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September 18, 2020

Episode 5: Creating Listings That Convert

Robyn Johnson shares Amazon listing optimization strategies

In This Episode

Robyn Johnson is an expert in Amazon marketing, and the founder of Marketplace Blueprint, an agency that helps brands manage their presence on Amazon. She shares her Amazon story and talks with Tommy about listing optimization strategies.


Tommy Beringer:

What's up you data-hungry Amazon sellers? This is your host Tommy Beringer of the Sell, Rank, Win podcast from MerchantWords. In this podcast, we give you the answers to your most burning questions, actionable insights that you can take away and implement into your business today. Let's go ahead and dive right into today's episode. What do you say? Let's go.

In this episode, episode five, we're going to talk about some listing optimization strategies as well as always giving you some actionable tips and tricks at the end. So stick around and let's go ahead and dive right in.

What's going on, my MerchantWordians? How are you all today? Thank you for joining episode five. On this podcast, we have a very, very special guest, an expert in her field. She started out as an Amazon seller herself. She is a contributor to Search Engine Journal, and now owns her own agency that helps brands manage their presence on the Amazon marketplace. Without further ado, I bring you, Robyn Johnson, from Marketplace Blueprint. How are you, Robyn?

Robyn Johnson:

Good. How are you today?

Tommy Beringer:

I'm awesome. I'm awesome. Thank you so much for joining this podcast. It's a pleasure to have you on.

Robyn Johnson:

Always a pleasure to be able to share a little bit about my nerdiness when it comes to marketing on Amazon. It's a tricky place and it can be frustrating, especially if you're used to other venues.

Tommy Beringer:

Oh yeah, absolutely. I think that's what we're doing here today is just helping those users out and navigate that pain point for them and trying to help them out with these problems here. Robyn, if you can go ahead and tell our listeners a bit about yourself and how you got into the Amazon space.

Robyn Johnson:

Well, before I sold on Amazon, I didn't have any digital marketing experience. I didn't really have any business experience. That was a little over a decade ago though. We started with just a hundred dollars. We were doing the Dave Ramsey thing and we were just trying to make some ends meet. I worked for a church, and so they say the benefits are out of this world because the pay is not. I was like, "If we could just make just a little bit extra on the side, man, that would just change our whole world."

We took the 520s out of our emergency fund. I can still remember them in my hand. It felt like a million dollars. We took it and we bought things at garage sales. It was a great time to start a business because I had a six-month-old and a toddler. So I was toting them around. I'm pretty sure my son's first sight word was a garage.

From doing that, we went over to selling on eBay and selling on Amazon and we started to really blow up and we started to sell on Amazon as well. We were doing a lot of buying in stores and then we moved into buying wholesale. As our business grew and grew, we grew that hundred dollars into a million dollars in just a few short years.

Then what we found was Amazon was this huge pain point for brands. So the brands that we started working with wholesale, we started to provide some extra services trying to help them resolve some things, make sure the listings were updated. We found that we were able to help significantly increase the number of sales and total revenue and even the profitability of a brand by doing things like optimizing the listing. We'd be helping them with advertising and rolling them in special programs.

As we got better and better at that, we ran into companies that were like, because of my relationship with my brick and mortar stores, having you as a three-piece seller just doesn't work for us. Can you manage our stuff on our behalf? So we started an agency, I guess it would have been about three or four years ago. Maybe it's getting closer to the four or five now. We had worked with brands of all different sizes from companies who had the idea, but they were pre-revenue to companies that are big enough where the street that their company is located is named after their company and have lots of brick and mortar representation.

So it's been a lot of fun getting to work in partnership with brands. I've got to tell you, I love, love, love what I do. I love getting to partner with small brands looking Miss Teas and things along those lines that allow us to really kind of take a product that we really believe in and help make sure that people who want to buy that product are able to find it on Amazon.

Tommy Beringer:

Very, very cool. Love that. It's always good. It feels great to help people, no matter what it is. I think that's always... And it's great that you love what you're doing as well. And it sounds like you started with the arbitrage model then.

Robyn Johnson:

We did. We didn't know anything about listing optimization. It was completely foreign to us, but now that we've been doing it for so long, we really can't imagine trying to sell any product, whether you're a 3P seller or a brand owner, and let's say something like a Nike shoe or a box of Legos without really optimizing the listing. It seems like it's leaving money on the table. We did a lot of coaching with people who did wholesale and retail arbitrage and they'll say, "Well, what's the one thing that I really need to learn to kind of be able to sustain the next changes in the market or to be able to continue to grow my business?" And I really feel that listing optimization, basic advertising strategy, those are the things that are most important for those who are really looking to make a long-term play here for the Amazon platform.

