The Amazon game, it changes so rapidly and constantly, it definitely keeps us all on our toes. And Oh Boy has the rumor mill been crazy alive lately.
No matter how much data and, essentially PROOF, we present on the topic, the debate rages on as to whether promos still “work.”
Some people believe that the subsequent rank drops from promos is a penalty being implemented by Amazon. I absolutely, VEHEMENTLY do not believe there is a penalty.
But I get it. I mean, It is an important conversation to have. Everyone wants to know how to get their products the running start necessary to thrive. Otherwise they fear being drowned out by the massive sea of competition on the Amazon marketplace. However, no one wants to lose money (or inventory), so marketing must be calculated and well thought out.
Not everyone can just go run some Facebook ads. If that worked for everyone, all the time, we’d all do it and be rich! Not everyone can just dump a bunch of money into Amazon Sponsored Product Ads either. If it were that easy, again, we’d all do it and be rich!
Marketing as a whole is a chess game, and strategic promotions are a strategy toward winning. Launch services have facilitated one of the most effective methods of strategic promotion distribution, but we must evolve and grow alongside Amazon and it’s persistent algorithm changes.
With that, we at SixLeaf have dived yet again into the data to look for the answers. We’ve discovered, right under our noses, the secrets hidden in the latest shake up of the mechanisms that run Amazon’s search ranking.
The New Data
Before going into the specifics, it is important to discuss what prompted the latest data dive. See, while this promo discussion has been occurring for quite some time, the answer was always to look at different types of blasts (different frequencies, promo discount amounts, URLs, etc) and see whether they obtained their objective within four to five days post-promo. That objective always being did the target keyword increase rank?
Obviously if sales velocity spikes and awesome proprietary URLs still manage to rank keywords, then we could (and have) provide screenshots galore of keywords ranking well after promotions.
The conversation recently shifted a bit, however. More and more people were submitting that they experienced a drop in rank shortly after a promotion. These promotions weren’t just performed on our platform either, but on competitor launch platforms as well as through Facebook, Instagram, paid advertising, influencer and other paid and organic channels.
Typically a failed promotion is due to something easily identifiable going wrong (not enough units, promo codes were bad, wrong promo information presented, lost buy box, or a number of glitches). However, the topic was coming up too frequently to ignore.
After anecdotally testing in-house, we were starting to see odd behavior in the way Amazon appeared to be treating promotions. After looking at larger numbers in aggregate, a clearer picture started to form. This is what we discovered:
- Around 80% of ALL promotions dropped in rank after eight to ten days post-blast. This was regardless of URL type.
- The amount of rank drop varied wildly. Some only dropped two spaces, some dropped much more.
- The consistent trend with those that dropped LESS (less than 10 places) was that they had multiple sales spikes (with either WAVEs or with successive SOLO blasts).
- Another consistent trend with losing LESS rank was lower promo amounts. 70 to 85% discounts seemed to stick higher up the page than promos of 90%+.
- And finally, the consistent trend among the 20% that stuck the landing (or in some cases moved even further up in rank) was not just consistent sales spikes, but consistent sales GROWTH.
Essentially what we saw was that 90%+ off, one time promos that sent velocity through the roof definitely ranked HIGH and FAST (this is why all other launch services push this strategy above all else). However, these were the most likely to also lose the most rank at roughly the eight day mark.
However, there were two strategies that seemed to run counter to these ill effects. One was aggressively and consistently, at regular intervals, spiking sales. This tended to rank the listing fairly high (usually above the fold) but also stay within a relatively tight range, only dropping a couple places and then regaining it. The downside to this strategy is that you have to have a lot of inventory and funds to pull it off.
The other strategy that seemed to work really well was when the listing got small, incremental sales day after day. It took longer to rank higher, but the rankings steadily improved.
So What is Working Right Now
The above data makes a strong case for ZonBlast WAVEs (consecutive blasts) and even PULSEs (every other day blasts). Further, the secret weapon that we believe we have to offer with ZonBlast is variable code distribution.
VCD is a feature we’ve had for awhile, but it is often (i.e. always) overlooked. Before, average numbers were all that mattered, so sending out variable code amounts didn’t make a huge impact. However, things have changed now. With VCD, you can choose a varying amount of your codes to distribute each day throughout your WAVE or PULSE.
