Karon Thackston is on the show today. Karon has been helping Amazon sellers get more sales of the products they are selling on Amazon for several years.
If you've never looked at your listings on various mobile devices, or really tested the keyword selection in your backend listing settings area then you'll want to listen to this show for further details on these strategies and more great copywriting tips.
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Show Notes and Links
Chris Guthrie: Hello, everyone, Chris Guthrie here, host of Sellercast. And in today's episode I speak with Karon Thackston who helps people get more sales from the products that they're selling from Amazon by improving their conversion rate.
So, we specifically talk about tactics to improve your sales copy and the product title, the bullet points and the description. So, listen this episode and if you have any questions free to go to sellercast.com/17 to check out the show notes and I think you're going to enjoy this episode. So, let’s start the show.
Hello, everyone. Chris Guthrie here and with me today is Karon Thackston. Karon, thank you so much for coming to talk to us today.
Karon Thackston: Absolutely. Thanks for the invite.
Chris: Yeah. So, I know you run Marketingwords.com and you've been doing sales copy for variety of different things and for this episode we'll be primarily focusing on sales copy for Amazon sellers. Can you give us a bit of your brief background on the copywriting side and then we can talk some more about what people can be doing to improve their sales copy?
Karon: Sure. Marketing Words started in 1999. So, we've been hanging around on the internet for about 16 years; started out doing website copy and offline types of copy brochures and pamphlets and whatever and eventually morphed into an online copywriting agency. So, now if it has anything to do with words online we can probably create that for you including Amazon product descriptions.
Chris: Okay. And right now, just as curiosity. Is it most of your business… people who are doing Amazon copyright listings or is that kind of the trend lately or is it may be split amongst the other stuff?
Karon: It's split among the other stuff. We do a lot of website copy. We do a lot of ecommerce, product descriptions for privately owned sites, a lot of blog post and landing pages with PPC combinations and all sorts of different things.
Chris: Okay, great. So, going across all those angles then.
Chris: Then, let's talk about specifically Amazon sellers, though. So, I know that I might talk to sellers at conferences or at Skype or Facebook groups, etc. I always get a feeling that that they either loved to write their sales copy for their listings or more often than not they hate to write sales copy for their listings. So, this episode specifically I love to cover tips, strategies, common mistakes that sellers have.
So, let's just start with that. I mean, what are the biggest mistakes that you see sellers are making when they come to you asking to get their copy improved? And then that way, people that are listening can look at their own listings to see if they are making those same mistakes.
Karon: Sure. Without a doubt the number one biggest issue that we find revolves around keyword researching, keyword use in an Amazon listing. So, that actually happens before you begin to write but you need to have that in place prior to creating your title, your key feature benefit, your bullet points, your product description and what have you. And most of the time what we find is shallow keyword research. And keyword, well not, they do not call it keyword fields. If I say that people are going to get confused. Search term fields that are not properly used or formatted.
And when I talk about shallow keyword research, I mean, people that don't understand how the Amazon search term fields work and they don't understand the keyword research process. They stop and they think of the top of their head what are five phrases that I would use to describe my product and they enter one into each of the search term fields and they're done.
And that's maybe a beginning where you start to brainstorm and make a list of phrases that could possibly lead some shoppers to your product description on Amazon but it is the very, very beginning of it. From there, you want to spun out and when we're doing keyword research it turns out looking sort of like a spider web because one trail will connect to another trail which will give you an idea for something else and you go on and look for that. And oh, well you know people don't just call it this. There are synonyms for this term.
So then you look for each one of those synonyms which brings you to different ideas. And it's like ripples on the water. You start in one place and it just expands and expands and expands.
So, there's usually never a shortage of valuable keywords that you can a) fill up. There's five search term fields with and have more to go back and test later.
Chris: Sorry, I interjected. So you'd say pretty much that if someone's listening right now and they're saying, “I am struggling to figure out different types of keywords that I can use for my product.” They are really just scratching the surface. They need to dive in a lot deeper.
They might have the primary keyword that their product is used for and then maybe some very similar keywords with that one but then they aren't thinking about all different angles that that product can be found or to be just used as they’re listing it and everything else.
Karon: Exactly. And when we start the process we will go to Amazon.com. That's one of our best keyword research tools and begin to look at competitor listing. What comes up when you type in that primary key phrase that you think might be a good search term to use and look at the other listings. They are going to have other words in their titles and then at the bullet points probably that will just simply give you ideas. Forget about it helping or not helping with ranking well on Amazon at this point. Just for the idea generation purpose, you can go through and look at all these other sites.
