEO Ecommerce ExpertEverybody knows driving web traffic is a good idea. And thousands of people out there claim to be good at SEO offering even thousands more ideas. It’s overwhelming, and if you’re an eCommerce or website owner how do you even measure your success? How do you know your team (if you have one) is executing properly. How do you know if your website and strategy are sound? You’ve come to the right place to get some SEO eCommerce Consulting from an SEO Expert Consultant.

This particular article is meant to simplify SEO down to two executable things:

  1. Content production
  2. Technical SEO infrastructure

Content Production – Quantity matters, quality helps

If you’re blogging once a week, you’re doing content production right? WRONG. You need to scale far beyond that, you need 500+ pages of content a year. If your team can execute that, that’s content production. 500 pages might break down to blog posts, adding paragraphs of content to your category and product pages, or even building landing pages.

Think big because…

There are nearly 1-billion websites out there.

1-trillion websites

What makes your website special? Why should Google pick your page to outrank the billions of other pages it could use. That 1-billion website number isn’t the number of pages, it’s the number of websites. You need to build a catalog of information. You may have heard the phrase “Content is King” before. Well the reason is in an information age, the more relevant content you produce, the more people can find your site. The more people who can find your site, the more people who may convert and become a customer. Relevant content helps boost your ranking because the #1 SEO ranking factor today is engagement.

Engagement means:

  1. Time spent on site
  2. Bounce rate
  3. How many pages viewed before exiting
  4. Number of interactions (button clicks, sign up for email etc.)

How do you scale SEO content?

There’s a lot of ways you could tackle this. Depending on the size of your organization, here are possible options:

  1. Hire an agency. I recommend SearchSide.
  2. Build an internal content team. Hire writers on staff.
  3. Hire free lancers, meet once a week to brainstorm content ideas.
  4. Write the content yourself.

Technical SEO infrastructure – The best content with bad tech drives zero traffic

Okay you’ve got a content production team, now you need the infrastructure to translate your content in a way that Google understands.

The basics:

  1. HTML title – this is the title of the page as coded <title> of the page. If your title is “Blog” you are telling Google literally that it’s a blog. If you say “Best eCommerce Consulting Advice on SEO ever” that’s going to rank you for those key phrases. This has the strongest SEO impact on your page.
  2. Meta Description – This is the description of your page. It should be uniquely set to include a value proposition. Why should someone click on your page? Put that reason here.
  3. Keywords – Google claims they don’t use the keywords

Taking this a level deeper, you need to build a website with a good hierarchy.

  • Home page
    • Category page
      • Sub category page
        • product
  • Education/news/blog landing page
    • Category
      • Article

Building your url to look like www.brandnamehere.com/category-name-here-/page-title-here

On those pages, you need a layout to give:

  • Headline 1 <h1>
    • Headline 2 <h2>
      • Headline 3 <h3>
      • Headline 3 <h3>
    • Headline 2 <h2>
      • Headline 3 <h3>
      • Headline 3 <h3>

This organizes your content so Google knows what’s most important. Beneath the headlines of course you would have paragraphs of text.

This is just technical organization. The advanced items delve into:

  1. Schema
  2. Markup
  3. Engagement metrics
  4. Page load time.
  5. Responsive design

I’ve linked 5 articles that delve into each of those in depth. But I recommend you tackle all the organizational tech before attempting those.

How to get your Amazon account unsuspended

I’ve seen a huge spike of suspended Amazon accounts in 2016. Amazon is getting more serious about performance, likely due to the fact that everyone is now selling on Amazon so they can be more picky in who they want to work with. And if you sell on Amazon, chances are you will at some point deal with warnings or notifications that can or have led to a formal suspension from Amazon. This article is meant to simplify the steps to help you get back reinstated. It is highly recommended you hire a consultant who has dealt with Amazon suspensions before because you’ll get your account back live faster and that’s likely going to save you more money than the cost of hiring the consultant.

