As people migrate to the digital marketplace, listings in e-commerce platforms such as Amazon face mounting pressure to grow and maintain their sales. Steven Pope recently launched an Amazon agency that optimizes listings through a systematic approach to advertising.

In this episode, Steven shares with us the trade secrets behind My Amazon Guy’s intelligent Amazon advertising. He believes in following an authentic approach to gathering clients, which allows him to acquire long-term, valuable customers. He has also hired 22 full-time employees in such a short period by having systems that mold amateurs into effective workers. 

Tune in to this episode to learn more about the inner workings of Steven’s Amazon agency

[03:35] Hey, Steven. Welcome to the show.

  • Thanks for having me, Trent. Appreciate it.

[03:39] So it’s a pleasure to have you here. For the folks who aren’t yet familiar with who you are and what you do, let’s start there.

  • Sure, my name is Steven. I’m the founder of My Amazon Guy, and we are a 22-person agency based out of the Atlanta, Georgia area, and we help Amazon clients grow sales. And we do that through a variety of methods—traffic generation, everything through SEO and PPC, and conversion, design, catalog management—all that good stuff.

[04:09] Okay, and when did you start the company?

  • Two-and-a-half-years ago, I had side hustle consulted for four or five years, been working on the corporate side as a marketing manager, director, and then one day got laid off from the latest failed startup. And I like to say I’ve worked for five failed startups in my career. I decided I’m, “You know what? I’m just gonna take the side hustle consulting and go-full time with it.” And then two months later, I had an agency full-blown. They went pretty quick. 

[04:40] And in two-and-a-half-years to get—you said, 22 people, is that right? 

  • That’s correct. 

[04:45] Now, are those 22 full-timers, or are those 22 people who are…?

  • Hundred percent full-time, and then in addition to that, some soft part-time workers as needed as well.

[04:58] So that’s pretty quick growth. Before we get into how you help your clients achieve success, I’m curious as to how you have grown the agency so quickly. To what do you attribute all the growth?

  • There’s some personality entrepreneur drive, for sure. You know, and Trent, you’re a big systems guy. And I think my agency is what I like to call “the scale of no return.” And what I mean by that is, it has grown so fast that if I didn’t have systems in place to cooperate success, it would completely fail and fall apart. And so, I attribute a lot of my success to being able to SOP my brain and systematize as much as possible, so that I could go and hire a bunch of college kids, straight out of college—some still in college—and turnover million-dollar brands and have them follow my process. And guess what? It works. Because if you put the system in place, and I know I’m preaching to the choir with you and your audience when I say these things, but when you do that, if you have a good model that works on one or two, and you can replicate it to a 100, that’s a system.

[06:19] Yep. And in terms of client attraction and lead generation, whatever you’re doing there must be working incredibly well because you can’t have growth with the lots of new clients. Give us an overview of what you’ve done.

  • Yeah. So my personality—I’m an architect, and I have spent significant amount of time investigating people and culture and all that good stuff. The reason I bring that up is because an architect personality can really do a little bit of everything and understand the whole organization. For the other 15 personality types, that’s not necessarily going to work out. But I think every company needs three things to succeed—finance, operations, and marketing—and the one that I spent most of my career focused on was marketing. Now, the one that I feel like I get the highest grade on, though, is actually finance, and I had picked up an MBA, and that definitely helped. 

But as we built the organization to tackle the agency world, there’s, you know, every agency ever has one or two problems—either they don’t have enough work, or they have too much work. It’s a constant battle of navigating and juggling workflows, project management, every single minute of the day. New crisis comes up on one of your large clients, you got to drop some stuff and go fix it because that’s the service level they expect. And so, as time goes on, I’m going to have to pigeonhole myself more and more into key areas. So while being the architect who likes to control everything at first, I’m going to have to start giving these areas up. And the one that I’m going to give up last is probably finance, but sales and finance are where I spend the bulk of my time currently, and operations is the one that is the biggest headache, the one that is the hardest to solve for.

[08:32] Well, what are you doing to generate the leads and book the appointments with the prospective clients? That’s what I’m really interested in knowing.

  • You bet. So, content generation is still a very valuable tool to generate acquisition. Because I used to be a television reporter, throwing me on camera and saying, “Hey, speak about this for five minutes or 60 minutes”—whatever in between—comes second nature to me. To be able to take any complex problem and make it easily understandable into a soundbite, that was my job as a television reporter before I entered this marketing world or worked for those five failed startups. And I have over 350 videos on my YouTube channel where we basically answer any Amazon question. 

