Starting a business can be an exciting ride as it will fill you with endless ideas and visions about your brand and your products. A whole vision board may not be enough to contain all the thoughts and ideas running through your mind, but make sure to leave space for brand protection. Whether you’re selling on a physical or digital platform, a business is never immune from individuals or groups who want to tear it down for their own gain. You should keep this in mind as you start the business planning process. You should also face the fact that black hat tactics are far too common, especially in giant lucrative platforms, such as Amazon, and brace yourself for what’s to come.
This article will tell you everything about black hat tactics and the Amazon solution you can use against them—Amazon Brand Registry. Let’s start!
An Introduction To Amazon Brand Registry
Amazon Brand Registry is the platform’s way of addressing the rising problems of counterfeits and listings getting hijacked. With 9.7 million sellers worldwide competing against each other for sales and customers, some resort to tactics that are not allowed but still very much rampant in the platform.
It aims to check all listings through bots for any violations and allows sellers to report and contact hijackers and counterfeiters. You can also improve your branding to make it harder for copycats to counterfeit your products. Sellers are also given specific barcodes for their products as a sign of authenticity.
How To Register
Protect your brand on Amazon through Brand Registry by following these three easy steps:
Step 1: Make sure that you have your Intellectual Property (IP) Certificate or proof that your registration is in the process to be eligible for the service. Your trademark in text and image should be seen in your products.
Step 2: Amazon will need to verify the document you submitted.
Step 3: Once qualified, you can log in to Seller or Vendor Central with the same sign-in information you use. If you do not have an Amazon account, create one first, log in, and begin protecting your brand.
5 Reasons Why You Should Register
Registration is easy, and you’ll enjoy all the benefits below after that.
- Make your brand stand out!
Amazon has many requirements and limits in creating stores, but not when you’re signed up for the Amazon Brand Registry with access to A+ Content.
A+ Content allows you to produce ‘rich text and images,’ as Amazon calls it. Part of improving digital presence is creating next-level photos of your products, along with engaging product descriptions and captions.
A registered listing may have any, if not all, these characteristics:
- The images are captivating, and they tell a lot about the product.
- The bullet points are detailed.
- The product description area is utilized for both product and brand awareness.
In a regular listing, images only have a white background, and the product description only contains the text.
Sample Images of a Registered Listing:
- Your hard work is protected.
Behind the images and text on your listing is a team that worked hard to search for the best keywords, finished market research to know and understand your audience, and aced competitor analysis to ensure that your content is on par or better than your rivals.
Protect these efforts and investments by registering with Amazon Brand Protection. You can report to Amazon or contact the seller if you see that accounts are selling counterfeit products. You can do the same if you observe you are a target to black hat tactics. Amazon bots also crawl through all listings to check for any violations of their regulations.
- Warn hijackers and counterfeiters.
You and Amazon work together in checking for accounts selling product counterfeits and accounts performing unallowed practices through Project Zero.
On your end, you can check the listings through Project Zero, and if you see sellers selling counterfeits of your product, you can send them a warning email so that they can take the item down. If this does not work, you can send a report to Amazon. Amazon then conducts an investigation, and if proven that the listing sells counterfeits, they will delete the account. You can even file legal action against the seller.
- Build trust and credibility with your customers.
Let your customers know that you or your authorized resellers are the only legitimate sources of your products through transparency codes.
All your products will have barcodes that, when scanned by customers using their iOS or Android phones, will give detailed information about your products, showing authenticity. Any product not bearing these barcodes would classify as counterfeit.
Ensure that your customers know about it through your bullet points, product descriptions, or by creating information campaigns on your website and social media accounts outside Amazon.
This level of protection will surely drive away plans on counterfeiting your products.
- Fasten your IP certification
Before registering for the Amazon Brand protection, you need to have an IP Right Certification, which is a long process. With that, Amazon offers the IP Accelerator, which helps hasten the processing of IP certificates by connecting you to firms and lawyers.
While your IP certification is in process, you will be allowed to register for protection as long as you show proof that your application is ongoing.
If you haven’t applied for your IP credentials, you can look into this service which offers competitive rates too for professional fees.
Protection From Black Hat Tactics
There are many benefits in signing up for Amazon Brand Registry, but prime among them is the protection from different black hat tactics below. We’ve broken them down into three: listing-related, product-related, and system manipulation.
- Positive reviews sabotage
Positive reviews are one of the most coveted factors you’d want to have as a seller as it boosts your product listing rankings. Reviews are also where your potential customers seek social proof on how honest your product descriptions and promises are. However, positive reviews have also become a tool by some people to sabotage your business.
What happens is you get more positive reviews than you should from anonymous accounts. Amazon proactively crawls every listing, and if they see this unusual activity, your account can be suspended during the investigation.
- Fake negative reviews
Negative reviews will pull your listing down. These will turn off any potential buyer when they come across your listing. However, some or many of these reviews are fake and were written by ghost accounts. In some cases, the feedback is even tagged as “helpful” by the same people planning to bring your listing down.
Both negative and positive reviews are made possible through a group called “review rings” made on another platform. Reviewers are paid with every positive or negative comment they leave to the targeted listing.
- Account and listing hijacking
Listing hijacking may occur on both active and dormant accounts, although it is easier done on the latter. For inactive accounts with a significant number of reviews and high ratings, hijackers will change the products being sold but retain the reviews. In that way, putting the listing on the first pages of search results will be easier.
Yet, it can also happen to active accounts where hijackers will revise your content, including vulgar words and images and content that is not allowed on Amazon. In this way, your account will be suspended for not complying with the regulations.
