Growing on Amazon using Amazon Advertising Tools

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Getting the Amazon Best Seller Badge Without Breaking Terms of Service

When I first started working as a Law Enforcement Liaison at Amazon, I had really high expectations of the role. After all, law enforcement sounds really cool! It truly was a fascinating role, but the very first day, I learned that we managed our entire case load using an Excel spreadsheet. I’d only been at Amazon four months at that point, and didn’t realize that the entire company runs on Excel, SQL queries, and duct tape. 

I learned to manage a database of cases using Excel, I developed multiple Excel macros to save myself dozens of hours in manual data entry each week, and learned how to manage my workload and weekly metrics reports using pivot tables, formulas, and pivot charts. 

So when I talk to people about advertising, and they start making faces about Amazon’s interface and the simple reports that Amazon provides, I always smile, thinking about how that’s all we had to work with at Amazon too!

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When should you be advertising on Amazon?

You should be advertising if you are trying to gain rank and thus grow revenues primarily (as opposed to having mature listings . Advertising spend on Amazon can have a really solid ROI as well, but generally speaking, the primary benefit of advertising on Amazon is to build rank for specific search terms. 

This isn’t just limited to sellers with their own brands, it’s applicable to sellers trying to push exclusive products they’re selling on Amazon, or if they have at least 5% of the buy box, on a high velocity item, their advertising will help them increase their sales of that item and boost its rank. Now, you may not want to spend money on advertising on a shared buy box item, as it helps everyone else too, but this has to be evaluated based on your goals – if advertising and gaining in rank increase your overall revenue and net margins, then it’s likely worthwhile.

How does advertising help you build rank?

While Amazon doesn’t release the exact data, the majority of purchases on Amazon start with a search in the search bar at the top of screen when landing on Amazon. You can of course also search by browse – this is the Department button at the top left on the Amazon home page. 

You get a different badge for being successful in each of these areas. If your product is the bestseller in its own item type category (usually just “Category” in the 1:1 interface, but ITK in the upload files), then it gets a Bestseller badge. 

Amazon’s Choice is always for a given keyword combination. So, a tunic dress could be Amazon’s Choice when the search is “black petite tunic dress” but actually be the Bestseller in Women’s Petite Tunic Dresses.

Getting the Amazon’s Choice badge is thus based on being the top searched for/ranked for product for a given search term/phrase. Getting the #1 Bestseller badge is being the top ranked product in a given subcategory/item type keyword category. 

Advertising against a particular keyword term and then converting for it is the best way (within Terms of Service) to achieve ranking for particular keywords. 

Because I’m often known as someone who focuses on prohibited activities, and have spoken at numerous conferences on compliance and policy on Amazon, including multiple times at PROSPER (come see me in 2019!), of course I’m going to have to be a wet blanket and point out that a very popular method of gaining rank on Amazon is actually prohibited: 

From Amazon’s Prohibited Seller Activities Page: 

Misuse of sales rank:

The best seller rank feature allows buyers to evaluate the popularity of a product. Any attempt to manipulate sales rank is prohibited. You cannot solicit or knowingly accept fake or fraudulent orders, including placing orders for your own products. You cannot provide compensation to buyers for purchasing your products or provide claim codes to buyers for the purpose of inflating sales rank. In addition, you cannot make claims regarding a product’s best seller rank in the product detail page information, including the title and description.

Notice that the most common methodology used to gain the Amazon’s Choice badge (giveaway software companies) is explicitly prohibited – and any attempts by these companies to say they’re not engaging in at best gray hat tactics is disingenuous. Ultimately, you have to decide what’s best for your business to achieve your goals, but you should be aware of the risks you’re taking before you’re taking them.

The “Cascadia Philosophy of Advertising”

My methodology of advertising is based on a few key concepts: Amazon customers are driven by search; using someone else’s keyword list is always easier than creating your own; specific keyword bids are easier to manage and optimize. 

To achieve these goals, there are four types of advertisements that you should be running: 

Automatic by product type – these are automatic bid placement ads. If you can’t get automatic ads to work effectively, then you can leave them running at a very campaign budget to continue to gather organic data on search keyword conversion. Why should you never turn these off? Because they’re constantly learning! And, because there is no other way to get conversion data on organic search on Amazon other than this type of advertisement. 

