10 Tips for Improving Your Amazon Product Listing

Anyone who sells anything on Amazon is familiar with the many rules, guidelines and, peculiarities of writing their product listing page. It can be very confusing and sometimes sellers can have their pages suspended if they do something wrong. Often it takes a while to sort out exactly what the seller did wrong and ends up costing her sales.

Over the last 2-3 years I’ve written hundreds of product listings for clients and have developed a list of best practices when approaching a listing. If your page isn’t doing well or not converting the way you would like perhaps these tips will be helpful.

The Tips

Follow the rules. This means character limits, formatting, verboten words, and promises. Did you know that the only punctuation allowed in bullets and titles are commas and semicolons? Or that you aren’t allowed to put sales and/or discount information in bullets or titles? While you may flaunt the rules and seem to get away with it, eventually the Zon catches up with you and you risk having your listing suspended.

Reduce your keywords to 5-7. The urge to want to use as many keywords as possible is often irrestitible, but you should try to resist anyway. The truth is, if you have narrowed your focus to your ideal customer, you shouldn’t need more than 5-7 keywords. And no matter what anyone tells you, consumers do not read keyword stuffed copy. For good reason, it usually makes no sense.

Search reviews of your own product and competitors with similar or the same product for benefits, phrasing, and language that will resonate with your prospect. You may even find inspiration for an awesome headline. Look for phrases, features and, benefits that come up repeatedly in the reviews – these are the things that are resonating with the consumer or your product. Also, check the headline on the reviews, they may spark a great idea for an awesome headline.

Never, ever, ever, ever pay for reviews. This includes review swapping (I’ll review yours if you review mine), hiring ‘services’ that will do reviews, etc. Amazon has really cracked down on phony reviews in the last couple of years and in fact are suing several parties who were selling Amazon reviews. If you have fake reviews on your account you risk being banned from Amazon. They are that serious about it. This article about paid reviews you may find very illuminating.

Don’t waste bullet points on guarantees or bonuses. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen bullet points that talk about bonuses, sales discounts, and guarantees. It’s a waste of a bullet. There is ample room elsewhere in the listing to mention these items. And if you can’t come up with at least 5 benefits of your product perhaps you are selling the wrong product.

Stop using ALL CAPS. Ditto on stars, check-marks or other fancy symbols that you think will make your copy stand out. In fact, ALL CAPS when used in the Internet means you are yelling at a person. Do you really want to yell at your prospect? Honestly, these marks and symbols don’t do anything to highlight your product and it looks amateurish.

Don’t waste your product description. Many sellers spend all their time on titles and bullets and then just toss a generic paragraph of unimpressive sales copy down in the product description. It’s an absolute waste of space to do that. Your product description gives you the most room to really regale your product and speak directly to your prospect. Use your product description to take your prospect through the sales cycle, all the way to the call to action.

Ideally a product description should have: An attention getting headline that speaks to the prospects problem; A second para with appropriate subhead that regales the features and benefits of your product and how it solves the prospects problem; A short bullet list; Your guarantee and bonus (if you offer one) and; A call to action.

Educate yourself on copy writing. Whether you write your own copy or hire someone to write it for you, you should know the basics and understand the elements that need to be in your copy to be effective. An excellent (albeit huge) reference on copy writing is Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz. It is available for purchase and though the price is prohibitive I highly recommend it. If your funds are limited you can probably find a used copy or even check it out at the library.

Stop making your copy about you. I hate to break it to you but there isn’t a prospect anywhere on Earth who cares about you—they care about themselves. They are considering your product because it will potentially benefit them. Your copy has to be about them, their problem, their pain and a solution to said pain or problem. Your product listing has to clearly show your prospect what’s in it for them.

Slant your copy toward your ideal customer. No matter what your product is, there is NO product on Earth that is for everyone. While everyone may be able to use your product it doesn’t mean they are looking for it or want it. You need to do your research and determine who exactly does need and want your product. Kitchen gadgets are for people who love to cook, entertain and nurture others. Health products are for people who are health conscious or are trying to solve a health issue. The bonus here, is that the more specific you are in narrowing down your ideal customer, the more you will sell and the more your listing will appeal to those people.

How about you? Have you had a hard time figuring out how to write your listing? Did you eventually learn what worked and what didn’t? Feel free to tell us your story or share your successful tips in the comments below.

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Mixed Messages or Making Sense of Writing Advice

As a writer I am always on the hunt for good writing advice — just like the rest of you. And there is no shortage of it – you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting at least 25 experts in the area. (I, by the way, am not an expert – just an everyday jamoke who likes to make stuff up.) And I have to admit, I believed a lot of the advice out there until I noticed a funny thing – contradiction.

