Amazon Stores: Benefits and Tradeoffs to Building One For Your Brand

Amazon recently announced an entire blog dedicated to its “Amazon Stores” feature, which made us think it’s the right time to give this brand outpost more thought. Amazon Stores is an interesting concept in that advertisers, who are historically faceless and arguably commoditized on Amazon now have the opportunity and a dedicated space within this vast site to tell shoppers why their brand is one worth remembering.

At the surface, this seems like a fantastic, benevolent move by Amazon, and it’s a great opportunity for individual brands or even multi-brand retailers to tell their story to one of the largest shopping audiences in the world.

But it doesn’t come without effort, and there are real tradeoffs to consider.

Should I Set Up An Amazon Store?

If you aren’t currently selling your products on Amazon and you can barely wrangle the content on your website and your paid, owned, and earned channels, you should probably stop there until you get those aspects of your digital presence in a solid place.

If you feel like you do have a good grasp on your content already and want to use your resources to expand your brand name via Amazon, we definitely recommend looking into Amazon Stores. These multi-layered mini websites are free, self-controlled, and fairly easy to create. They roughly mirror the merchandising and positioning opportunity of a brand’s own site, and much like a good branded e-commerce site, they offer the ease of a streamlined online shopping experience.

Considerations and Guidance If You’re Going to Create an Amazon Store

You MUST Put Time and Thought Into It

If you decide to create an Amazon Store, it’s yet another place you have to build a thoughtful presence. And developing the right positioning and messaging for any specific channel takes time and effort.

This is not a place to copy and paste the masthead paragraph from your home page. Nor should you put an intern to the task of imagining what this new store should look like.

Many brand owners fall into the trap of thinking I must be on this platform just because it exists, even if I don’t have time to manage it. Think about social media. How many businesses have you seen create a Facebook page only to stop publishing for months on end? Oftentimes, these are businesses that shouldn’t even have a Facebook page in the first place. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Facebook updates from my dentist. I go twice a year and that’s all the contact that I need.

The same thing applies to Amazon Stores. Just because everyone’s doing it, doesn’t mean you should jump on the bandwagon. Make sure it makes sense for your brand, that you already have enough products on Amazon to make this worthwhile, and that you have the bandwidth and resources to properly create your store.

As a marketer or business owner, there’s a lot to accomplish every single day. Adding more content creation and ongoing upkeep or governance into the mix could be more than your team can realistically handle right now. Or worse, you may stretch yourself too thin to get this new platform launched and let overall quality suffer. That’s certainly not a guarantee, but it’s a real consideration.

If creating an Amazon Store lines up with your business goals and it’s high on your priority list, consider doing the following before you set out:

  • See if your competitors have Amazon Stores
  • Research other brands’ stores. To determine if a brand has an Amazon store, go to https://www.amazon.com /brandname. For example, https://www.amazon.com/Guess/. Note: Currently, there isn’t a way to find these just by browsing
  • Meet with your team and determine how many resources you will need
  • Estimate how much time setting up and maintaining the store will take
  • Evaluate whether you have the expertise to optimize this content for user experience and discoverability in-house, or if you’ll need an agency partner

Be realistic about what you can accomplish. Building a store may look simpler than it actually is. You don’t need to have any coding skills, but if you want to do it well, it’s not as straightforward as plugging in a few images and product descriptions.

Create Unique Content

Content and SEO 101: It’s important that you create unique content for your Amazon Store.

Beyond concerns about accidentally causing Amazon to outrank you for your own brand terms (more below) one of the big reasons unique content is a requirement here is that Amazon has certain rules for Brand Stores as well as individual products, and how they evaluate content.

In order to maintain consistency across a huge number of businesses clamoring to sell within their marketplace, Amazon imposes strict guidelines on what you say, how you say it, and where you say it. Just like any setup of an online marketplace, you have to think about strict page templates, unique fulfillment considerations, and any specific user guidelines.

According to an article on Digiday about the challenges of selling on Amazon, one marketer expressed the following concern:

“There are mixed feelings at the top whether we use it as a customer brand awareness platform. One thing is photography. To put a product on Amazon, we have to reshoot it specifically for them.”

At first glance, it may seem easy to upload a few product photos, but be cautious that you’ll need to build in extra time to do it within Amazon’s guidelines.

