Season 1, Episode 23

Listings that sell, and are TOS Compliant

Emma Schermer Tamir, a listing optimization expert, joins us to discuss tips and advice for Amazon Seller’s navigating the Amazon space. It can be very easy to pay attention and follow suit of what your competitors are doing with their listings, but we go over the best and safest practices to follow with your Amazon listings.

Show Notes

Transcript

Chris: [00:00:07] Hello, everyone. Welcome back to seller performance solutions and very special episode today. Thanks for listening in again. I’m here with Leah McHugh and Emma Schermer Tamir. They’re both listing experts, Leah’s a listing compliance and policy enforcement expert. And of course, Emma does listing optimization for her clients. So welcome, Emma, how are you doing?

Emma: [00:00:34] I’m doing great. Thanks for having me here, Chris and Leah. I’m excited to nerd out about listings with you both today.

Chris: [00:00:42] Listing issues. We’ve had a lot of sellers come to us with warning emails, performance notifications, that were very ominous. And Leah and I are discussing this on on and off the podcast, pretty much all the time in terms of product detail page errors, abuses, and so forth. So, I guess I thought I’d start with you Leah with examples. Maybe just the top two or three things we see on a regular basis, whether it’s violations of the style guide or other compliance issues that you have regular conversations about.

Leah: [00:01:11] So it’s sort of two different things. There’s the things that I see most prevalent on the marketplace. And then there are the things that I see Amazon warning people about the most often, which aren’t necessarily the same things. And Amazon definitely goes through phases with warning or taking down listings for this. Sometimes, we’ll have weeks where these are all of the cases we’re getting. And then we’ll go for months where we really don’t see anything about the style guide or about listings. Common mistakes I see making, and also probably the easiest mistakes to correct are really simple things like not following the title syntax that Amazon has laid out in their category, style guide. Things like putting words in all caps, pretty much anywhere on the detail page. You’re not supposed to put anything in all caps, but everybody does it because everybody sees everybody else doing it. There was a thing a few months ago about not putting any HTML in the product description, but, I still see people putting HTML in the product description. And then, there are, I guess, more confusing things or things that are harder for sellers to understand because Amazon isn’t exactly consistent in what they tell you to do. So, things like warranties. If you look at some of the category style guides, it says you should put your warranty in bullet points, but, we’ve seen Amazon take listings down for that. And, they really only want warranties in the warranty attributes, not on the product detail page.

Chris: [00:02:30] And of course, Emma, you have people coming to you saying, I need to sell more. I need to sell more. Help me optimize this listing. Help me market myself better. Did they ever, in those early stages of contacting you, say I’ve looked at any policies before asking myself how I could sell better, asking you how you can help me sell these products better?

Emma: [00:02:50] I would say most of the time, that’s a big no, and most of the time, what sellers are using is the worst possible source, which is looking at what their competitors are doing. And so that can be really confusing if you’re selling. Whether you’re a new seller or you’ve been selling for a long time. Because you see all these examples. And we could go on Amazon and probably within two minutes find multiple examples of every single one of the things that Leah mentioned. We’d see emojis, we’d see all caps, we’d see warranties. We would get all of this information. And so not only is it kind of contradicting what Amazon says, but it kind of gives the illusion that even if Amazon says something, they don’t really mean it. So maybe they won’t actually enforce these rules. And so I guess in some ways maybe it’s like a question of risk and how risky you want to play it. Do you want to see if you can take that risk with the risk  that you may end up getting some sort of issue with Amazon down the road, or maybe you won’t. But we often take the approach of it’s better to be safe than sorry. But in addition to that, a lot of these tricks and tactics, I don’t know that they actually align with best marketing practices anyway. So let’s talk about something like emojis for a moment. How many products does it really make sense to use emojis for? I would say.

Chris: [00:04:17] I don’t know.

Emma: [00:04:18] I would say that like,

Chris: [00:04:19] a very, a very limited number.

Emma: [00:04:22] Right! A lot of things that you’re shopping for, it may actually cheapen your perception of what the product or brand is if you see emojis there. Like if I’m looking for a professional product and then I see a bunch of emojis to me, that’s an instant way to kind of feel like I don’t know about this. Maybe I should look elsewhere.

