How to Prepare for the Amazon Policy Crackdown on Product Titles

The title of a product on Amazon carries a lot of weight when it comes to organic rank and click-through rates, and if your listing isn’t in step with the official style requirements, the upcoming Amazon policy enforcement should motivate you to make some changes.

Amazon recently announced that on July 22 it will be “suppressing ASINs from Amazon Search that violate Amazon’s title guidelines.” According to the announcement, the reason behind this new enforcement is that titles that don’t comply with Amazon’s guidelines “result in a poor customer experience.”

As shown in the news release above, the announcement mentions some specific requirements:

  • No promotional language can be used, such as “free shipping” or “100% quality guaranteed.”
  • Other examples would be “Best Seller” or “Hot Item.”
  • No non-readable characters can be used, such as HTML code.
  • The length of a title can’t exceed 200 characters. Titles must include “product identifying information,” which describes what the product is, such as a garlic press or first aid kit. 

Although not mentioned in the announcement, the Amazon Style Guide also contains a number of further requirements, such as using all caps or special characters (such as ! or $) being prohibited. 

No one wants their business to be disrupted, so it’s important to understand the effect of what this new level of Amazon policy enforcement may have on your brand, and then take some practical steps to ensure you can maintain your visibility and sales.

What This Means for Amazon Sellers

The most important element of a product listing is its title, and having it optimized for organic search is a vital part of gaining visibility under any conditions. 

The “suppression from search” for those who violate the title guidelines is open to interpretation,  but the announcement indicates that this suppression would actually be a removal from search entirely. 

Amazon mentions that if a product title is penalized, “[o]nce the issue is fixed, we will remove the search suppression and the ASIN will appear back on Amazon search.”

From this statement, the penalization wouldn’t be a matter of your product taking a drop in organic ranking and be languishing many pages deep in a search. It would be an outright elimination from organic search, and the effect on your product’s visibility and sales would bring your business to a halt.

Considering the amount of products that exist in Amazon’s marketplace, how quickly they will be able to roll out this tighter enforcement is uncertain. It likely won’t happen immediately, yet ensuring your title is compliant with the style guide so that your product remains searchable should be your current top priority. 

Getting Your Listing Ready for Compliance 

To avoid losing visibility, ranking, and sales, we’ve provided a list of crucial steps for becoming compliant with the title guidelines.

In case you aren’t clear on the guidelines or need access to them, we’ve created a downloadable spreadsheet, Amazon Style Guides by Category. It breaks down what the title counts have previously been for each category and provides links to the style guides for each category. The announcement states that title character counts cannot exceed 200 characters, so it remains to be seen if certain categories will continue to be limited to 50 characters. 

Another requirement in some categories is that businesses must include their brand name in their product titles. Although this helps promote your brand, it essentially restricts the character limit even more, forcing business to balance visibility, precision, and helpful information.

In order to be prepared before the deadline arrives, these five tasks will help you stay compliant and avoid any issues:

1. Access your style guide from our spreadsheet and track down the category-specific limitations for your title. Find what the exact character count and if you’re exempt from having to include your brand name. Keep in mind that the style guides may be updated after this article has been published, so be sure to stay up-to-date.

2. Write a new title, staying within the new limit for your category and including your brand name, if required. Our tool Listing Builder can help you quickly devise a new one and move any previous info from your title into your bullet points.

3. Set up organic rank notifications for a particular keyword in Keyword Manager. Go to the Notification Settings, and under Rank Change Notifications, choose to receive messages based on whether the rank increases or drops, or only if it drops. You can then specify how high or low you want the rank positions to be and in this instance you should set wide parameters for the notifications. The tool will then message you if your organic rank changes after the new policy goes into effect. (You can also receive notifications on your Sponsored Rank, as shown in the GIF below.)

4. Set up buy box and Best Seller Rank notifications in Competitor Intelligence for your ASINs. If any changes occur, you’ll be informed and can respond. Using CI, you can track keywords a competitor is targeting and indexed for, and see the keywords’ organic rank. You can then choose to receive change alerts for the keywords’ ranking. This can occur on an hourly basis, as shown below.

5. If you’re notified that your ASIN is affected, implement your new title and bullets to your product listing. After you make this update, Amazon will re-index your listing, so you’ll temporarily see a drop in your organic ranking, but based on your sales history, reviews, and traffic, you’ll see your rank resume its position.

Stay Compliant, Stay Successful

The recent announcement regarding titles has received a variety of different reactions, and many sellers may be asking why it took Amazon so long to enforce its own policy. Whether you’re in favor of the crackdown or giving it the thumbs-down, ensuring your title meets Amazon’s policy requirements will keep you from being penalized with a loss in visibility and help maintain your sales opportunities. 

For any help getting in step with Amazon’s product title guidelines, contact us at service@viral-launch.com. Our team can ensure your product listing complies with Amazon’s style guide and is optimized to increase your visibility, conversions, and business growth.

Amazon Strategies for Enterprise Brands Affected by Third-Party Sellers’ Success

The “strange and remarkable” rise of third-party Amazon sellers is expected to be a major factor when it comes to Amazon strategies for enterprise companies.