Amazon Suspension Consultant

Steps to get your Amazon account reinstated from a suspension:

  1. Read the suspension notice. Attempt to understand it.
  2. Diagnose the reason suspended, and identify how to adhere the policy Amazon claims you violated.
  3. Fix the problem.
  4. THEN – Write an appeal response to the suspension.
  5. Wait 7 days. Yes 7 days.
  6. Appeal reviewer will respond – if you submitted a plan and excuted the fix, you get back live.
  7. IF NOT – they will give you followup requests.
  8. Address followup requests. Likely in relationship to the execution of your plan, or they want a more detailed plan.
  9. Wait 3 days.
  10. If no response after 3 additional days (total 10 days) – write seller-evaluation@amazon.com to get expedited review.

Alternatively you can:

  1. Hire a consultant who will do these steps for you, and will lead to faster appeal responses.

How to best take care of your Amazon suspension

Granted, the best way to take care of a suspension is to never get suspended. This means checking the performance notices Amazon sends you. If you check your account health once a week you will see the problems coming from a distance. Amazon is actually pretty lenient and gives you a month notice on possible suspension before actually suspending you. They do this through multiple notices to make a change on your account. If you take no action, you will get suspended.

It is critical that when in writing the appeal, you address the appeal directly in the special notice area and not through a standard Amazon ticket.

Amazon Suspens

Click view appeal. Read it there. (See reasons why your account be suspended.)

Once you understand the appeal, write a response, and fix the problem. You should write 3-5 bullet points. Admit the problem, be concise, and don’t make excuses.

Remember – Amazon’s perspective is the onus is on you as the seller. The onus is on you to have accurate ASINs product listings. The onus is on you to have good metrics like shipping time. The onus is on you to keep your customers happy. Any extenuating circumstances are moot. If you can’t give a world class ecommerce experience to the customer, Amazon is okay with losing your business. With this in mind, follow these best practices.

Best Practices:

  1. Less is more. Write concise bullet points in all communication. This review department doesn’t take direct phone calls. They have tons of paperwork. If you can make it so they can get that you understand the problem and have fixed it in less than 30 seconds, this is ideal. Attaching documents is discouraged – only do if specifically requested.
  2. Write in bullet points.
  3. Admit the problem. Admit that you violated the policy. This is the first step. Admitting the problem tells Amazon you get it and can fix it.
  4. Be patient

Reasons your account could be suspended:

  1. Poor metrics: Shipping times, customer satisfaction.
  2. Policy violation: Selling products against Amazon policies such as guns, expired product, or against USA government regulations.
  3. Product mismatch: If you sell a product that is similar to someone else’s but they aren’t the exact same, make sure you have a unique ASIN. If you sell a 2008 version of a product that has a 2016 version – this is a poor customer experience and Amazon puts the onus on you to separate the ASINs.
  4. Multiple accounts. You are only allowed one account per IP address/billing address.

Amazon – Launching a product targeting Conversion & Traffic

When you first launch a product on Amazon, whether you’re a private labeler, or a multi-million dollar corporation, there’s two things you should be focused on. Get traffic to Amazon, and convert that traffic. Getting traffic is harder, so I’m going to start with conversion first. I’ve launched thousands of skus over the past few years on Amazon, and each category is different. But the basic marketing 101 concepts of traffic and conversion are universal. This is a short straight to the point read, as you dive in and work on specific areas you will want to do further research. This is meant as a starting point overview.

Conversion:

Photos: 6+ photos of product. Most brick and mortar focused companies, or catalog companies, tend to provide a single photo of the product. This simply is not enough in today’s world. If you don’t have 6+ photos you are behind the curve. You should have a photo of the front, back, side, lifestyle, group photo of all products for potential upsell if you sell variations or similar products, close up of product in action (like an apple cutter cutting an apple close up shot of just the apple and cutter), label/ingredients if not easily seen on back.