Chris: [00:04:43] Luxury brands don’t use emoji.

Leah: [00:04:46] It’s one of those conversations that we have with a lot of sellers where they’re like, if I don’t put this in my listing, it won’t sell. And , normally in those situations I’m like, well, if you don’t remove it, you’re not going to get your listing back. So then it’s definitely not going to sell. And I’ve yet to have somebody come back to me months later and say, we’re still not selling a lot. Like I really, I don’t think it actually does affect their sales the way that they think it’s going to, when they remove those things from it.

Chris: [00:05:10] I think it’s a perception, just the way this idea of enforcement is lax, and you can kind of get away with whatever you want. At least in the near term, that’s a perception, too. Some people don’t get away with really anything. They see others getting away with it, but that doesn’t entitle them necessarily to be treated the same way by policy enforcement teams.

Emma: [00:05:33] Well, and I just think that in addition to all of that, there’s this sort of thing that happens in the Amazon space. Where there are all these different kind of tricks and tips and tactics, that circulate around. They almost becoming engrained as this is what you have to do in order to become successful. But I don’t think that you could actually ever find the root that demonstrates that that was proven to be something that was helpful. And so, I would encourage anybody that’s really feeling that sort of commitment to needing an emoji or an all caps or something like that to be open-minded to consider if it’s really actually having that impact that you think it is. Or if it’s just actually something that makes you feel like you’re doing the things that this person said that you needed to do. And I think a perfect example of that is the all caps headers. That was very popular for a long time with the bullet points on Amazon. And so the idea behind that being, that you use all caps at the very beginning of each bullet to kind of give some sense of what the bullet’s going to be about. So it would help guide the customer. And there’s validity to that. Like, in a perfect world, if it was your own website, maybe you would be making that part even bolded or using something else to kind of offset it. And since you’re so limited with what you can do on Amazon, that was a workaround for it. However, Amazon ultimately decided that this is something that they don’t want people doing, because they’ve also tested it and shown that it doesn’t actually have an impact on conversions. So it wouldn’t really make sense if something that’s relatively easy to do. If it had that much positive sway on something, you think that Amazon would have actually be on board with it. But instead they’re saying, Hey, it doesn’t really have an impact on conversions. We’d like things to be uniform. And there are other ways that you can still kind of create an organized way of having presenting your bullets. And also, it’s not really that exciting to say, but if you’re concise with what you’re writing, then you also don’t have to worry about that as much, because you’re not going to have this explosion of text that is completely off putting and confusing and difficult to navigate for the customer.

Leah: [00:07:54] And you also have so many other options now, especially if you’re a brand owner. You can do quite a lot with a plus content. So there’s really not a need to throw everything you can possibly think of into bullet points that no one’s going to read at that point anyway.

Chris: [00:08:08] It’s an old idea that just stuck around too long I think. Some of these ideas cycle and then recycle through this space and then cycle through again, it’s just kind of a poverty of ideas at that point, right? People are just sort of out of things to say. So they say that. But we have, I mean Leah, we’ve noticed that there aren’t, the good news is there aren’t as many people coming to us every week saying I got listings taken down. I got these warnings.  I mean is that a sign that people are getting the point and they’re finally catching up to how Amazon wants to manage the catalog? Or is it just that Amazon did a first wave purge and..

Leah: [00:08:40] That’s kind of always the way we’ve seen these coming in. We’ll we’ll get like a lot of them for a few months, and then we won’t get any for a few months or six months. And then all of a sudden we’ll get a lot more. It’s the same. They do that with us, actually, most of their listing policies, same as a variation misuse we’ll hardly see any cases of that. And then all of a sudden we’ll have hundreds of cases of that. I think they’re just doing it in waves. But I think also the reason we’re seeing it more is because a lot of other sellers have realized that that’s a really easy way to report somebody for breaking policies. Like, you don’t have to buy anything. You can see it. It’s right there. Amazon can see it. It’s right there. All you have to do is click report, and your job is done. 