Duplicate Content and Amazon Stores

Another reason why you want to create unique content is to avoid duplicate content issues. If you’re a marketer strapped for time, it would be easy to take copy from your website and paste it into your Amazon Store, but this is a not a good idea.

Requisite PSA for folks reading this post who are totally unfamiliar with SEO: duplicate content is bad. To grossly oversimplify, if a search engine sees duplicate content on two or more sites it has to make a decision about which site to show in search results. Or worse, the search engine could perceive malicious intent from the duplicate content and actually penalize the site they perceive to be in the wrong. For more on this, here’s a great exploration of duplicate content considerations.

Chances are that you don’t have a higher domain authority than Amazon. This means that for any search (non-branded OR branded) there’s a risk that Google will show a link from Amazon, leaving you suddenly competing against yourself in the SERPs.

Think About Which Parts of Your Brand Story to Tell Fast-Moving Shoppers

If executed correctly, Amazon Stores allows you to tell your brand story in a way that you weren’t previously able to on the platform.

It also gives you the time and precious real-estate to tell your brand story in an otherwise transactional environment, and to provide those conversion points a little lower down the page. However, It’s important to think about what aspects of your story are actually going to hook consumers who are looking to purchase a product immediately.

For example, will your brand story tell users why your product is higher-quality or more reliable or will it tell a compelling personal story?

Let’s look at TOMS as an example:

TOMS Brand Story Amazon Store

Their backstory is a huge part of their brand and why people would buy their shoes vs. a competitor’s. Their Amazon Store allows them to both tell consumers what they’re about, as well as merchandising their products without rushing to get the conversion.

TOMS Amazon Store

Again, notice that TOMS doesn’t just dive into the products right away. You have to scroll through some of their lifestyle and positioning imagery before you get to the individual products.

This isn’t a prescription, but it’s a good lesson. You need to think through what specific facets of your brand make sense to showcase in this specific channel.

What route you choose to go will likely depend on whether your brand is well-known and whether you have a truly compelling story behind it. Not everyone has such a feel good, purposeful marketing story as TOMS. But that’s okay. If your biggest differentiator is that you have high-quality products that far outlast your competitors’, then you should showcase that in your Amazon Store. Reading reviews that discuss product details such as durability and other parts of product quality is commonplace on Amazon, so telling a story with that angle could really work in your favor.

Before diving too deep into how you want to tell your story, we recommend starting at a few of the following places:

  • Your products.
  • Determine which products you want to highlight and include in your store

  • Your competitors’ related products.
  • Look at your competitors and determine whether or not they have a store. If so, how are they writing about their products and their brand?

  • Common questions.
  • Determine what questions real shoppers are asking and then answer some of those questions in the copy in your Amazon Store. These questions indicate what customers care about

Amazon Customer Questions & Answers

Pro-Tip: You MUST Properly Label and Organize Your Navigation

We advise most of our clients who sell on Amazon to not use a standard eCommerce navigation in their Amazon Store. You should avoid “Solutions” “Products,” “Wholesale,” etc. Amazon is singularly focused on selling products and your navigation should reflect that.

At Portent, we often talk about the importance of descriptive navigation. For example, if your site sells yoga gear, it’s better to label your navigation “yoga gear” than “products.” This not only helps with SEO, it makes for a richer, more intuitive user experience on your website.

Although we can’t claim to know whether navigational labels affect Amazon’s A9 search algorithm, it still makes for a better and more intuitive user experience.

This may be tough to visualize in writing. Let’s take a look at another example from Listerine:

Listerine Amazon Store

Their navigational labels are clear and to the point, which makes it easy to browse. Users know exactly where they’ll land when they click on “Floss.”

Listerine Homepage Nav Labels

Notice that their Amazon Store’s navigational labels are different than their website’s. For example, instead of having a label for “Products” or “Gums & Gum Disease,” they have labels such as “Classic Mouthwash” and “Extra Benefits Mouthwash,” which showcases the products and gets right to the point.

You can also use your navigation to push seasonal products.

Maybelline created a seasonal nav label for Halloween called “Halloween Looks.” From there, they were able to create an immersive online shopping experience that not only featured products, but step-by-step directions on how to do your makeup for Halloween.