Sometimes you don’t have the ability to get all these kinds of shots. Perhaps you only have access to a single photo and there’s nothing you can do about it. In these instances you can hire an affordable overseas graphic designer to make the image look different with liquids or effects. Such as this Fine Occasion Monogram Wine Glass. Here you’ll notice 5 photo options, all similar in shape and size but the image has different “wines” or aesthetics used on the glassware.

Reviews: Recommend getting 3-5 reviews on each product asap. Once you have that, future reviews will come organically. In a pinch, get some friends and family to buy your product on Amazon from their personal accounts and leave you a review.

 

Content: Spending time on bullet points is a must. Fleshing this out and the product description to really talk up the product, why it’s special, why people should buy it. This copy has to balance having a conversation with the consumer (most important) and putting in keywords to generate traffic (see below keywords section).

 

Traffic:

Amazon ads – Categories like beauty and technology have abnormally high PPC bids. Other categories will be more fortunate like home and goods. Depending on the competitve nature of your category I would recommend a strategy of break even on ads. Factor in all your costs and max your ad spend to break even on your products. That means your ACOS could be as high as 50% on many products. Typically more healthy at 25% but on launch especially you should be spending a lot on ads. If you have 1000 of something in stock at $25 a piece you should be spending at least $5,000 in the first month to launch this product. Every product will be different, but if you are weak in other areas this is the easiest one to do, it just requires you opening your wallet/budget.

Offsite traffic into Amazon – This is probably the hardest thing to do. But any off site traffic you can drive into Amazon will pay dividends. Recommend 2-3 month campaign to push people to Amazon through any means. Could be store traffic, emails to customer base you have (if applicable), sites like www.snagshout.com.

Keywords (SEO) –  The title of your product is the most important thing you do. Be sure to be as descriptive as possible, but do not go too long or the Amazon brand guideline team will truncate your title without consulting you. When I first launched the Fine Occasion monogram wine glass I had about 20 words in the title. Amazon cut me down to 4 words and I had to fight to get it back to the 8 words it’s at today. Second fill in your bullet points. These should be super fleshed out. One technique I employ is to use caps on an important phrase at the beginning of the bullet point and then regular non caps copy that follows. This allows you to convert two different types of people. Someone who is making a decision to buy in under 30 seconds will only read the caps. Someone who spends 10 minutes will read all the copy. Third  fill in keywords in the search terms field of the item editing. If you have a list of commonly used industry terms for each product, it is valuable to have. For instance, one person might call a product shaving cream, and another might call it shaving soap. Need your product knowledge to take advantage of things like that. Third writing rich copy with keywords in product description.

Any friends, family, or business connections you have that can make a purchase on your products will help lift the products off initial ground. Buying a product from your personal account, and getting others to do the same, will start your BSR sales velocity. I’d call this a guerrilla marketing tactic and it’s only good at the launch. Some sales are better than no sales for ranking consideration. In most categories there are just simply thousands of product alternatives and Amazon has no incentive to show your product without prior sales history in their organic rankings.

 

Distribution Control:

For the non-private labelers out there, ie people who sell at trade shows, wholesale, brick and mortar etc. You need to focus on more than traffic and conversion. Distribution control. Right now with the product fresh it could be tempting to allow other Amazon players. Especially since you may be slow to get your product into FBA and launch. I would recommend not allowing additional players to enter Amazon on your behalf however, as IMAP concerns, data issues, and other problems can surface.  Having future partners sign an agreement that says they won’t sell on Amazon is advised. It will save you a headache down the road!

 

 I’ll be making an appearance on Stephen Peterson’s www.ecommercemomentum.com podcast in August, 2017. Be on the lookout. One of the topics I cover is why you should acquire a business when entering a new market instead of doing it from scratch.