Look over in the left hand column when you first do a search in the categories, you get tons of ideas. Especially click the “more button”. So, you're looking for maybe plastic containers that you want to use for lunches or to put leftovers in the freezer or something like this. And maybe you would prefer that they have sections in them.
When you're looking over in the left hand column after you typed in “plastic freezer containers” you're probably going to find three or four really great terms right off the bat.
One that I noticed the other day when I was looking for these types of containers to purchase was portion control containers which it never dawned on me before that people would use these proportion control.
When you go and search on a keyword tool like something that you offer through Amasuite and you're doing some keyword research, there you type in “portion control container” or “portion control plastic container”, whatever it was I decided to look for; I had a large search volume.
There are a lots of things that are in the category listing are off to the left hand side of the screen on Amazon can give you awesome ideas. Think of other words that people might use to describe the product that you have. All of these synonyms can really be great terms.
Misspellings – Amazon will tell you not to include misspellings, that their search engine will handle it. And then, in another place they tell you to include common misspellings or unique spellings, it's what they call the other phrase, that they use I believe. I put them in because I've done some test on this and I find that Amazon system doesn't always catch every misspelling that somebody would put in there. So, if you find some of these that are very common, then do some keyword research on it. See if there's a good search volume. And if there is, put those misspellings in the search terms.
Chris: That's a good take away.
Chris: Especially if it's commonly misspelled word.
Karon: Absolutely. And people don't misspell a word just one way. Usually you can find two or three different ways especially if it's something that's really hard to spell anyway.
Ingredients. Whether you are talking about a food product; whether you're talking about a beauty product, a health supplement, even materials, I say ingredients but if it's some type of material that's used in a manufacturing process that's unique; those could all be included potentially as search terms. Obviously, you have to go in and use the tool of your choice to find out what the estimated search volume is for all of these. But there's just an endless range of little rabbit trails you can run down.
And as you get involved in doing the keyword research processing, you go deeper and deeper. Like I said before one thing is going to lead you to the next which gives you a new idea and then you hit something else and go, “Wow, who would have thought?” So, there's a lot of ways that you can find valuable keywords to include in those search terms.
And once you find them, understand how Amazon operates as far as using those search terms. What you need to include? What's the waste of time and space to include? Amazon already searches in addition to the title, they already searched the brand, the UPC code, the manufacturer name. If you include it, the seller name, and there are a lots of others on there that I'm not thinking of right at the top of my head. But, all of these things are waste to include in your search terms because Amazon's going to those specific fields to search them anyway. So, you don't need to put those in.
Don't use commas. It isn't necessary. It just uses space. Instead of a comma, you want to use individual words.
Amazon is not like Google. As a matter of fact, as far as I've been able to tell in the years that we've been doing this, Amazon is the complete opposite of Google. So, if it applies when you're optimizing a page or a website for Google, it probably doesn't when you're doing it for an Amazon listing.
Google uses key phrases. And then, as a backup it uses individual words. Amazon uses individual words and they're searchable in any order. So you don't have to do.
Now, I understand PPC has all its little own rules and regulations. If you're doing Amazon sponsored ads, that's completely different in what we're talking about right now. That will get some people that say, “Oh Amazon runs on exact match.” No, that's not what we're talking about today.
But, understand how the format those five search term fields that you get so that you get maximum impact for driving traffic your way through those fields.
Another question that we get related to search terms a lot is, “What am I supposed to put in the platinum keyword fields?” Nothing. Unless you are a platinum which is also referred to as an A+ seller. That is in by invitation only program for huge corporations. So, nine times out of ten private label sellers are not going to be A+ sellers. If you were one, you would know it and you would be very proud of it.
You don't have to ask the question, “Am I an A+ seller?” And you cannot become one. It's an invitation only program so there's no way to apply for or what not.
I wish Amazon system would be, you would think it would be sophisticated enough only to show things like that to people who are actually A+ sellers but it doesn't. I've had people that put their search terms in the platinum keyword field and wondered why they had no traffic because it doesn't count.
Make sure that you're putting your key terms, your keywords in the search term fields, not in the platinum keyword field. They'll do you no good there.
Chris: Yeah, that's great. Everything on that back end especially if you're not familiar with having been selling on Amazon for that long, then it's easy to make those types of mistakes.
