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Black Hat Sellers are Manipulating Amazon and Stealing Your Sales – Here’s What to Do About It

Unscrupulous Black Hat sellers are working against you. This Amazon Masterclass Training will put them in their place!

  • June 16, 2023
  • /
  • Brian R. Johnson
black hat sellers manipulating amazon sales

In conversations with long-time Amazon sellers, you’ll often hear someone bring up the phrase, “the wild west days of Amazon.”

That was back before ecommerce was the online-selling tidal wave that it is now and it seemed that when it came to making a sale, almost anything was ok. Asking for positive Amazon reviews? Sure, why not? Just as common were product inserts that not only specifically requested a nice review, they also made it clear how the “reviewers” would be paid.

Now, it’s 2023 and it’s not getting any easier to be an Amazon seller.

That’s why Canopy Management‘s Amazon advertising wizard, Brian R Johnson is here with an Amazon Training to teach how to use white hat strategies to combat those sellers that are cheating, and taking unfair advantage of the fact that Amazon can’t see everything that’s taking place on the platform.

Amazon’s Wild West Days Never Really Left Us

Over the last several years, Amazon came to understand that they needed to do something to get a handle on the grey areas of their rapidly growing marketplace.

If you’ve watched or read enough crime dramas, you know that criminal activity is typically the result of two main things, love or money. To be clear, unethical e-commerce sellers are NOT flocking to Amazon for love.

Ultimately, it comes down to money, a lot of money.

During the fourth quarter of 2022, Amazon generated total net sales of approximately 149.2 billion U.S. dollars, surpassing the 137.4 billion U.S. dollars in the same quarter of 2021.

With all this money at stake, some sellers will do anything to make it to the top of Amazon’s page one.

What Are Black Hat Amazon Sellers?

Money is pouring into Amazon as never before, giving rise to a new type of Amazon seller, black hat entrepreneurs that will do just about anything to get ahead.

“Black Hat” is the term that online sellers use to describe individuals (or companies) that use a variety of tactics (ranging from unethical to illegal) to either gain an unfair advantage or damage their competitors’ chances of success on Amazon’s marketplace.

These sellers use unethical practices such as paying for a positive review, creating fake reviews, or even recategorizing their competitors’ products in an adult category where they will not show up in conventional searches.

Unfortunately, these black hat SEO practices do work. And sometimes the line between black hat, and aggressive grey hat practices becomes very thin.

The goal is simple. They want the Amazon sales for themselves, and in many cases succeed in getting their competitor’s Amazon account suspended.

The next section explains why this practice is a little more common than you might realize.

Amazon Listings Aren’t Really “Your” Listings 

Were you under the impression that the listing that you just carefully crafted for your new Amazon product was “your” listing?

Wrong. It’s Amazon’s listing.

That’s why Amazon can say that, “When more than one seller contributes data to a product, Amazon determines which seller’s product information will be displayed on the product detail page.”

It’s no surprise that unscrupulous sellers will go in and make changes to their competitors’ listings to make them look bad or gain an unfair advantage.

Just below is a charming example of a black hat seller changing the main image on a competitor’s Amazon product.

Black Hat 101 

Fast forward to 2023 and not much has changed. If anything, the abuse and cheating has only increased.

Here are just a few of a black hat seller’s current favorite strategies:

Hijacking Listings

One of the reasons that Amazon experts always advise that sellers closely watch their inventory levels is that running out of stock seems to trigger hostile listing takeovers.

Hijacking listings is a favorite way for black hat sellers to damage another seller’s Amazon business.

This is how they do that:

Manipulating Amazon Seller Accounts

Amazon sellers all know how hard they work to get a good reputation with the gods of Amazon. It’s crucial that Amazon sees sellers as offering only the best possible experience for THEIR customers. Because of that, manipulating reviews is another way that black hat sellers damage the reputation (and ranking) of competing sellers between them and Amazon’s Buy Box.