Ecommerce from Home – Pallet Mistakes, Rain, Delays, and Makeshift Warehousing in Your Basement/Garage

So I’ve been side hustling eCommerce for a few years now, growing my own Amazon business www.melioragoods.com and other self made businesses, and also consulting to help others build their Amazon businesses. Today I pulled out my cell phone and took this video because I just couldn’t help but laugh at myself. I had a pallet arrive, it’s raining, I have to haul these boxes into my basement one by one and try to keep them dry. I have a second pallet waiting for pickup that has been delayed. This is the life of ecommerce from home, be prepared to have a pallet show up unexpectedly at your house. Be prepared to have a pallet waiting in your driveway or garage. Where are you going to put this stuff? The garage? The basement? Be prepared…

 

SEO – Winning the Answer Box

When you win the “Answer Box” in SEO with Google, it’s like winning a beautiful free paid ad that leap frogs your website to the top of the competition. Answer boxes come in many forms, depending on your industry, and have been nicknamed “position 0.” They were created by Google as a way to deliver the BEST result possible to the user, and the user generally gets a lot of valuable information from the box of information displayed. There are several ways to optimize for the answer box.

Just this week my company website that specializes in Gold Spot Prices published a change to our historical price tracker page that resulted in us winning the answer box in less than 24 hours.

APMEX has a live gold spot price tracker

There are several things you’ll notice about this particular answer box.

  1. It has an image of a beautiful Gold American Eagle coin.
  2. There’s organized information.
  3. It’s a copy of the live updated information portrayed from the website.
  4. It still links to the information.

Users who want to know specific information, get that information instantly from their Google search. Many users will not even need to click on the result because they already know what they were seeking. YET – many users do still click. A significant portion of them will end up clicking on the answer box, and at a higher proportion than a regular organic listing because they already know the credibility of the source. Many users will want to know even more information from this new trusted source they found.

In the example above, after winning the answer box, we added column headers for “Gold Price Today” and “Spot Change” to make it even more understandable to the search query. Google had the updates displayed within a couple of hours. So it’s entirely possible to optimize the answer box, even after you win it. I think Google has gotten even better at this recently because some of the blog posts out there from a year ago on answer boxes suggested that Google would cache the result and maintain it even months after the content of a page was gone.

Reasons why optimizing for the answer box is a good idea:

  • Gives you #1 Organic Position
  • Generates more clicks than a regular #1 Organic Position
  • It’s free
  • It doesn’t look like an ad
  • BUT – it’s as beautiful as an ad

Prediction: Answer box results are on the rise, and will inevitability reshape search over the coming 3 years

Back in September of 2014, Moz was tracking the percentage of answer box results. On 9/26/14 the use of answer boxes doubled to 3.5% of all results. SearchEngineLand found that answer boxes led to incredible click through rates of 33% (that’s like double a “regular” #1 organic listing). In February of 2015 one study showed 20% of all search queries were rich answer box results. I personally found that number too high compared to Moz’s study in a short time period. So it’s possible that latest study was true for only some industries.

With that said, I believe we could see answer boxes double, triple, and even quadruple in 2016 year over year. And than over the next 3 years, we will see answer boxes appear in as many as 33% of all results. So if your SEO team isn’t optimizing for answer boxes now, you’re missing the inevitable strategic shift of opportunity in SEO.

Some SEOs think Google will eventually monetize answer boxes. I think that’s possible, but I think it’s more likely Google will only monetize answer boxes for retail, and leave the factual information gathering answer boxes alone. For example, Google might end up monetizing “Best place to buy (fill in blank)” just like they did with PLAs, paid search, and other products in the past. The primary payers of those systems? Retail.

Okay – so how do I optimize for the answer box?

You’re going to need a website with high site authority to begin with. If you just launched a website, chance are your authority isn’t established enough to even compete on this scale. If you have some great content that already gets thousands of visitors, it will be easier to optimize that than to launch a new page. Building something that has schema, markup, or at least a direct answer to a question, are good starting points to winning the answer box.

What is Schema SEO?

