Amazon Linked Account Suspensions – Canada and Mexico
There have been a lot of linked account suspensions in Canada and Mexico lately. This week I thought I’d answer the most asked questions about these suspensions:
- Why is my Amazon account suspended in Canada/Mexico if I don’t even sell on those platforms?
Obviously, Amazon has updated its algorithm on those two platforms. Even though sellers access them through the unified North American drop-down menu, the fact is they are separate platforms just like the EU and Japan are separate platforms.
Canada has been a haven for bad actors in recent years because the verification process isn’t the same there as the US or UK due to local regulations. In short, it’s easier for bad actors to set up multiple accounts in Canada. I haven’t seen many bad actors coming from Mexico, but it could be that Amazon is trying to solve a problem through tweaking the algorithm on both platforms. This part is my guess. I don’t know for sure.
There have been a lot of false positives, specifically where sellers are linked to random companies through a service provider. That seems to be the core of this wave of suspensions.
- How do I know who I’m linked to?
Sometimes it is obvious. We take our clients through a list of possible ways that Amazon might have linked them to another account and that often triggers a memory or linkage. In many of these recent cases, our clients are adamant that they are not linked. We discovered the linkage through service providers because we asked Account Health.
If you are suspended right now and want to know who Amazon thinks you are linked to, contact Account Health (not Seller Support), and they will give you the first three letters of the linked account. Often that’s enough to trigger the “aha!” moment.
- What if I still can’t figure it out?
If you are absolutely confident that there is no linked account through ownership, past employees or any of your service providers, it means you have either not looked everywhere or they are linking you to a random company through one of your service providers. In this case you need to deny linkage and provide information on your service providers. It’s a vague appeal, but it’s all you’ve got. Sometimes there really isn’t anything to find.
- Will this suspension affect my US account?
So far, the answer is no. We’ve not seen sellers’ US accounts go down for these suspensions. Usually we can get our clients back within a few days.
- I don’t even sell in Canada/Mexico. Do I need to get reinstated?
Yes. It could affect you in the future. Just because Amazon isn’t taking down US accounts (so far) doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. They certainly have in the past. Amazon has yet to fix this oversensitive takedown algorithm despite a ton of false positives. If you are down, get reinstated. Your future self will thank you.
- I’m suspended on both platforms. Do I need to get reinstated on both?
Yes. You may be able to use the same appeal if the reason is the same for both platforms.
- How can I avoid being linked through service providers in the future?
One thing we are recommending for our clients is to make sure that no one has full admin access to their account except for them – not even employees. Just the owner(s). This is not a guarantee – this is Amazon we’re talking about – but it should help.
- What if I’m both a seller and a service provider?
You should not be logging into another seller’s account. Period. Never login as yourself to another seller’s account.
We suggest that your service business be a separate entity from your seller business. You need a separate website, a separate name, a separate tax ID, a separate bank account (from a different bank, even), separate emails…you get the idea. Your service business must be a standalone company in every way. That’s what I did. My seller business is a separate LLC, separate P&L, separate URLs, separate everything from eGrowth Partners. I never enter another seller’s account as a seller. If you are both, and you’ve not been taken down yet for linked accounts, it is only a matter of time.
Take the time, then, to set yourself up right so if you ever do have to explain yourself to Amazon, you are completely buttoned up. Being a separate company will help you avoid linked accounts for yourself and your clients.
- How do I reach Account Health?
Sometimes they give you the link in a notification they send you. Use that. If they don’t, go to Seller Central Help and search the categories for Account Health. You will likely be able to email them, but you probably can’t call. We’ve found that the ability to call is usually possible after the first appeal is sent in OR if they’ve already given you the link. Otherwise, you must open a case requesting the three letters of the account to which you are linked.
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Amazon Suspension for Rank and Review Manipulation
Amazon has changed its requirements for sellers suspended for rank and review manipulation dramatically. Now they are requiring a detailed disclosure of the service provider you are using to manipulate rank and/or reviews, including:
Multipacks are not allowed, unfortunately. This has to do a variety pack. However, you can do a bundle multipack. For example, you can bundle 3 pencils with 2 sets of pens, but not a bundle of 2 pens only.
