When you’ve hit your mark after bringing up your A-game on the Amazon Marketplace, you get a boost in sales and a certain level of attention that other sellers can’t overlook. This may pose a potential problem because that much attention can be a breeding ground for shady Amazon black hat sellers who can take the underhand and strike with their iffy tactics.
The worst thing about this is brand owners might not even be aware that they have fallen victim to black hat tactics. To avoid this, brand owners need to know how black hat sellers operate to counter and get the Black Hat Mafia on the run.
Amazon Black Hat Sellers: What We Know so Far
Abuse and violation reports are often sent to the Amazon services seller forums about Amazon black hat sellers. One of the more common reports usually zeroes in on concerns coming from the brand registry.
Brand owners who have built up the reputations of their products and have reached a high ranking on the Amazon search engine experience, odd listing hijackers. Even worse, they get variation reports made on their top-selling products that split up product families. These legitimate brand registered accounts who should be the sole occupants of their listings also suddenly get bogus reports and have their listings canceled. Reports are anonymous and the contents are unknown to sellers. Brand owners are therefore paralyzed, not knowing what to do.
With reports piling up, Amazon does know about these problems. Their standard reply to sellers who experience black-hat tactics clearly says that Amazon will investigate the issue, take appropriate action, but will not share the results of the said investigation for privacy reasons.
Since Amazon is forced to deal with the bad publicity brought about by black hat tactics, Managers and teams responsible for policing and regulating the marketplace are being more involved now than ever before. Amazon teams know what they are up against. Moving forward, we expect that Amazon will enforce tougher action on policy abusers and any unfounded attacks that sellers initiate against their competitors.
Unethical Black Hat Tactics to Know About
So, what are these unethical tactics that Amazon Black Hat sellers use? From review manipulation to highjacking product listing content, knowing how black hat sellers think and move is essential.
According to Forbes, there are some new black hat tactics that Amazon sellers are using to take their competition down:
Sellers sometimes resort to changing the product content of their competitors. They hack and hijack product listings, changing the images and titles, and adding false claims to descriptions. When this listing violation happens, Amazon bots permanently remove them from the Amazon catalog.
Unrelated Parent-Child Pairing
What some sellers do is create parent-child product variations that add in old and abandoned private label products. This type of parent-child listing abuse is done so that the child variation brings over its reviews to the parent listing. This tactic causes an increase in the review count for the main product and creates social proof. This gives the listing a performance score and subsequently, a ranking boost.
Unscrupulous Amazon sellers sometimes manipulate product reviews, causing the suspension of competitors’ product listings. Everyone knows how valuable positive reviews are when it comes to product sales. But some sellers resort to paying for reviews outright or giving incentives to customers to leave reviews.
Other more notorious black hat tactics will go as far as sellers generating dozens of fake positive reviews for a competitor that raises red flags in Amazon’s system. This leads to the suspension of that particular product, affecting honest brand owners.
Amazon black hat sellers are known to submit false infringement claims to get competitors’ accounts suspended. The scheme is nefarious: sellers knock competitors off listings for several days, usually over the weekend, paralyzing the ability of that seller to make sales. A common method to get competitors off the listing is by submitting false copyright infringement claims that take days to resolve.
Another rampant tactic is using services that help generate rankings. These include pushing products to the top of customer wishlists for product categories, voting up questions about a product to seemingly show favorable information, and downvoting unfavorable comments about a product. Click farms like these are relatively hard to detect.
Some competitors produce knockoffs of the sole manufacturer or branded products. They then sell these knockoffs using the brand name, sometimes under the same listing. Brand owners are not aware of it until they get an influx of customer complaints. This hurts the brand’s performance scores and reputation with customers.
What to Do to Beat Amazon Black Hat Sellers
As a standard, the first thing that brand owners can do the moment they experience sly tactics is to report seller abuse to Amazon. This means being vigilant, especially on weekends. If you need help monitoring your Amazon account 24/7, look into hiring someone who can keep an eye on things while you sleep and take rest days.
Abuse reports can be sent through Amazon’s Community Help email account. If you need to escalate a claim, you may contact Executive Seller Relations. You can also escalate the issue to team managers and open Brand Registry cases.
The important thing here is to be sure to show policy investigators proof that can be confirmed independently. If you’re not sure what they need, find someone who has the experience and solicit their help. It also helps to interact with category managers or anyone in Business Development, especially during the seller onboarding phase. These contacts will be of great help down the road.
Follow the Rules
Most often, sellers take part in abusive activity, thinking that this is the better way to beat Amazon black hat sellers. In truth, getting rid of them means putting a stop to all illicit acts on the Amazon marketplace, including hiring black hat services for your own listings.
Black hat services have nothing to lose when things go down. It is the legitimate brand owner who is gravely affected. Be someone who helps solve the problem. Keep in close communication with their category contacts about any shady practices. This helps clean up the categories that you sell, which reduces negative buyer experiences.
Slow and Steady
Another way to avoid black hat tactics is to realize that selling on Amazon is never a get-rich-quick scheme. Long-term financial gain and stability are created through ethical white hat practices. This involves grit, time, energy, and patience.
Also, as sellers, it is important to know Amazon’s terms of service and religiously adhere to them. Their priority is their customers, and they will always do right by them. As long as you adhere to their terms of service, you can be assured of protection against Amazon black hat sellers.
Remember, in the fight to put a stop to black hat tactics, recognize that Amazon wants brands, not growth hackers, on the marketplace. This means that you should be patient with the process of building your brand. A reputable brand will not resort to black hat methods and will reap the rewards of hard work. Amazon has more than enough benefits that sellers can take advantage of to hit the mark and achieve success.
In going against Amazon Black Hat sellers, it is important to have discernment. If a new hack or “strategy” seems sketchy, it most probably is. Also, if you think things are not going well with you, check for a possible attack.
Anticipate that black hat sellers will offer counterfeit products on your listing or compete with your product by getting their own private labels listed. Be aware that they, too, can attack your reviews and listings.
It is better to build a defense plan rather than go on the offensive with your own shady tactics. Always remain grounded and do not, at any moment, allow yourself to be vulnerable.