“Hey, you got a gating for pesticides because,” you know, “Amazon picked up a keyword on your listing, then they think you sell pesticides. Well, you sell tweezers, you don’t sell pesticides. You know, what the heck is going on?” Well, most people would initially just try and fight back and say, “Hey, Amazon, I sell tweezers. I don’t sell pesticides,” right? Well, the solution is—just pass the test. So we actually released the answer key to the pesticides gating tests, and we’ve passed it for 56 clients, and hundreds of other people have been able to replicate this as well. And the reason why I would do that, obviously, if you still pesticides, go learn how to properly do that, but I have yet to see a single instance where that pesticides gating was needed on a real account. It’s always been, you sell something unrelated. That troubleshooting is, in essence, 80% of the job when you’re selling on Amazon. Everybody jokes that “Hey, Amazon’s this passive income thing, right?” That’s the farthest thing from the truth, and problem-solving every single day is the bulk of the job. So I ended up hiring technicians, not marketers, and we’ve had a lot of success with that because of that. 

So content gen, and I know I had to set this answer up a little bit for you, but basically, by giving the answer to complicated situations like this for free, my ability to have content has, in Gary Vee’s own words, become my “currency of attention.” We are a thought leader in the Amazon space and increasingly picking up steam on this question. We have helped so many people with problems before they become a client of ours, that when they finally pick up the phone and call me, they say, “Shut up and take my money,” and it’s very effective. So content gen is absolutely the number one area. 

As one example, I went on to the Quiet Light Brokerage Podcast. Great podcast for those in your audience; they would absolutely love that one as well. And for those that don’t know, Quiet Light is a brokerage to help companies buy and sell companies and primarily heavy focus on Amazon and e-commerce. I went on that podcast, and I picked up eight clients within seven days, and these were eight top 15 clients for me—large accounts. Most companies would not be able to take that kind of substantial growth on, without proper systems in place, but I had hired up—post-COVID world, Amazon demand is up 50%. I think it’s going to be closer to 100% in Q4, by the way. So going on the podcast circuit has absolutely led to client acquisition because we just authentically speak our truths, and say, “Here’s how we see things. We give our trade secrets freely, and if you want to hire us, go ahead. Feel free.” 

And then the third best area after content gen and the podcast circuit has been segmented groups—masterminds, if you will—where I just go in and answer any topic on any question. “Colt, you got an Amazon problem? You want to talk about it as a group. You got 8 or 10 people in your mastermind? Give me an invite. I’m happy to stop by.” Over time, so like one mastermind, for example, which is run by Seller Accountant, Tyler Jeffcoat. Great guy. Anybody who does business with that guy, I want to do business with them—that kind of guy. I have 12 clients out of his network, and they met him before they met me. And one client I just signed today came from that mastermind as well. So being able to collectively go into these ecosystems and do good work for a small segment of them, it proliferates into the other segments, right? Those 12 clients with Seller, Accountant, all of them are going to be long-term clients; there’s not going to be a short-term client among them. And they’re likely all going to succeed with us because they’ve bought into the My Amazon Guy process. They bought into the systematizing, and they trust based on the other results of those others in that group.

[13:47] Very cool. Well, thank you for sharing that. And now that we have set the stage for how you’re attracting clients, let’s talk about the work that you’re doing with them. So when you engage with a new client, which is a brand, and they’re not yet seeing the level of success that they want, what are you going to be focused on first?

  • Everything will boil down to two areas—traffic generation and conversion improvements. And people ask me all the time, “What’s the fastest way to grow sales on Amazon?” Well, number one, you need more products. And I might as well be quoting you, Trent, when you came on my podcast last month because that was the same answer you gave, right? So like your audience gets it. The more product you have sourced, the better off you’re going to be on Amazon. But outside of that, you need to diversify your portfolio in additional markets, whether that’s geolocations, whether that’s outside of Amazon, so make sure your Shopify is up and running. You know, we also build one Shopify website a week for our clients. I actually started a series of business names. So I started out as My Amazon Guy. I’m also My Refund Guy, which is a clawback Amazon service. And I’m also My Shopify Guy, and we’re, we’re also My Walmart Guy, My Etsy Guy, and the list goes on, right? 

Like, when I first started the name of my company, I was in the laundry room two days after being laid off from a lighting company as the marketplace director. And I said, you know, “Maybe I should have a domain name and,” you know, “instead of using a classic gmail address.” And the wife said, “Okay, how do people normally introduce you?” because I had side hustle consulted for about 40 clients at this point. And I said, “I don’t know, they just introduced me as some Amazon guy.” And we looked at each other and like, “I guess that’s the name of the business,” and it stuck, and it was actually a really good name. So that’s kind of how we’re evolving that right now. 

But traffic generation is the next on the list to grow your sales, and that’s advertising, management, search engine optimization—basically, anything that will bring eyeballs to your listing will increase your sales.

[16:07] So do you focus first on organic traffic increases? Or do you focus first on paid traffic increases?