Major brands are now facing some serious competition on Amazon from what has up until now been an unlikely source. Third-party sellers now account for over half of the paid sales on Amazon and this momentum has been gradually building for the last two decades.

In a recent letter to shareholders, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s stated that, “Third-party sellers are kicking our first party butt. Badly.”

The letter starts off with some data showing how third-party sales have increased from 3% in 1999 to 58% in 2018. Bezos describes this massive increase as “strange and remarkable.”

It’s definitely remarkable, but if we take a look at what’s behind the data, it’s not really that strange. It’s also not a fluke. Third-party brands have been able to find success on Amazon for a number of reasons, in part due to their own ingenuity and the array of tools Amazon and emerging software companies are providing them.

How 3P Sellers Are Winning

In Bezos’s letter, he acknowledges Amazon’s role in the rise of third-party brands: “We helped independent sellers compete against our first-party business by investing in and offering them the very best selling tools we could imagine and build” (emphasis original). In other words, Amazon itself has given these independent sellers the means to grow their business and become competitive with enterprise companies.

He goes on to specifically mention Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and the Prime membership program, which have both played a role in third-party success. Yet the Brand Analytics feature has also provided major advantages, along with the tools available within Seller Central.  

Third-party brands have taken full advantage of these features to broaden their products’ visibility and increase their sales. Using Seller Central’s product-targeting capabilities, brands can focus on the product pages where they want their sponsored ads to appear. When a third-party brand’s ad appears on an enterprise brand’s page, and that third-party has a better offer, consumers will likely check out the ad and leave the larger brand behind. It’s these kinds of opportunities that the smaller brands are stealing from enterprise companies.

As third-party brands increase their sales, this in turn boosts their product rankings, which increases their visibility. This helps drive more sales, and a self-perpetuating cycle is under way.

Smaller brands also have an advantage over enterprise companies in that they can take a nimble approach to making pricing adjustments. Since large brands have to keep their retail and e-commerce prices consistent, their hands are tied when it comes to price adjustments. Third-party brands, however, can adjust their prices based on seasonality or special offers. By being able to take these kinds of actions they can position themselves to better reach consumers and outpace larger competitors.

Additionally, a big reason why third-party brands are doing so well is due to what the larger brands are not doing. They’re missing opportunities that they may not even be aware of. The advertising channels within Amazon and the growing ecosystem of solution providers can enable a business to get its products in front of its target consumers and increase their potential for sales. As long as the major brands neglect these opportunities, they’ll see their paid Amazon sales continue to drop to smaller percentages. Larger brands may also have a narrow view of who their competitors really are, without realizing that their market could be a mix of both first- and third-party sellers.

It’s Not All Bad News for Amazon

Despite Bezos’s characterization of this as a butt kicking, the success of third-party success is also a success for Amazon. They’re collecting a lot of FBA fees from the third-party sellers who choose to use that program, which hands over product fulfillment responsibilities from the seller to Amazon.

Amazon also seems to be preparing for more third-party brands to join their marketplace. Brand Analytics has recently expanded to include two new features, enabling sellers to gain data about their competitors and customers. It’s possible that further features will be on the way to help brands of all sizes devise new ways to drive ranking and sales. By providing third-party sellers with more pathways to drive success, Amazon is setting the stage to boost their own growth and profitability.

How to Revise Your Amazon Strategy

The time for enterprise companies to rethink their Amazon efforts is now. Learning, adapting, and improving are important for success in any field, and first-party brands will have to start practicing some new tactics, including efficient advertising campaigns, to maintain leadership in their market.Those who take a static approach and rely on previously successful approaches may see their profits stagnate, or if growth occurs, it likely won’t be as great as it could be.

Viral Launch’s recently published white paper, The Enterprise Brands’ Guide to Improving Amazon Sales, covers how large brands should reconsider their Amazon strategies. It outlines how third-party sellers have taken advantage of Amazon’s features to rank for the top keywords, expand their visibility, and take market share away from larger brands. Based on our wealth of data and experience, the white paper also outlines our strategy for increasing rank and sales for brands of any size.

By this time next year, we’ll likely see whether that first-party brands are taking this recent news seriously or if third-party sellers are continuing to drive the majority of Amazon sales. This gradual dominance of the small- to medium-sized brands may become the new normal, unless the larger enterprise companies find a way to learn some new, more agile approaches and reduce the sales of smaller competitors.

Amazon Customer Demographics & More in New Amazon Brand Analytics Features

Amazon’s Brand Analytics Now Offers a Power Trio

It’s only been a couple of months, but Amazon’s Brand Analytics is already being expanded to include two new features.

For those enrolled in the Brand Registry program, you’ll likely already be familiar with Brand Analytics. It’s a free analytics reports located within Seller Central and has been set up to provide brand owners with helpful data they can use to be more competitive. It provides a feature, Amazon Search Tools, which gives sellers a list of the top one million searched keywords across Amazon as a whole. The list also provides the top three clicked ASINs for each of those keywords.

