Busting the Myths: Amazon Best Seller Rank (BSR)

Your Amazon Best Seller Rank does not help you drive future organic sales, in the same way that a report card from a previous semester does not impact your grades in a new semester. It is only an indication of the past.”

In an effort to continue expanding our capacity for helping Amazon private label sellers solve their problems, achieve success, and increase profitability, we spend a good amount of time engrossed in a plethora of conversations across the various FBA/Private Label centered Facebook groups. As we’ve mentioned before, this is the true breeding ground for rumors, misinformation and miscommunication. It can get ugly. For young, novice sellers still trying to understand how to navigate the space, listening to rumors can lead to costly mistakes and sometimes even financial ruin (literally). We’ve seen it plenty of times. It’s terrible, unfortunately, and becoming more and more common!

As a company that cares deeply for people and enjoys watching/helping people succeed, rumors/misinformation are extremely frustrating. This is especially true when we see “gurus” or service providers profiting off the misinformation. So, in our effort to help sellers succeed, we’re doing our best to clear up miscommunications and rumors so you have all the information necessary to make informed intelligent businesses decisions to help you prosper!

Now to the subject matter.

The Amazon private labelling world has an obsession with the Amazon Best Seller Rank (BSR). Everyday we have sellers emailing in, wanting us to help them improve their BSR or help them to reach a specific BSR threshold. We see the same in the Facebook groups. It is completely unnecessary and is founded on misunderstanding. We explain how..

Myths Around Best Seller Ranking / BSR:

  • Best Seller Ranking (BSR) helps keyword ranking.
  • Best Seller Rank impacts sales.
  • “I need to improve my BSR”
  • Reviews are taken into account when calculating BSR
  • Keyword ranking impacts BSR
  • Listing price at the time of sale impacts BSR

What We See/Hear Sellers Saying About BSR in Facebook groups:

  • “My BSR increased, but why haven’t my organic sales?”
  • “How can I improve my BSR?”
  • “My BSR is better than my competitors, but they are outranking me. Why?”

How Is Your Listing’s BSR Calculated?

An ASIN’s Best Seller Ranking is calculated solely based on the number of units sold over a given period of time. That is it.

Your BSR is not directly related to your listing’s keyword ranking, price, quantity of reviews, or any other metric.

Sales estimation tools like Jungle Scout operate on this same premise. By looking solely at a product’s BSR in specific categories, they are able to estimate that product’s monthly sales volume with a decent degree of accuracy.

For example, if listing A sells more than listing B, listing A will have a lower/better BSR. It’s as simple and rudimentary as that.

When describing Best Seller Ranking, I often use an analogy of a report card. BSR is like a report card showing how many units you sold compared to others in the same category. Just like a report card, your BSR is a representation of past activity. Your BSR does not help you drive future organic sales, in the same way that a report card from a previous semester does not impact your grades in a new semester. It is only an indication of the past.

Debunking the Myths of Amazon Best Seller Rank

Myth: Best Seller Ranking (BSR) helps keyword ranking.

Our Amazon product launches have uncovered the most contradictory evidence to the BSR assumptions. When running a promotion with a poorly optimized listing, we see a great spike in BSR (ex. #28,400 to #1,600), but see little to no movement in keyword ranking.

Example:

This is the Jungle Scout data from the search “dog toys”.

As you can see, the two listings in the red box have higher Best Seller Ranks than the listings in the blue box. If BSR had a direct effect on rankings, we would expect to see a more uniform increase in BSR scrolling down the search results. Many searches will show similar results.

There are many factors being taken into account when it comes to keyword ranking and sales. It is especially difficult to properly attribute the cause of keyword ranking between increases and BSR and sales simply because BSR increases from sales.

Myth: Best Seller Rank impacts future sales.

Referring back to data we’ve obtained from our product launches, we’ve observed plenty of instances in which promotion increases a listing’s Best Seller Ranking significantly but does not lead to an increase in organic sales for a variety of reasons. This particular listing was not optimized for rankings (targeted keyword(s) were not in their title), which is why we suggest working with one of our Amazon seller coaches. There is a lot that goes into improving a product’s sales on Amazon, which is why we continually preach the importance of doing everything extremely well. Cutting corners leads to lost money!

Myth: Reviews are taken into account when calculating BSR

This is definitely false. The cause of this misconception again falls to misattribution. Reviews generally have a significant impact on sales (click conversion). Typically, listings on page 1 with more reviews drive more sales, which means their Best Seller Rank will improve.

This is the Jungle Scout data from the search “iphone 7 plus case”. (Update: we have since released Market Intelligence, the best Amazon product research tool in the galaxy, with sales trends, the most accurate sales estimates, and a star-rating validation).

As you can see, the listings within the red boxes have far fewer reviews than the listing in the blue box, however, their BSR is significantly better/lower.

Here is an example of a listing with over 1,000 reviews at a star rating of ~4.5 with a Best Seller Ranking of over 10,000.

If BSR was impacted directly by a listing’s review rating and/or quantity, we would expect different figures.  

Myth: Best Seller Rank is affected by a product’s price at the time of sale.

There are a few key indicators to this myth being false.  We can’t rely solely on Jungle Scout data for reference as we don’t know if their sales estimation algorithm is taking price into account or not. Simply looking through the search results at varying BSRs and comparing the current selling price is not sufficient as we don’t know how many units are actually being sold. The question is, “Does the price at the time of sale have weight on calculating the BSR,” not “Does your current price have impact on your current BSR?” If that were the case, raising your price would result in an instant improvement in Best Seller Ranking, which we obviously know is not the case.

Route 1: Looking at the BSR of similar ranking products with varying price points.

These are the search results for the keyword “coasters”. As you can see, the second listing is 25% more expensive, yet has a higher BSR. The listing priced at $12.95 has a lower Best Seller Ranking than the $18.99, $15.99, and $14.99 options. Again this is not concrete proof but one example.

Route 2: Looking at actual sales data.

We mange a good number of listings by now. Going through a number of those product’s sales and BSR history within the same category, we are able to see that regardless of price, the products fell within the same BSR range when sales were similar. If you have just a couple of products in the same category that sell fairly similar volumes, it is pretty easy to see for yourself.

