Amazon Search Ranking Scams: The Black [Hat] Market
It’s no secret that the Amazon marketplace isn’t as easy to manage from the sellers’ standpoint than it is for the customer. Of course with any business in general, it is usually this way, but the FBA (fulfilled by Amazon) business has its own unique issues. If it isn’t the fierce and unfair competition, it’s the way Amazon handles your income. Not to mention, the power of the search ranking. This aspect of the FBA world is one of the most frustrating parts of the business. Sellers can be receiving rave reviews one minute, making their ranking closer to the top of a search, but the next minute they could drop with just one bad review, and it might not even be a real review. This might be why some sellers are paying $10,000 a month to manipulate Amazon’s ranking system.[SEE: Save The Sellers: Exploring The Amazon Of The FBA Business]
This “black market” of Amazon is how some sellers are able to gain an advantage over the competition. According to an article from BuzzFeed News, there is a lucrative market for “black hat” services that allow sellers to manipulate their products’ ranking, protect accounts from disciplinary actions and in return, crush their competitors. These services also sometimes go as far as to bribe corporate Amazon employees to leak information from the companies’ business reports and wiki pages so they can resell them to sellers with a hefty price tag.
The victims of these black hat services are not only the sellers who abide by Amazon’s terms of service, but the customers take a hit as well. This is because when dishonest Amazon sellers get away with using these services, it causes honest Amazon sellers to feel as if they can’t compete and thus stray away from using Amazon to sell their products. In return, the customers of Amazon miss out on buying from these honest businesses and instead be subject to more scams in the marketplace.
In February, Amazon announced how it plans to better combat fraud on their platform, with the launch of Project Zero, a program that “empowers brands to help drive counterfeits to zero.” Through the use of automated protections, self-service counterfeit removal tools, and product serialization, Amazon aims to ensure its customers receive authentic goods every time they shop in the marketplace.
However, as Amazon continues to grow, the use of black hat tactics has only continued to increase. Furthermore, because Amazon’s response rate to issues is so slow, many of its sellers resort to black hat just to avoid losing money, according to David Nicolucci, founder and director of the Amazon marketing consulting firm, Growth Hacker. When you lose more money waiting for Amazon to respond to an issue than you would paying for the black hat services, the choice to use dishonest business practices becomes easier and easier.
What is most concerning about these black hat businesses is the number of connections they have with Amazon employees themselves. According to BuzzFeed News, one black hat consultant admitted that he can get suspended accounts reinstated by pulling strings with employees inside Amazon. This insight makes one wonder if Amazon is aware of this and taking steps to prevent this internally or if they are somehow benefiting off the black hat companies too.