One thing I know you've talked about before is just the – I think that Amazon like bullets, not using these keywords in the product description within the search results, right? It was something like that you were telling me the last that we were talking.
Karon: Oh, in seller central.
Chris: Like, in that taking that effort.
Karon: Yes. They have it in for the longest time, they just had on one of the pages in seller's central. Amazon does not include the key product features, whatever they call it – the bullet point and the product description when they are indexing content for search. And it was just another bullet in the list of about five things that they were trying to remind you of.
And then, maybe a year or a year and a half ago all of a sudden you noticed that now it's yellow highlighted. It's still in the same list but they are like, “Listen to us people.” So now, the last bullet in that list is yellow highlighted that they do not indexed the bullets and the product description for a search. They may index them for other things but not for search.
Chris: So the reason I brought that up is because I actually was planning to mention this to you next time we spoke, but since we are here now and on the podcast, I might as well ask you here.
I want to play a bit of the devil's advocate. I was wondering if you thought that there's a chance that Amazon does actually do that but they didn't say that because they don't want you to see how it's very easy to just list the keywords that you want for example within your description or your bullet points and then get that up in the ranking boost.
Because I talked to other sellers, and again it's one of the things where there's so many different variables that can be impacting it, that I think some people believe that it does. Whereas, I know on the other side you don't believe that it does because it is stated right there in the back end. Just curious to see what you thought about that in terms of the devil's advocate approach.
Karon: I'm not taking Amazon's word for it, actually. I have never had anybody that could prove to me that having those keywords in the bullets or the product description for a viable term did any good whatsoever.
Usually the proof that I get is, “Oh we put supercalifragilisticexpialidocious in their or some other funky made up word,” which obviously has zero search volume, none whatsoever. “We put that in there and when we searched for it, ta-da! Our listing came up.” Well, of course it did. There is nothing else on Amazon that's going to even match that.
So, Amazon isn't saying they don't index the bullets or the product description at all for any reason. They are saying that they don't index them for search.
There was a guy that I had this conversation with via email the other day and he answered his own question. It was hilarious. I wish I could find it really quick. I would read it to you but he was explaining. He was asking the question. “Well, if you do it this way and you put the word in and this and that and the other thing and then,” while he's going through the process he's answering his own question. “Now, I see what you mean. Never mind, that won't work.”
But I've never had anybody that proved to me that that was a cause of their ranking’s increasing on Amazon or decreasing on Amazon. I have never had anybody prove it. If somebody has proof I am absolutely happy to take your information. And if you change my mind, awesome. I'm not steadfast because Amazon said that in seller central or I'm just steadfast in my belief because nobody's ever been able to prove it different.
Chris: Awesome. So then, if anyone's listening at the end of the recording I'll have a link to the show notes.
Karon: Oh, boy, what have I done now?
Chris: You can post the comments. But that would be great, if someone actually could do that. You're right and I asked you that question because I want to see what your take was on it because you talked to so many more sellers than I do and you have more intimate look in terms of other listings in the back end, search terms that they're using. That's why I want to bring it up.
Karon: And there are a lot of other variables like you mentioned. Nine times out of ten some of the keywords that you've research are going to show up in the bullets and in the description anyway just because it's kind of hard to write “about the product” if you don't mention all of these words.
So, I mean, literally you would have to go through and strip a listing of any and all keywords and see how it ranked and then only put them in the bullet and the products description and no place else in the listing and compare the two. And I've never found anybody once they get their listing up in selling they obviously don't want to strip it out in order to prove me wrong.
Karon: You'd have to have proof. We strongly suspect this is what's happening. No, that won't cut it.
Chris: Okay, so we've talked about kind of back end, the search terms fields within your seller’s central listing area. We talked about that, a little question I want to ask you.
What are some of the other things that people make mistake-wise. Remember, we could shift over talking about just title creation, bullet creation, description creation, different types of things like that that people needed to do for their listings.
Karon: Usually what we find happens quite a bit is that sellers assume that one link of copy or a title – or for that matter for the bullet points too – is better than another link of copy. Either people will want the title super duper short or they want it extremely long even if you exceed 200 characters or what not and they're steadfast in that belief. They are not willing to do any testing. They want it written a particular way and there you go. That's all you're going to do.
If you're selling on Amazon, you need to be open to testing your listings. Even if you have a professional created copy, there are so many variables in creating an Amazon listing and most of them are interconnected in one way or the other.