Tommy Beringer:

Absolutely. Totally agree with you. I think that is something that sellers and even bigger brands overlook is the optimization of their listing, especially their title. And then just some good old fashion PPC sponsored ad campaigns. I know there are some new strategies out there, but just sticking to those always really help as well. That kind of leads me into my next question is what are the top two problems that you solve for your clients over at Marketplace Blueprint? What are these brands and sellers begging you to help them with?

Robyn Johnson:

Well, it really can have a wide range. There are some folks that say, "I have a great product. I know people are searching for it, but I'm stuck with this one thing with Amazon." Maybe they can't get the listing updated. Well, we had a brand that whoever created their listing misspelled their brand name and they've been trying for three months to get it resolved. We fixed it in 30 minutes. Then sometimes it's a bigger problem. One of our larger clients, they had a problem with unauthorized sellers selling actually at above retail value, people who were... So they were trying to figure out how to get rid of these unauthorized sellers. For each individual product, there were like 10 listings of each of them.

They really wanted to kind of centralize it. They wanted to be able to kind of control the way their products were being displayed and make sure that they're displayed in a way that was consistent with their brand. For them, that's the first thing we started cleaning up. Then after that, we started running their advertising, and we have been able to significantly grow their year over year revenue and profitability on the marketplace with those things. That's been really, really fun. So it can be anything from, I'm trying to accelerate our growth to there's a problem on Amazon, either the way people are finding us or the way that our product is being represented or sold that we can work with folks.

Tommy Beringer:

Very cool. Do you do any reinstatements? Like if someone has their account taken down.

Robyn Johnson:

We don't specialize in reinstatements. The two people that we recommend for that are going to be Cynthia Stine of eGrowth Partners and Chris McCabe of eCommerce Chris. We've sent lots of clients there. Then if somebody has a specific problem with... They need an IP attorney that knows Amazon really well, we generally recommend Casey Hewitt Vaughn.

Tommy Beringer:

I know some people that actually need their listing or excuse me, their whole account reinstated. So I will let them know about these companies you just mentioned and people. Thank you for that.

Robyn Johnson:

Oh, no problem.

Tommy Beringer:

I read your latest article over at Search Engine Journal about how to get the most out of your sales with Amazon's brand analytics. Thank you so much for the mention, by the way, for MerchantWords in there. And it was very informative. In conjunction with Amazon's brand analytics, how would you use MerchantWords with that?

Robyn Johnson:

If you're not familiar with what brand analytics is, once you're part of the brand registry program, and the brand registry is like the abracadabra of the Amazon world. Once you're in this brand registry program, you have to have a live trademark. If you don't yet, you want to Google Amazon IP Accelerator Program. And that's how you can get in faster, usually within 10 to 14 days. It will open up programs that are really important, like Sponsored Brand, which is what the headline is at the top. It allows you to add a video. Do you know that weird content that's in the middle of some pages? If you've been trying to figure out how people got that, Brand Registry is how they do that. So you have access to that, and also Brand Analytics on the Brand Dashboard.

So the Brand Dashboard, you can actually go in there and it will tell you these are the listings that are not optimized. These are the listings that need better images. In Brand Analytics, it helps provide you with research according to your brand. So you can see what search terms are popular and which terms are more popular than others. And you can even see, for this particular search term, this is what somebody clicks on now. Sometimes when people say, "Oh, look, there's a search term tool there. Now I don't need MerchantWords or any other search word tool because this is [inaudible 00:09:26]." Now I've actually tested and I put the same query in one and the same query in the other. With Brand Analytics, it will kind of sneak out some of the... Kind of fluff out some of the words, but the number of words that you're going to generate for each keyword that you enter is significantly, significantly smaller.

For example, there was one that I did. I just put garlic salt in there and I got less than 10 results on Brand Analytics and I got hundreds of results on MerchantWords. Both of those have their pros and cons and both of the data sets are important. We're just going to use them a little differently. When I'm looking at Brand Analytics, I'm looking at when somebody types in the search term, regardless of who's in the first position, this is what's getting clicked the most. So how many people, of the hundred people that come here, maybe 25 are coming to click on this one particular link. And then 10% of those convert. If we see that there's a lot of people going to this one link and a lot of high conversions, wow, this is a really relevant match. If our product is like theirs, that's a really good green light. If our product is very different from that, then maybe this keyword isn't necessarily as relevant as we thought.

The other thing we can look at is if I'm trying to loosely connect may be a keyword that I think might be relevant in. So I see, okay, there is a connection here. We can actually see that competitor that we were kind of basing on why this would be a good kind of train to chase, maybe they're not converting very well. So maybe that gives us an opportunity to rethink those things. Then things like the market basket analysis, it'll say, when people buy your product, they're also buying this competitor product. That can tell us what are things that maybe you want to put together in a bundle or maybe additional product opportunities.