  • We do all of them simultaneously. The search engine optimization will be more of a long-term impact. When we do a back-end search term update, we do generally see measurable changes to the indexing within two to four weeks. When we launch an A+ Content design for a listing that has an average of 500 index words, within 30 to 60 days, we’ll generally see a triple and be up to 1500 keywords index. That’s how important A+ Content is. The cat is out of the bag on A+ Content; everybody understands how important it is, but they still don’t necessarily invest properly in it—and there’s a lot of technical implications. Amazon is on record, saying they do not index A+ Content. I know for a fact they do, and I’ve tested this. 

I put Spanish behind the alt text of one photo in A+ Content, and put it in Spanish—and I did not put Spanish anywhere else—and it indexed for Spanish keywords. So there’s a lot of technical implementations that a lot of people still do not understand or do not focus or prioritize to grow their sales on Amazon, and the SEO area is a great case example of this. But it’s also not necessarily going to change the sales from a Monday to a Tuesday or a one day overnight; it’s more of a long-term investment. Indexing is the start of that process. And I mentioned that we can generally improve the indexing in a very rapid succession, but it doesn’t necessarily translate from indexing to sales that quickly. It takes additional time, three-plus months, for those keywords to matriculate. That is—start showing up on page one. Going from 500 keywords to 1500 keywords, and then having them in ranks 100 to 200, it’s not going to move the needle. So then you have to—we like to use a three-phase SEO process. 

Phase one: just implement the best practices. Don’t have any commas in your keywords, don’t repeat any words. If you’ve got a singular, you don’t need the plural version. Common, best practice keyword implementation. That’s phase one. Phase two, we like to call the “peak word update. “And the peak word update is using the brand analytics dashboard, any word that’s inside of your title or bullets does not need to be in the back end of your search terms. We ignore this during phase one on purpose, though, because from our experience, we found that by having those keywords in those locations, it actually leads to faster indexing. But when we implement phase two, we do this normally around day 30 of an account, we will then take those out and put in new keywords to, again, matriculate and index additional keywords. 

And then, finally, phase three, we like to call the “strike zone keyword implementation.” And this is where you take any word and rank 20 through 50, and hyperfocus on it. And make sure that if you improve those words in the strike zone, you matriculate those to the top of page one—that’s where SEO gets this biggest bang for the buck. We have been spending the last two weeks very, a lot of time trying to master one of your Flowsters so that we could give this to your audience. So that includes the full implementation of these three SEO phases. Hopefully, by the time you publish this podcast, it’ll be ready for the green light on this, but I’m excited to offer that freely to everybody.

[19:47] Cool. I’m sure they will love it. Alright. So I want to go back to A+ for a minute because you talked about how Amazon says they don’t index it. Your tests said that they do. Did you run one experiment or multiple experiments, first of all, to come up with a differing opinion? And because what your results indicated were different than what Amazon’s saying, why do you think Amazon’s saying what they’re saying?

  • Amazon is a siloed organization. And what the left hand is doing, the right hand has no freaking idea. Now, they are very public on this specific question. So I’m obviously walking a fine line by saying, “Hey, Amazon’s not correct on this thing that they’re public on about,” right? This is common in SEO. Very, very common. You could look at the history of Google, Bing, Microsoft, Yahoo, all of them experienced the same thing. They come out with an update, call it a furry animal update, like Penguin or Panda, and whatever else, and they tell you, “Hey, here are the new best practices, and here’s how the algorithm now works.” However, for years to come following those updates, the previous best practices still work. Now, they might be diminished or nerved, but they still work, right? And that’s what we’re finding on Amazon. So maybe three months from now, ten months from now, who knows? Maybe it will stop working, maybe it won’t have any further implications to indexing, but right now, it currently does. We’ve tested this across dozens of clients. We’ve even tested this on clients who have great, best in class aesthetics design, A+ Content, and we come in, and we add in just the alt text, and then all of a sudden, it indexes for additional keywords as well.

[21:45] So what are some of the best practices in developing A+ Content?

  • Take as much space as you possibly can. Have a lot of copy; be crawlable. There are exceptions to all of these best practices, and I’ll go through those as well. Well, for example, if you’re in the supplements category, having lots of copy is actually not a good idea because you’re more likely to get a listing yank, then you have to go reinstate your listings and lose sales. Because any cross-pollination of keywords in A+ Content can lead to algorithmic-based yanks. That is the official Amazon term, by the way, “yank.” So if you ever get a yank, you need to get a reinstatement going, and it’s a very complicated process. 

But overall best practice is take up as much space as you possibly can. And the reason you do this is because in regular e-commerce, all on your own website, you control the full ecosystem. And when somebody goes to your homepage, you want them to click on the call-to-action above the fold, and they go to the product page, and then they make the purchase. In the Amazon ecosystem, there is a thousand different competing priorities, a thousand different rabbit holes you can walk down and end up in thousand different competitor listings. So it behooves you to take up as much space as possible in your A+ Content. It causes the product advertisements of your competitors to push down further on the detail page. Additionally, the more space you take up means, the more copy you have. And the more copy you have, the better SEO implication that you’ll have. 

