In today's article, I present the 19 most common mistakes made by Amazon sellers that I have repeatedly noticed in my daily account management over the last few months. By avoiding these mistakes, sellers should be able to optimize their sales and turnover figures. In the first few points, I talk in particular about optimization potential around the following topics Amazon SEO and Amazon advertising campaigns.
Other points I will mention in this article include errors in product display, product upload, Buybox monitoring and sales via other channels and to other countries.
1. incorrect use of backend keywords
Every Amazon seller can (and should) use the option of backend keywords for the products they offer on Amazon. In the vast majority of Amazon accounts that I optimize, I see the same mistakes again and again when using backend keywords.
Keywords with a total size of 250 bytes can be entered. However, I often see accounts that significantly exceed the keyword limit. However, if the limit of 250 bytes is exceeded, all keywords entered will be disregarded. Therefore, as a first optimization measure, it is essential to ensure that the byte limit is not exceeded.
The following rules apply to byte allocation:
Letters (A-Z) and numbers from 0-9 correspond to one byte.
For umlauts (Ä, Ü, Ö) 2 bytes are counted.
Special characters, such as the € sign, are counted as 3 bytes.
Another mistake that I keep noticing when revising the backend keywords is that keywords that have already been used are also entered in the backend keywords. The basic rule here is that keywords that are already included in the listing do not have to be mentioned twice. The keyword frequency plays an important role in the Amazon listing optimization does not matter and can therefore be safely neglected. By removing the duplicate keywords, space is created for additional, unique keywords that increase the visibility of the products.
Further notes regarding the use of backend keywords:
Keywords do not have to be named in the correct order for them to be taken into account. For example, a specific term can be used in the product title that matches one of the backend search terms. If this combination of terms is then searched for, the product is also included in the index of displayed products.
Upper and lower case letters are not taken into account.
Keywords with umlauts are also taken into account if the search queries do not contain the correct spelling (ä=ae, ö=oe, ü=ue).
2. no optimal campaign structure
Advertising campaigns are part of successful selling on Amazon. Be it sponsored products, headline search ads or display campaigns - it is impossible to sell successfully on Amazon without actively marketing your own products via the paid advertising formats on the Amazon marketplace. However, creating advertising campaigns is by no means the end of the story, even if many manufacturers and retailers think it is. In about 90 % of the accounts I optimize, I see a non-optimal campaign structure for the products. As a rule, campaigns should be structured according to products or brands.
This is what a non-optimal campaign structure looks like:
Campaign Brand X → Ad group All products
Regardless of whether it is an automatic or manual campaign, this campaign structure is not recommended. There are the following reasons for this:
All products in the ad group are now displayed with possible keywords. As these are usually different products (variants or even completely different product categories), there is no clear product differentiation. This means that ads can now be displayed for search queries that do not match the respective search query at all (e.g. keyword "blue shirt", but ad "white shirt"). This ultimately leads to a lower click rate on the ads and thus to a lower quality score. And if there are clicks on the ad, the conversion rate is usually unacceptable, resulting in unnecessary costs.
Another problem that arises when ad groups are too large is the lack of clarity about which product was sold via which keyword display. Although this problem cannot be completely solved, smaller ad groups (< 5 products) allow more accurate assumptions to be made.
This approach is also not optimal for the display of automatic campaigns, as only a standard CPC can be determined at ad group level. With a very heterogeneous product range with different sales prices, margins and conversion rates, a standard CPC is not expedient. To avoid this problem, several ad groups with a few very homogeneous products are recommended. Only products that cover the same search terms should be sorted into an ad group. This applies in particular to product characteristics such as size and price. I therefore recommend the following campaign structure:
Campaign brand X → Ad group blue + XL (Exact)
→ Ad group red + L (Exact)
→ Ad groups green + M (Broad)
3. insufficient time for campaign analysis
After the first advertising campaigns have been launched, "newcomers" in particular want to analyze and adjust their campaigns on a daily basis. However, this enthusiasm is counterproductive, as Amazon campaigns in particular need some time to generate sufficient figures as a basis for campaign optimization. Firstly, the "current" data in the campaign report is not up-to-date, but tends to be delayed by 24 hours. Another point to bear in mind is the attribution window for advertising campaigns on the Amazon marketplace, which is 14 days. This simply means the following: If a potential customer clicks on your ad, but does not immediately place an order, but views the advertised product again within the next 14 days and then places an order, this order will be attributed to the campaign/advertisement with which the customer was in contact. This ultimately means that key figures such as sales, orders and AcoS change retrospectively. For this reason, I always recommend setting the campaign analysis window at least 7 days before the analysis date so that the true effects of the advertising campaigns can be analyzed. (The 7-day rule has become established in my company, but of course it is also possible to analyze after 14 days).