How Can You Use BSR To Improve Your Sales?

Should you try to increase your BSR?

When we see this question, it is generally in reference to using promotional services to increase BSR, in which case the answer is no. Increasing your Best Seller Rank through promotional sales serves no direct purpose apart from pushing to obtain a best seller badge, which happens to be against Amazon’s TOS.

Since Viral Launch has been in business, we’ve seen plenty of sellers get excited about an improvement in BSR driven by giveaways. From our perspective it’s a no brainer. Of course the BSR improves. If sales are the sole factor in calculating your Best Seller Ranking, and you drove additional sales, whether at full price or at a discount, then of course the BSR is going to improve. And like we mentioned, that improvement in Best Seller Ranking will have no direct impact on future sales.

For example, (keyword ranking aside) if you gave a massive volume of units to help you reach a BSR of #2 in all of Health & Beauty, you would see no improvement in organic sales as a direct result. Customers do not find products to purchase by sifting through the browse trees, they purchase products after running a search, selecting an item, and then making a purchase.

Essentially, if you give units away at a loss with the intention of improving your Best Seller Ranking, you are wasting money. That is not a strategic move.

How BSR Can Help You Make Smart Business Decisions.

Using the Best Seller Rank metric is fantastic for estimating product’s monthly sales. Even though current tools are not incredibly accurate, they are far better than pure guesses and can be extremely helpful when putting together launch strategies, optimizing your listing, and validating sourcing ideas. From our perspective, this is the only real use for this over-hyped vanity metric.

Should You Be Paying Attention to Your Product’s BSR

Largely, no. If you are using BSR as a sales estimator for your own products, then you should look at your actual sales volume as shown in your Seller Central dashboard as those figures will be more accurate. Generally, the only benefit of watching your BSR is in comparing yourself to your competitors. Is your BSR increasing, but competitors’ BSRs are not? Then you you need to make some adjustments to your offering/listing so you can continue selling at the same volume as your competitors are. Is your BSR increasing at the same rate as competitors? If so, this is typical of seasonal items. As sales slow for a sub-market, all competitors will see an increase in BSR.

Your listing’s Best Seller Rank can fluctuate quite a bit over the course of a day, week, or month. The focus should really be on maintaining/improving search rankings, optimizing your listing, and improving your review funnel as these are the activities that will have an impact on your organic sales and ultimately your business’s bottom line. Continually watching your BSR is like watching the grass in your yard grow, it’s going to grow and at varying rates depending on external factors, but you watching your yard grow does not affect the process. It is only a waste of time. Being aware of your actual sales and responding to changes in the market or your listing are activities that will lead to better bottom line.

Conclusion

More often than not, rumors and misinformation are spread simply due to wrongful attribution. It’s so easy to wrongfully attribute the cause of sales improvements, ranking changes, BSR changes, etc. simply because there are so many moving parts. Amazon is a complex animal. It is wrongful attribution that I hold as the culprit for a lot of the myths around Best Seller Rank.

Know any other rumors? Have any questions? Am I wrong? I’d love to know what you think in the comments!

Cyber Monday Deal + Dominate Amazon Search Results & Holiday Sales

It’s Cyber Monday! We wanted to give you an awesome Cyber Monday discount as well as put together a quick explanation as to how you can maximize your holiday sales by dominating the Amazon search results with our Viral Subscription launch package.

If your holiday sales aren’t as high as you were hoping, or you’d like to see more revenue (why wouldn’t you), you owe it to yourself to watch this quick guide!

We’ve helped sellers grow from 5 figure per month businesses to 7 using this strategy to dominate the search results. Hopefully, you can be the next! If your sales are great, maybe you know some friends that need help hitting their sales goals this Q4. Why not share the video with them to help them out. 🙂

You can find the Cyber Monday deal and discount code in the video posted down below! I know we were late to getting the deal out, so we are going to extend our Cyber Monday deal to end at 4pm EST on Tuesday!

Dominating the Amazon Search Results

As always, if you have any questions, shoot us an email at service@viral-launch.com, or leave a comment down below.

Another Minor Amazon Policy Update Targeting Non-Verified Reviews

From September of this year forward, we have seen an unprecedented number of Amazon policy changes. Some changes have had major repercussions such as the TOS update posted on October 3rd of this year, and some updates have had minor impact such as the requirement of a customer account to have spent $50 in order to be eligible to leave a review. Posted the weekend of the 18th, we have yet another update, which from our perspective, should be chalked up as a minor change.

What Is The Policy Change

Over the weekend, Amazon updated their customer’s Community Guidelines, specifically under the section “Additional Guidelines for Customer Reviews”.

The new statement reads:

Customers can submit 5 non-Amazon Verified Purchase reviews each week, starting on Sundays.”

Just below that bullet is a statement that reads:

When we find unusually high numbers of reviews for a product posted in a short period of time, we may restrict reviews of these Amazon Verified Purchase reviews.”

I am not sure if the second statement is new or how long it has been there, but I find it a bit peculiar which I explain down below.

What It Means For Your And Your Business Moving Forward

A month and a half later and there still seems to be plenty of debate as to whether or not it is okay for reviews to be solicited/left on purchases made at a discount. In a blog post published a week or so after the TOS update of October 3rd banning the practice of giving products away at a discount, we stated that Amazon’s legal department had said specifically that reviews received from promotional sales were within Amazon’s Terms of Service. Naturally, there were still many skeptics, which I completely understand. However, with this update I imagine the air will be cleared.

In my opinion the most significant aspect of this change is simply that it serves as public proof that Amazon is accepting of unverified reviews. It seems as though there is no further room for debate as to whether or not soliciting honest feedback from discounted purchasers is within TOS. While we have known this for a few reasons, there were a lot of rumors floating about in various groups that receiving un-verified purchase reviews could result in a suspension from Amazon, or worse. If you have read some of my other posts, you know of my disdain for misleading rumors. I’m glad Amazon has disproven yet another.