It's not like you can simply say the copy carries all the weight where conversions go. That's not it. There are images everywhere. There are price points to consider. There's the product itself. There are reviews to consider. There's a dozen different things that can play into bringing you traffic and then converting that traffic into a paying customer that have nothing to do with the copy.
So, in order to find out what type of title is going to work the best, yes, I mean, you put up you hire a professional to write it, you put up what they do, awesome. You test that and you see what it's going to do. If you feel there's room for improvement, then you start testing. And there's lot of ways to do that.
You can do the same approach with the bullet points. Some people say we just want only the information, no longer than ten words. Even ten words is too much. Other people want 500 characters or however much it's going to be.
I go somewhere in the middle when it comes to bullet points and it depends on what the product is, a good bit. But as a general rule we're probably going to go between a 150 and 200 words when it comes to the bullet points. There are definitely exceptions to that. But when you're testing to see how you can improve your title or your bullet points rearranging what you already have is a good place to start.
You can take the title that you have. Think of something off the top of my head – Casio desktop battery operated calculator or whatever your title is. And then, rearrange it.
Amazon is searching individual words in any order so it won't make a difference to Amazon when you're rearranging the words but it could make a difference to your customer. And people get so caught up in “what does Amazon want” that they sometimes forget that we're dealing with human beings also.
So, perhaps if people are travelling through Amazon at lightning speed like they usually do, moving one of those features to the front of the title instead of having it in the middle or the back of the title could bring in more attention if that's a feature that most customers are looking for in a desktop calculator. I say that because I looked at mine when I was getting this...
They do the same with the bullets. You know, you have them in one particular order but if bullet number four happens to be more important to the majority of people, then bullet number one especially if they're on a mobile device, they may never see bullet number four.
So, just simply reorder your bullet points. Keep them written exactly the same but just move them around and make sure that every bullet has the opportunity to be number one, number two, number three, you know, just rotate through five times. And see which one, watch your conversion rate and the amount of traffic that's coming to there.
You want to be sure that you have the same amount of traffic coming to each test you do or you're going to get skewed results. But then watch and see. And it could easily be – we've seen this happen many times before that putting just the right bullet up at the number one spot can jump your conversions.
Chris: I really like the suggestions to not even – when you say testing, I think the initial gut reaction people have is, “Okay I need to come up with a new title, or I need to come up with a new bullet points, or come up with a new description.” Everything else new whereas the suggestion is just take a step back and even going, well, a step back and maybe more or a step zero would be to just rearrange the words themselves because that can influence the conversion rate as well. So I like that.
Karon: And it's especially if you've got a listing that's already doing pretty decent. You know, if it's awful when you've got a .001 conversion rate then, you need some help quickly. But if it's pretty good and you're doing okay and you just want to do better, this is a really easy way to kick up another conversion percentage point or two just by doing some simple tests.
Chris: Yeah. And so the other thing too is that you like to suggest that you're rearranging and then also that you make sure you run the same amount of traffic. How much traffic do you typically suggest someone should run? And I know that kind of depend based on the amount of sales a product is getting. If you talk to someone that's on the top 100, that’s going to be masses and masses of volume. And someone that's in the thousands is going to get to need a little bit longer for testing. But do you have a rough range that you might build to get people for the number of sessions or views or whatever metric it is that you primarily like to look at?
Karon: I don't for the very reason that you just said. My only suggestion is that it be equal measure. So, if you just listed your product on Amazon and maybe you've had a thousand page views, unique session pageviews then when you put the next test up you want it to stand for a thousand page views.
Chris: Yeah, that makes sense. And the thing too, well I guess is that once people have run the test and they said they have decided, “Okay this is the one I want to run with,” and they're going to see even more and more traffic to that one test and then probably going to get more and more after results as he goes along as well in case that was potentially a fluke. So they could always change to another variation they tested as well. That's a good point.
Karon: Let me stress. I'm not saying that it needs to be 1,000.
Karon: Because we’re going to get comments about that too. I was just using that number as an example. It's just each test needs to have an equal measure of traffic.
Chris: Definitely. And the other thing too that you touched on briefly was looking at your listing on mobile. Have you found that most sellers aren't doing that? They're just looking at on their desktop, for example?
Karon: Exactly, yup. And mobile is being neglected. When we create product descriptions we have a couple of things that we purposely do in order to help descriptions work better and convert better on mobile based on the way they're viewed.