Another reason why campaigns should not be "optimized" too hastily is the amount of data collected as a basis for decision-making. When optimizing advertising campaigns, I always make decisions based on data such as clicks, CPC, AcoS, etc. An essential part of optimization is the removal of non-performing keywords or the reduction of the maximum CPC for certain keywords. However, the first question that arises here is at what point a keyword is non-performing. Is it 10 clicks without a purchase? Or is it 25 clicks?
I cannot provide a general benchmark in this regard, as conversion rates vary depending on the product category and price range. However, care should be taken not to deselect keywords too hastily. As a benchmark, the product-related conversion rate can be calculated with a certain discount.
Product A has a product-specific conversion rate of 5 % - this means that a sale is generated after 20 visits/clicks.
As a rule to identify non-performing keywords, I apply a discount of 25 % to advertising campaigns.
As a result, if more than 25 visitors (conversion rate 4 %) have been reached via a keyword and no purchase has yet been made, the keyword is deselected or its maximum CPC is downgraded.
However, such decisions can only be made if sufficient data is available!
4. exclusive campaign optimization based on AcoS evaluation
AcoS stands for "Advertising costs of Sale" and is one of the most important KPIs in the placement of advertising campaigns, as it relates advertising costs to advertising revenue.
Example: Our product costs €100 and an average of €20 is needed to market it via advertising campaigns - then the AcoS 20 is %.
The AcoS is a relatively easy-to-understand KPI and serves as an important parameter for most salespeople. The aim of most salespeople is to reduce the AcoS. However, retailers neglect key figures such as sales and turnover potential. If only a low AcoS is used as a target value and not the total sales and profit generated, retailers are leaving a lot of sales potential untapped.
To reduce AcoS at campaign level, retailers can take two measures. The first measure is the use of negative keywords to exclude non-performing keywords. Unfortunately, this leads to keywords being prematurely excluded without sufficient data being used for evaluation. This ultimately leads to a reduction in the number of advertised keywords and therefore ultimately also in the number of impressions and conversions.
The second option for Amazon merchants to reduce the AcoS through campaign optimization is to reduce the maximum CPC of the keywords. This results in lower costs per click, but also reduces the number of possible clicks and therefore the number of possible conversions.
Instead of focusing exclusively on the AcoS, retailers should also look at the sales performance and the overall profit achieved. Particularly in highly competitive product categories, it can make strategic sense to accept an unprofitable AcoS in order to gain visibility in organic search results.
5. a limited daily budget and too low keyword bids for advertising campaigns
Another optimization point that I regularly see in advertising campaigns on Amazon concerns a daily budget that is too low and is already exhausted during the course of the day. A limited daily budget means that retailers miss out on both impressions and sales. For this reason, the campaign manager should be checked regularly, as the message regarding an insufficient daily budget is displayed there.
The problem with low keyword bids is that the probability of your own ad being displayed for the respective search term is very low. Especially at the start, the keyword bids should be somewhat higher in order to compensate for the missing quality factor through higher CPC.
Both points - a limited daily budget and too low keyword bids - mean that the maximum cannot be extracted from the Amazon campaigns.
6, Use of different keyword options at ad group level
Another mistake I often see in account audits is the use of different keyword options in a single ad group. This error goes in the same direction as the errors discussed in point 2. For advertising campaigns on Amazon (sponsored products or headline search ads), there are three different keyword options that can be used to control the display of the ads: "Broad Match", "Phrase Match" and "Exact Match". To find out more about the different keyword types, you can read the article "Guide to sponsored product campaigns" with pleasure.
The use of several keyword options in a single ad group can lead to keyword overlaps, meaning that the ad is eligible for a search term with several stored keywords. Ultimately, this makes campaign optimization more difficult, as search terms can now be displayed across several keywords and these must be taken into account.
7. no use of negative keywords
By using negative keywords, Amazon merchants can better control the display of advertising campaigns, as the use of negative keywords tells Amazon for which search terms the ad should not be displayed. Negative keywords should always be used, especially for manual broad match campaigns and automatic campaigns, so that no unnecessary budget is spent on keywords that match the advertised product.
When optimizing campaigns on a daily basis, I often notice that campaigns are shut down prematurely if they do not reach the target values. A glance at the search term report is often enough to understand which search terms are responsible for sales and which are responsible for costs. As a rule, it is only a small number of search terms that are responsible for target values not being achieved. These search terms should be identified and ultimately booked as "negative keywords".
8. placement of advertising campaigns on non-optimized product listings
In addition to the optimization of advertising campaigns, the product listings on Amazon should also be created in such a way that there is a high probability of conversion. Time and again, I observe the phenomenon that advertising campaigns do not deliver satisfactory results. In these cases, the campaign design is usually criticized prematurely without gaining a more detailed overview of the advertised products. An optimally created campaign is only half the battle, the other 50 % are determined by the product listing. Without an optimized product listing, the target values of the advertising campaign will also be difficult to achieve. Product listings with only one product image, little description, poor shipping conditions and a sales price that is significantly higher than the competition have a significant impact on sales via advertising campaigns.
