Let me tell you a story about how things used to be on Amazon in the good old days. When you were doing things right it usually meant that you would get good results. That means that if you had good product images, well written and SEO-friendly title, bullets and descriptions, well-optimized Amazon PPC campaigns, and, of course, a good quality product, things will work out well for you and eventually you will turn your products into good sellers on the platform. This doesn’t mean that you can relax even for a minute, with all the competition out there, so we were constantly improving our listings and product ranking strategies. As a result, we were really doing great for a few years. Our numbers were going up every month, we were launching new brands and products all the time, where some became great sellers, while others were doing just ok, and some simply were not worth hanging on to, but overall business was good. We were experimenting quite a bit and got our fair share of troubles, we got a couple of accounts suspended and had to literally restart our business a few times, but armed with the knowledge on how to launch a successful product, we managed to get back in the game relatively fast every time.
Everything was going great up to a couple of years ago when we felt a disturbance in the Force. We have been selling on Amazon since 2009, so we have had a long learning curve, which has taught us what works and what doesn’t. Our listings, product pics, PPC campaigns, review-building strategies, packaging, and inserts, had been optimized to the highest standards and still, we were seeing a slow but steady decline in sales. At first, we couldn’t figure out what was happening and what was the reason behind our constantly declining business. We were seeing new Chinese competitors who had just launched their products overtake us in just a couple of months, building up monstrous amounts of product reviews in days. Something wasn’t right at all, but we couldn’t figure out how they were doing it. Of course, we were aware of tactics like giving away products for free in order to gain reviews, or putting in inserts to ask for a review in exchange for something like a $10 or $20 Amazon gift card, but there was no way those loopholes alone could give them such a head start. Our company had been an ever-evolving organism around all sorts of trends, concerning Amazon product ranking, we have had our share of shady ways to try and rank our products ahead of the competition, but the Chinese sellers had a weapon which was definitely not part of our arsenal.
Everything became clear after a few guys from our office attended a seminar in Montreal about a year ago. They met up with a guy, whose name I won’t mention, an ex-Amazon employee who now runs a company offering Amazon services, which you wouldn’t find anywhere else, such as removing bad product reviews, merging dead listings so your ASIN gets a head start with old reviews and ranking, creating an A+ (EBC) page for your product without your account being part of the Amazon brand registry program, kicking sellers out of their listings for a certain period of time, buying competitors’ PPC reports, reporting that a product has misleading information and that something is not ok with it. You can even buy bad reviews for your competitors. The mentioned services are only about 10% of the menu, so you can imagine that we felt like Don Quixote standing against the windmills. Knowing what was going on on Amazon, our first thought was that if Amazon knew about this, they will surely put an end to it at once. Unfortunately, the problem proved to be a lot harder to solve than what it might look from the outside. At the moment, Amazon is denying that this is going on, as most banks would deny that there is a fraudulent activity going on in their systems, just so they can keep the customers calm and that everything under control.
The moment we found out about this, I flew out to China and I met with the guy in question. I was blown away by the organization he had in place, there were more than 50 people in his office handling this Amazon service business. He told me how things work, and how they manage to perform such services under the radar. It was no surprise then to find out that it’s mainly carried out by insiders, who manage to sweep such things under the rug. Of course, after finding out about all this, we put security locks in place, so our competitors wouldn’t be able to push us out of the way so easily. The circle of people who do this kind of thing is not very big as you can imagine. We have managed to find another two organizations in China, who have similar services and connections and we have started using them mainly to up our safety against our competitors. I have to say that ever since we found out about what is going on and how to counteract, our business has been back on the rise. Hopefully, this will be sorted out soon, but in the meantime, it’s good to know what your business is up against.