For example…

Do not send work to an editor that is unedited, nor should you expect an editor to edit your article. Be a professional and send a well-edited polished piece or you will be rejected. Versus. No author should ever publish a book that they have edited themselves. Because you will miss errors, lack objectivity on your own work, and it will suck.

So, which is it?

I’m a freelancer; I make my living that way. I don’t have an in-house editor. I am everyone in my little business. And as any freelancer knows you have to learn to edit your own work, cut the flab, proofread, do the research and write fast if you want to feed yourself, much less succeed. So if I can do all that as a freelance writer, why can’t I do that as a self-published author? Does writing fiction suddenly turn me into an inept dope who doesn’t know the difference between a verb and a noun or how to spot a typo – or God forbid, cut out the flab?

Get your work out there. Versus. Do not be in a hurry to publish. This is another one that gets me. Out of one side of the mouth the expert says you have to write a lot, submit a lot, and get your work out there. But out of the other side of their mouth they say don’t be in a hurry to publish. Write the book. Let it rest. Do something else. Read it again. Let it sit. Do something else.

Again, which is it?

Most writers I know don’t have the luxury of spending several years writing a book. Not if they want to eat. And too you can’t really judge a book by how long it took to write it. I’ve read a lot books that took years to produce that sorry, sucked. And others that were written in a few months that were great. I don’t think you can determine quality based on how long it takes to produce a book.

Take as much time as you need to produce the best book you can — then give it away for free, so readers will buy your other books. Sorry but this strategy has never made sense to me. And while this strat may have worked in some bizarre g-tortional way in the past, it is now so over-used that I believed it’s backfired by producing a sector of readers who don’t believe they should ever have to pay for any book.

The thing is, writers need to eat. And often spend months or longer producing that book. Not to mention publishing costs. So shouldn’t they get paid a few cents a copy?

These are just a few examples of the contradictions I’ve encountered and have stymied me. But recently, I’ve realized that in a way I’ve created my own monster by assigning expert status to others who strictly speaking aren’t experts. In fact, many so-called master classes or programs in writing are produced by writers with little or not success under their belts. Some aren’t even writers.

My advice – if it doesn’t make sense reject it

I realize that we are all insecure to some degree about our work and having the reassurance of someone who knows to help us, is well, reassuring. However, if the advice is bad or makes no sense, or requires you to completely change everything you’re doing then maybe you should re-think it. Instead of reading every article under the sun about how to succeed as writer, or how to write:

  • Forge your own path
  • Actively seek out the information you need
  • Reject what just doesn’t make sense
  • Take advice if it works for you, not somebody else
  • Never compromise your own common sense

Luckily, there are some very awesome, experienced, knowledgeable, and honest folks out there who do give great advice. Tops on my list is Anne R. Allen – you may have your own guy or gal whose advice you consider the bee’s knees. If so, fabulous. If not, check out Anne or find somebody who has a big dose of common sense and an even bigger dose of honesty. You can’t go wrong with that.

How about you? Do you see writing advice that makes you scratch your head, scream, or just want to crawl into a hole? Have you ever followed bad advice that made things worse? Feel free to talk it up in the comments.

Writer Chick

copyright 2015

So you want to be a freelance writer, eh? One way to get started

I’m an author and hope one day to be a household word in the mystery genre. From my lips to God’s ear, right? Anyway, I also make my living as a freelancer. A few days ago an online bud told me she wanted to start freelancing and asked if I had any suggestions on how she could start. And that’s how this post came about.

The following tips/suggestions are based on my own experience and what worked for me. There may be hundreds of other ways to approach freelancing and nothing is written in stone. I’ve always found that where there is a will there is a way, so if you have a better approach, feel free to mention it in the comments or just do it your way.

1. Subscribe to Funds for Writers and Writers Weekly. In my opinion, Funds for Writers and Writers Weekly are probably two of the best newsletters for freelancers because they have articles and listings for work, contests, etc. And reading the newsletters will just help you get the mindset. There are millions of other newsletters but I recommend you only go with a couple; otherwise all you’ll do is read newsletters.

2. Decide on a niche. You don’t have to have a niche – I really don’t. However, when I first started I did a lot of writing for lawyers. I was once upon a time a legal secretary so have a basic grasp on the law and the more you write about various types of law (or any subject) the more you understand it and can write about it easily. If you have a particular expertise or experience in a topic or field specializing in a niche may work for you. If you are a jack of all trades or get bored easily, you don’t have to specialize.

3. Practice writing in that niche on your blog or start a blog specifically for that niche. If you do decide to specialize and you have no clips you should either 1) start writing posts about that niche on your current blog or 2) start a blog specifically for that purpose. A free blog is fine, what you want to do is to be able to practice writing really good articles/posts and also to have samples to show prospective clients.

