Mark Casey is the founder of Mark Casey Networking, a company specializing in Amazon SEO and listing optimization. The firm provides services to its clients across America and focuses on Amazon SEO and marketing, among other things. He’s here with us today to discuss the importance of Amazon SEO and how to create a competitive listing. Read on to get his scoop on the path to success on Amazon. Thank you for joining us.
- Amazon SEO creates visibility
- PPC is important, but only after establishing the organic reach
- Target the proper keywords in the frontend or backend of your listing Focus on the title first, then the bullet points, and then the description
- Infographics are essential for catching the customers’ attention and securing clicks and sales
- Make the images and keywords more relevant and thorough to increase sales
- Quality products are necessary for brand growth and positive reviews
- Build a brand outside of Amazon and diversify if possible
- Outsource specific tasks, so you’re not spread thin
- Courses aren’t always the way to go since they may be outdated and unhelpful
- A targeted strategy is needed to succeed on Amazon
Hi, Mark. Welcome to the show.
Hey, how are you?
Good, good. Could you tell us a little bit about your background and what you do in Amazon?
Sure. I do marketing and Amazon SEO specifically sellers. I started off working under a nine-figure salary with a top 500 company on Amazon around five years ago. That’s where I got trained and got this sense of this business. After that, I started my marketing firm, and I’ve been helping people get to the next level on Amazon ever since.
When it comes to Amazon SEO, do you serve sellers from all around the world or only in the United States?
Mainly the United States, because it’s the gold mine, but I have clients from all around the world.
For people who are new to the Amazon game, could you briefly explain why Amazon SEO is important?
Amazon SEO helps the customer find you. There are hundreds of people, maybe even thousands of people selling the same or similar product as you. If you want to make sales, you need to be easily found by customers searching for a product. Amazon SEO helps you establish yourself in that space.
That makes sense. I think that many people focus on PPC advertising and paid metrics before they get the fundamentals right. If you get the fundamentals right, the listing optimization, the Amazon SEO of the keywords, maybe you won’t even need advertising because you’ll be selling just based on these keywords.
Yeah, exactly. PPC is great for giving you a boost, but I always view it as a crutch. What you want to do is be there organically. PPC is our ultimate goal, but we need to establish ourselves organically first. That’s what we [and Amazon SEO] help you do. We try to help you be visible without spending any money.
What does the process look like for a seller who comes to you with an idea for a product? What questions are you going to ask them initially?
Firstly, we would ask if you have your product and if you’ve found your manufacturer and whatnot. We’re going to jump in once you’ve found your product and are already sourcing in with us. Our job is to make the listing for you. We have a graphic designing team, a copyright team, and all that kind of stuff. We’ll help you get your listing on time. I always say there are two phases to getting a listing up on Amazon. One is having actual listings, like infographics, graphics, the content of the actual product. Then there’s phase two, which is launching it. We split it up into two significant parts.
Right, right. You mentioned that certain parts go into a listing. The photography, the headline, etc. Could you just briefly describe what goes into a successful listing, maybe in descending order of importance?
Definitely. Many people think that they can hire a copywriter to write their titles, bullet points, and description. They think if it sounds good, it’s okay. But realistically, Amazon and Amazon SEO is a whole world in itself. Every little word counts because that’s how Amazon shows relevancy. You need to make sure you have all the target keywords in the front end or the backend of your listing. The order would be the title, the bullet points, and then the description.
The majority of people don’t even read your description. Almost every person is very visual, so they want to see right away. That’s where infographics are essential. You don’t just want to hire a copywriter to make your listing sound good. You want to make it sound and look awesome. Make sure you have all of those right keywords in there.
You said that Amazon SEO is a whole different world. It seems to me like there are two worlds inside of it. On the one hand, there are the snippets that the customers see when they’re scrolling through the result pages. You have a little photo and a headline, and that’s it. But once you dive into product listing, there’s a whole different list of information that you have to take care of. How are these two microworlds different from each other? What do you have to have in place in one or the other?
It’s a very underrated thing, but it’s crucial. You have first to get someone’s attention to make them click. Just doing that alone can get you a lot of clicks. I would highly suggest having a great image that stands out for this step. I was just reading research on which images work better- those put at an angle, or those put straightforward. The conversions were worlds apart.