Therefore, the focus of advertising campaigns should not only be on the campaign structure, keyword bids and keyword options, but of course also on a conversion-optimized product listing. By optimizing product listings, I have observed a reduction in AcoS of up to 50 % in practice.
9. no campaign playout for products that are already displayed on the first search results page
Another mistake that some retailers make is deactivating advertising campaigns for products that appear on the first search results page for the main keyword as an organic placement. The following argument is usually used here: Why should money be invested in an advertising campaign when you already have organic placement on the first search results page? However, the fact that a second presence on the first search results page can be achieved through advertising campaigns and that the placement on the first organic search results page can also be lost by switching off the advertising campaigns is usually not taken into account. Just because the respective product appears on the first page or even occupies the first organic placement does not mean that the maximum turnover has already been reached. Advertising campaigns should therefore be placed independently of the organic placement. Each additional sale of your own product also prevents the customer from purchasing a competitor's product and thus establishing a customer relationship with the competitor.
Brief summary: The first nine points related to mistakes and misunderstandings when placing advertising campaigns on Amazon (sponsored products, headline search ads, etc.) and optimizing for Amazon search (Amazon SEO). In the next step, I will now present mistakes and misunderstandings in other areas of selling on Amazon.
10. exclusive focus on main keyword
It is relatively easy to determine the main keywords for a product. For example, if customers want to buy a vitamin B supplement, they will search for "vitamin B". However, this does not apply to all buyers! There are plenty of customers who have a different search behavior. It may be a more specific search query, such as "vitamin b complex vegan". If the different search queries are not taken into account, then your own product will not appear for these types of search queries either. Therefore, you should not focus exclusively on the main keywords, which are usually very obvious. As a result, the competition for these main keywords is very high and it is therefore also very difficult to gain relevant rankings. Focusing on long-tail keywords not only ensures that quick successes can be measured, but also leads to a higher conversion rate than with generic main keywords.
What exactly is a customer looking for when they search for "vitamin B"? It could be a "vitamin B complex" or a "vitamin B12 preparation". Furthermore, it is not yet clear whether the customer is looking for tablets or a liquid vitamin B preparation. This very generic search query ultimately leads to a high search volume, but low conversion rates compared to specific search queries (long-tail).
Due to the increased competitive pressure for generic search terms, the recommended CPC for advertising campaigns is usually higher than for specific search queries, which leads to a lower efficiency of advertising budgets.
11. non-compliance with the Amazon style guides
Amazon style guides are general requirements for product presentation on the marketplace. The style guides differ depending on the category, so it is almost impossible to make general statements about when a product listing is not compliant with the Amazon style guides. You can find a presentation of the different style guides here here find. Non-compliance with Amazon style guides can result in listing components such as the title or images not being displayed as desired. Amazon has already installed "filters" in some categories that categorically reject listing components that do not comply with the style guide. Unfortunately, Amazon retailers are not informed about these measures. Furthermore, it regularly happens that products that do not comply with the style guides are hidden and therefore cannot be found and purchased. The hiding of articles inevitably leads to a drop in sales and should therefore not be ignored.
To obtain a list of the hidden products, select the menu item "Hidden" in the stock management, as shown below.
12. product variants not shown as variants
When selling on Amazon, products can be offered either with or without a variant. Which variant relationships are possible is shown in the style guides for the respective category. Not creating product variants (e.g. T-shirts in different colors) is a mistake that is regularly made. This can be due to ignorance or a lack of time. However, product variants offer several advantages that can increase success on Amazon. The first advantage is that product reviews of the variants are added together (as of July 2018: some adjustments are currently being made to the display of reviews).
By combining the reviews, the number of reviews for each of the variants increases, which ensures that potential customers have a higher level of trust if the reviews are good. The second often underestimated point is the increased likelihood of upselling and cross-selling, as the product variants are immediately displayed on the product detail page. Especially when retailers work with promotions such as 10 % discount when buying 2 products, product variants are an excellent way to draw attention to additional products.
13. wrong category selection for product upload
An essential product feature that should not be missing from the product presentation on Amazon is the associated product category. When selecting the appropriate product category, Amazon merchants should analyze the different classifications in detail in advance, as it is quite possible that there are several suitable product categories for the respective product.
A shoulder bag can be used both in
Shoes & Handbags > Handbags & Shoulder Bags > Men's Bags > Handle bags
as well as in
Suitcases, Backpacks & Bags > Handbags & Shoulder Bags > Men's Handbags > Shoulder bags
be categorized. At first glance, there is no difference between the two different classifications. However, there are different style guides for both categories, which means that the presentation of the product listings and therefore ultimately the sales performance can differ significantly.