However, it’s important that you update your navigation. At the initial time of writing this blog post, they still had the Halloween nav item up, some days after the relevant window had passed. Make sure that if you change your store seasonally, you don’t set it and forget it!

Conclusion

It’s impossible to ignore Amazon’s reach and the potential business you can bring in for your brand. However, that doesn’t mean that creating another brand outpost (an Amazon-based microsite with your own copy and content) is right for everyone. We hope you’ll carefully consider some of the points above about what it takes to get this brand outpost “right” before making a decision. And of course let us know if you decide to create an Amazon Store for your brand and want to share that experience in the comments.

The post Amazon Stores: Benefits and Tradeoffs to Building One For Your Brand appeared first on Portent.


Is Smartphone Tracking an Appropriate Parenting Approach?

As technology continues to improve and play a more and more central role in our lives, it also tends to create some issues that can seem hard to address. For example, the way kids actively use their smartphones and other mobile devices and are constantly glued to their screens can be a bit of an issue for those with lower self-control, and it can lead to the development of various unpredictable problems that parents may not discover until it’s too late.

It’s a double-edged sword though – technology can also help us make some sense of what’s going on in our kids’ daily lives with regards to their device usage, and as long as you have the right tools for the job, you can easily keep track of what the young ones are doing. The question for most parents is whether this is a viable long-term approach in the first place.

How It Works

There are various products on the market today designed specifically to allow parents to check on their kids and track their activities. You’ll get access to the full list of calls and messages sent with the device, and you’ll be able to go through the kids’ browsing history and see what kinds of websites they’ve been visiting. This also includes any surfing done in “incognito” mode, which is what truly sets these tools apart from regular phone snooping.

The applications used for this job are easy and straightforward to use, and there are lots of them on the market today, with something fit for pretty much everyone’s needs out there. All you need to do if you’ve decided to go down that road is to sit down and compare what’s available.

Kids Will Always Use Their Smartphones

The best part about this kind of tracking is that kids can’t get away from it, even if they’re aware of what you’re doing. A smartphone is pretty much a basic requirement for a social life nowadays at this age, and you’ll have the reassurance of knowing that your children are always communicating through a device that you’re monitoring and have full access to.

Even if they upgraded the operating system or something along those lines, they still wouldn’t be able to get away from your tracking, provided you’re using one of the better tools on the market of course. That way, all you have to do is set things up once and leave the tool running – it will do its job without requiring any further interaction from you, and you won’t have to constantly adapt your methods.

A Preventative Approach

Another good thing about smartphone tracking as a parenting tool is that it allows you to catch problems before they’ve even happened. You’ll know when your kids are up to something that you might want to know about, and you’ll be able to intervene and have a discussion with them before it’s too late. That way, they will hopefully eventually start questioning their actions on their own, without requiring you to constantly hover over their conversations and other activities on their devices.

And that can have long-lasting repercussions that will likely make your relationship much more positive and functional, provided that you are able to do something productive with that situation. Otherwise, you risk seeing a swing in the other direction, with your relationship starting to degrade and eventually becoming less functional as a result of what you’re doing.

It’s Not a Universal Solution

Of course, like many things that technology has given us, this is not a magic wand that will automatically solve all your parenting problems and will relieve you of all your associated responsibilities. It’s just one tool in your arsenal that can allow you to handle your parenting much better and in a more controlled manner, but it should still always be used in combination with other aspects of good parenting.

If you start to rely on tracking too much, you risk getting into a situation where your kids don’t trust you, and on the other hand, you don’t know how to approach any of the problems that come up in your relationship with them in a constructive manner. This has always been a problem for parents with a more distant approach to raising their kids, it’s just that the issue is much more obvious today thanks to technology.

Smartphone tracking is one of the best tools you can deploy to get an adequate overview of your kids’ lives, and it doesn’t have to be intrusive or annoying for either side involved in the activity in order to work properly. Just make sure that you communicate with your kids and explain things to them when the need arises, and the rest comes down to knowing what tools are available to you and making proper use of them.


How to: Check Your Site For Spam Links Using Screaming Frog

I have this friend. Some neanderthal hacked their site and sprayed spam links all over their blog, 2008-style.

