The Beginners Guide To Merch by Amazon – 4 Things You Should Never Do With Your Amazon Listings
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Merch by Amazon seems to be on a role lately of tier ups as well as expanding the program a lot of us have grown to know and love. With the expansion comes opening up more slots for brand new designers and business people who have the chance to take advantage of all that Merch has to offer. Because of this max influx of people to MBA, here at Merch Informer we have decided to run a series that is more targeted to people who are just getting started. This series will be called “The Beginners Guide To Merch by Amazon” and should contain bits and pieces of information that should keep your account safe and help you blow up your earnings in record time even if you have absolutely no idea what you are doing (no one did when they started!).
If you were to go back and ask a lot of the seasoned Merch by Amazon sellers if they made mistakes when they started, the answer would be absolutely yes! Everyone had to figure it out as they went along because there were no guides or people to show them what they should or should not be doing. Today, I want to go over 4 things that you should never do with your Amazon listings if you want to turn this into a long lasting business.
#1 Putting Unrelated Keywords In Our Listings
You can still see this today when you are doing your research but one of the biggest trends that just will not seem to die is that people are putting completely unrelated keywords and phrases in their listings. Some people teach that you should put unrelated keywords in your title because those keywords are getting traffic. Others completely keyword stuff their description with unrelated keywords in hopes that these keywords will get them more visibility on that shirt.
This is all against the Amazon TOS and something that should be avoided if you want to keep your Merch by Amazon account. It was not too long ago that Amazon introduced limited character count in the bullet points to try and combat some of the spamming that is going on. While this helped the issue, it has still not gone away.
Remember that Merch by Amazon is still in its infancy. The program is a little under 2 years old at this point, and is still kind of a “wild west” environment. Do NOT listen to people who tell you to stuff your title, bullet points or description with unrelated keywords. It might pass today, but as Amazon makes small changes and cleans up the program, this will not fly in the future and you could be looking at a banned account. You do not want to take that chance.
This also goes for putting related keywords in your bullet points but just putting them in a list.
Just look at the shirt above. Look at their bullet points. While the keywords they have so blatantly shoved into their bullet points are all sort of related, the listing looks terrible and this is nothing short of spamming. Do NOT do this. If the bullet points do not sound coherent if you were to read them out loud to yourself, then you are not creating a good Amazon listing. You may have heard that Amazon rewards good listings and this is absolutely true. Do it right the first time and you should not have any issues.
This is a really interesting one and something that is often found out the hard way with new Merch by Amazon designers. Parody is often fine with many PODs and in fact sell amazingly well if you land on the right niche. When it comes to Merch by Amazon though, you are far better off just not touching any parody designs.
Since Merch has not really figured out trademark/copyright law, they are more than willing to just take designs down or not even let them pass review in the first place. You have to think about this from the position of Amazon. They would rather take down designs that are perfectly legal in order to protect themselves from any future lawsuits or issues. They do not care about you (the designer), and just need to keep themselves protected. Therefor, just skip the parody for now if you are strictly doing Merch.
I am not a lawyer, but from my understanding, Parody is a defense, not a right. Parody and fair use have a lot of court cases that go over the small nuances and how they are used. Without trying to explain these myself, americanbar.org has a really good PDF that outlines some of these issues/court cases here: https://apps.americanbar.org/litigation/committees/intellectual/roundtables/0506_outline.pdf.
Now before we go on to the next point, you very well may see Parody or Satire designs on Merch by Amazon. Just because you see something live on Merch does NOT mean you can do the same thing. As silly as it sounds, there are private Facebook groups that do nothing but report these type of designs to Amazon so keep your account protected and play it safe by not going after these type of designs for the foreseeable future.
#3 Drugs and Alcohol
I get it! You get accepted to Merch by Amazon and the first thing you want to do is put up some 420 blaze it t-shirts. I see this time and time again, people asking why their marijuana shirts were not accepted and are stuck scratching their heads as to why their #legalizeit shirts did not pass the review process.
There once was a time where these shirts were allowed into the Merch program. I had my fair share of them and they sold VERY well! As the program matured though, Amazon realized that they are trying to be “family friendly” and since they are the seller of record when you sell shirts (remember you get royalties…), they started getting rid of all the Marijuana shirts as well as other drug shirts. When doing your research you may see some still under Merch, but these have not been caught yet. If you are selling through seller central, then you are free to list as many of these shirts as you want. Amazon just does not want to be the seller of record for any drug shirts even though some of these substances may be legal where you live.
The terms of service for MBA does not specifically say you cannot have these shirts on Merch, which is why a lot of new people are stuck wondering why their shirts are being rejected.
When it comes to alcohol though, these are technically allowed. The reason I added it to this list is that you really need to be careful when it comes to making shirts about drinking. You cannot use any of the names/brands of alcohol out there at all. I even heard of Jack Daniels getting people’s designs removed for simply using their scroll work in a design even if there was no mention of their whiskey at all. Tread carefully as you want to keep your account safe if you decide to make drinking shirts.
#4 Leaving Fake Reviews
I saved the best one for last as I have seen people doing this on more than one occasion.
There are two things you need to make sure you stay clear of when it comes to fake reviews. The first is that you never leave fake reviews on your competitor listings. There are a few scumbags who do this out there, so make sure you do not become one of those people. The second is that you should never leave fake reviews on your listings or purchase fake reviews.
When it comes to fake reviews, you may have noticed while doing some of your research that some of the reviews on listings do not have the “verified purchase” tag underneath them. One of the techniques that some less than stellar individuals have started is that they will go to the listing of a competitor who is doing better than them, or someone who they just do not like and leave a fake 1 star review on that listing. Now, while this review will not be “verified” customers seem blind to this. What a customer sees is a 1 star review and they will just steer clear of that listing all together! What you could do if this happens to you is get in touch with the Merch team and try and have the review removed. I have never heard of this working but if you have, please let us know in the comments below.
What is a lot more likely than what we just discussed above is that someone will either give themselves 5 star reviews or purchase them from a supplier. Not only is this against the Amazon TOS, but Amazon has even sued people over this!
Seriously, do not do this! When doing your research you more than likely will come across brands who have done this. One of the biggest offenders that I know off the top of my head is Steve’s Emoji Shirts.
As you can tell, none of those have the “verified purchase” tag on them, and are people who have not purchased. More than likely, they are just the owner of the brand/design using other Amazon accounts to leave themselves 5 star reviews.
This process is being cracked down on by Amazon is playing with fire. If you do not want to end up in court with the biggest eCommerce company on earth suing you, my recommendation is to play by the rules.