By creating slow, incremental velocity increases at lower discounts you can gain a considerable edge over your competition (who are still utilizing other services and taking their advice to just do a single day launch at over 90% discount).
Photos of These Strategies in Action
We can show you screenshots of keyword increases all day long, and we have in the past. The problem is, what does that REALLY mean? Yea, a keyword was ranked, but so what? Did that have any impact on the business?
Below are a small handful of screenshots that illustrate the power of the above mentioned consecutive promotion strategies to ACTUALLY INCREASE ORGANIC SALES. So, these aren’t just keyword screenshots, but actual sales figures and growth as a direct result of the promotion methods mentioned.
Here is a typical keyword increase after a series of blasts with Heatseeker.
And here is the sales average over time. The larger “humps” were mostly promotions, however notice how the product went from an average of around two sales a day to seven within the month (not astronomical growth, but a good start).
Another awesome keyword jump after Heatseeker promos.
And here we see two major aggressive promo sales spikes, and two less aggressive ones. As a result, sales increased from an average of six per day to thirty a full WEEK after the last promo was ran!
Again, great keyword movement.
Average sales were twelve per day, after five days of promos, one week post-promo sales jumped to forty four.
And finally, another MASSIVE keyword spike.
This one had four REALLY aggressive promo sales spikes. However, at the end of the month, average sales jumped from 163 to 202 per day!
My Conspiracy Theories
*WARNING. THE FOLLOWING IS NOT TESTED, BUT CONSISTS OF CONJECTURE BASED ON OBSERVATIONS AND EDUCATED GUESSES. THIS IS NOTHING MORE THAN HYPOTHESIS.
Some people believe that the subsequent rank drops from promos is a penalty being implemented by Amazon. I absolutely, VEHEMENTLY do not believe there is a penalty. This would make zero logical sense for Amazon to push promotions in all the ways they do (promo codes, coupons, social promos, lightning deals, etc) and then penalize them.
However, I do think they may be treating them differently….or rather, not differently. Here’s what I mean. An often overlooked aspect of the Amazon marketplace is their ebook categories. Amazon has a program for ebook sellers called KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). This program allows you to upload your ebook as a Kindle book and take advantage of promotion features in exchange for exclusivity on the Amazon marketplace.
Now, check out what it looks like when you run a KDP promo and get tons of downloads:
See, Amazon has a completely separate index and rank for ebooks that are free. And it makes sense. Anyone could write any kind of trash ebook, and if all they had to do was give away four thousand free copies to rank number one above all others, then that would be that. However, that would dilute the true search experience for ebook enthusiasts.
So instead, Amazon created another index and rank for free books that gives promo’d ebooks a temporary amount of visibility to see if it can survive on its own.
I hypothesize that Amazon is doing something similar with physical products. And I think it is triggered by velocity and promos (which is why the above WAVE + VCD method would work so well).
Think about it. Let’s say you sell an average of ten garlic presses a day. Then you run a deep discount promotion and sell two hundred in a day at $1. The velocity will send your listing soaring to the top of rankings. However, that is also very obvious to Amazon it is a promotion designed to do just that. It would be easy for them to switch the listing over to the “promo index” much like they do with ebooks.
That way, the listing still gets visibility for a time, but has to perform organically in order to stick somewhere in the ranking.
I know…that’s a wild theory. But it’s what I came up with for now.
90%+ off, one time promos that sent velocity through the roof definitely ranked HIGH and FAST (this is why all other launch services push this strategy above all else). However, these were the most likely to also lose the most rank at roughly the eight day mark.
How You Win
First, it is important to understand that this data was taken from a small sample and not everyone in every category experiences the exact results. If your current strategy is working for you, it is not advised that you change your methods. However, for those of you still working to figure out the right technique…
Run smarter launches. Incremental, consistent sales spikes (i.e. not crazy unnatural velocity), lower discounts, slower growth; all these elements lead to big wins. These are the types of wins SixLeaf can provide, and has provided for years. This is how we outpace the competition, because they continue to push outdated methods while we dig into the data to discover what’s really working.
Ultimately, this is the reason we introduced ZonBlast as a subscription model in the first place. Running promotions, like paid advertising, is a strategy that requires consistency and persistence. With the right play, your persistence will pay off and profits will be the reward (as illustrated above).