Once you make a bundle, the details can be changed, but not the bundle itself:
- All correspondence you had with the provider – from invoices to every email, PM, and Many Chat session.
- All information on the service provider including the specific people you worked with
- Details on how using this service provider caused you to violate Amazon’s contract
- Dates you used the service
- Marketplaces and ASINs affected
- SKUs impacted
- Any reviews that were gained through this service provider
- URLs used for rank manipulation
These suspensions – so far – are focusing on services/software that use Many Chat to communicate with buyers. They may want to see your Many Chat campaigns. If you want to get reinstated, you will need to be open and transparent with Amazon.
- Can I get reinstated and still use the software/service that got me in trouble?
- What if I didn’t specifically ask for a review with my Many Chat campaign or it was a neutral ask?
It doesn’t matter. Amazon has changed the language around reviews to include the words “imply” and “implied” when it comes to reviews. If you are offering significant rebates, a free gift, a coupon, or some other incentive then a positive review is implied even if you don’t ask for one. How can they do that you ask? Data. Their data tells them that even without a review ask or just a neutral one: if the buyer is getting some kind of incentive – free or discounted product – the bias is there.
- What if I just want to do a giveaway and don’t ask for reviews?
This is another flavor of “how can I launch a product without violating Amazon’s Business Service Agreement?” You can’t. You need to think differently. There are only 3 ways to get reviews without violating Amazon’s agreement (see below). However, if your goal is to do giveaways to jumpstart sales and build your own fan base, that’s allowed. It’s the part where you are using Amazon’s platform to do it that gets people in trouble. Here’s what you CAN do:
- Giveaway products from YOU. Fulfill from your warehouse. Don’t go through Amazon. Build a fan base online. In other words, these sales are not on Amazon. People are getting their free product directly from you to try the product.
- Ask for video testimonials that you can use in your advertising, on your website and later, on Amazon.
- Run ad campaigns on Google, Facebook, YouTube, etc. – whatever makes sense for your product.
- Use your Many Chat and other marketing campaigns to encourage them to keep using the product. Those sales can be on Amazon.
- Give them an Amazon coupon (nothing higher than 35%) for their first Amazon purchase.
- Give them an incentive to share your products with a friend.
- Continue to market to them over time to try your other new products, to replenish their supplements (etc.). Run contests, host future giveaways. These are YOUR buyers.
- Ask for reviews everywhere, not just Amazon. Google reviews, reviews/posts on Facebook, Pins on Pinterest, and so on.
Once you have some reviews, start advertising on Amazon as well.
In short, run your own marketing campaign. You won’t violate Amazon’s agreement and as a bonus, you have your own fan base. If Amazon ever shuts you down, your fans can buy from you directly. All you do is send them a Many Chat that says your Amazon store is temporarily shut down and to go to your website to buy your product.
As many of my clients have pointed out, this takes time. Yes, it does. I recommend that new brands don’t put themselves on Amazon until they’ve built a fan base. Get your ducks in a row. Set up the business, set up brand registry. Create A+ pages, but don’t make any listings live until you’ve got some buyers ready to go buy on Amazon.
- Are particular service providers being targeted?
I can’t tell yet. Seems to be all over the map in terms of service providers used. It’s either a broad net or they are basing the takedowns on the seller’s metrics. Not sure yet.
- Can you tell us the service providers whose clients are being taken down?
No. I don’t need the lawsuits. What sellers need to know is that if they are running campaigns that use ManyChat, it’s a risk. If they are giving rebates, it’s a risk. If they are using superURLs or other special links to drive keyword ranking, it’s a risk.
Frankly, if you are using one of these services, you already know it’s a risk. I spent some time today looking at the websites of service providers whose campaigns took my clients down and it was obvious just from the website that they were suspicious. Lots of amazing claims about sales, ranks and reviews, and my clients didn’t ask questions about how they were doing it. These were not small, obscure companies either.