 

How will this limit the number of reviews you are able to obtain from running promotions? I’m not quite sure the answer to this and I am even a bit confused.

There are two known limitations given by Amazon (from the customer’s perspective) when it comes to the quantity of reviews a seller is able to receive. The first limitation states that each customer is able to leave just five non-Amazon Verified Purchase reviews each week. While we are not allowed to track review rates from the promotions being run through Viral Launch, we know simply from what our seller’s report that the review rates are low. There is little expectation that this will have any measurable negative impact on the value of promotions as the previous benefit from receiving reviews was marginal.  

The next bullet point also talks about limiting reviews, but it is odd because it is referring specifically to limiting Verified Purchase reviews not non-Amazon Verified Purchase reviews. I am pretty well connected and well aware of a lot of things going on in the space. I am not, however, currently aware of any common methods of quickly driving inauthentic Amazon Verified Purchase reviews (not that I want to partake, it is my job to know however). Obviously I am not aware of everything going on, but I am curious if this will have an impact on sellers that are great at running external traffic to drive high volumes of sales and that also have a great feedback funnel (just wait until you see what we’re launching to help you with both of these aspects 😉 ). It will be interesting to see what Amazon means specifically with the phrases  “unusually high” and “in a short period of time”.  I would hate for sellers to be limited in their ability to generate authentic verified purchase reviews knowing just how valuable each and every review is in this day and age.

All in all, this new Amazon policy update is a great thing in my opinion! There is a lot of blackhat and underhanded activity going on in the marketplace that most sellers are not aware of. The more Amazon reigns in those activities, the greater your chances will be at succeeding so long as you focus on executing all aspects of your private label business well. This is a blow to dishonest sellers accumulating reviews from dishonest practices. I think Amazon deserves a “thanks” here. 🙂

As always, we’re here to help you succeed in everything you do. Let us know how/if we can be of any help in your journey to achieving success.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Trying To Understand the Intentions Behind Amazon’s Latest Coupon Update

I’d like to first stipulate that I am obviously biased party in this discussion seeing that I own and operate Viral Launch. I also don’t claim to understand or know definitively what Amazon’s intentions were. I simply want to lay out all of the information and observations we’ve made around the latest change and how they fit into our perspective of the marketplace. I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with the amount of misinformation in the space. A lot of which is spread by “gurus” and service providers. I want to provide this stipulation so no one wrongfully misconstrues this as a pure factual post.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way 🙂  I feel like I can speak a little more freely about my interpretations, so let’s jump into it!

From a High Level

Overall, I am assuming that Amazon’s latest update to the promotion creation process was made with good intentions for the community, however, I think there was a slight oversight as to the entirety of its ramifications. I am expecting Amazon to make another change in the near future that will allow merchants to better protect their inventory when running promotions.

Amazon is big, very big, and with such a large platform there are a ton of complexities. There are a variety of internal departments all with their core functions and responsibilities. Sometimes one department can make a decision based on their understanding and knowledge of a situation, without getting a larger holistic view with the help of other departments. This happens all the time in government (an even larger complex organization built of many departments). Lawmakers will enact a law designed to solve a problem for a select group of people, and without realizing the entirety of the law’s impact, they end up creating new issues for other groups. A quick example would be a recent update to labor laws dictating when it is/isn’t okay to pay employees as salary versus hourly with special emphasis on overtime pay. The intention of the lawmakers was to protect salary workers making under a given pay threshold (let’s say it’s $45,000/year) from being taken advantage of because they make the same amount no matter how many hours they work in a week. On paper, it sounds great, and I’m sure for some it worked well. The problem that arose quite often is that salary workers making just under the pay threshold (ex. $40,000/year) had to become hourly workers and a lot of them took hefty pay cuts or they had to work more hours to achieve the same pay. I know it’s a bit of a tangent, but it helps to illustrate the law of unintended consequences.

Could this have been intentional? Of course. Is Amazon too large and sophisticated to make a “mistake”? That is a great question that I simply do not have enough experience/data to make a more confidence assumption either way. Either way, here is the data we’ve collected that has lead us to our current conclusion.

Supporting Data

Why do we think this was an oversight on Amazon’s end?  Three main reasons:

    1. It Doesn’t Make Sense For The Average Seller

Without the ability to limit the number of units a coupon may be redeemed for, there is no way to protect a seller’s inventory. If I were to create a 50% off coupon and post to a FB group, SlickDeals, or my brand’s personal fan group, one customer could completely wipe my inventory with a single claim code. It’s ludicrous. For those unaware, one purchase for 100 units provides the same amount of keyword ranking power as one sale of one unit. On top of that, considering opportunity costs, you would be losing out on an incredible amount of money.

Sure you are able to protect your inventory with a Multi-Channel Fulfillment Order, but in nearly all circumstances in which a seller provides a coupon to a customer, allowing one customer the ability to grab the entire available inventory would ruin the campaign.

This is not exclusively within the context of running promotions to build sales history in order to improve keyword ranking. These thoughts are within the context of any kind of promotion. There are many reasons why a seller may want to provide a discount code to their customers such as improving brand loyalty, spreading awareness of new products, contests, etc.

No matter the intention of the promotion, without the ability to protect inventory, promotions in their current capacity simply do not make sense.

Promotions/discounts have been a vital tool to sales since the concept of sales existed (probably a fact 🙂 ). Ecommerce without discounts is unnatural and can quickly create a stagnant and stale market due to the significant increase in the barrier to entry for new sellers. Amazon has thrived due to the open competition. As competition becomes stifled, it will be very interesting to see how the market progresses.

So why don’t you just lower the price? Lowering your price is certainly a viable option, but it has its own limitations and drawbacks. To quickly explain, depending on the item, if you drop your price too much you’ll find your product categorized as an add-on item, which can be terrible for organic sales conversions. Amazon can also create limitations to how quickly you can increase your price after a significant drop. For those running Lightning Deals you can quickly find yourself trapped, or your deal canceled as Lightning Deals will play off of your product’s lowest price over a certain time period (30 days I believe, but I’ve heard longer as well).