Chris: [00:09:19] That’s true. No testifies to wait for, like for infringements and rights ownership issues.  I mean Emma, when you have initial conversations with people, do you say, well, show me your listing and I’ll take a look and I’ll give you some initial ideas, whatever, your initial consult process is. And then you come back with, by the way, I found a lot of stuff that might get you into trouble. So I could beautify this for you and optimize it for you. But if you leave some of these things in, there won’t be any sales because it will be suspended.

Emma: [00:09:47] So, we really take a blank slate approach with everything we do, whether we’re writing for a very established well-known brand, that’s already both selling on Amazon and in other places or not. And so even if they have a listing, yes, we will look at it. We will point out some spaces where we see an opportunity for improvement, but we don’t want to make the assumption that the way that they’ve organized things or the points that they highlighted are the best thing to do. So, rather than just going in and tweaking, we’ll look at that. We’ll give it consideration, but we’ll also do our own research and make sure that we agree with it. But we do have conversations. I would say those tend to be more in the middle part of the project. So we’ve delivered the work and then the client has had an opportunity to review it. And they’re coming back with revision requests. And a lot of times that’s where that conversation will happen. Why isn’t this written in all caps or my? My mentor told me that I needed to do this. And so that’s where we are needing to provide some education. And our response is typically, we’re going to provide you with the reason why we do these things, and then it’s ultimately your business. So if you do want to take that plunge. That’s your call and your potential loss if it gets you into trouble. But we at least want to make sure that we’re providing that information so they can make an informed decision.

Chris: [00:11:20] Leah, do you remember, have we talked to anyone who said, look, this is just a short-term thing or a short-term score. I want to boost my sales temporarily and longer term. I’ll either change it back and make it compliant or I don’t care what happens longer term.

Leah: [00:11:33] We’ve had a few people. Yeah. A few , there are definitely the, like, I’m just going to ride it out as long as I can. And honestly, like at least they have a plan. It’s a little bit better than just like, oh, well, I don’t know. And then they don’t know what to do. 

Chris: [00:11:48] Typically they end up coming back to us a few weeks later. Because I can’t tell them like how long it’ll take Amazon to either detect it or for one of their competitors to report them. I have no idea, really.

Leah: [00:11:59] And I think that’s a conversation that I end up having more often is that well I’ve been doing this for six years, and it was never a problem until now. Or all of my other listings are doing this and only this one listing is blocked. It’s people, which we’ve talked about on the podcast before, people have trouble wrapping their head around the fact that Amazon just isn’t consistent in their enforcement and you can’t take them not taking action sooner as a sign that they’re okay with what you were doing.

Chris: [00:12:25] Do sellers ask you stuff like that, Emma, or do they just, you focus on the marketing and the writing and you just kind of say, well, Amazon is a crazy, screwy place, and hard to understand why they make some of these decisions. Do people ask you why you’re telling them to leave certain content out? And then they say, look at this, look at this, look at this, because that’s what we do.

Emma: [00:12:43] Oh yeah, we do. We have those conversations all the time. Like, why didn’t you write this? And I’m like, because it will get you into trouble and you really don’t want to do that. And then they’re like, but all of my top competitors are saying this. I understand, but for me, that’s not a good enough reason to actually ever make any decision in your business. And, I think something else that you touched on is at least being able to know that you’re making a choice with the risk that you’re taking. And I think that’s where the challenge is for a lot of people is because it’s so complicated to even just figure out how Amazon wants you to do some of these things. It is really easy to just feel lost by it all and say, okay, well, I don’t know, this seems like it’s right. Or you read this one page and that seems to  suggest that you can write your guarantee in your bullets and you’re not going to have problems. And so , at least, even for me taking a step back from Amazon, I feel like a lot of times when a mistake happens in my business, it’s not because I knew the mistake was going to happen. It’s because I didn’t even know the question to ask to avoid the mistake that I didn’t know was going to be there. And so I think that’s where a lot of this stuff ends up falling in, is not knowing even if you’re making a mistake and then having to deal with the consequences of it from a very vulnerable position of having a listing that’s not active.

Leah: [00:14:15] And that’s what we see the most often with these is that, going into it, they’ll say our listings are totally correct, everything is fine. And then I look at their listings and like 90% of them are breaking some policy. But again, it’s not intentional. It’s hard to navigate and, or they didn’t look at the policy and they just looked at what other people were doing.