In short – you’ll need a page of content that has meta tags optimized, relevant information that answers a query, and keywords in the copy.

Resources you will need:

  1. Good content
  2. High site authority
  3. A developer
  4. An SEO expert to marry all of those things together.

If you need help with your SEO, contact me for consulting in the evenings and weekends.

Relevant continued reading:

Answer Box – Search Engine Land

How Google Triggers Answer Boxes

Schema Markup SEO

Schema Structure Data – Moz

If you’re not on Amazon, you’re irrelevant

(Originally published by me in 2015 at http://ecommerceconsulting.com/2015/05/youre-not-amazon-youre-irrelevant.html)

There are thousands of major brands who aren’t on Amazon and it baffles me. I’ve worked for companies who thought Amazon was evil. I’ve spoken to handfuls of companies who think being on Amazon would damage their brand, or even that there is other low hanging fruit available. They are all wrong. Because if you sell products and aren’t on Amazon, you’re irrelevant. Amazon is the mecca of selling. The brand has been fine-tuned and is growing. The website has literally every Holy Grail of eCommerce 101 practices. And its scale is incomparable. It’s always EASY to sell on Amazon. It’s also EASY to buy on Amazon.

If I asked you to name a website that you could do the following things, what website would pop into your head?

  1. Find a product in 30 seconds.
  2. Buy that product within 60 seconds.
  3. Have the product arrive to you within 48 hours.

That’s what your company is competing against. That’s Amazon. Single page checkout, single click checkout, high level of SKUs, immense amount of traffic, hundreds of millions of customers and repeat ones at that. All of that.

Meanwhile your website may not even have a page load time shorter than 5 seconds. You require people to register accounts, add payment and shipping options, and the whole sale process takes a first time customer a minimum of 10 minutes, and repeat customers still 4-5 minutes. It would cost millions of dollars to get your website to compete on even a fraction of Amazon’s agile ability to sell stuff. But it would require you just a matter of hours to get on Amazon and optimize it.

How do I get on Amazon?

It’s actually quite easy. Go here. For a company with a handful of SKUs you can do all the work manually by hand, and artistically create your listings from scratch. For a company with hundreds if not thousands of SKUs you already have a database of information to work with and it’s just a matter of converting it into the proper format for an excel upload.

I’ve worked at companies that between 40-50% of gross sales come from Amazon. Amazon does take a cut, a 15% cut at that. But in my mind, that’s the cheapest 15% in advertising ever spent, adding dividends beyond count. And yet selling on Amazon is often seen as one duty of many for one person on an eCommerce team. Honestly, if you’re company is doing a million dollars on Amazon you should have a dedicated person to it so they can optimize it, and grow it. A company will have an entire staff to run a website, but barely put any effort into growing a channel that does half their business. Why is that? I think it’s because people don’t realize how much more they can do to sell more stuff to more people more often on Amazon. (Sadly you can’t sell for more money on Amazon.)

Amazon PPC is a thing.

First there’s Amazon PPC. Your company is already spending a gross amount on Adwords, but you aren’t paying for click ads on Amazon. Well you should be, here’s why. Amazon ads are displayed within Amazon, and they are seen within categories and keywords you choose when someone searches on Amazon.com. So if someone is searching for “rice cookers” and you’re the only one paying for ads on that keyword you’re going to be seen 100% of the time and pay per click.

Sponsored Listing on Amazon

  1. Amazon PPC cost per click is as low as 2 pennies in many categories.
  2. There’s no competition or very little.
  3. Extremely high conversion rates. People are already in the mood to buy and are comparing your product straight up. Compare this to Google PLAs.

Tip: clothing PPC is dirt cheap, there’s no competitors. Meanwhile technology products have super high costs.