    2. Correspondences With Amazon Seller Support

Based on a few different interactions with Seller Support regarding the new promotion creation process, we were given a few pieces of information that seem to support our conclusions. I understand that you typically want to take what Seller Support says with a grain of salt. Many times Seller Support is not very knowledgable or in tune with what’s going on, but some of Seller Support actually seemed to be well aware of the recent change and appeared to have a bit of interesting information for us.

Main pieces of information:

This letter from Amazon Seller Support explains that the coupon creation update is something Amazon’s Business Team is testing over the holidays.

 

On a phone call with a well informed Seller Support member, the representative told us that the change was driven largely due to some tax consequences that came with shipping products that are set to 100% off or free. As most have noticed, Amazon no longer allows us to create 100% off promotions, so whether or not this checks out is beyond me. I will not try to act like I know how taxes work for Amazon. I can only imagine the army of CPAs, accountants, lawyers, etc. they have to deal with all of the intricacies and complexities. The representative also mentioned that they were surprised by the removal of dollar off promotions, because he had seen such success with the previous promotion set up, and he expected that the current setup would not last very long.

    3. Language Within Seller Central

This dialog box is available when creating promotions. As you can see from the language used, Amazon appears to be under the impression that you can still protect your inventory with the use of the Single-Use claim codes, which we know to be false. While it is possible that the developers simply forgot to update this field, I’m curious if that is the case because they made sure to update the language on the main Promotions page under the Money Off option to only mention “percentage discount”. With the latest update, single-use claim codes also do not have quantity limits.  If Amazon were unconcerned with providing quantity limits for sellers, I wouldn’t expect to still find this language.

What’s Going to Happen?

As I mentioned, I’m not quite sure what will happen. Based on my data, it seems like this is a temporary change that will have an Amazon-created solution sometime soon.  Based on the Seller Support email shown above, the more sellers that complain the more likely the situation will be remedied. I would imagine there are quite a lot of complaints as this can be a significant risk at nearly any percent off . I’m imagining this update will be remedied soon.

Could I be wrong? Completely, so please don’t take this as fact. I’m simply sharing our perspective and how we expect things to play out.

What do you think? Based on the information and data you’ve collected, what are you expecting the outcome to be?

Protect Your Amazon Inventory in Seller Central with Max Order Quantity

After a stressful weekend convinced that Amazon had killed the promotion with one simple update, we have some great news!


We have found a TOS friendly approach to running promotions while completely protecting your inventory and have already updated our seller Launchpad with the fix!

For those of you who don’t know, Amazon removed the ability to create money/dollar off promotions. Meaning, before when a customer applied a coupon, X number of dollars were deducted from the cart’s total. However, Amazon (according to their website the change occurred on November 7th, though noticed by most sellers on Friday the 11th) has removed the ability to create money/dollar off promotions, limiting promotions to percent off only.

So what is the big deal? The big deal is that there is no way to restrict the quantity of units a customer can apply that promotion to. Even if you set the buyer benefit to 1 unit, even if you use single-use claim codes, it’s not possible. For example, let’s say you create a promotion at 80% off for your widget that typically sells at $20.00. A customer could set the order quantity to 100 units, apply the coupon, and would be able to walk away with 100 units of inventory for $400 versus the MSRP of $2000. As arbitrage becomes more popular, so does the practice of grabbing discounted products and reselling them. It could become dangerous very quickly. Even if you run a 40-50% off promotion, you still run the risk of arbitrageurs wiping out your inventory to sell on top of your listing. At that point running promotions are ludicrous.

So what is the fix? Despite what you may have read in many of the Facebook groups, there is no way to setup a promotion that will allow you to restrict a customer from being able to grab 999 units of your inventory with one promotional code. Also despite what you may read in the Facebook groups, setting your product’s settings in the “More Details” tab in the inventory management section of Seller Central to a “Max Aggregate Ship Quantity” also does not help this (frankly from our tests, I don’t think this setting serves any purpose).

For some products/categories, there is a setting in the Offers tab that allows you to set your Maximum Order Capacity to a specified number. When set to 1 for example, this allows you to limit customers to only purchasing one unit at a time. The customer does not have the ability to add more than one unit to cart whether they have a promotional code or are paying full price.

The problem here is that the majority of categories do not have this setting available in the user interface within Seller Central. So are those sellers without the setting available out of luck….? Fortunately not!

Our brilliant developer Steve was able to discover that through Amazon’s MWS APIs, we are able to update the Max Order Quantity field programmatically for products of every category. This means that for any product we can limit customers to purchasing a specific quantity for any one order! No trickery, no black hat magic. Just a simple API call and all is well.

So, we have spent the day updating our seller’s Launchpad to provide the functionality for sellers to grant us access to their MWS account. Once we have access, you can then set your Max Order Quantity in your product’s settings within Viral Launch. As you start a promotion, set the Max Order Quantity to 1, and once the promotion is ended you can remove the limitation! It is as easy as that! By setting your Max Order Quantity to 1, Amazon restricts customers from adding more units to cart than the value specified, which in this case is 1. The downside to this approach is that if an organic customer attempts to place an order for two units, they would not be able to. Fortunately when using the Viral Launchpad, you can easily adjust this setting once you have completed your promotion by going in and adjusting the settings back to unlimited.

Checkout the video in this link or watch the video down below on how to set everything up within Viral Launch to run product promotions with confidence.

 

I apologize for the short post; we were rushing to get everything updated and together. I’ll be sending out a longer post tomorrow with my thoughts on the change. I simply wanted to calm everyone’s nerves and let our community know that we have a solution!

Tomorrow I’ll be discussing why we believe Amazon made this change and why the information that I have leads me to believe that this is only temporary.

Let me know what you think or if you have any questions in the comments below!

Ride The Massive Wave Of Amazon Holiday Sales

It’s finally here! Depending on who you are and the state of your business, mid-November through December 23rd is either the most thrilling and rewarding time of the year or the most dreaded and stressful. We hope the former rather than the latter is true for you! If it’s not, we are here to help you make it a season of prosperity and growth!

Depending on what you sell and where you’re ranked, you are likely already seeing a slight uptick in sales. The holiday season sales are here, meaning now is the time to take advantage and ride the wave of Amazon holiday sales throughout the season!