How Amazon Brand Registry Helps
When you constantly monitor your listings, you’ll notice these tactics and report these tactics right away, so the practices will not be taken against you or cause your account to be suspended.
- Products counterfeiting
Producing replicas and fake versions of products are made more accessible these days, and they are much easier to peddle now because of the internet.
These products do not have the same quality as what you sell but bear your brand logo, so when they reach your customers, they’ll be expecting that it came from you. When your buyers are not satisfied, the damage is not done to the counterfeiter but your brand. As a result, you’ll get negative reviews and lower sales.
- False infringement claims
On the other side of the spectrum, instead of suffering from counterfeiters, black hats file infringement claims against you, making you appear that you are the counterfeiter. These claims are sent repeatedly to Amazon, so the bots will flag your account and suspend it for investigation, which will cause loss of sales while you resolve it.
When your account gets suspended due to this, you can always file a counter infringement claim to prove that you are the legitimate seller, and Amazon will also reach out to the complainant for verification. However, expect that you will not receive any response as the goal is to suspend your account—and they have succeeded.
- False product claims
People determined to bring your listing down to take your spot will go as far as buying your products and leaving negative comments about your product with counterfeit product images as proof.
Aside from this, the buyers can also claim that your products include chemicals or content that are Amazon-restricted or prohibited, causing your listing to be suspended for investigation. The days you are out of operations can mean a lot in your listing ranking—it will surely pull you down, which is the main aim of that black hat.
How Amazon Brand Registry helps: With Amazon Brand Registry, all your products will bear your logo, which can be a basis for the legitimate seller. If even the logos are copied, you can secure all your products from any false claims through Transparency Codes—the unique barcodes on your products other counterfeited ones can never have.
- Algorithm manipulation
Amazon is governed by an algorithm called A10, which has several parameters to decide whether a listing deserves to be on the first page of the search results or not. Legitimate and regulation-abiding sellers will go all out in keyword research, store optimization, delivery options, and affiliate marketing to satisfy the algorithm—but black hats will skip all these and manipulate the algorithm instead.
Through hackers, the algorithm is altered, so sellers can skip the hassle of search engine optimization and get an algorithm-friendly listing right away. Be wary of offers you get on email or in person, as they may be linked to algorithm manipulation tactics.
- Super URLs
Another offer you may get is this: by clicking just a single URL, your listing will be read as optimized and will be ranked on the first pages of the search results. This offer is a black hat tactic, so make sure to turn it down.
It may be tempting to give in to these offers because of all the time, effort, and money you can save, but you’ll never know when you’ll get caught and flagged down by Amazon. Your success is quick, but it might be short-term.
- Fake listing clicks / Click farming
One of the updates of A10 is checking the click-through rate from ads in and out of Amazon. With that, affiliate marketing, establishing your brand on social media platforms, and having your website are now more critical than ever. Do not be tempted to click farm or the practice of producing fake click-through to the link to increase your rate.
Another type of fake clicks is when people pulling your business down would click on your ads to consume the ad funds you have set for your campaign. As a result, you have plenty of clicks to pay for but no sales conversion.
How Amazon Brand Registry helps: Another service you can enjoy with Amazon Brand Protection is Brand Analytics which will provide you with data about your business. It is through these reports where you will see meager conversion rates with high click-through rates. Through this service, you can check whether your strategies are effective in putting your listing on the first pages and increasing your sales.
What Happens To Bad Actors With Amazon Brand Registry
If your brand is not protected, you are more susceptible to these black hat tactics, so register as soon as possible if you have the chance. When you report black hats, you help your own business and other sellers who may be victims of the dirty schemes.
These are the possible outcomes when black hats are reported:
- Amazon can suspend hijacker accounts
- You can file legal cases under Intellectual Property Rights, especially for counterfeiters
- Product listing will no longer appear on Amazon/Deletion of listing for hijacked accounts
- Loss of sales for listing hijackers
- Removal of reviews to the hijacked account
- Disability to post new reviews for ghost reviewers
- Public disclosure of the hijacked account, which will affect hijackers’ sales
Other Ways To Keep Your Listing And Brand Safe
Create unique content that is difficult to copy. Begin with optimized images bearing your logo and all the details about your products and your brand. You can post these in the product description area of your listing. Even the layout of your products in the images is a way to avoid copycats.
Bundle your products.
If there are black hat tactics, there are also white ones like product bundling. If you offer products in bundles, counterfeiters will find it hard to sell the same offer. Even if they sell counterfeits, your listing will still attract more customers and get sales because of your added offer.
Use parent-child listing.
Counterfeiters can copy one product, but the odds of copying all variations are low. Show your customers that you are the legitimate seller and increase your listing’s credibility by using parent-child ASINs. Parent-child listing will also positively affect your sales as customers are given more options. Also, when they leave positive feedback, the reviews for all products are on one page.
Use your accounts outside Amazon for information dissemination.
After picking the right sales channels, utilize your posts on social media, your blogs, and your website to spread information on the ways to authenticate customers’ orders. For example, you can inform your customers about your transparency codes and how they can scan them using their phones. You can also warn buyers of counterfeits.
Wherever you are in the stage of your business, whether you are in the planning stage, still beginning, or already a successful one—you need to protect your brand and your products. The more milestones you reach, the higher your sales get, and the more significant competitor you become, the higher the chance of black hats targeting you.
If you are enrolled in the Amazon Brand Registry, you can peacefully continue scaling your business. Black hat tactics are the least of your worries as you know you can handle whatever comes your way.
Jayce is the managing director of Seller Interactive, the number one Amazon advertising agency based in Canada that helps brands build their business on Amazon. His content marketing expertise has led him to work with brands such as Toyota and GoDaddy, producing content that has reached over 20M views in a month.