So it's a real depth of information, and up to now, it's been pretty rare to get data like that specifically from Amazon. The one thing that I like to reiterate on the Brand Analytics is there is a search term ranking, and it looks a lot like search volume. When you just look at it's 20,000, 50,000, there's a number there, that is not the search volume. It's search rank. The closer to one, the better, so on MerchantWords, the closer to a million is better, right? Or above. And on Brand Analytics, the closer to one is better.

Tommy Beringer:

Yeah. That's value bomb after value bomb right there. Thank you, Robyn. Also with the Brand Analytics, market basket analysis is something some people don't even know about and some people don't look into too much. But if you guys do want to figure out what to bundle with, you can see what people are checking out in their cart with your product. That's some really good information there if you're looking to possibly scale or bundle with another product. Yeah. We've had people contact us at MerchantWords regarding... They said, "The search volume on the Brand Analytics doesn't match up to your search volume." We're like, "Well, that's not the search volume. It is the ranking." So thank you for clarifying that for our listeners out there.

Robyn, we like to give our listeners... We're going to wrap this up soon here, and towards the end, we always like to get some expert advice from an expert like you. We'd like to give our listeners at least one tip or strategy or trick that they can take away after listening to this podcast and then go ahead and implement it into their business today, right after they listen to this. If you can give us an actionable pro tip for our listeners out there, that'd be awesome.

Robyn Johnson:

Is it okay if I give you more than one?

Tommy Beringer:

Please. Yes, that'd be awesome.

Robyn Johnson:

Okay. I'm going to assume that most people listen to MerchantWords podcasts because they're trying to figure out how to optimize their listing. The first thing that I want you to look up and identify a report that's going to be really helpful in identifying whether or not the changes that you're making on your listing are actually working the way that you want them to. It also allows you to identify whether you have a traffic problem or a conversion problem. That's the detailed sales and traffic report by the child. So you go to reports, business reports, and then along the side there, you'll see one that says detailed sales and traffic. Especially if you have red, green, blue, then you're going to want to go by a child. So you can see whether or not, is the problem that I'm not getting sales because nobody's seeing my listing or because nobody's actually buying?

Now, once you get to that piece and you say, "Okay, if it's a conversion problem, then I want you to look at things like, do your images, tell everything that somebody needs to know? Are people asking questions that should have been answered in the images and the bullets?" Then I want you to also look at the reviews. What are people saying that they loved? What are people saying that they hated? And make sure that everything is, without the images, the bullets and the title by themselves have that information. And then without the bullets, the title and images still convey the most important pieces of information.

The reason for that is on mobile, the only thing you see without scrolling down is the title and the images. For mobile-first optimization, we really want to make sure we have infographics that we highlight any important features. Then also anything that maybe has been causing returns for us. So if you see that people are saying that this is a different size than I thought it would be, or it fits too tightly, then we want to have an infographic in there that says, "Snug fit to make you look great." Or something along those lines.

Now, once you have those pieces done and you're still trying to figure out, okay, well, it wasn't one of those pieces that were missing. I want you to go into MerchantWords and do a reverse ASIN search for your product and who you think is your most direct competitor. I want you to look at how many search terms that they're indexed for versus how many search terms you're indexed for. If there's a big discrepancy there, that tells you that you need to really rework the backend of your structured data and using advertising and maybe some special programs that you want to try to index for additional words. Sometimes this is easy as kind of replacing a word that you've used multiple times with a different version of the word. Sometimes it really is going into the flat file and adding things like genre and some of the more structured data like color. It can allow you to index for additional words.

But also remember as you get conversions from advertising and as people come through that advertising, you can kind of gain relevancy through a halo effect from these clicks and buys. And you're also going to get additional indexing through reviews. This is just something to keep in mind that everything that you do as holistically. I think three years ago, I would have said listing optimization is strategy A and advertising is strategy B. That really was the case three years ago. Today, they're really one strategy together. And if you're using one without the other, I pretty much can guarantee you you're leaving money on the table or burning money on the table. They really have to go together, and then make sure that you really looked into those special programs.

These are things like Brand Registry, things like Sponsored Brand, Sponsored Display has been really good for some of our clients, Subscribe and Save, Amazon Business. These are really important things. Then if you have additional questions, I mean, I'll also give you a Facebook group. We have a listing support group that you're welcome to come and join. That allows you to really look at... Say I have a specific question about my grocery product or I got this specific error code. I got the 5665 error and I'm not really sure how to fix that. We can kind of answer those questions. Several of my team members are in that group and we try to answer them as quickly as we can, but always feel free to tag me again. Sometimes we just get busy and we miss one.

Tommy Beringer:

Robyn, wow. Thank you so much for all of that. I hope you guys are taking notes right there. Another question I had about the backend field is, what other backend fields do you see that really matter, like the subject matter and those other fields back there other than the search term field?