Competitor Keyword ad by product type – these are manual ads based on keyword research using a tool like Seller Labs Scope or Google Keyword Planner, depending on if you want to used a paid or free tool. The purpose with these is to take some of the traffic that your competitors are getting. This ad can be just phrase match, or also include broad match, but I’ve found the best results with phrase match. 

Proven Keyword ad by ASIN or product type – once you have good results with your automatic and competitor ads, move the keywords to a proven keyword campaign. Proven keyword ads should be phrase and exact match keywords in a manual advertisement, but exact match is generally best if you have a limited budget. 

Ranking Keyword ad by ASIN – once you have very good results from any specific phrase with your competitor keyword ad or proven keyword ad, you want to run a ranking keyword ad by ASIN (or parent ASIN). For this type of ad, I like to use MerchantWords to find phrases that contain my very successful phrase, then run exact match ads on these phrases, with no more than 20 excellent phrases culled from the MerchantWords results. 

Target Keyword ad by ASIN –  the majority of your budget during launch should be focused on your target keywords that you want to rank for. This should be based on the keywords that are most accurately representative of your product so that the keywords you rank well for are also the keywords that customers find you with. 

This approach basically tightens the net at each level so that you can eventually get to a really narrow, very successful advertisement for your product or products. Eventually, the automatic ads and competitor ads should be archived or lowered in budget so that you’re spending your advertising budget on the very successful optimized manual campaigns you’ve made (and these should be run as Sponsored Brands ads as well).

But to get the best results… use Coupons

Coupons show up as an orange banner or green box in the search results and prominently on the detail page next to “Add to Cart” making them much better at attracting customer attention than promotions (which don’t show on the search or prominently on the detail page) or sales, which show as a crossed out gray price. 

Why do coupons work? Nothing kills the Amazon algorithm’s trust in your sales ability like slowing sales. Nothing boosts its likelihood to show your product organically like increasing sales. 

So, the simplest and easiest way to boost conversion, and therefore teach the algorithm that you deserve to be shown in organic search on page one is to run a coupon — this is a number’s game. The coupon increases conversion on each keyword, thereby training Amazon to show your product more for that keyword organically. 

Coupons plus advertising is what boosts your sales — advertising gets it in front of new customers, and then coupons get them to convert, thereby teaching the algorithm to offer your product more often organically.

Give yourself time to learn - it’s not that easy to do well

For more information on how to use Advertising on Amazon, I’d like to invite you to our Q4 Advertising Challenge!

When I first moved to Seattle, before I worked at Amazon, my mom and uncle helped me move into my new apartment that was $750/month and 330 sq ft. It was tiny! And I had a lot of books, which my mom and uncle discovered to their chagrin as they helped me move – and my apartment was halfway up a block on “Profanity Hill” so named because it was so steep, it had you swearing by the time you reached the top. 

I moved back to Seattle last year, nearly 11 years after I originally moved here, and this time, I hired movers. Not only did I not have to carry any of my book boxes (yes!!), they also managed to get my 8 ft long custom built brown velvet Chesterfield sofa down a narrow hallway built in the 70’s and into my apartment through a door at the end of the hallway. 

It’s okay not to be an expert at something. Sometimes you need help to accomplish important and necessary things. Advertising on Amazon in a way that is profitable and builds your brand’s value may not be easy, but it’s one of the best ways to grow in a way that is sustainable over the long term. 

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About the Author
I got my first job at Amazon because of my German language skills from my Master’s in History. Take that, people who said I’d never get a good job with my liberal arts degree! I soon learned that I’m not good at taking orders and started my MBA coursework at Seattle University.

I worked at Amazon for 8 years, as a liaison for law enforcement in Fraud/Transaction Risk, a quality and compliance manager in Product Compliance for Amazon Brands and imports globally, and lastly, managing hardware for Website Availability. I love the flexibility that working for clients on Amazon rather than for Amazon affords me.

In my not significant free time, I do fiber crafts such as spinning, crocheting, and embroidery, and I have been in a community band since 2009, playing French Horn, Trombone, or Euphonium depending on the band’s needs that season.

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