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If you sell on Amazon, you are probably familiar with messages like this, professing to be from an “Amazon SEO expert” who can bump your product up to the first page of search results.
You are probably just as familiar with moving that email to your trash, and thinking no more about it. Just another phishing scam, right?
That’s what I thought too. But then I heard, from a reliable source, that these services can actually work. I was shocked, and more than a little skeptical, so decided to investigate further. Can these services really deliver on their promises? Or are they just trying to get access to your Amazon account? Will using them get you suspended?
Those are the questions I want to answer in this post.
What we’ve been seeing
Recently, we’ve been noticing a number of spammers trying to post on Web Retailer about Amazon SEO services. They’ve been writing forum posts, leaving blog comments and even asking to be listed in the directory. We’ve always dismissed them as spam. At best, their claims were highly dubious, at worst they were outright scammers. Not something we want on the site in any form.
But, when conducting research for our post on the dirty tricks used by Amazon sellers against their competitors, these services came up in conversation with Joshua Price, Managing Director of Suspension Experts. It turned out that he knows sellers who use these services, and that they really can deliver the results they promise. When I heard that, I nearly fell off my chair.
I had to find out more, so I went looking for a seller who had used one of these services themselves. What effect did they see? Not surprisingly, it was hard finding a seller who was willing to talk about their experience. But I did find one, eventually.
Does it really work?
The seller, who wished to remain anonymous, used one of these services when he launched a new private label product in a competitive sector of the market. He saw results in a few days that would have taken several months to achieve organically:
I needed a quick return. I had a lot of inventory and wanted to start seeing a good number of sales. So I decided to use an Amazon SEO service to try and boost my product’s ranking.
Within five days my product was the fourth option on page one and I was selling around 30 units a day. I even managed to get some product reviews from genuine customers who had bought it. Soon I stopped using the SEO service, because once the product was on page one, it was making enough organic sales to stay there naturally.
Was this seller concerned about being suspended for using these services? He told me he had nothing to lose. With a new selling account, and a new product, he wasn’t worried about tarnishing an existing reputation. If he was suspended he would just start again with a new selling account. (Watch out here – multiple accounts are not permitted by Amazon unless you have legitimate business reasons.)
How do they do it?
From what I’d been told, it really did appear that these services could deliver on their promises. But I wanted to know more about how they were achieving these results, and decided it was time to talk to someone offering this service.
There are no shortage of people offering Amazon SEO services on social media, Amazon forums and freelancing sites. But, once again, finding one willing to talk to us was a challenge. Eventually we Skype messaged with someone called Ethan Tylor, who had posted about his services in online marketing community Warrior Forum.
Ethan told us that he could indeed guarantee a certain ranking, such as reaching page one of the search results, depending on the price paid. He then explained how his company would create multiple buyer accounts and then use “add to cart” and “add to wishlist” repeatedly, to improve the search rank for that product. He also said that his company now focuses on link building instead.
The final thing Ethan told me, was that everything his company does complies with Amazon’s terms of service. Surely that can’t be right?
Let’s backtrack a little. Manipulating search results is nothing new. Ever since search engines became dominant, people have tried to decipher how their algorithms work, so they can manipulate search results to their advantage. There are all manner of “black-hat” SEO techniques deployed to cheat Google’s search results. They’ve always been unethical. People don’t wind up in jail for doing black-hat SEO, but they are definitely in the wrong and if Google imposes any sanctions on them then I’m afraid they got what they deserved, frankly.
So, is simulating real use by consumers to trick the Amazon algorithm into giving the seller a better search ranking really okay? Ethically, it’s a clear “no”. It’s cheating, plain and simple.
But what about technically? I looked at Amazon’s selling policies in detail, particularly the page on prohibited seller activities and actions. The “misuse of search and browse” section relates mainly to the content of listings, which these SEO services don’t touch. But, at the end, there is one short sentence that is absolutely key:
Any attempt to manipulate the search and browse experience is prohibited.
So is it a good idea?
At this point, I wanted to get an expert’s view. As an Amazon and ecommerce consultant who has worked with hundreds of sellers, with a specialism in account suspensions, I went back to Joshua Price. What does he think about these services? He warned that using them can be very risky and if sellers are caught they will be suspended permanently.
Not only that, with a suspension for search manipulation, you might find that Amazon doesn’t even tell you that you’ve been suspended, and doesn’t allow you the opportunity to appeal. They just close your account and your listings disappear. That’s the kind of response you might expect if you are flagged up for fraudulent activity, and you might not get back the balance of your account or even your inventory. Joshua Price:
I would definitely advise anyone to steer clear of these services. I think it’s too large a risk and I could suggest at least ten other ways of boosting sales, rather than doing that.
Let’s revisit those questions:
Can these services really deliver on their promises?
Yes, at least sometimes, they really can.
Are they just trying to get access to your Amazon account?
From what I’ve heard, these are not usually phishing scams that are simply trying to trick you into handing over your login. But, of course, there could be some variations out there that are exactly that.
Will using them get you suspended?
Yes, quite possibly. Amazon have all the data to see exactly what is happening on their site. They can see which products are getting a lot of attention from buyers and, as one of the world’s leading technology companies, they are capable of telling the difference between real and fake buyer activity.
The only question: is this disruptive enough for them to focus their attention on, ahead of the many other problems they have to deal with? If you are reckless enough, give it a try and see what happens. You’ll know if Amazon come down on you, because it will be with all the subtlety of a ton of bricks.
These services are definitely worth trying because they are the companies which are keeping themselves up to date with all the updates in ecommerce industry, testing all different types of techniques in various categories to get the best rankings, and the best thing - they have huge level of experience in many different products, clients, and categories.
I am one of them, having registered company in India with the team of 35+ Amazon experts.
These service providers are genuine because they provide money back guarantee too.