Riding the wave of holiday sales is just like riding any wave in the ocean: you have to be on top.

In terms of Amazon ranking, I don’t mean you have to be first click to be on top, but you do need to be ranking well enough for customers to be able to find and purchase your product. If you’re not on top (driving additional sales), then you will find yourself drowning, making it harder to reach the top and drive meaningful sales. If you are on top of the wave, you’ll be able to sit on the wave of organic sales throughout the holiday season, meaning BIG money with less effort if you’re in the right categories.

Why is it harder to catch a wave mid-way through?

Here are some numbers to help illustrate:

Keep in mind, in order to outrank a listing for a particular keyword, you must drive more sales than they are seeing.

Let’s say Listing A is ranking 10th on page 1 for keyword XYZ, and they are seeing 35 sales per day. Listing B is ranking 10th on page 3 also for keyword XYZ where they are seeing 1-2 sales per day largely thanks to sponsored ads. In order for Listing B to rise to the top and catch the wave, it would only have to overcome a per day deficit of ~33 sales per day.

As holiday sales increase, Listing A will be riding the wave of organic sales increases, so in the heart of holiday shopping, Listing A may increase to 90 sales per day. All the while, Listing B will likely only see a minor increase in sales, taking the product from 1-2 sales per day to 5-7 sales per day. That now means, Listing B would have to overcome a sales deficit of ~85 sales per day to reach the surface! That is a lot of money spent on promotional giveaways.

So with that said, NOW is the time to jump on top of the proverbial wave (as in page ranking), so you can ride the tsunami of Amazon holiday sales that is just starting to hit. We want you to have a successful and profitable holiday season, increased page ranking is one of the keys to achieving just that. Good luck!

P.S. Soon we will be posting some very important blogs that bust some major myths in the space that are misleading a lot of sellers regarding keyword ranking and Amazon’s algorithm. With over 1 billion data points, we have an enormous perspective on the space!

 

Need help Catching and Riding the Wave?

Use coupon: RideTheWave when signing up for a launch to take $50 off! You don’t want to find yourself drowning! The coupon is only live for the next 7 days. I also highly suggest talking with one of our Amazon coaches (which are completely free), to help ensure your success. In my opinion, our coaches are Viral Launch’s most valuable asset/service. These guys have a ton of experience and access to data that can help you achieve success no matter what that looks like. Feel free to shoot them an email at launches@viral-launch.com and ask them anything, literally. They would love to help!

You can also see Amazon market trends with Market Intelligence, our newest Amazon product research tool.

Please feel free to post any questions or comments in the comment section down below! Did this help? Are you on top of the wave? Are you seeing holiday sales? Let’s talk in the comments!

Side Notes:

We Updated Our Seller Launchpad! (Seller Viral Launch Dashboard)

 

In case you have not checked into the Viral Launchpad this week, we have finally updated our seller dashboard to look better, navigate easier, and provide more data such as tracking your product’s keyword ranking throughout the launch for a variety of keywords all for free! The site is now web app based and navigates beautifully! Many more updates coming to that as well.

Let us know what you think!

 

Need a Pick-Me-Up? We Have A Free Starbucks Gift Card For You!

Today I posted a $100 Starbucks gift card on our Facebook page as a pick me up as I know how demanding preparing for holiday sales can be! I kind of doubt there is any money left on it, but head to our page and try it out. Also, if you like our page, you’ll get to see other posts like free Starbucks right away, and we have more coming to help you get through a successful season. Enjoy! 🙂

Product Visibility: The Importance of Categories in Amazon’s Search Results

Now more than ever, it is extremely important to have every single aspect of your listing in prime condition: stunning photos, optimized copy, beautiful product labeling, competitive reviews, etc. But there is one simple thing that some sellers are overlooking that has cost some sellers serious amounts of money in lost sales. It’s extremely important and a fairly quick fix: Product Category.

I know, that shiny Best Seller Badge is highly sought after, and it is relatively easy to come by with some obscure, irrelevant sub-categories. If you’re selling Vitamin C Serum and place it into the a smaller unrelated category, you won’t have to sell nearly as many units to get a Best Seller Badge as you would if you categorized it correctly into Skin Care. Loophole right? Unfortunately for sellers, no.

The Importance of Product Category

It’s crucial that you set your category correctly, and I’ll explain why. When searching “vitamin c serum” on Amazon, even when searching under “All Departments”, you’ll notice that just under the search bar, Amazon forces the search into a specific category. In this instance, I’m seeing just over 5300 results for: Beauty & Personal Care : Skin Care : “vitamin c serum”

Amazon positions itself in a way that is going to best benefit a shopper. If I’m a shopper searching for a “vitamin c serum,” Amazon shows me only what is relevant to the product that I’m searching for. Through Amazon’s algorithm, this means that only results categorized down to the subcategory “Skin Care” are going to be shown. And this makes total sense. Why would I be looking for anything outside of a Skin Care with a search for “vitamin c serum?”

As a shopper, I do have the option to choose “Show results instead in ‘All Departments,’” but I cannot imagine that many shoppers are doing so. As an Amazon seller, you know your product, your keywords, your listing, and your competition inside and out. Buyers, on the other hand, are trusting that Amazon is showing the best products for what they’re looking for. Having said that, it’s unlikely that a shopper would click “All Departments,” especially if they’re able to find what they’re looking for on page one. (Note: Mobile Amazon automatically shows results for All Departments)

These forced search results make it extremely important that your product is categorized correctly. Yes, you may have a Best Seller Badge through mis-categorizing your product. But that doesn’t matter if your product isn’t even showing up when a shopper searches for the biggest keyword associated with your product! If you put your product in some obscure category hoping to trick shoppers into thinking that you’re a top seller for your category, Amazon is onto you, and they aren’t having it. Shoppers will be searching for what you’re selling, but your product will be hidden by Amazon’s algorithms.