Don’t use your brand name in the title as the first word because no one knows you as a brand name yet. Clorox can use its brand name on a chloride product, but a private label shouldn’t. We have minimal real estate space, so don’t use that to put your brand name. Instead, put what the product is, and then write all its details. That’s what portrays a great image and makes people click.
Once they get onto the listing, then that’s good. But you still need to sell the product. Infographics are very, very important here. People are willing to invest in infographics and graphics more than on the product itself sometimes. That’s how crucial they are.
You’re not in a store where you’re displaying your product, and the customers can see and feel it. You have to use the infographics to sell the product because the customers don’t have it in their hands. When you’re winning the click, you have to make sure that your photo is to the point, and you’re not putting your brand name if it’s not famous. Once you want to win the sale, you have to make sure that you have all the details, the bullet points, the description, and the infographics.
I like that you mentioned the point about the brand because very few sellers reach a point in their business where they reap the benefits of a brand name. Many companies invest in branding, their name, and trademark, and all these things are important. But very few sellers get to the point of scale of scalability where they get the benefits. You have to sell the product first, gain that credibility, and then do everything else.
Let’s say that I’m not a beginner seller, though. I’m an experienced seller, and I haven’t been paying much attention to my listings. I just wrote some copy and never really tried optimizing it much. You mentioned that you work with sellers who sell nine figures. What are some of the low hanging fruits that you often see in your practice that an experienced seller can start improving upon? Where should they start paying attention to you? What’s the process like when you work with experienced sellers?
It can be as simple as fixing up the images. I have someone who’s selling and spends thousands upon thousands a day. He has 30,000 available listings, but his pictures are bad. This is just the picture part. No lifestyle or anything, but he’s selling. It could be as simple as just adding keywords. Even in the backend, one of the times where you underestimate putting keywords.
For example, customers can type water bottle or other product names in Spanish. Then, it becomes a matter of making yourself more visible than your competitors to these customers. If customers find your product when they type the product name in Spanish, you get those sales. It doesn’t have to be on your front end. As long as your pound your index for that keyword in your backend, you can get those sales. We updated sellers’ listings and they saw sales coming in within 24 hours.
Right. You said that the experienced seller has to fix the image. What is usually wrong with the image?
They’re usually very plain, dull, or outdated. You know, people like to see catchy, new things. The image might’ve been awesome two years ago, but it’s probably not now. The optimum image depends on what the product is, but you need to understand why you’re better than everyone else and market that because a new competitor is coming in every day.
An expert like yourself comes into play here because a seller can’t just physically monitor all the trends and product development and manufacturing and marketing and Amazon SEO. So I think that surrounding yourself with experts like you is super important.
For example, when we talk about blogging, the headline, the subtitle, and the image mix are the Holy Trinity of post success. If you have a terrible headline, nobody’s probably going to read your posts. I suppose this underperforming must be one of those. Is it the same for Amazon SEO? Are there any two or three things that a seller should focus on that can make or break a business or is it all balanced out?
It’s all balanced out, but like I mentioned before, and I can’t stress this enough, images and graphics are extremely crucial because you need to catch customers. These people are searching for products indiscriminately, so they will go with whatever stands out to them. If your competitor outshines you, they’ll end up buying from them. That’s why you need to be the one to stand out. As you can see, I like standing out, and that’s what makes me different than other people. People see me from afar because I always think outside the box and offer something extra. For example, some people do eBooks and stuff like that. As long as you’re standing out and you relate to the customers, you’ll get the sale.
What does a brand on Amazon consist of besides listing optimization? What assets does it have to have in place besides listing optimization?
It should have a quality product, for one. People are going to buy what is good and what they like. If your product is low quality and unattractive, the buyers won’t return, and your business won’t scale. There are two different ways to look at it. Some sellers want to make money with their product and move on, and some want to make a brand. If you’re someone who wants to make a brand on Amazon, it’s vital to spend that extra month on quality assurance.
You’re here to start with a boost, and you don’t want buyers bashing your product with negative reviews. Making a high-quality product is the best marketing. I agree with you. I think that the brand and the process of building a brand is all about retention. It’s all about whether customers are returning to you, and making this relationship and reputation. You mentioned reviews, and I think it’s like a catch 22 in the beginning. If you don’t have sales, you don’t have reviews. If you don’t have reviews, you don’t have sales. So what’s the initial process of getting those first reviews?