Amazon SEO is a thing

Not only are Amazon products showing up in Google listings, they show up on Amazon.com. Since your products are competing against other products on Amazon you need to have superb SEO in your listings. Your excel file upload to Amazon should have the following:

  1. Automation (feed should upload it daily if not every few hours, so stock counts are accurate if nothing else)
  2. Full product descriptions
  3. HTML in your product descriptions
  4. Features filled out, the 5 bullet points, but also the additional features such as “made of”
  5. A list and sale price (So list price is crossed out)
  6. Multiple pictures. One picture isn’t sufficient.

It’s really easy to do 2-6. #1 requires an API and some help from your IT team. If you don’t have an IT team who knows how to build the automated API you should probably be working with a marketplace vendor to help you do all that such as Mercent.

For 2-6 you can do all of this one product/category at a time by typing into your product information management tool or the excel itself all of the proper attributes. If you go for the Holy Grail you’ll map it at the PIM level, then you can cross apply these attributes and map them properly for other marketplaces such as eBay/Sears/Rakuten etc.

By filling in massive amounts of information about your product, instead of a bare minimum title, price, and short description, your product is more likely to be seen. Bonus points if you ask customers to review your products which can also help your product conversion rates and ability to be seen in general.

Here’s a great example of a listing with tons of technical details filled in. Material types and even orientation have been established. This is for a stroller which can be found here.

SEO for Amazon

The Extra Mile: Parent/Child product relationships. So if you have one product with different colors you can set the parent as the product and the colors as the children. This props up the parent listing and creates more sales.

Amazon Gold Box Deals are a thing

Once you’re doing well on Amazon, you can back channel some help within Amazon to get an account rep to work with you. One of the special things they can do is get your product advertised in a Daily Deal. I once had a product that had sold less than 30 times on my website. A knife to be precise. I had well over 1,000 of this SKU in stock. So I sent a couple hundred to Amazon’s Prime warehouse, and asked a rep to host me as a daily deal. Almost every knife I sent in sold out, and all within 2-3 hours of the deal posting. There’s some serious leverage to getting your product into a daily deal. You do have to discount your product, but there’s some big advantages.

  1. Sell a lot of product in a short time
  2. Create buzz, which gets your original product listing higher due to sales, creating future sales
  3. Visibility, which can create brand awareness and sales on other SKUs

Amazon Gold Box Deals

Amazon Prime is a thing

Let’s say you have 2,000 SKUs, and almost all of your sales are coming from 50 of those SKUs. What else can you do to improve your sales? Well you could try to sell the other 1,950 products better with the above steps. But perhaps even easier than that is to sell more of your 50 products that are already on fire. You can do this by shipping your product to an Amazon Prime warehouse. This creates special listings for your product, so they appear to be sold by Amazon directly. Customers who have signed up for prime get free shipping. And they get your product guaranteed with delivery within 2 days. Most companies can’t ship stuff that fast. So not only will your product listing get seen more, you’ll get more sales, and ship stuff to customers faster.

I personally pay for Amazon Prime. I love the fringe benefits of a Netflix experience on Amazon, and I love free shipping. Most people do. Prime has a growing customer base. Even customers without Prime can still buy your Prime products.

The other really cool thing about selling on Prime is you get major discounts as a seller. I calculated major cost savings on selling a product on Prime vs from my own website. Most of the savings come from shipping. At one company I worked for we couldn’t ship something for less than $7. And for small products that was a major price hurdle. With Prime shipping costs were as low as $2 for those same products. Meaning we were either making more profit or selling at a more competitive price point. If you do 80% of your Amazon sales on a set amount of SKUs, and you do nearly half of your business as a company on Amazon, imagine improving your margin by 10% by selling through Prime. It can make superb business sense.

  1. Lower cost to sell
  2. Faster shipping
  3. More sales

Conclusion

No one company is able to herd all the cats necessary to improve how they sell on Amazon in a timely manner. But if you pick one of the things above to do this month, you’re going to see a lift. If you would like advice on selling on Amazon or other marketplaces, you can email me your questions here.