If you go and look at Amazon.com on a smartphone and then you look via the Amazon shopping app, you're going to see two entirely different things. If you use a tablet and you look at Amazon.com on a tablet and you look the same Amazon app that's on your smartphone but you're using it on a tablet, you're going to see something completely different.
So go and do some shopping on Amazon. Don't go look at your own product listing just yet but I really encourage that you spend a lot of time on Amazon with your customer hat on and not only with your seller hat on. You need to experience what all these other shoppers are…
The holiday season is still going on for 2015 right now. But, last year 60% sales on Amazon were through people who were using a mobile device. Six, zero percent. That’s a huge number. So as a seller, you need to be very familiar with what customers are viewing on all the mobile devices, tablets and smartphones and not only on a computer.
Chris: Do you know what percentage? Did they break down how much of that 60% was mobile phones and the other percentage was tablets? I'm going to say that it is more largely mobile phones but if you have the numbers, that would be…
Karon: I don't. And I haven't seen where anybody broke them down. If anybody else has seen it for 2015, please leave it in the comment section because I'd love to know. I did read in a couple of different places that the majority of those were smartphones.
But still, you've got people on tablets that are sitting on their couches. You know, college students in a classroom that are supposed to be listening to the professor in Art doing the Christmas shopping. They are tired of class and ready to get out anyway so they are on Amazon instead of paying attention to what they're supposed to be paying attention to.
Chris: So, we're getting close. We're wrapping up on time. I wanted to ask is there anything else that maybe we touched on briefly or that we didn't dive in as much detail that you want to make sure people know about when it comes to copywriting for their Amazon listings? And then after that, I wanted to ask you just a few more questions about your business.
Karon: Sure. I leave with a warning. Don't blindly follow what others are doing. I can tell you from years and years of experience that what you're seeing on the Amazon product detail page is not necessarily what's going on behind the scenes.
I get people that say, “This guy has his product priced $6 higher than mine and he has 382 five star reviews. And my product is less expensive, it's better quality and I can't hardly get any reviews and I want my listing to be just like him.”
And what they don't know is that guy contacted us last week to rewrite his listing because all 384 of his reviews were paid for or done with coupon codes and his conversion rate stinks. He has very few paid sales. All of his sales have come, all of his transactions have come thru freebie coupon codes and exchanges so that he could get those 385 reviews.
So, picking out – I understand the logic behind going to a product description that comes up high in the search results and thinking, “Oh, this guy's got it going on. He's all that and more.” But it isn't always the case.
And I can tell you I would venture to say that probably, a third of the clients that we have at Marketing Words are in that exact situation. They have tons of reviews, they have pricing that everybody envies. They have no legitimate sales or very few legitimate sales.
So, don't be fooled by impressions. Don't blindly follow what you see on Amazon. It may not be working for the people that you think it's working for.
Chris: Wow, that's great. Well Karon, thanks so much for coming on.
I do want to ask one last question. I know that you work with clients to do the copywriting work. What's your turnaround time like?
I’ll link to your company in the show notes here so that people if they want to be able to check that out, I’ll include that link after we're done recording. But, what's a turnaround time typically for?
Karon: Well, it varies greatly depending on what type of demand we have at the moment. Right now, we're looking at about three weeks turnaround time. It has been as low as ten days and it has been as long as five weeks. So, right now we're kind of in the middle but it changes.
Everything on the Amazon product description page on the Marketing Word site, the one you're going to link to – everything there is kept up to date and current.
So, the turnaround time listed on the page is accurate. What's included in the package is accurate. All the other information on there is kept up to date so it's very convenient for people to find everything they need in one place.
Chris: Yeah, great. Well, thanks Karon. Thanks so much for coming out and sharing some advice. I know, I think that a lot of people may not believe in spending as much time looking at their product listings on different devices just to even see what that listing looks like. And I think that's a common mistake people make and I'm glad you touched on that as well. And just thank you so much.
Karon: Thank you. I appreciate it.
Chris: Thanks, Karon.
Alright now, that’s the episode with Karon. Hope you've enjoyed the discussion that we had about improving your sales copies so you can get better conversions.
And also, if you have any proof that putting keywords into your product descriptions and the other areas can help get you more search rankings then, I'm sure that Karon would love to see it as well as we've talked about in the show. So, sellercast.com/17 to go to show notes area and post comments.
Thank you so much for tuning in and I'll see you in the next episode.