Chris: [00:14:35] I mean a lot of new sellers who have joined a group or joined a class, like they’re relying on that guru or that class teacher, too. Anything they don’t say is left out and considered not relevant. Anything they do say is considered what you have to follow because they haven’t sold before. And they don’t know from other experiences what should be done and shouldn’t be done. So they just blindly follow. And that’s a concern to us is they just kind of assume that the handbook they get from whichever YouTuber of the month they’re looking at is considered gospel and it’s not.

Emma: [00:15:08] And on top of that, if you think about it, like how much does Amazon change just within one calendar year? In every single aspect. With like the different ways of advertising. Truly everything is always changing. So, to keep, course 100% up-to-date even if it is somebody that is so committed to making sure they always have the most relevant information. Just by the sheer volume of information and all of the different expertise and specialties that have to go into every one of these fields. It’s too much to be 100% on top. So with every sub field, I would encourage if you are working with a course or a mentor or something like that, to use that information as a jumping off point, and then making sure that you’re using that as a guide to say, okay, these are the things that I think I need to be aware of, but I’m going to identify what else is going on. Maybe even go into groups and see what news has been circulating around this particular issue. And making sure that you are doing your best to have a comprehensive view of that specific space.

Leah: [00:16:21] Definitely. I think as well now,  people don’t necessarily realize that they’re listing content is also illegal ground. So, if you’re making medical claims that you’re not allowed to make, or you’re infringing on somebody else’s intellectual property, or,  you’re making kill claims  for pests, then that’s not just an Amazon policy issue. That’s now a legal issue potentially with the FTC, a rights owner, the EPA, the FDA. And that’s again, another conversation where people are like, well, this is really unfair. And it’s like, yeah, but it’s also sort of the law. Amazon just taking your listing down is like the best case scenario.

Chris: [00:16:58] Then you’re getting into the operations of federal agencies and God knows we’re covering that on and off throughout the podcast, but maybe for today’s purposes in closing. Emma, what would you say the one or two top tips you’d give to people for? We’ve talked a lot about the dont’s today in terms of the first one or two things to do, what would you say?

Emma: [00:17:19] I would say, first of all, learn as much as you can about best practices in your category, also off of Amazon. Because you’re not necessarily going to see the best examples by just looking at Amazon listings. So if you’re selling a cosmetic product. Go to Sephora, go to Ulta. Go-to the top brands in that space, look at how they’re navigating those types of topics. So then even with things like running up against FDA compliance claims, you see the way that you can kind of speak around those so that you still say what you want to say, but in a softer tone, that’s not necessarily putting you at risk. So really treating it, not just as an Amazon business, but as a business that is just happening to sell on Amazon and making sure that you can represent yourself in the very best possible light. I would say the other thing that is not, we didn’t really touch on it specifically, but that I’m a big proponent of, is making sure that you’re making the right kinds of sales. So it’s not about just trying to sell to anybody and everybody, but to be clear about who your customers are and then making it also clear who aren’t your customers. Because, Amazon, since you can return anything, people know that. And so a lot of times they’re not actually committing to the purchase until they get the product home and they use it and they decide if it really lives up to what they expected. And so the better, good job that you can do with your listing about being honest and aligning expectations. The higher percentage you’ll have of people wanting to keep your product, which means that you’re going to have a lower return rate. So you’re going to have happier customers that you’re going to have a better rating and all of those things. So it’s, I’m sure that those are also areas that you engage in a lot with clients. Over-hyping and saying a bunch of best and innovative. It’s not helpful to you if your product can’t actually. Meet those expectations.

Chris:
[00:19:18] Great. No, that was fantastic words to live by from Emma Schermer Tamir. Thanks for joining us today. Best way for people to reach you?

Emma: [00:19:27] marketingbyEmma.com or on Facebook, facebook.com/marketingbyEmma. And both of those should give you all the other ways to connect whether it’s by via message or email or phone, pretty much any main communication method. We are there.

Chris: [00:19:49] Well, thanks again for joining us. Thanks for joining me, Leah. And we’ll see you next time at Seller Performance Solutions.

Hosts & Guests

Chris McCabe

Leah McHugh

Emma Schermer Tamir

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