ER 011: Backend search terms, search ads, storage fees, feedback removal, new policies
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This is The Ecommerce Roundup, Podcast 11, today is August 4, 2017, I’m your host Bryan, and here’s the ecommerce news roundup for this week –
- Backend search terms indexing in Amazon’s algorithm
- Headline search ads in Seller Central
- Long Term Storage Fees Coming Up
- Amazon feedback removal requests
- Amazon return policy for merchant fulfilled orders
- A mattress company called Tuft & Needle is partnering with Amazon closely, is this a sign of things to come?
- Wall Street Segment
Backend search terms indexing in Amazon’s algorithm
I saw a great article related to backend keyword search term indexing on Amazon. This has been such a hot topic lately has sellers really have no idea what’s going on. And Amazon as usual isn’t providing any clarity on the situation. The only reason we know about this is because sales are being affected, and when that happens the seller community is big enough that people talk, test, and collaborate in order to figure out what’s going on.
To recap, many sellers saw their sales and rank dip over the past few months. It was blamed on an Amazon search algorithm change based more and more on relevance than just keywords present on the listing. All of a sudden, keyword phrases became an issue and fewer sellers were ranking for long tail keywords or keyword phrases they had previously been ranking for because Amazon determined those to no longer be relevant. Or so everyone thought.
This article on Web Retailer, I’ll link to in the show notes, http://www.webretailer.com/lean-commerce/backend-keyword-search-indexing-amazon/?#/, discusses tests ran to get to the bottom of the backend keyword search term issue.
The author of the article did research how Amazon indexes backend search terms. Here are the highlights:
There’s not a hard 250 character limit on indexed search terms. There’s a range. In this study the found between 300 and up to 1400 characters of search terms were indexed. Different categories might have different character limits.
Use up all space available to enter individual, relevant keywords. Use only a space to separate them, not commas or other special characters.
Make sure each keyword in your search terms is also somewhere in your listing title, bullets or description area. Please note, this is new advice! It used to be said that you should not repeat keywords in your search terms onto your listings.
Do not repeat search terms in the backend. Yes, you can input keywords in phrase order, but there’s no reason to repeat search terms in order to maintain phrases.
However all of this, if you look in the comments, a lot of people now say that brand new listings have a hard limit of less than 250 characters for backend search terms. This of course has to be tested by you when you make new listings. However, even if this is the case right now, who knows if it will continue to be for much time in the future. I think the best course of action is to continue to write great listings. Maybe now when you write a new listing first write it with only 249 back end search terms. Test the listing to make sure your indexing, and then add more search terms later and test for indexing again.
Last note about this:
What you write for Enhanced Brand Content still appears not to index for search however the product description you enter in the normal product description field does even though it’s not visible on the product detail page to shoppers when Enhanced Brand Content is active.
Headline Search Ads in Seller Central
Headline search ads are now in seller central – you must be Brand Registered to use headline search ads in seller central, need 3 products to fill out a headline search ad banner. Same ad type that’s available in AMS, but this appears to be a little different as it has better reporting. Can send traffic directly to Amazon Store pages
Long Term Storage Fees August 15
Long term storage fees are coming up on August 15. If you have a lot of inventory in stock then you might get burned. Before you try and liquidate your inventory, check and see how much the fees will cost you versus the cost of liquidation. In most cases I see, it makes sense just to pay the fees and keep selling as normal. People get up in arms over these fees, and they are annoying, but make sure to calculate the pros and cons of liquidation before doing it.
Amazon feedback removal requests have changed location
Amazon feedback removal requests are now done through feedback manager and not through contacting support. I assume if you’re listening to this then you know what feedback removal requests are so I’l skip the details. I’ve been noticing for a while that Amazon is using more and more automation to handle feedback removal anyway so this makes sense to me. Obviously, they want to make it more efficient. If you still have issues with feedback removal requests, you can still contact support. I don’t see this as a big issue. Amazon is just changing the workflow and sellers will adjust.