How Placing Your Product in The Wrong Category Causes A Loss In Sales

Here at Viral Launch, we want to see you be as successful as possible with your Private Label products. Among other things, it is a must to correctly categorize your product. This is even more important while you’re running a promotion because all of those giveaway sales are being attributed to the given search term in the context of the category the product falls under. If your sales are not being attributed to the proper category, you simply won’t show up when the average customer runs a search.  Make sure that your product is in the right category before running a launch. Switching it afterward means it’s already too late as the sales have already attributed keyword ranking power to the given keyword within the wrong category.

When choosing a keyword to target with a Viral Launch promotion, be sure that the keyword’s search results line up with your product category. If not, change your category, or make sure you’ve chosen a keyword that lines up with your product. You can place your item into a more specific category than the forced search result, just make sure that it’s in the most specific category of search results shown for that keyword search.

Big Takeaway: Categorize your product correctly, and your customers will be able to find and buy your product! If you don’t, no matter how hard you push keyword ranking, you’ll find your product ranking in the wrong category and will see very few sales!

Hopefully this tip helps you to understand why product category is so important and how it can have a tremendous effect on your visibility. We love to see you succeed as we navigate the Amazon together. Happy selling!

Latest Amazon Updates: The Week in Review – October 22-29

The month of October has been quite the whirlwind for Amazon and its sellers. October 3rd, Amazon released a ToS update that banned incentivized reviews, kickstarting a season full of updates and policy changes.

To recap the latest Amazon updates:

  • August 28: Amazon enacts massive restrictions on certain brands, preventing 3rd party sellers from selling without approval.
  • September 1: Amazon announces in an email to sellers that, effective November 1st, US Seller fulfilled returns will be automatically authorized, and Amazon will provide prepaid return label on the seller’s behalf. Read more here.
  • October 3: The new Terms of Service prohibits providing a free or discounted product in exchange for a review unless it’s through the Vine program. Read more here.
  • October 10: Amazon closes the door to Fulfillment by Amazon for new sellers during the Q4, 2016 period. See here under the orange button at the bottom of the page.
  • October 21: Amazon clarifies Promotional Content in Customer Reviews and Questions and Answers in wake of the new review policy. Read more here.

This past week continued this month’s trend with Amazon’s mass seller email regarding reviews and the introduction to Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program..

 

Amazon’s Incentivized Review Mass Email

Many sellers reported receiving an email on October 24th from Amazon with a strict warning about moving forward with incentivized reviews:

“We recently updated our policies to prohibit incentivize reviews, including those posted in exchange for a free or discounted copy of the product. You are receiving this email because products you sell have received incentivize reviews in the past. If you attempt to acquire incentivize reviews going forward, your Amazon privileges will be suspended or terminated.

We consider a review to be incentivized if you have influenced or can influence the review directly or indirectly, including by monitoring whether a review is written and providing or withholding any benefit based on whether a review is written or the content of the review. Below are a few examples where a review is considered incentivize and is not permitted:

  • You provide a free or discounted product, gift card, rebate, cash payment, or other compensation in exchange for the review.
  • You provide or withhold free or discounted products or other benefits in the future based on whether the customer writes a review.
  • You use a review service where reviewers’ continued membership depends on writing reviews.
  • You use a review service where you can rate customers based on their reviews.
  • You use a review service where customers register their Amazon public profile so that you can monitor their reviews of your products.

Incentivizing customer reviews violates our policies and may violate the Federal Trade Commission Act.

The following actions are generally allowed, provided you comply with the above restrictions:

  • You might offer discounts that are generally available to all Amazon customers, such as Lightning Deals.
  • You may give out free products at tradeshows, conventions, or other similar venues where you are unable to monitor whether the recipients write a review or provide or withhold any benefits based on whether a review is written or the content of the review.

The above changes apply only to product categories other than books. We continue to allow the age-old practice of providing advanced review copies of books.”

The initial seller response was shock and a bit of fear. After all, getting called out by the Giant itself is a bit intimidating. However, through this email, Amazon is really just confirming what our CEO, Casey Gauss, mentioned in our initial blog post about the ToS change and our follow up blog post clarifying the policy. Casey posed two large takeaways on October 14th:

  1. “It is okay for 3rd party websites to distribute discounted claim codes on behalf of Amazon merchants.”
  2. “It is okay for merchants to follow-up with the discounted buyers asking for a review, so long as they abide by all other review policies and stipulations (ex. Don’t ask for only a positive review, do not force the customer to leave a review, do not monitor whether or not they were able to leave a review, etc.)”

These statements still hold true, even through this email. Yes, in the past you may have used a review service to receive a review in exchange for a discounted product. But, you weren’t in the wrong. In fact, you were in line with Amazon’s policy at the time. The policy isn’t retroactive, meaning your Amazon privileges should not be suspended or revoked because of those past reviews. *However, we have witnessed that Amazon is retroactively removing thousands of reviews left with a disclaimer.*

This mass email was sent to many sellers who have run promotions in the past, and it serves as a method to make sure that all sellers are well-informed on the new policy. The carefully-worded email instructs sellers on the new do’s and dont’s of offering discounts and receiving reviews, which actually gives some insightful clarification to the update.

So sellers, don’t interpret the email as, “I’m getting kicked off of Amazon, and I’ll never ever be able to sell anything again.” Read it as, “Amazon has notified me that past actions are now against policy. I now have to abide by the new policy, which they’ve just informed me of.” Moving forward, it’s important to abide by these policies. And yes, product promotions are still compliant with these policies. As we mentioned in a blog addressing the review disclaimer a couple of weeks back, “Viral Launch is not giving products in exchange for a review. We are not providing compensation to buyers to leave reviews, nor do our buyers have connections with you as a seller/marketer.” Product giveaways through Viral Launch are still permissible, as we are not providing a product or any compensation for a review, we are not providing products in the future based on whether or not a customer leaves a review, we are not using reviews as a membership requirement on our buyer site, we are not allowing you to rate customers on our buyer site, and we are not registering our buyers’ Amazon public profiles in order to monitor reviews.

All that to say, rest easy, friend. We’ve worked tirelessly to ensure that we are in line with the new policy change. This email may have appeared to be intimidating at first, but as long as you continue to move forward within the Terms of Service, you will be in good shape.