Here are a few of their techniques:

Zombie Accounts

How many times have you walked away from an online shopping cart? Unfortunately, busy Amazon sellers (with many listings) will occasionally abandon a listing (or cease paying it enough attention) leading to a “zombie” takeover.

These “zombie listings” sometimes with thousands of positive reviews, are perfect soil for a black hat seller to build their own (completely unrelated) product. They’re easy to spot because, in most cases, the reviews don’t match the current product or description.

White Hat Strategies You Need to Know!  

You’ve heard the saying, “The best defense is a good offense.”

When it comes to protecting your Amazon product or brand, making sure that you are crossing all your ecommerce ‘t’s and dotting your Amazon ‘i’s should be your first line of defense.

One thing that most Amazon experts agree on is that if a listing seems to be well monitored and managed, many black hat sellers will look elsewhere. It’s like a residential burglar hearing the bark of a dog, it’s just easier to go on to the next house.

If you want to level up your Amazon brand management, reach out to the pros at Canopy Management. No one can guarantee that they can prevent all black hatters, but a team of professionals keeping a close eye on your Amazon product is the best first step.

Here are the four main ways that sellers can use a strong offense to protect their Amazon business:

1. A Trademark and Amazon Brand Registry comes first

Amazon sellers looking to fully protect their account first need to get their product trademarked. Once they’ve received a trademark, they will be able to enforce their trademark rights, send “cease and desist” letters, and prosecute infringers.

More importantly they will then be able to enroll in Amazon Brand Registry. Amazon Brand Registry unlocks a suite of Amazon tools designed to help you build and protect your brand.

Amazon says that Brand Registry allows for more accurate listings, proactive automated brand protection, and powerful search tools that help you find and report suspected violations.

2. Inventory Management

Most Amazon sellers know that good inventory management can sometimes be the difference between ecommerce success and failure. When it comes to defending against black hat sellers, inventory management is also a powerful defensive tool.

Keeping sufficient product in stock helps reduce listing hijacking and content changes. It also significantly reduces the amount of counterfeit products being sold on your listing.

Pro tip: It’s a good idea to keep a small reserve of products outside of FBA (at a third party logistics company (or in a garage) that can be shipped during stock outages.

3. Monitor Your Listings

Make sure and monitor Amazon customer reviews on a regular basis to identify and report black hat reviews. Keep an eye out for click fraud. Look for keywords with sudden increase in CTR but with a low conversion rate.

You can use software tools from Helium 10’s or Jungle Scout to do this.

4. Promote Your Amazon Product with “Outside of the Box” Strategies

Your goal is to stand out. To do that, consider the following tactics:

Amazon – It’s Not Just a Side Hustle Any More 

Now, more than ever, Amazon sellers are treating ecommerce more like a business and less like a side hustle.

One way that YOU can do that is by reaching out to the experts at Canopy Management.

Canopy Management’s team leverages experience from across all corners of the Amazon industry to help you scale your business and gain market share. This allows you to keep your hands on the wheel of your Amazon business while at the same time benefiting from the wealth of experience and expertise of the Canopy Management team.

To help get a leg up on the competition (and black hat sellers), take the time to watch a recent Amazon Training hosted by Canopy Management’s Brian R Johnson.

Click here to attend the training.

How Canopy Management Can Help

That maturity of Amazon’s marketplace has made it a little harder for online sellers to be successful. If you listen to ecommerce podcasts, you’ll often hear the phrase, “treat selling on Amazon like a real business.” Everything from your Amazon listing optimization to your fulfillment process requires an increased level of sophistication to scale past a certain level.

That’s the main reason why there’s been such a big increase in the number of Amazon sellers taking a closer look at Amazon PPC management.

Canopy Management is a full-service marketing agency for Amazon and Walmart sellers. Our team consists of former Amazonians, multi-million dollar sellers, and award-winning experts. 

When you consider the many ways that Canopy Management can help you grow your business, you’ll see why selling on Amazon is much easier “under the Canopy.”

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