That feature is now being joined by two brand-new ones, Item Comparison and Demographics, each of which give sellers some wildly insightful data on the market and potential customers that we wouldn’t have expected Amazon to share. All of this can serve as a foundation for boosting sales and rank, and potentially help you grow your audience outside of Amazon as well. Let’s examine how you can take advantage of what each new feature has to offer.

Note: If you’re part of Brand Registry but don’t have a Brand Analytics account, you can create a ticket with Seller Support requesting access. Anecdotally, this has worked for a few sellers but may not work for all.

Item Comparison: Get to Know Your Top Five Competitors

Success doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Knowing how well your products are performing hinges on understanding the market you’re competing in.

What Item Comparison Provides

The Item Comparison feature shows your product along with the top five products that consumers also viewed during the same session. The feature also provides, as Amazon describes, the “percentage of times this product was viewed by the customers who viewed your product within the same day.” If it’s 50%, that means half of the time throughout the day, consumers checked out both your product and a competitor’s.

By scrolling horizontally through the list, you can see which ASINs are getting the most attention and even compare title keywords.

How to Benefit from Item Comparison

The feature provides sellers a helpful advantage for product-targeting ad campaigns. It offers exact data on which products consumers are considering for purchase in your market, so you’ll know where your sponsored ads should appear. Placing sponsored ads on those product pages should increase your visibility, and if you have a better offer, you have a great pathway toward boosting sales.

Note: For more information on how important product-targeting campaigns are and how to start one, check out our in-depth Amazon Product Targeting guide. To learn why product targeting is the most efficient traffic source, watch this video hosted by Viral Launch CEO Casey Gauss and R&D specialist Andrew Field.

The list of top five ASINs may include products that might not be obvious competitors, allowing you to expand the scope of products to target. With a greater number of products to consider targeting, you have a greater chance to get your ads in front of more consumers, increasing your chances at driving conversions.

By comparing your product with others, you can also get an indication of your overall performance. If it’s clear that you’ve been left in the dust by competitors, you can revisit your price, product photos, or descriptions.

Keep in mind that if your product has variations, such as items in different colors or sizes, you’ll likely see these variations appear as compared products in the Item Comparison list. This will allow you to see your most popular products and how they’re faring against the competition.

Demographics: Get to Know Your Consumers

Knowing your audience is a crucial task for any business, and it’s a never-ending process. Amazon is known for not providing audience data to its sellers, forcing brands to use tactics outside of Amazon to gather information on their customers. That’s changing now with this unprecedented Demographics tool within Brand Analytics.

What Demographics Provides

The Demographics feature provides the following data on your customers:

  • Sales per age group: You have a breakdown of six different age groups (shown below), ranging from 18-24 up to 65+, along with their sales totals.
  • Sales per household income: The stats here start with <$50,000 and end with those who make over $250,000.
  • Education: The categories here cover people at all stages of education, from “Less than High School” to those with Master’s degrees.
  • Gender: Do men and women equally buy your products or does one gender dominate? The graphs and table will give you an answer.
  • Marital status: The age, income, and education data will hint at your consumers’ marital status, but this section provides percentages of how many of your customers are married or single.

How to Benefit from Demographics

With the above characteristics, you can assemble a portrait of who your customers are and understand what stage of life they’re in.

Although the demographics data may not be directly actionable, there are two useful applications. The first falls to new product development. When building out additional products for your brand, you now have a much better idea of who is purchasing current products and, likely, who will be purchasing future products.

The second application is advertising outside of Amazon. Running Facebook ads based on better insights into your target demographic can help you run more efficient and effective campaigns with a more targeted audience. YouTube and Instagram also provide advertising options to consider, or you could go the search-engine-based route, such as using Google AdWords. By combining this feature’s data with a creative approach, you have the opportunity to increase your product’s visibility.

Note: The Demographics feature isn’t an exact science. It includes an Information Not Included category, for any instances in which it can’t provide a complete range of data. As an example, it might convey that 33% of your customers are married, 15% are single, and then the other 52% will fall into that Information Not Included category.

Brand Analytics: Building Your Data Foundation

For third-party sellers who are a part of the Brand Registry program, Brand Analytics can be a valuable data resource. In conjunction with Amazon Search Terms, Item Comparison and Demographics give businesses a massive foundation that they can then build on.

With this power trio of features available, one can’t help but ask, how do I make all this useful? Navigating the Amazon marketplace is a challenge and in the months to come Amazon may be rolling out even more Brand Analytics features aimed at giving brands the opportunities to gather more data.

The challenge is being able to extract insights from this data and craft an actionable plan. The team at Viral Launch specializes in creating effective data-driven strategies and delivering results that increase ranking and conversions. Our suite of software tools can help you determine the markets where you can compete and earn long-term profits, not short-term gains. Whether it’s PPC management, listing optimization, or keyword-focused product launches, our team will partner with you to achieve (and possibly exceed) your business goals.

To learn how we can help you gain insights from this Brand Analytics data and drive your brand’s success, contact us at Solutions@Viral-Launch.com