 

Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program

Yesterday, on October 27th, Amazon announced the introduction of its new Early Reviewer Program. After banning sellers from incentivizing reviews, Amazon itself will start rewarding and incentivizing reviews. It is believed that the program is currently in beta testing and will likely be enacted at the start of November. Amazon describes the program on its Site Features:

The Early Reviewer Program encourages customers who have already purchased a product to share their authentic experience about that product, regardless of whether it is a 1-star or 5-star review. Amazon shoppers depend on reviews to learn more about products, and this program helps to acquire early reviews on products that have few or no reviews, helping shoppers make smarter buying decisions. Customers who have purchased a product participating in the Early Reviewer Program may be asked to write a review and those customers who submit a review within the offer period will receive a small reward (e.g. a $1-$3 Amazon.com Gift Card) for helping future shoppers.

This new program should (hopefully) help sellers who are bringing a brand new product to market. Doing so over the past month has been a bit like the chicken and the egg scenario; you need reviews to get sales and you need sales to get reviews. Where the heck do you start? One of our main recommendations has been implementing a stellar email follow-up sequence to capitalize on all sales, trying to get as many of those oh-so-important initial reviews from the get-go. But with this move, Amazon may be trying to smother follow-up review sequences. Think about it from a consumer standpoint…if you are bombarded with emails every time you make a purchase on Amazon, you might end up with a bad taste in your mouth about Amazon as a whole. It may seem like a bunch of review hungry sellers who only want you for your review. But, if Amazon can be in control of who reviews, and if they can make email follow-up sequences seem pointless when they’re bringing in higher review rates, Amazon wins and the customer wins. And for Amazon, that’s a win-win.

As we get more information on the Early Reviewer Program, we’ll be sure to share it. For now, we’ll say that it should hopefully be good news for sellers looking for initial reviews on new products. It does seem a little ironic though, doesn’t it? Amazon bans incentivized reviews and then incentivizes reviews…Well, when you live in Amazon’s world, you’ve got to live by Amazon’s rules.

More information from Amazon concerning the Early Reviewer Program can be found here.

 

Conclusion

The latest Amazon updates have caused quite the buzz within the Amazon seller community. While it may seem hard to keep up, we’re here to comb through the changes and guide you through the wonderful, hard, rewarding, and sometimes stressful process of selling on Amazon. We’ve been busier than ever this month, and I’m sure you have been too. But isn’t that part of the fun?

Continue to stay informed and make decisions that are in line with Amazon’s (ever-changing) policies, and you’ll be okay. While selling on Amazon may be confusing and messy at times, it can surely be rewarding. Although it may be a bit tougher to bring a product to market, it definitely isn’t impossible. In fact, we believe that with the right strategy, you can definitely still be incredibly successful as a private-label seller. Amazon makes the rules, and everyone has to live by them. If you can figure out how to do it best, you’ll be in great shape. And as always, Viral Launch will be here to help inform and clarify along the way.

We would love to hear your thoughts and questions on the latest Amazon updates. Feel free to post in the comments below!

Disclaimer or No? FTC Guidelines on Reviews Left on Discounted Amazon Purchases

We are back with more information surrounding Amazon’s latest TOS update. I really don’t intend on “milking” this subject, but there is simply so much misinformation/rumors, it’s crazy. This misinformation leads to poor decisions and more misinformation, so I would like to do my best to clear up everything as quickly as possible. The team and I have had a good number of questions/comments around the FTC’s guidelines for reviews on products purchased at a discount. While I am not a lawyer, it seems pretty clear to me that reviews left on discounted purchases DO NOT require a disclosure statement to be left. Below, I break things down a bit further with quotes from the FTC.gov website, specifically pages around Endorcements.

As always, I do not expect you to believe me simply because I’ve said it. I am obviously a biased party here, so I have included links and quotes to help you make informed decisions and interpretations for yourself (but again, it seems pretty clear to me)!

 

Logical Breakdown

At the heart of it all, the FTC is concerned with reviews that are left by experts/bloggers/reviewers/etc. who were provided some type of compensation for the review. The intention of promotional services is simply offering discounts on Amazon products, period. Whether or not those buyers happen to leave a review is beyond our concern. Obviously we hope they leave a review for your sake, but it is beyond our company’s scope. To comply with Amazon’s TOS, we simply cannot track whether or not a buyer leaves a review. This is also not to get confused with email follow-up services, which are completely separate.

Think about popular deals websites like Slickdeals or RetailMeNot. Do you find any kind of language on their sites that let you know, “If you use one of the many coupons you find on our site and chose to leave a review, you must use a disclosure or else you will be violating the FTC’s guidelines.”? No, you do not. Nor do you see stipulations when reviewing products on other websites (ex. Walmart.com) that require a disclosure on products purchased with a discount code.

So simply by omission, I can assume that a disclosure is not required if you did indeed purchase/select the product yourself. The only reason this was ever a thing on Amazon is two-fold, 1) Amazon’s terms required it, and 2) when products were given away in exchange for a review, the FTC saw this as an endorsement which then warranted a disclosure statement.

If the product was given in exchange for a review, you were provided some form of compensation before or after, or you have some type of connection to the company, then the reviewer HAS to leave a disclosure allowing the reader to know the given circumstances.

Viral Launch is not giving products in exchange for a review. We are not providing compensation to buyers to leave reviews, nor do our buyers have connections with you as a seller/marketer. Therefore, there is no need for buyers of discounted products on Viral Launch to leave a disclosure statement.

 

Quotes From the FTC

This one seals the deal in my mind. On a very clear and concise page that covers common questions around endorsements on the FTC’s website, we find this question under the headline: “WHEN DOES THE FTC ACT APPLY TO ENDORSEMENTS?“.

For the sake of our topic, replace the word “blogger” and “blog” with “reviewer” and “review”. (The highlighting/bolding is my emphasis.)

“I’m a blogger. I heard that every time I mention a product on my blog, I have to say whether I got it for free or paid for it myself. Is that true?”

No. If you mention a product you paid for yourself, there isn’t an issue. Nor is it an issue if you get the product for free because a store is giving out free samples to its customers.