I also think that utilizing all six modules—it gives you a choice of six modules—is hyperbeneficial. My favorite module is the product grid. The product grid is where you can compare and contrast your own products in your catalog. For some sellers, that might be “good, better, and best,” right, to take the, you know—one of the guys who’s got a similar TV show similar to the Shark Tanks called The Profit, and he has a “good, better, best” mantra that he does almost every single episode. One of my favorite episodes where he does this is the drum set company in one of the earlier seasons. And he goes in there and says, “Hey, you guys make drums, but you’re customizing everything too much.” And he says, “You need to systematize this and sell three skews: good, better, best, and then compare and contrast those.” This product grid will allow you to do that. The product will also increase your average order value. Maybe you sell complementary products—maybe you sell a spatula, and you also sell other grilling materials, maybe you sell an apron, and other chef knives, right? Having an average order value go up because you have your product grid demonstrate all of these different products within the grid. Boom, instead of somebody adding one product to your account for checkout, they’re adding 2, 3, 4+, increasing your average order value, you know.

The last big best practice I’ll mention is take up one of those modules with a giant photo—and that giant photo needs to have a lifestyle element to it, with a smiling person looking at the camera. People want to see eyes, they want to see smiles, and they want to be able to demonstrate how this product is used and put themselves in the shoes of that person in the lifestyle image. If you sell hemp cream—pain relief hemp cream—and you’re targeting women age 45+, we better see an attractive aged 45-year-old woman in your A+ Content and make the consumer feel like they are that person for the five seconds that they’re viewing that image. And I mentioned that five-second bright line—many of you have a very short time to convince the seller—to convince a customer, rather—to buy your product. Every element on your ‘Detail’ page matters to help that conversion occur.

[25:54] So when it comes to traffic generation, are there growth hacks that are effective?

  • I think the easiest one is advertising. You’re going to pay the piper for this one, and advertising costs on Amazon are up considerably year over year. The cat is out of the bag that advertising on Amazon works’ it absolutely crushes it. So if you’re looking for a growth hack, and you’re not spending at least 10% of your gross sales on advertising, that’s where you need to start. I like the 10% number for people who are investing in their brand building. So if you’re in the wholesale model, it’s not necessarily the same number I would use. If you’re a retailer buying in wholesale, your profit margins are completely different, but if you’re a private label or who wants to invest in the future of your brand, 10% of every dollar you earn should be spent on ads, in my opinion, and it can be done so profitably. 

There are seven different advertising segments that have come out in the last, seemingly, 90 to 180 days on Amazon. If you are only doing sponsored products on keywords right now, you’re doing the most important task, but you’re missing out on many, many other key areas. Video ads are the hottest thing right now. If you’re not doing video ads, go invest in video right now. Very, very great A-cost results—some 50% A-cost results right now for many of our clients. Custom brand headline images is another key area. If you want to increase your higher-level funnel traffic impressions, using a custom image in your headline ad will drastically improve your results. What do I mean by custom brand headline image?  I’m talking about an uploaded image into your headline ad instead of them just using your product photo or your logo. The size of the custom brand headline images are significantly larger, and they take up more space on mobile, and it leads to higher clickthrough and even conversion, as well. 

Offensive A-zon targeting, targeting your competitor products, using fixed bids on new campaigns when you launch them, changing to up and down bids once you’ve had more sophisticated sales traction over time—there’s so many different techniques or growth hacks, as you call them, Trent, involved in advertising that you could seriously focus a full-time role just on ad management on a large account, and it would be a cost-effective measure. So advertising management’s usually one of the top core services that we focus on because of the results and as well as the impact of the bottom line.

[28:36] What’s your favorite tool for managing your ad campaigns? 

  • Bulk tool update editor, and you’ll notice…

[28:43] That’s the native tool.

  • That’s the native tool. It is phenomenally powerful. If you know how to use it, and you invest your time into those bulk updates, your advertising changes will be drastically faster. I do believe that an automated tool will beat humans soon in advertising management. I have extensively tested tools like Sellix, Intentwise. There are many, many tools out there. I feel like, today, that a good human outperforms a good robot today in 2020—that could change very quickly. If you don’t have somebody managing your ads on a consistent basis on your account, is a robot better than nothing? Absolutely. What are you going to be paying for it? They take a percentage of your ad spend. The thing I like about those automated tools is the ability to do some sophisticated things that the platform Seller Central doesn’t have available today, specifically, changing your bid during day of week or time of day, that kind of stuff. That does not currently exist in any other way other than a PPC automated tool. 

But what I feel like humans do better than robots today is all of the new segmentations that are coming out, the robots aren’t programmed for. Robots are really good at sponsored product bid management of past campaigns; they’re not good at building new campaigns. Keyword discovery? Not good at that. They’re not good at anything that requires copyediting, which by the way, now is a requirement on headline ads, and they can’t programmatically teach themselves; they programmatically learn from trial and error. So all the best practices that we implement day one, a robot’s way behind on. But I do like other tools like Helium 10 for keyword research, FeedbackWhiz for email automation, that kind of stuff. But when it comes to PPC, we do everything manually through the bulk update editor.