So this friend had two problems:

  1. Find all the spam links
  2. Detect new spam links as they occur

 I  My friend came up with a relatively simple process using ScreamingFrog. Here it is:

Yeah, yeah, it was us. I won’t detail how. It’s embarrassing, and I don’t want to get beat up on the nerd playground.

This process uses Screaming Frog. You can use another crawler, but Screaming Frog is a bucket of awesome.

The Process

Here’s what you’ll do:

  1. Crawl your site
  2. Clean up the bad links
  3. Do a “clean crawl”
  4. A few days/weeks later, do a new crawl and compare that to the previous one, looking for new, suspicious links
  5. Repeat 2 and 3

Step 1: Crawl

First, crawl your site:

  1. Open Screaming Frog (I know, I know, it’s obvious, but I like to be comprehensive in my step-by-step).
  2. Click Configuration >> Spider
  3. In the “Basic” tab, uncheck “Check Images,” “Check CSS,” and “Check JavaScript.” Uncheck “Check SWF,” if you’re still using Flash. But you’re not, right? Your Spider configuration should look like this:
    Basic Screaming Frog Spider Configuration
    Basic Screaming Frog Spider Configuration

    Basic Screaming Frog Spider Configuration

  4. Make sure ‘Follow External “nofollow”’ is not checked.
  5. Optional: If your site has tens of thousands or more pages, and your computer has a solid state drive, consider going to Configuration >> System >> Storage and switching to Database Storage.
  6. Start your crawl. If you have a big site, have a coffee or something. Your computer’s fan may start to shriek in protest. It’s OK. Just keep a fire extinguisher handy.
  7. Set up an exclusion filter. See “Set Up An Exclusion Filter,” below.
  8. Save the completed crawl. Your computer worked hard. It’s the least you can do.

Set Up An Exclusion Filter

Most crawls generate a long list of external links. You can make life easier by filtering out links to Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. In theory, links to those sites are legitimate. A good filter is a sanity-saver. It can reduce the list of links you have to review by 70–80%. Screaming Frog has a handy exclusion tool for that very purpose.

  1. In Screaming Frog, click Configuration >> Exclude
  2. Type whatever URLs you want to exclude

Screaming Frog’s filter uses regular expressions. Here’s what our regex genius, Matthew Henry, came up with:

https?://(?:[^/.]+.)*domainname.com/.* will filter www.domainname.com and domainname.com.

For example, https?://(?:[^/.]+.)*twitter.com/.* filters out https://www.twitter.com/whatever and https://twitter.com/whatever

Here’s how the exclusion filter looks once you’ve entered a few domains:

Screaming Frog Exclusion Filter
Screaming Frog Exclusion Filter

Screaming Frog Exclusion Filter

You can use the “Test” tab to see whether your filter works.

You can see our filter list here. If you want to, download it, copy it, and paste it right into the Exclude field. Note this list is perfect for us, but you’ll need to customize yours over time. Or live with a less-relevant exclusion filter based on our outgoing link profile.

Save your exclusion filter!!! You’re going to run regular crawls. Save the filter. Don’t lose it.

What You’ve Got

With the crawl complete, you’ve got a complete list of external links, minus the filtered domains. Click the “External Links” tab, and you’ll see something like this:

The External Links Tab
external-links-tab

The External Links Tab

Time to get to work.

You’re going to have to look at all those links.

In case you’re wondering, yes, that’s hellaciously tedious. We tried all kinds of automation. None of it was accurate, and we need as close to 100% accuracy as possible. We forged ahead. You will, too.

Don’t give up. After this first cleanup, you can automate detection.

  1. In the External Links tab, clean things up a bit. Look to the right of the column labels. Click the “+” sign.
  2. I always uncheck “Content,” “Status,” and “Crawl Depth.” It makes skimming through the links easier and keeps your exports cleaner.
    Changing Columns
    change-columns

    Changing Columns

  3. Start scrolling through the list of links.
  4. As you scroll, look at the info pane at the bottom left of Screaming Frog.