The FTC is only concerned about endorsements that are made on behalf of a sponsoring advertiser. For example, an endorsement would be covered by the FTC Act if an advertiser – or someone working for an advertiser – pays you or gives you something of value to mention a product. If you receive free products or other perks with the expectation that you’ll promote or discuss the advertiser’s products in your blog, you’re covered. Bloggers who are part of network marketing programs where they sign up to receive free product samples in exchange for writing about them also are covered.

 

As you can see, it is pretty clear that there is no need for a disclosure if the buyer/reviewer pays for the item. There is also no need to provide a disclosure if the product is given for free, so long as it is not given with compensation or in exchange for a review.

Hopefully, that makes you feel comfortable with the fact that the FTC does not require a review to contain a disclosure statement if the reviewer purchased the product at a discount from sites like Viral Launch.

As further examples, I’ve included a couple other quotes from different pages on the FTC’s website.

 

If you visit this link here, you will be taken to the U.S. Government Publishing Office discussing “GUIDES CONCERNING USE OF ENDORSEMENTS AND TESTIMONIALS IN ADVERTISING”. This is a bit harder to understand and has the traditional lawyer speak that you may expect. Going through all of their given examples under the headline “Consumer endorsements” and “Disclosure of material connections”, you will find only examples where compensation is provided either before or after the fact. There are no examples provided in which a customer purchases the product at a discount and is required to leave a disclosure.

 

On a page labeled “THE FTC’S ENDORSEMENT GUIDES: BEING UP-FRONT WITH CONSUMERS”, we find these two quotes.

 

Quote 1:

“… marketers who are compensated to promote or review a product should disclose it.”

Quote 2:

“The Endorsement Guides also state that if there is a connection between the endorser and the marketer of a product that would affect how people evaluate the endorsement, it should be disclosed.”

 

These both show that only when compensation is provided or the product is given in exchange for a review is the disclosure statement needed.

 

Using Follow-up Services

Is it within Amazon’s terms of service to solicit a review after a customer has purchased a product? YES. As I mentioned in our previous blog post, we have confirmation from Amazon’s legal department that following up with a buyer asking for a review is completely within Amazon’s TOS so long as it is done correctly. How do you follow-up correctly? That is another post in itself, but briefly, do not incentivize, require, or manipulate the review/reviewer in any way.

One thing that I want to point out is the fact that you should NOT tell reviewers that they cannot leave the disclosure statement in their review. By telling a reviewer they cannot leave the disclosure, in my mind, you are manipulating the content of the review by telling the reviewer what it can/cannot contain.

Our approach to this situation is to inform the buyer that Amazon’s TOS is no longer requiring the disclosure statement, “I purchased this product at a discount in exchange….”. We also let them know that the product was not given in exchange for their review and that they may choose whether or not they decide to review it.

It is simply a question of semantics, but can be critical when adhering to Amazon’s TOS.

 

Conclusion

Hopefully this brief discussion on the FTC’s rules clear up any rumors and/or misinformation that has been floating around. As always, it’s our goal to help you make the most informed decisions possible when it comes to operating and growing your Amazon business.

Overall, it looks like this is further proof that a major intention of Amazon’s latest policy update was simply to rid reviews of the disclosure statement so as to improve the perceived integrity of their review platform to consumers.

 

If you have any other questions, curious about rumors, or anything of the sort, please post them in the comments down below so I can address them for you!

As always, I wish you the best in growing your Amazon business!

An Update on the Update – Clarification on the Amazon TOS Update 2016

In my original post, I posed a lot of questions around how exactly Amazon would interpret and enforce their latest TOS update moving forward. As is too common in this space, we’ve heard an insane amount of rumors. Be careful what you believe and guard who you trust. Thanks to a friend of mine with direct contact to Amazon’s legal department, we have some much appreciated clarification. I’ll update this post in the next couple of days with a link to a post by this friend where he will give exacts from the conversations he has had directly with Amazon’s legal department.

To many, the clarification mentioned below was already common assumption. Personally, I prefer to speak on the facts and make decisions based on data, which we simply did not have just 24 hours after the TOS change was posted.

So what is the clarification? What is the information directly from Amazon’s legal department? 

 

The two largest takeaways are:

 

  1. It is okay for 3rd party websites to distribute discounted claim codes on behalf of Amazon merchants.
  2. It is okay for merchants to follow-up with the discounted buyers asking for a review, so long as they abide by all other review policies and stipulations (ex. Don’t ask for only a positive review, do not force the customer to leave a review, do not monitor whether or not they were able to leave a review, etc.)

 

What does this mean? Well, for Viral Launch specifically, we will continue to operate as we have for the last year or so. Fortunately, we had the foresight to position ourselves away from the review group model, which has had incredible benefits for our customers. Largely the only change we had to make post TOS Update is the removal of all language from the site around “reviews”.

What does this mean for you as a seller? Hopefully this helps to ease concerns and increase confidence in the fact that Amazon allows you to run promotions and to ask customers for reviews after purchasing your products at a discount. Hopefully this helps to convince you that the private label world is not dead. That there is still plenty of hope in a bright future moving forward!

As history has shown and as time progressed, we have come to find out that another TOS update did not have such severe an impact as we initially expected. With that said, the landscape has definitely changed, and depending on your previous launch strategy, launching a product has become quite a bit more difficult. As we’ve always preached, you need to do all things GREAT in order to outsell your competition (and sometimes even survive), now more than ever! If you find yourself having a difficult time getting ahead of the competition, launching a product, or even maintaining sales, look around to see just how well you are executing every aspect of your private label business.

So all in all, the dust seems to have settled for the most part and we are all free to go on our merry way, building scaleable private label businesses on the world’s largest commerce platform! Sounds like a great time to be an entrepreneur to me! 🙂

Side Note: With all of this, I feel like this news has definitely confirmed the suspicions I posed in our initial blog post regarding what net affect this would actually have on the market and what Amazon’s true intentions are (you can read them in here).
As always, we will keep you updated as new word comes out and we wish you and your business the best!!