[30:42] Okay. So obviously, we could go well, well, well down the rabbit hole of best practices for managing ads on Amazon. We don’t have time to do that. If you were to think of, aside from the obvious with sponsored products and getting some campaigns running so you’re getting some data so you can refine the campaigns, what would be the next lowest hanging fruit for a brand owner to take advantage of with respect to Amazon advertising?

  • So outside of advertising A+ Content and search engine optimization are the next lowest hanging fruit for the largest impact?

[31:23] No, within advertising.

  • Within advertising outside of responsive products?

[31:24] What is the next lowest hanging fruit strategy?

  • Display advertising. And so display has been around, but they reimplemented it back in January. 

[31:37] In a DSP?

  • Yeah. But what’s inside of Seller Central has no monetary commitments, so it’s better, in my opinion, to do it inside of the advertising console that Amazon provides now instead of doing it in DSP. So the display ads are very easy to set up inside of advertising, and they don’t require any creative work. It’s the same amount of effort to do sponsored products, but without as much competition. Back in June, there are a lot of advertising groups talking and touting the success of display campaigns. It’s made a resurgence, so people are seeing the results from it. The nice thing is, is you could show up on your competitors listing right now with a display ad and sponsor product ads and completely inundate them with advertising on their ‘Product Detail’ pages. If you’re trying to grow your sheriff’s voice—sheriff’s sale, if you will—advertising and using all these different segments is absolutely a really incredible thing to do.

[32:47] What about black and gray hat strategies that brands should avoid?

  • Don’t incentivize reviews ever, under any condition. If you’ve got a product insert in your packaging, make sure it’s good compliant. I don’t feel like there’s any blackhat tactics when it comes to advertising, but I do think that there are countless black hat tactics that are still used today to increase sales on Amazon. And, like, so I’ve seen a really big uptick in companies using product inserts to generate product reviews. If you go on a listing today, and you see that there’s 1000+ reviews, and this product’s only 90-days-old, they’re abusing the system, guarantee it. And if you report that listing—whether you’re a buyer or a seller—if you report incentivized product reviews, and you’ve got proof that they’re doing it, that listing is going to lose countless number of views, probably like 70 to 80% of the reviews. 

As one example, the LockPickingLawyer, very famous YouTube artist. All this guy does is within a two-minute video is picks any lock you could find. Period. He got a lockpick off Amazon, very common brand name that was with thousands of reviews, and they had an incentivized product review insert on their listing. LockPickingLawyer did a video on this. This thing went viral with millions of views, and within 48 hours, that listing had lost 80% of its reviews, and I don’t know if it ever got suspended, but it likely did for a time period. So incentivizing reviews—do not do that. Do not incentivize reviews in your automated email systems. Those have been caught long ago. The ones that people are still doing is product inserts; do not touch that with a 10-foot pole. Is it okay to have a product insert? Yes. Just don’t incentivize reviews.

[34:40] And define incentivize reviews, just so there’s no gray area. 

  • You cannot offer the client or the customer anything for leaving a review. You can say, “Hey, we’d love it if you leave us a review,” but you can’t, the next sentence can’t be, “And we’re going to give you something.” The next sentence can’t be “And we’re going give you something IF you leave us a review.”

[35:02] So a couple months ago, there was—and maybe this is still happening now—but I know there was a lot of folks who were advertising on Facebook, and they were driving traffic into bot sequences, messenger bot sequences.

  • Yes.

[35:15] That would basically say, “Hey, go buy the product on Amazon, and then we will, outside of Amazon, refund you 100% of your money, and you can leave a stellar review. That’s still happening?

  • Yes, it is. And it’s 100% against terms and conditions.

[35:30] Yeah, but Amazon had no way of catching them. 

  • They are more sophisticated, more today than they ever have been on this question. They’re even sophisticated enough to see your Facebook connections. So that’s why those Facebook groups that were like sharing reviews between each other all got caught, and they stopped working. The chatbot had to update its terms of services on January 6 of this year. It was a really major update, that’s why I remember the date. And they no longer allow you to contact consumers after, I believe it’s 48 hours, of entering the chatbot system, and it was to cut down on this problem. Amazon came after them, I think. So, yes, rebate key and many other programs out there that offer a full rebate if you leave a review still exist today. There are way superior tactics that don’t have risk. Search, Find, Buy is probably my favorite, where you train the consumer to go find your product naturally, but incentivize them to do so. But notice how I didn’t say, “and request a review”; you cannot incentivize review generation in any shape or form. You will be caught eventually.

[36:46] So how do you incentivize someone to do…what is Search, Find, Buy, and then how do you incentivize someone to do it?