Without a thorough preliminary analysis, even the wrong product categorization can lead to a significant competitive disadvantage.
14. no consideration of Amazon notifications (payment account verification, quality warnings, etc.)
In addition to product presentation, optimizing product listings and running advertising campaigns, there are numerous other tasks that go hand in hand with selling on Amazon. Account management also includes responding to Amazon notifications in a timely manner. For example, products are regularly set to inactive by Amazon because quality warnings such as missing attributes or brand names are ignored. For this reason, the entire stock should be checked regularly so that quality warnings are processed before the product is set to inactive.
In addition to quality warnings, there is a whole range of other notifications that occur regularly. Ignored Amazon notifications can even lead to the entire stock being deactivated in the short term if measures are not taken in good time.
15. no monitoring of buy-box ownership
The buy box or shopping cart field is used to add products to the shopping cart. What is a matter of course in most online stores is not the case with Amazon, however, because every Amazon retailer has to earn the shopping cart field first. You can find out which criteria are taken into account in my blog post "Amazon Buy Box criteria 2018". It is important to note that not every retailer has the Buy Box for a product and that retailers can gain and lose the Buy Box. If a product only has a small percentage of the Buy Box, this naturally has a dramatic impact on sales and turnover figures. Without a buy box, the conversion rate drops and advertising campaigns cannot be played out. This leads to lower organic visibility, which ultimately means lower sales.
Many Amazon retailers take the Buy Box for granted and are then surprised when their own products do not have the Buy Box. However, in order to sell successfully on Amazon in the long term, it is essential to analyze the percentage Buy Box ownership so that measures can be developed to increase the percentage ownership. To evaluate the percentage of Buy Box ownership per product, select Reports → Statistics & Reports in Seller Central. We then select the menu item "Detail page sales and traffic by parent product" in the left sidebar. We now receive an analysis per parent product with KPIs such as Order total or Units ordered, but also a view that reads as follows: "Shopping cart field percentage value". Here we can now see how often the products have the Buy Box.
In my opinion, this analysis is carried out far too rarely and should be regularly compared with previous periods so that action measures can be derived to increase the percentage value of the shopping cart field.
16. out-of-stock problem
Insufficient stock when selling on Amazon can lead to long-term disadvantages in terms of sales performance. This applies not only to missed sales while products are out of stock, but also to the risk of ranking losses. The problem can be counteracted relatively easily, as Amazon Seller Central provides retailers with the Amazon Sales Coach, which draws attention to low stock levels and even calculates how long the current stock level will last in days (based on sales data from the last 30 days).
17. lack of product differentiation/lack of USP
In the 16 previous points, I have not even mentioned the product to be sold itself. However, this has the greatest influence on success or failure when selling on Amazon. The majority of Amazon retailers sell products that have no clear differentiation and no clear advantage over competing products. As a rule, these are me-too products that differ only in terms of a different brand name and packaging, but nothing more. However, an undifferentiated product cannot become successful in a very competitive product category (just take a look at the categories of various dietary supplements) in the short or long term solely through Amazon SEO and Amazon campaigns.
For this reason, product research with a competitive analysis (including SWOT) is unavoidable if long-term success is the goal.
18 No internationalization on the European marketplaces
A huge advantage of selling on Amazon is the relative ease of internationalization. With just a few clicks, revised product listings and campaigns geared towards the respective target country, Amazon retailers can reach customers in France, Spain, Italy and the UK with little effort. Through internationalization, retailers not only open up new sales markets, but can also successfully occupy the less competitive sales markets in France, Italy and Spain in the long term (keyword: first mover advantage). Unfortunately, I see hardly any Amazon accounts with a well thought-out international strategy to be successful in all markets.
19. exclusive focus on the Amazon marketplace
Amazon is undoubtedly the most important online marketplace for selling products. However, I consider exclusive sales via Amazon to be grossly negligent, as there are enough people who use platforms such as Google, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest and can already be picked up there by the retailer. As a rule, these are people who are not yet actively interested in buying.
However, this is also the reason why these platforms are so attractive, because through initial brand contact outside of Amazon, retailers can build a customer relationship that Amazon will never make possible. An emotionally charged brand that is built up via social media can not only enjoy a loyal customer base, but also achieve a higher price level than an Amazon retailer that only sells its products via the Amazon marketplace.
Successful brand building, which nowadays is largely achieved via social media, also leads to people actively searching for the brand rather than synonyms in the long term. This is reflected in advertising costs at the latest.
With this post, I've noted the most common mistakes or misconceptions related to selling on Amazon that I've noticed in my day-to-day work. The above 19 points prevent retailers from realizing the full potential of selling on Amazon. There are probably many more points that I haven't touched on in this post. I hope that you have received some tips and food for thought and will be even more successful selling on Amazon.