Robyn Johnson:

There are some myths and some truths about flat files. Flat files are basically... If you've heard the term, but you're not really sure what it is, it's basically uploading your listing in a spreadsheet versus in doing in the interface. If you're going to do it in the interface, there's a tab called other that you can go in and add additional things. But we find that our listing changes happen easier. In my podcast, we actually had a whole episode on how to get Amazon to accept your listing changes. We're happy to answer questions on that as well.

But when it comes to like the different fields, first always go for the ones that are required. Then also, if you go into your specific category, you're going to see that certain fields have those little click boxes where you click blue and it filters by blue. Those ones are, I would say, the most vital. I heard somebody say if you fill out all the fields that nobody can overwrite those fields. I got bad news. That's not how that works. I like the idea of it. But if it was that easy, trust me, that would have been exploited a long time ago.

Tommy Beringer:

That'd be nice. That would be nice.

Robyn Johnson:

But you do want to fill out as many as are applicable and kind of look at, well okay, so if I need to talk about this color as a... I'm trying to think of something like a tumbler cup mug, and I need to, for some reason, use all of those words. If one of the filters has that in the word, and it's not going to be missing that word in the bullets. So it would be a word that when normally go in my backend keywords, then that's going to be one more word that I can put in those back ends.

The prioritization that I usually follow is the most important word to identify whether this is the right product for me or not without keyword stuffing. That goes in the title. Then next tier of most important words, and we prioritize relevancy over search volume. We're going to look at the frequency that those come up with to identify. And that's really something that the MerchantWords digital shelf does for you. So if you're using that product, it can be really, really valuable. In our Facebook group, we actually had George talking about the digital shelf report.

Then once we've used up those top tier spots, then what we're going to do then, a lot of people then take the ones that were leftover and they immediately put them in the backend search terms. We're missing a little step there. The next step is to start filling out your flat file and making sure that there's no place else that one of those words would appropriately fit. The reason I can't say use this column or use this column is if you haven't noticed, every flat file for every category is different. It can be super frustrating. So you really need to make sure that you're really looking at that.

The one thing that can really cause people a lot of trouble is that with flat files, as they'll go through to try to do that, but they don't realize that certain columns have accepted values. So there are certain columns that if you would type B-L-U-E comma red, or if you put it as a plural instead of a singular, then it won't accept that at all. It will reject your entire flat file. So it's understanding really that the flat files are really important and we have a video that can help you with that too. But I think the bigger thing is there's a lot of training in there from Amazon about flat files or YouTube channels and they seem really overwhelming at first. The first couple of times you go to upload it, you'll think that this is stupid. There's no way that this can be faster. But as an agency, I can tell you that if you have a wide product mix, then you are going to want to learn flat files. It will save you so much time, so many labor hours.

We've had where companies have been doing it themselves and they expected us to have to clock maybe 70 or 80 hours to get something done based on their estimates. We were able to get it done in 15 or 20 hours and most of that was kind of going back and forth to get the information from them, not really the flat-file piece. So it saves a ton of time and it makes things like parent-child variations a lot simpler, and it allows you to make mass updates. So let's say you need to change the bottom bullet of all of your products. You can do that in less than 20 minutes on a flat-file where that might take you seven or eight hours depending on the product mix size in the interface.

Tommy Beringer:

Yeah, absolutely. Those flat files save a lot of time. Robyn, thank you for each value bomb after the value bomb. Really appreciate your time here. If you can just let our listeners know, where can they find you? Where can they contact you? And also let them know the name of your podcast as well, please.

Robyn Johnson:

Yeah. The podcast is called Marketplace Blueprint and it has some Amazon listing and things along at the end of it. It's a blue logo. Then we have a Facebook group that's called... And you can get to that by going to If you take off Facebook, then that'll take you to our website. So just I suppose you probably can guess what my email is. It's Robyn. R-O-B-Y-N, like why does she talk so fast? [email protected].

Tommy Beringer:

Awesome. Thank you so much. I think I have some barking dogs and gardener lawnmowers in the background here. Hopefully, our listeners don't mind. Robyn, thank you again so much for coming on. Again, really appreciate your time and you taking the time out of your day to come on with us here at the MerchantWords podcast, and I wish you all the best. Guys, please go ahead and contact Robyn if you need any of those types of services. She can definitely help you out. She's one of the best in the business and yeah, until next time, everybody stays awesome and is awesome.

Robyn Johnson:

Thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it.

Tommy Beringer:

Thanks, Robyn.

Robyn Johnson:


Tommy Beringer:


All right. Thank you guys much for listening. If you got any value out of this podcast at all, please let us know at the place that you listened to it, whether it be iTunes, Stitcher, or whatever it is. Give us some love. Give us an awesome review and let us know maybe some things you want us to talk about on the next podcast. Until next time, guys, stay awesome and be awesome.