  • So Search, Find, Buy is exactly what it sounds like. You teach the customer to search for your product, find it, and then buy it. So if I’m selling an apple slicer, and I want to rank number one for apple slicer, I tell the customer, “Hey, I will give you X% off, but you have to buy my product using this weird treasure hunt methodology,” and you give them the code to do so. So you don’t give them the ascent, and you don’t give them a direct link. You basically say, “Hey, you got to go find my product by using this search term: apple slicer.” So they go on to, they search “apple slicer,” they pull up your product after they dig through one or two pages—because you’re probably not on page one if you’re trying to do this right now, and then they search for you, they find you, and then they place the item in their cart and make a purchase. That teaches the algorithm that your item can convert for that keyword. Is that one going to be a little bit more in the gray area training the algorithm? Maybe, but it’s definitely the widest hat external SEO tactic available currently.

[38:00] So to run that at scale, I’d run a bunch of ads on Facebook. I’d say, “Hey, guys, I’m going to give you, like this coupon for 90% off my apple slicer. You have to go, and type in the word “apple slicer.” It looks like this. Keep looking until you find it.”

  • Correct.

[38:15] “Then add it to your cart and checkout, and here’s the coupon code.”

  • You got it. I think that’ll get patched in the next six months, but it’s probably not on Amazon’s radar focus because it’s definitely not blackhat.

[38:30] No, it’s not. I mean, there’s nothing really nefarious about that particular strategy. 

  • No.

[38:35] Because again, you’re not going against the policy of incentivizing reviews. You’re not—this has nothing to do with reviews. It’s just, “Go find it.” It’s a treasure hunt debit card bot.

  • One of my biggest frustrations of owning and running an agency is every time we try and do a growth hack tactic, like the one we’re talking about Search, Find, Buy, or any of the other ones that have been brought up so far, is Amazon will patch them within a short time period. So it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to invest in hacks, in my opinion. We’ve actually kind of turned our nose away from them and focused on core principles that work at scale and will continue working for one or two, three-plus years down the road. So we’ve kind of been hyperfocusing on core tenets, like traffic generation and conversion improvements at scale because we’ve continuously seen Amazon take away these tools or these hacks or these tactics. 

As one more example, there was a tool called ZonTracker. Really smart guys out of Eastern Europe that made this tool, and they basically created what I like to call a “synthetic pixel” for tracking external traffic to Amazon. Everybody needed this tool; it is an amazingly powerful tool, and it works quite frankly. It basically helps you prove which ad got clicked on and created a sale on Amazon. Amazon patched that in June of 2019. They took it away, and in the fall of 2019, they brought out the beta program for Attribution. The problem, the Attribution program that Amazon rolled out has never worked, and it probably is not even on their top radar things to get working. 

So if you want to generate new buzz to a listing on Amazon today and you want to pay for traffic from external resources, I recommend you do it in the first two-week honeymoon period of a product launch. It will help you leapfrog other competitors and listings and gain keyword rankings—definitely a best practice. But after day 14 or day 15, I would shut those external ads off. It is impossible to prove that they are converting sales on Amazon. No software, no tool is available to correctly attribute sales to external traffic. And 2020, in my opinion, was supposed to be external traffic becoming the most important critical thing to success on Amazon, and Amazon botched it, in my opinion. They should want external traffic; they want to grow their sales, they want to have more people showing up on This is not a working area, unfortunately.

[41:12] So what do you…let’s talk before we finish up then, in the near term future predictions for the Amazon Marketplace, what do you got?

  • I think we’re gonna see increased importance on Made in the USA and high-quality. We continuously see all the Chinese sellers come in and gain the system and hack it, and they’re breaking every rule ever because they have to. They literally have to break all the rules to put food on the table. We’re gonna see a backlash on COVID. People are gonna blame the Chinese government for not solving the problem. They’re gonna look to localization. You’re gonna see nationalism increase, you’re gonna see localization increase, you’re going to see high-quality demand increase. All these things have been long systematically present in the symptoms, but haven’t matriculated. 

So there’s a good book called, and it’s literally called this, by the way, I F**king Love That Company, and it’s written by the CEO of American Giant. And he made this prediction, I think it’s been four or five years since he released this book. He predicted that Amazon solved speed and price, and that was the status quo four or five years ago. And today, if you want to be ahead of the status quo, you have to have speed, price, and high-quality and American-made. And so you know, American Giant, they make the Mercedes Benz version of a hoodie, and people are willing to pay that premium, that high-quality American-made because of the customer service experience. I bought one, and my zipper broke, and they gave me a free replacement five years later. That’s incredible. That kind of warranty guarantee is really important. 

So is American manufacturing ready today for B2C products? No, it’s not. I joined the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance, like toward all of Georgia. Basically, America’s Got B2B in the back—really good at B2B. B2C, though, we’re three to four years out on this one, but I do predict that American-made will come. And the reason why I made that my answer to your question is because if you’re not focused on American-made today, you’re going to be behind the curve in selling your next widget on Amazon.