The info pane shows the link type, the source page, and the target. It also shows (and this is important) the anchor and ALT text. Look at those, and the spam jumps out at you. Look at this example:

Reviewing A Link
reviewing-a-link

Reviewing A Link

That’s a link from the HTML version of Conversation Marketing. It points to Cooper.com. The anchor text is “Cooper.com.” I was suspicious, but a glance at the “from” page showed it was legit. We sifted through all the links, looking for:

  • Moronic anchor text
  • Links to irrelevant content. You can usually figure that out by looking at the source and destination URLs
  • Links to SEO agencies we didn’t recognize

By the way, if you’re an SEO agency, don’t hack other marketing companies’ sites for links. It’s like jacking a police car full of angry, mace-bearing trainees all anxious to prove themselves. There are only a couple of endings. None are good for you. The only reason I’m not listing you all in this post and subscribing your webmaster address to every porn site on the internet is the very, very slim chance someone else placed these links.

When you find a spam link, note the “From” page. That’s the linking page on your site—you’ll go there to delete the link. Now, remove all those links! It’s very satisfying.

Examples

Here are three of the links we caught, and why:

  • A link to another SEO agency pointed at www.agencyname.com/seo-[city] page with the anchor text “SEO-[cityname]” from a 2014 blog post about SEO analytics. It made zero sense. That was easy.
  • A link to a greeting card company (?!!!) from a blog post about digital marketing strategy to the “leaving cards” page on their site with the anchor text “leaving cards.” Okaaaayyyy.
  • A link to an SEO agency with the anchor text “[city in Australia] SEO.” I’m sure [city] is beautiful, but we’d use better anchor text than that if we suddenly decided to start reviewing Australian SEO agencies.

Why Not Use Link Data?

You can use the link metrics provided by tools like Moz, ahrefs, and Majestic to score the spamminess of a link. That can save you oodles of time, and we tried it. We discovered that many of the target pages appeared legitimate — for example, one of the links we found pointed at a site with a spam score of 1%.

If a spam link points at a perfectly normal page, link metrics won’t flag it.

Step 2a (Optional): Update Your Exclusion List

If you find many external links to a single legitimate domain, add that domain to your exclusion list. It’ll make future crawls and reviews easier, and keep crawl files under control.

After our first review, we copied all domains we knew were OK, used some search-and-replace, and added those domains to our exclusion list. It cut the next crawl export in half.

What You’ve Got

You now have a clean site. You can do a clean crawl.

Step 3: Run and save another crawl

Now, run another crawl using the same exclusion filter. You saved the filter, right?

Once the crawl’s done:

  1. Clean things up a bit. Look to the right of the column labels. Click the “+” sign.
  2. Uncheck everything except “Address.”
  3. Click the “Export” button. It’s next to the Filter drop-down. Save the result.

I convert the result from a csv to a text file. It’s a one-column list. Why get complicated?

You’ll compare your next crawl to this one and never, ever have to hand-review thousands of links again.

Step 4: Run A New Crawl And Compare

Run a new crawl and save it, just as you did in Step 3. I keep my old crawls and organize files by date. Compulsive. I know.

Now for the fun part! You’re going to compare the most recent crawl to the new one, looking for new links. Don’t fret — you don’t have to do this by hand. While computers suck at finding spam links, they excel at finding differences between files.

Tons of tools let you compare files. If you want something simple, I like Mergely.

Here’s what a comparison of the last and latest crawls looks like in Mergely:

Mergely File Comparison
mergely

Mergely File Comparison

The highlighted line is a new link. Easy!

Mergely might bog down with humungous files, though.

So I use the command line. On Linux, this command works like a charm:

‘comm –13 [oldfile] [newfile]’

That command compares oldfile to newfile, showing new stuff in newfile. Try File Compare (FC) on Windows. Your results may vary.

Here’s what a comparison of the last and latest crawls looks like in comm:

Comm File Comparison
comm

Comm File Comparison

It’s fussier than Mergely, so you may get some false positives.

Review any new links. If they’re spam, you know what to do.

This is an excellent time to update your exclusion filter, too. See Step 2a, above.

Step 5: Repeat

Save the last crawl as your new baseline. When you run the next crawl, you’ll compare it to the last one. And so on. Repeat steps 3–5 as desired.

I run crawls every two to three weeks. If you have a faster-growing site, run crawls more often. It’ll make step 5 easier by reducing potential differences and delivering shorter lists of new links.