It’s challenging and one of the biggest questions in the past five years or so. Amazon offers a program called the Early Reviewer Program. Either no one’s buying your product, or if they are, they’re going to review. Most of the time, people are leaving negative reviews. This is because when you get a product, for example, you’ll focus more on the negative things than the positive ones. Therefore, I built my focus group across America in the past five years, where people are regular shoppers.
They’ll purchase a product on Amazon. We’ll give it away to them, and they’ll review the products. If there’s something genuinely wrong with the product, they’ll come back to us. I’ll give the seller feedback so they can change it for the future. If the product is good, the shoppers will put a positive review on Amazon. They’ll help you out, and you can go further. Just having that in place is such a big headstart, especially on Amazon. Every minute and every day counts.
Absolutely. And I like that you mentioned that people leave only negative reviews. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I personally only leave negative reviews because if a product is good, I will say, oh, it’s okay. But if there’s something wrong, I want to make them know their product is faulty. Then the sellers end up having all these negative reviews. That’s how I got introduced in the space. I never really realized until someone brought it to my attention. Would you leave a review on this?
If it somehow really exceeded my expectations, I’d leave a five star. Otherwise, we’re looking at only the negative reviews. Unfortunately, that’s what it is, so you have to fight against that.
Speaking of not just listing optimizations and PPC, I’m always curious about how sellers build a brand outside of Amazon. Whether they’re using marketing inserts in their product, whether they’re using email marketing, social media blogs, landing pages, or eBooks, as you mentioned. I’m curious to know that among the brands you work with, what does their general marketing funnel look like? What assets do they have in place?
I always suggest people build a brand outside of Amazon. People only rely on Amazon. Amazon is a great platform to boost sales, but if your product goes down or something happens, what are you going to do? It’s getting started, but you get more sales when you’re also focused outside of Amazon. Product inserts, Facebook ads, Instagram ads all generate outside traffic. Sellers can also use influencers to create brand awareness about the brand itself too. This is so that when someone wants to purchase the product, it’s not only Amazon. You also have an online presence where people can buy your product, relate to, and get your brand name out there.
Besides Amazon SEO, should you sell through Shopify or Instagram or use them for brand awareness?
You could do both. A lot of people mix both. They create a shop but direct buyers to purchase the product directly on Amazon. No one wants to ship out the products themselves. They would instead send it to Amazon and just let it handle the rest. So what we’ll do is we’ll create the Shopify site to generate the traffic, because we’re doing a lot more advertising. Then we’ll have them check out through Amazon, and then Amazon will fulfill the order.
Is it correct to say that most beginning sellers focus only on Amazon SEO to gain this initial traction? Do they diversify into other marketplaces like Walmart, eBay, Etsy, and build their assets once they scale? Is Amazon this entry point for most sellers because it’s easier to get started?
Yeah, definitely. A lot of people are doing that. Some will do the opposite, where they’ll already have a presence on other marketplaces and will branch out to Amazon. Nowadays, people just put something up on Amazon. If it’s successful, they’ll build a brand around that.
One of the persons from the management team at empire flippers come to the show, and he mentioned that Amazon is like e-commerce with some training wheels, which I liked. I think that Amazon created this huge opportunity for new entrepreneurs, many of whom didn’t even have any entrepreneurial experience before that.
Right, and they’re all just coming to Amazon. They’re building this business from scratch, and some of them are very successful. So yeah, as you said, I think Amazon is an excellent entry if you’re into e-commerce, but when you get to a point where you can diversify, you should diversify.
A hundred percent. And speaking of the diversification, from what I see, there are several kinds of sellers. Sellers who do everything themselves and sellers who outsource everything. I’m curious to know, at what point should a seller outsource their listing optimization to a company like yours?
I always say it’s managing. Focus on what you’re good at. Don’t spread yourself thin in trying to do everything yourself. Get a product in, do the branding and designing, all that kind of stuff. It’s best to outsource specific tasks because you can save the little money you’re saving by not spreading yourself too thin. Instead of focusing 20% on everything, focus a hundred percent on what you’re good at and let someone else handle the rest.
Should you do that at the beginning, or is it a function of revenue size and product lines?