4. Add a “Hire Me” page to your blog. Whether on your current blog or in the case that you set up a separate blog for your niche writing put it on that blog. You don’t have to make the page fancy or sparkly – just an easy to read and navigate page that tells the prospect what you can do for them and how they can reach you. The page should be written from the viewpoint of ‘what I can do for you’ – which can be a little tricky because you have to write in such a way that shows you are competent but doesn’t sound like you are bragging.

5. Read “Breakthrough Advertising” by Eugene Schwartz. You can get it at Amazon but yes, it is hideously expensive. You may be able to find it in a used bookstore. Or possibly check it out from your local library. You may also be able to find it here but if at all possible get  your hands on it and read it.  I won’t blow smoke up your skirt, this book is huge and not an easy read. You won’t zip through it like a novel or even the usual book on writing techniques. It will take a while to read and you may want to read it several times because there is so much information in it, it is truly mind-blowing from a copy writing point of view. Schwartz is one of the most famous copywriters ever. In the copy writing world he is still a god. Personally, I learned more about writing from this one book than any other book I ever read about writing.

If you can just get the basics, you will understand how to write anything because all copy writing is written for the purpose of sales. Period. There is no other reason it is written. No matter what anyone says that is the truth. Websites, business posts, business blogs, magazine articles, etc, all written for the purpose of marketing/ selling something. Anyway, Schwartz is a genius and even if you never do copy writing you will gain a lot of insight into human beings by reading his book and it will make you a better writer. I promise.

6. Stay away from writer mills or other sites that requires you to sign up and bid for jobs. You get paid peanuts and they put you through the ringer and you can’t use any of your work for clips/samples. Do not ever sign up with a writer’s mill. These sites are typically in it for the owners to make money while the writers make peanuts, and truly get nothing out of it. They can’t approach clients privately. They can’t use their work as samples. And the editing process is ridiculous. And above all else they do not value writers. So stay away from them. Likewise craigslist for writer gigs. Many of them are scams but even the ones that aren’t have thousands of people applying for the same listing – so your odds suck. Although you can find things from time to time, generally speaking it will just drive you mad.

7. Study and understand SEO . If you don’t understand the basics of SEO then you need to either find a simple, easy to understand book or a website that you can learn the basics from. Generally, writers aren’t expected to do the SEO/keyword research but you must understand how to use keywords in your writing and why you’re doing it – and to do it so it isn’t just paragraphs of text with keywords stuffed into it.

8. If you don’t have one set up a PayPal account.  It is free and very easy to use. I get a lot of work from people outside the U.S. and I couldn’t do that if there weren’t an easy way for them to make payment. You do have to pay transaction fees which sucks but they aren’t outrageous, and it’s a business expense so at worst it’s a wash. There are other similar services which may be better but I have had great luck with PayPal.

Suggested approach/sequence

This is based on the assumption that you have no experience as a freelancer:

1. Set up a separate free blog which you can use solely for the purpose of practicing writing good SEO articles in the niche/niches you’ve chosen. As I mentioned earlier you may want to write about work or fields in which you have a lot of experience and/or familiarity. For example, if you worked for human resources in a large company, you could write posts about that – tips, tricks, etc.

2. If you want to try to get work right away, you could approach people you know. Offer to help write their website, brochures, sales ads, instruction booklets, or blog posts for their blog.

3. You could also approach web designers – even better if you know them personally. Web designers always need copywriters because though they build the sites, typically they don’t also do the writing.

4. You could put an ad in the local paper, church newsletter, mention it if you belong to any clubs, associations, etc.

5. Or if you feel really ballsy. Google the niches you’d feel comfortable writing in and check out their websites and blogs. If the website sucks or their blog hasn’t been updated lately. Contact them (from the info on their contact page) and offer to write blog posts or help them improve their web copy. You get the idea.

So there you have a list of hopefully helpful tips in breaking into the freelance writing universe.

You may have noticed I did not use the word easy in the title or anywhere in this post – that’s because it isn’t easy. As with any other career, you will not become a freelance writer overnight. No amount of tips will bring that about. You should be prepared to supplement your income or maintain your current job until you are generating enough work regularly to provide the income you need.

And too, self-employment is not for everyone. It can be lonely. It can be stressful. And the only benefits you get are the ones you provide for yourself. If you are the type of person who likes security, freelancing might work better for you as a sideline. Or you might prefer a position as an in-house writer in a large corporation or marketing agency.

So how about you, fellow writers? Do you freelance too? Any good tips to share? Knock yourself out and feel free to add to the list.

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015