Enterprise-scale Alternatives

Our site is about 5700 pages. With the exclusion filter, our crawl generated a list of 2300 links. Hand-reviewing those isn’t all that bad. I divided it into chunks of 100, passed them around the office, and we finished reasonably quickly. If your site is millions of pages, you may need to use a crawler like Deepcrawl or OnCrawl.

You may need to look at machine learning as a spam link detection tool (there I said “machine learning” so this is now a legitimate marketing article). However, machine learning gets sticky when you’re sniffing for spam links that point at not-spammy pages.

Worth it?

Is all this work worth it?

Google won’t penalize you for trash links pointing to other sites. Probably. The linked sites don’t benefit from these links. Much.

It boils down to pettiness. I’m a petty person. I have an intense hatred of sleaze. Every spammer we found had “acquired” links from other sites. We contacted all those site owners. Then we reported every linked site to Google.

I have no idea if it’ll have an impact. But I sure feel better.

The post How to: Check Your Site For Spam Links Using Screaming Frog appeared first on Portent.


5 Strategies Brands Haven’t Tapped Yet for Holiday 2018

Even though Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us, holiday spending is far from over. In fact, the National Retail Federation expects holiday retail sales in November and December to increase between 4.3 and 4.8 percent over 2017, for a total of $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion. That means there’s still time and money left on the table for brands to reach interested and motivated shoppers, especially at the lower end of the marketing funnel.

According to Brett Zucker, CMO at Monotype—a company that empowers the world’s top 2000 brands with design, technology and expertise—sense-based marketing (i.e., appealing to consumers’ senses) is the best way to maximize returns during this high-volume, high-impact time of year. Namely, there are five key strategies marketers should consider, if they want to maximize yields through Dec. 25 and beyond.

  • General Senses
    • Experiential Gifts Win Out—From ax throwing to aerial yoga, this year’s holiday shoppers, especially millennials and GenZ, are increasingly opting to gift experiences in place of material items. The trend makes sense as recent studies from university researchers reveal that experiential purchases tend to provide more enduring happiness. For brands in hospitality and travel, there is a natural connection to “selling” experiences to consumers. For marketers outside these channels, think about how you can make your products an experience; it may be as simple as a small tweak in messaging. For example, you’re not just selling a festive, scented holiday candle. You’re selling nostalgia, the feeling of warmth or being cozy.
  • Sight:
    • Go for Authenticity—Gone are the days of stock photos. Ditch the staged photography, which can come across as cold or un-relatable, in favor of real images of real people. If, unlike CVS, you don’t have $$ to drop on refreshing packaging with untouched photos, consider other avenues, like UGC or influencer content. Both are solid alternatives that not only inspire loyalty, but it will make your brand feel more accessible and authentic. Bonus: reports show that UGC actually has the power to inspire purchase decisions (70% in fact).
    • Know When and How to Stylize Your Brand—Every brand has a complex visual identity, from the typefaces it uses, down to the color of the logo or packaging. Don’t overlook these small details that can have big impact.
  • Sound:
    • Optimize SEO for Smart Speaker Shopping—22% of Gen Xers and 17% of millennials plan to use a virtual assistant for shopping this holiday season. If your customers start their shopping journey via smart speaker, you may want to overhaul your content marketing to prioritize long-tail keywords that are more conversational, or “featured snippets” that appear higher on search results. In any case, optimized SEO is the name of the game.
    • Consider Curated Playlists Consistent with Your Brand—How can you make your online shopping experience unique, if already convenient? Maybe it’s a stylized Spotify playlist shoppers can tune in to while browsing. Not only a festive and personal touch, but it just could put shoppers in the right holiday spirit to convert—not abandon—their cart.
  • Touch:
    • Don’t Neglect In-Store Experiences—We hear a lot about the retail apocalypse or death to brick-and-mortar, but that’s far from the case. In fact, stats show that physical stores still play a critical role in the winding shopper journey. Want to make their in-store experience more memorable? Consider the power of in-store demos where consumers can discover and explore your product with their own two hands. This has proven especially powerful for the likes of beauty upstarts and legacy brands that are embracing experiential.

The post 5 Strategies Brands Haven’t Tapped Yet for Holiday 2018 appeared first on Mobile Marketing Watch.