[43:27] So you’re…I want to make sure that the myself and the audience understand your prediction. You’re saying American manufacturers are going, to some way, shape, or form, overcome this massive cost differential between manufacturing in China versus here by some miracle magic wand, and people are going to happily pay 5x what they have been paying in the past. I don’t buy that.

  • I wouldn’t say it’s going to be a magic wand. There’s going to be a combination of variables that are going to have to all line up. You’re gonna have to see the currency war be fought in one, right, and that’s ongoing. So there’s gonna have to be a level playing field, but that’s inevitably going to happen—it’s just a matter of when. You’re going to have to see manufacturing make a resurgence, the skill sets have to return, all that good stuff. But the one symptom I would say that is ready now is American sentiment for high-quality goods. I think if you pull people, that they are willing—if they know the product is physically manufactured in the States today—they’re willing to pay a premium for it. I do believe that’s ready now.

[44:37] A percentage of the population, for sure.

  • Correct.

[44:40] But for all the people, again, I think that’s a stretch. I love where you’re going. I think it’s, in theory, great, but you have not sold me on that prediction.

  • Well, sometimes when you want to be a thought leader—and I do want to be—I have to make a prediction that most people disagree with.

[44:55] Fair enough.

  • And I am happy to make this one.

[44:57] Fair enough. Absolutely. Well, Stephen, it has been a pleasure to have you on the show. If your SOPs that we talked about earlier already, folks, the links to them will be in the show notes for this episode. So if you’re not, they will be easily accessible. And if you want to get a hold of Steven, if you’re a brand listing, and you’re thinking, “Hey, I want to work with that guy.” Steven, the easiest way to reach you is…

Steven Pope’s Bright Ideas

  • Provide Useful Content for Free
  • Be an Authentic Thought Leader
  • Optimize Traffic Generation
  • Make the Most of Your Space
  • Invest in Smart Advertising

Provide Useful Content For Free

In this episode, Steven explains how his Amazon agency gains lots of clients and boosts their sales.

Every entrepreneur struggles to juggle their work; however, it would do you well to provide free content for customer acquisition.

Steven says, “Every agency ever has one of two problems. Either they don’t have enough work or they have too much work. It’s a constant battle of navigating and juggling workflows, project management, every single minute of the day.”

Despite this, they have to focus on the most important thing—their clients.

Amazon users always have questions that you can answer. With this rationale, he built a YouTube channel dedicated to that, which now has 350 videos and over 1 million views.

Steven says, “Troubleshooting is, in essence, 80% of the job when you’re selling on Amazon. Everybody jokes that ‘Hey, Amazon is this passive income thing, right?’ That’s the farthest thing from the truth, and problem-solving every single day is the bulk of the job.”

Resolving Amazon-related complications for free is Steven’s currency of attention, he says. It makes prospective clients familiar with them before he even promotes his Amazon agency.

Be an Authentic Thought Leader

Content generation is his primary focus, and it drives his social proof through the roof. Agencies should follow their example to initiate dialogue, stir up conversations, and provide solutions to people’s problems.

Steven says, “We have helped so many people with problems before they’ve become a client of ours that when they finally pick up the phone and call me, they say ‘Shut up and take my money.’”

Steven even did a circuit on podcasts to provide valuable tips in the industry.

His method of acquisition is like this: “We just authentically speak our truths and say, ‘Here’s how we see things. We give our trade secrets freely. And if you want to hire us, go ahead. Feel free.’”

Aside from podcasts, he also frequents mastermind groups to penetrate networks and connect with potential clients.

“Being able to collectively go into these ecosystems and do good work for a small segment of them, it proliferates into the other segments. Those 12 clients . . . all of them are going to be long-term clients. There’s not going to be a short-term client among them,” he says.

Optimize Traffic Generation

Amazon selling has a steep learning curve. It’s not rocket science to create a listing and sell your product. However, with the brutal competition, sellers need to know the deeper algorithms behind the platform’s search engine.

Steven says the fastest way to grow Amazon sales is to source more products. Diversify your portfolio in additional markets outside of Amazon.

Aside from this, you have to learn SEO. Anything that will bring eyeballs to your listing will increase your sales, Steven says.

The three phases for SEO, according to Steven, are the following:

  1. Phase One. Best practices. Don’t separate your keywords with commas and don’t repeat any words. For instance, if you’ve got a singular, you don’t need the plural version.
  2. Phase Two. Pink word update. Using the brand analytics dashboard, any word inside your title or bullets does not need to be at the back end of your search terms.
  3. Phase three. Strike-zone keyword implementation. Take any word in rank 20 through 50 and hyperfocus on it. If you improve those words in the strike zone, ensure you matriculate those to the top of page one.