If you’re starting, don’t pay someone to do stuff for you because that’s money. You could be investing it in other places. If you’re already getting experience and have some extra budget, definitely invest in hiring other people to help you out so you can have more time to focus on what you’re good at and where you need to.
Absolutely. As people say in retail, time is money. What tools besides the Amazon ad console can sellers use to help them manage their listings, improve photography, find the right keywords, maybe some of the tools that you’re using at your agency that sellers can try themselves?
There are so many different tools out there. Viral Launch is a great tool where they inspect your listing and give you suggestions. Helium is also a very famous tool that will get you started with keywords and product research. Each software has its pros and cons, but mostly they’re all good.
Okay. I have one last question for you before we wrap up because we try to keep these interviews short and meaty so that sellers can wrap their head around the content. It’s a question from Peter Thiel’s book Zero to One. What is your contrarian view that goes against the commonly accepted notions in the industry? What truth do very few people agree with you on?
I think people underestimate how hard or easy it can be to put something up on Amazon. As long as you’re putting the right focus and effort into it, you could build a sustainable business. A lot of people think it’s hard. The second thing is, I know a lot of people won’t say this, but I will.
I never paid for a course on Amazon. I don’t even sell courses myself because if you want good value on something, that’s not always going to be by paying for something. I’ve tried it on myself. We’re just buying other people’s courses where they offer everyday Amazon plans, but they’re from two years ago. It’s outdated stuff that doesn’t make sense, and you can’t build a business off of that. Many people call me crying and saying they spent $5,000 on this course to get a good headstart. Except, the course often doesn’t work, and then they’re back to where we started. Just quit buying more, that’s what I always say.
Like you asked me, how can I get started on Amazon? What can I do now? I say, don’t buy a course like this. There is tons of excellent information on YouTube that you’ll learn for free. I’m not talking about all courses. There are a lot out there, so don’t get me wrong. There are many useful courses out there and some that I would even suggest, but the market is just so around itself. You go on YouTube, and you see those people with the cars in the back and all that kind of stuff, and people just get fooled by it. I don’t want more people to get fooled by it. So that’s my suggestion. Many people won’t agree with me on it, but you know, I’ve seen enough to say that not everything is just having to pay for all these courses.
Mark, thanks for your honesty. I love this last question because you get the most interesting answers. After all, almost every agency founder or entrepreneur has something that they believe to be contrarian. They usually build their whole business on top of it. As far as I know, Peter Thiel himself, in his book Zero to One, says this is a contrarian question that every entrepreneur should ask themselves before they build a business, and they should base their own business on it. I love that you mentioned Amazon because a lot of people are asking questions. Is it too late to get into Amazon in 2020?
The obvious answer is no. If you’re serious about it and if you’re dedicated to it. It is kind of late to make quick money. That boat has sailed right like long ago. As with any, the rules of physics don’t change, but the distribution does change. As long as you have the right strategy and know what you’re doing, go for it. But if you want to say, I’m going to find something from China and pop it online and hope for the best, absolutely not. If you have a good strategy and plan, it’s worth it because you’re standing out and performing well. A lot of people go on YouTube, and they see all this content from years ago when people were talking about retail arbitrage. Most of that stuff doesn’t work. It becomes a trend.
People lose money because they trust all these people when buying courses, even though they don’t do the research. The funny thing with courses is that unfortunately there are so many people in the space who teach without really having any relevant experience selling on Amazon themselves. It seems to me that the Amazon space because it’s a very competitive and saturated market, has a lot of teaching and content that’s growing on top of it. You have to be careful when you look for information to educate yourself.
I mainly focus on what I’m good at. Amazon is such a vast world, and PPC has its world within it. I like focusing on the marketing aspect of it because I know that’s what I’m good at, and that’s where I can be effective without spreading myself thin.
Absolutely. Everybody’s going to win because a seller can outsource their listing optimization to you, basically trusting you that you are good at Amazon SEO and someone else at PPC. Mark, thanks a lot for this. Where can people learn more about you and your business?
My website, markcaseyseo.com, has a lot of information on there. I’m updating our site right now, but it should be up and re-updated soon.
Awesome. Thanks so much for this. Hopefully, talk to you soon.
Yeah, sounds good. My pleasure.