YOU are responsible for everything a sales provider does on your behalf. You need to understand how the program works, and you need to understand Amazon’s rules. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been in business or what they tell you about being compliant. You must investigate for yourself.
There is nothing inherently wrong with rebates, Many Chat campaigns, or asking for a review, but how you do it is very important to Amazon.
- What is a safe way to get reviews on Amazon?
There are three approved methods by Amazon:
- You can make a neutral ask after a buyer has your product. ONE email.
- Use Amazon’s Early Reviewer program. It’s free and will help with those painful first few reviews.
- Use Amazon’s Vine Reviewer program. This used to be very expensive, but it is reasonable now as they are “temporarily free.” You can get up to 30 reviews on each ASIN. I highly recommend sellers check it out.
- What is the safest way to improve rank on Amazon?
Sell stuff. Legitimate sales are what you need. Fake sales will only get you so far (and they are expensive). There are several approved ways to sell more stuff:
- Improve your listings so they convert more. The more impressions that turn into sales, the faster you climb.
- Have an Amazon Storefront – This gives you a landing page for interested buyers from your off-platform campaigns that lets them browse without affecting your impressions metrics. When they click through to buy, then it registers as an immediate conversion. Your conversion to impressions ratio improves, and you move up.
- Tweak your keywords – make sure you are making your listing very relevant to your target audience. Don’t use other companies’ trademarks in your keywords
- Advertise – drive traffic to your Storefront and listings. This includes advertising on Amazon, Google, Facebook, Instagram…etc.
- Public relations – put out a press release, get stories about your products in media outlets and with influential bloggers. Get included in “best of” lists and other industry publications. Collect buyer testimonials and use them for advertising and creating a video for your Amazon listing.
- Build a community – Using social media to develop a fan base is slow, but it provides long-term results (see above). These buyers are YOUR buyers, you can offer them codes and discounts, contests, and other loyalty builders. When they are ready to buy, they buy on Amazon. You can ask them to leave reviews (just remember, honest reviews) everywhere, not just Amazon. You can create affiliate programs so others will promote your products to their followers.
- Create a great, safe product – this is overlooked in many sellers’ planning. You can drive all the traffic in the world, have great converting A+ pages and Amazon Storefronts, but it won’t matter if your product is expired, defective, unsafe or below expectations. If you are selling a cheap trinket, don’t try to pretend it is a diamond from Tiffany’s. Match the marketing to your product so people are happy with their cheap trinket.
You will notice there is nothing on my list about superURLs or special links, deal groups or other services designed to increase rank. These are all highly risky. There are some deal groups that Amazon doesn’t have a problem with like Groupon, but that’s because the sales are not going through Amazon. Whenever you encounter a group or a service that goes through Amazon to drive sales, rank, or reviews, it’s a sign that you need to investigate further. It could be risky.
Improve Your Rank on Amazon
Changes to Sellers’ Official Business Address
After sellers worked so hard to get their business addresses set up properly in Amazon, we discovered that some sellers (not our clients) put up fake addresses. Some of them were blatantly fake like “1234 Main Street” types of addresses. Its frustrating to all honest sellers and defeats the purpose of displaying addresses.
Whether it was in response to this or just a change of policy at Amazon, the rules have changed now. Basically, Amazon is now displaying everyone’s legal entity address instead of the “official business address.”
So now, sellers need to think about what their legal name and address is and whether they want buyers and other sellers to see that.
Amazon Vine Reviewer Program Free
I don’t know how long this promotional period will last but if you are launching new products on the platform right now, enroll in Vine! You can get up to 30 reviews per new ASIN (you get reviews until you have 30 from all sources – including other reviewers). To be clear, there are costs: You are giving the products away for free, and they are not required to leave a review. However, most of them do. They joined Vine for a reason.
Enrollment in the program is free.
There are lots of caveats: Vine is for brand registered brands, and there are some products they won’t allow like sexual wellness, so read up before enrolling.
You can find Vine under your advertising tab in Seller Central. You can also read about it here.