SEO can do wonders on your Amazon sales. However, keep in mind that this is a long-term game, and it will take a while before it translates to results.

Make the Most of Your Space

You only have so much space in your listing, so Steven suggests you take as much space as you can in whatever form.

Both quantity and quality are essential. The more space you take up, the deeper your competitors are pushed down the detail page. And the more copy you have in your listing, the better the SEO implication.

He also advises using all six modules, focusing primarily on the product grid. Sell complementary products, as they can increase the average order value.

People subconsciously desire to have a lifestyle attached to the product. So Steven advises taking a photo of a smiling person using the product to add a lifestyle element to it. He says, “People want to see eyes, they want to see smiles, and they want to demonstrate how this product is used and put themselves in the shoes of that person in the lifestyle image.”

The point of all these listing tips is to make sure the consumer feels as if they are that person for the five seconds they view the image.

“Many of you have a very short time to convince a customer to buy your product. Every element on your detail page matters to help that conversion occur,” Steven says.

Invest in Smart Advertising

Advertising comes in many shapes and forms. Whether that’s human experts or robots and other digital tools, you need to have this component in place.

“If you’re looking for a growth hack and you’re not spending at least 10% of your gross sales on advertising, that’s where you need to start,” Steven says.

He also mentions a few practical advertising tips:

  1. Display advertising as an underrated tool that is easy to set up and brings results.
  2. Search-find-buy is an excellent tool to increase your SEO ranking externally.

However, note that investing in these hacks are only short-term strategies because Amazon can patch them quickly. Thus, you still need to focus on the best practices in advertising.

What Did We Learn from This Episode?

  1. We learned how Steven scaled his Amazon agency in two years.
  2. Your clients’ attention is a valuable currency.
  3. Implement the best SEO practices.
  4. Spend on advertising if you’re looking for growth.
  5. Maximize the space allotted to your listing.

Episode Highlights

[03:46] Steven introduces his Amazon agency, My Amazon Guy

  • Steven is the founder of My Amazon Guy, an Amazon seller consulting agency helping clients grow their sales.
  • He started the company two and a half years ago and has already grown to 22 employees.
  • Steven describes his primary work as consultancy and has been involved with five failed startups.

[05:16] Steven’s methods for success

  • He attributes his success to using processes and systems efficiently.
  • Having a system in place allowed him to hire relatively inexperienced college graduates and still function effectively.
  • You need a good model that works and you can replicate to all of your clients.

[06:32] How My Amazon Guy attracts clients

  • Content generation is crucial to client acquisition.
  • Steven created a free YouTube channel with videos that answer any question clients would have.
  • They are a thought leader in the platform and have answered potential problems clients can encounter in advance.

[11:49] — Content generation

  • Being authentic and sharing your trade secrets for free attract customers to you.
  • Podcast circuits and masterminds also help them in client acquisition.
  • Penetrating ecosystems will gather high-quality, long-term clients.

[14:11] — How to boost sales in Amazon

  • Focus on traffic generation and conversion improvements.
  • Source more products.
  • Diversify your portfolio.
  • Focus on your SEO.

[16:15] SEO for Amazon

  • SEO is a long-term matter; additional traffic will translate to sales eventually.
  • A+ content is essential in your SEO. It can triple your index keywords.
  • Implement the best practices for SEO and regularly matriculate and index additional keywords.
  • Improve and hyperfocus on high-ranking keywords.

[20:17] A+ content and best practices

  • Take up more space to push down competitor ads.
  • Write more copy for better SEO.
  • Utilize all six modules, and make the most of the product grid.
  • Add a lifestyle element to your photos.

[25:54] Growth hacks for traffic generation

  • Advertising is the easiest way to grow traffic, but be prepared to pay the costs.
  • Private-label sellers should spend at least 10% of their gross sales on advertising.
  • Invest in hot ads such as videos and custom-brand headline images.
  • Humans still outperform robots in advertising, but having a bot can be profitable.

[31:29] Amazon advertising tips

  • Utilize display advertising.
  • Don’t incentivize product reviews.
  • Try search-find-buy to increase your SEO ranking externally.

[41:22] The future of the Amazon marketplace

  • There will be more focus on US manufacturing, backlash on China-made products, and an increase in localization.
  • People will be willing to pay a premium on higher-quality goods.

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Today’s Guest

Steven is the founder of My Amazon Guy. He started his career as a TV reporter in Idaho, then was an eCommerce Director for 10 years for brands ranging from Gold & Silver Coins to Women’s Plus Size Clothing. After dozens of requests to side hustle consult for Amazon clients, he started the agency to make it easier to growth hack the platform. Steven owns MAG, My Refund Guy – a clawback FBA service, and Momstir – a Private Label FBA Wine Glass brand. He has more than 300 tutorial videos on YouTube showing how to handle ANY problem faced on Amazon. Steven also hosts a podcast with interviews from other Amazon experts.

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