New Amazon return policy for merchant fulfilled orders
Amazon has a new returns policy for sellers who do their own fulfillment. starting Oct. 2, items they sell will be “automatically authorized” for return. That means a buyer will no longer need to contact the seller before sending an item back, and the merchant won’t have the opportunity to communicate with the customer. If a consumer is returning an electronic device because it’s difficult to use, for example, the seller won’t be able to offer help before being forced to pay a refund. Should you be worried about scammers who return items that are good and just want them for free? Honestly, probably not. I find that most people are honest and returns are low for good products, even if you offer a 100% money back guarantee on what you sell. Also, Amazon is allowing sellers to exempt some items from this automated return process. It seems that Amazon is trying to unify their shopper’s experience so that all customers get the same level of customer service. All in all, while this will infuriate some sellers, I think this is good for the marketplace, as the more trust shoppers have in Amazon, the better it is long term for sellers. I also think that sellers should participate in FBA if they aren’t already, and this change just drives home the point that Amazon wants the customer to have the same experience regardless how the seller fulfills their orders. This gives sellers another reason to sign up for FBA.
Brand partnering with Amazon on the tech side
This is an interesting story I came across – a mattress company called Tuft & Needle gets 25 percent of its sales through Amazon is now opening a retail store in Seattle and is equipping the store with Amazon tech to sell their beds. customers will find tablets to read product reviews from Amazon; Alexa-powered Echo devices programmed to answer customer questions; QR codes to enable one-click purchasing through the Amazon app; and, eventually, the company hopes, the perk of two-hour delivery through Amazon’s Prime Now service, too. It’s an interesting story of a company doubling down on its relationship with Amazon. Will other brands do the same? Why has Amazon picked this mattress company among all the others? If Amazon picks your company, then do you have it made? It will be interesting to see what comes of this and if other brands jump into this boat of integrating with Amazon this tightly.
Wall Street Segment
For the first time in Amazon’s history the percent of units by marketplace sellers reached 51 percent. This is the first quarter where marketplace sellers contributed more than Amazon itself. So congratulations to all of you out there listening to this who sell on Amazon! In Q3 of 2016 it was 50%, but in this most recent quarter sellers have crossed the 50% mark. Total Amazon marketplace sales by just sellers is expected to reach $135 billion with a B this year! Sales by sellers will continue to grow faster than Amazon retail sales.
Amazon ads are also growing. This is going to be hard for third party sellers as once big brands start advertising on Amazon the cost to advertise and drive traffic to your listing is going to increase, but for now, I’m not seeing ads get more expensive but this is something we all have to watch out for. Amazon is taking ad spend away from Google as it’s the default place to start a search for buying something.
Amazon’s stock was hit because it failed to meet Wall Street’s expectations as profit was lower than expected. Amazon is investing in international expansion, especially into India.
Amazon puts 97 cents of every dollar in sales it earns back into growing the company. Investors might not like this in the short term, but clearly the strategy has been working well for Amazon long term. I think it would be a bad move to bet against Amazon, and I think buying Amazon stock right now during this dip is a good idea.
Amazon is planning a home makeover show featuring YouTube stars. The show, ‘Overhaul,’ will feature furniture and other products people can buy on Amazon.com. If the model proves successful, it could bring on more shows blending entertainment and commerce. I’ll link to this article in the show notes if you want to read more about it: http://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-youtube-overhaul-home-makeover-web-show-2017-7. I’ve seen big YouTube personalities come out with their own branded products and this makes sense. You gotta promote products where the audience already hangs out.
This week Shopify reported earnings and posted huge gains to crush expectations. Revenue grew 75% year over year, and now over 500,000 merchants are using the platform. The stock went way up this week to over $100 and then dipped back down a little bit.
Here is another cool factoid: 131 million people have made a purchase from a Shopify store within the last 12 months.
Shopify also is handing out its new Chip and Swipe Reader hardware for physical sales, free to any merchants who haven’t yet received one.
Shopify is now creeping into competition with Square and PayPal, and this is going to make things interesting. The stock is way up this year but I’m still bullish on its prospects.
My take is that the growth of Amazon third party sellers will move together with the growth of shopify. Sellers need both Amazon and Shopify now in order to build an ecommerce business. I still think the future is incredibly bright for Shopify’s stock.
That’s it for today. Thanks for listing.
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Until next time, keep selling and keep growing.