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How to Fix your Amazon Suppressed Listing?

March 26, 2021 by Andrew Minalto - 2 Comments

There’s nothing worse than planning out all the details of your product launch on Amazon and then finding out that your listing has been suppressed due to one small error.

And that’s exactly what happened to a blog reader who emailed me frantically trying to find out why their listing was suppressed and if it meant disaster for their product launch!

So to save this happening to anyone else, today we’re going to go over why Amazon suppressed a listing, what it means for your business, how you can fix it, and even more importantly – avoid it completely in the first place.

Let’s get to it!

Why is my amazon listing suppressed?

Put simply, Amazon wants every listing on their website to match their high standards and they also want conformity throughout all listings. This familiarity makes it easier for buyers to search for, research, and compare products WITHOUT having to leave Amazon’s website.

In their own words: “our research shows that listings with complete product information, including images, category (item-type), price per unit (PPU) and titles (parent titles) with less than 80 characters improve the shopping experience by making it easier for customers to find, evaluate and purchase products.”

From my experience the main reasons people get their listings suppressed by Amazon are

Suppressed Amazon FBA Listings due to Image Issues

There are a lot of specific requirements when it comes to your product pictures on Amazon and this is something that a lot of new sellers make mistakes with.

Here are Amazon’s requirements for product images:

• Images must accurately represent the product that is for sale.

• Images must match the product title.

• Product must fill at least 85% of the image.

• The optimal zoom experience for detail pages requires files to be 1600px or larger on the longest side. Zoom has been shown to help enhance sales. If you are unable to meet this requirement, the smallest your file can be for zoom is 1000px, and the smallest your file can be for the site is 500px.

• Images must not exceed 10,000px on the longest side.

• Images must be JPEG (.jpg or .jpeg), TIFF (.tif), PNG(.png) or GIF (.gif) file formats. JPEG is preferred. Our servers do not support animated gifs.

• Images must not be blurry, pixelated or have jagged edges.

• Images must not contain nudity or be sexually suggestive. Kids, baby leotards, underwear and swimwear must not be shown on a human model.

• Images must not include any Amazon logos or trademarks, or variations, modifications or anything confusingly similar to Amazon’s logos and trademarks. This includes, but is not limited to, any words or logos with the terms AMAZON, PRIME, ALEXA or the Amazon Smile design.

• Images must not include any badges used on Amazon, or variations, modifications or anything confusingly similar to such badges. This includes, but is not limited to, ‘Amazon’s Choice’, ‘Premium Choice’, ‘Amazon Alexa’, ‘Works with Amazon Alexa’, ‘Best Seller’ or ‘Top Seller’.

And that’s not all. There are also further restrictions in certain categories and for the MAIN product image – the one shown in search results.

Amazon’s requirements for MAIN product images are:

• MAIN images must have a pure white background (pure white blends in with the Amazon search and product detail pages – RGB colour values of 255, 255, 255).

• MAIN images must be professional photographs of the actual product (graphics, illustrations, mock-ups or placeholders are not allowed). They must not show excluded accessories or props that might confuse the customer.

• MAIN images must not include text, logos, borders, colour blocks, watermarks or other graphics over the top of a product or in the background.

• MAIN images must not include multiple views of a single product.

• MAIN images must show the entire product that is for sale. Images must not touch or be cut off by the edge of the image frame, with exception of Jewellery (e.g. necklaces).

• MAIN images must show products outside of their packaging. Boxes, bags or cases should not appear in the image unless they are an important product feature.

• MAIN images must not show a human model that is sitting, kneeling, leaning or lying down (models must be standing).

• MAIN images of clothing accessories must not show any part of a mannequin, regardless of the mannequin’s appearance (clear, solid-colour, flesh-toned, framework or hanger).

• MAIN images for Women’s and Men’s clothing must show the product on a human model or lying flat on a surface. Invisible mannequins are acceptable as long as the product is not obscured.

• MAIN images must not show Kids & Baby clothing on a human model. They must be shown lying flat on a surface or using an invisible mannequin as long as the entire product remains visible.

• MAIN images of shoes must show a single shoe, facing left at a 45-degree angle.

Now I always suggest using a professional photographer for your Amazon product pictures. It’s just not worth trying to do it yourself… not only are there so many requirements you have to adhere to, but professional product pictures will also look 100x better and will help sell your product.

You may think you’re saving money but in the long term you’re not – you’re just losing sales.

But before I get too off track with product photography, let’s get back to suppressed listings and apart from image issues, the other most common cause is:

Suppressed Amazon FBA Listings due to Title Problems

Again, another area where a lot of new sellers make mistakes, especially if they’re coming from eBay with a love for exclamation marks and phrases like “best product” and “hot seller” in the title.

The funny thing is that Amazon’s product title requirements are exactly what I would be suggesting anyway, even if we didn’t have to follow them! And really this makes perfect sense – after all Amazon is the ecommerce king so it’s safe to say they know what they’re doing.

For example, they say that “research shows that customers scan-read results, meaning that titles don’t need to contain the exact phrase that customers are searching for in order to catch their eye. Longer titles are also harder to read than shorter titles, so the longer your title is, the more you risk losing your customer’s attention.

Think about a physical product on a supermarket shelf. Its title is simple and to the point. You only have a moment to catch the eye of a passing shopper. With online titles on Amazon, there’s no need to go on and on. Simply put, the title should reflect what is on the physical packaging of a product.”

I couldn’t have put it any better myself.

So here are the product title requirements that could cause your listing to be suppressed:

  1. Titles must follow the recommended length of your product category characters, including spaces.
  2. Titles must not contain promotional phrases, such as “free shipping”, “100% quality guaranteed”.
  3. Titles must not contain characters for decoration, such as ~ ! * $ ? _ ~ { } # < > | * ; ^ ¬ ¦
  4. Titles must contain product-identifying information, such as “hiking boots” or “umbrella”.

Amazon will only suppress your listing if it violates one of these 4 requirements BUT they also offer further tips to ensure good title quality which they “strongly encourage adherence to”.

I think it’s safe to say this could have an impact on your listing’s search results so I would definitely recommend following as many as you can:

• Titles should be concise. We recommend fewer than 80 characters.
• Don’t use ALL CAPS.
• Capitalise the first letter of each word except for prepositions (in, on, over, with), conjunctions (and, or, for), or articles (the, a, an).
• Use numerals: “2” instead of “two”.
• Don’t use non-language ASCII characters such as Æ, ©, or ®.
• Titles should contain the minimal information needed to identify the item and nothing more.
• Don’t use subjective commentary, such as “Hot Item” or “Best Seller”.
• Titles can include necessary punctuation, like hyphens (-), forward slashes (/), commas (,), ampersands (&), and full stops (.).
• Titles can abbreviate measurements, such as “cm”, “oz”, “in”, and “kg”.
• Don’t include your merchant name in titles.
• Size and colour variations should be included in titles for child ASINs, not the main title.

90% of suppressed listings cases that I’ve come across have been due to image or title issues so if you follow these guides, you’ll save yourself any unnecessary headache (and lost sales!).

If however you’re finding this post because your listing is already suppressed then not to worry – here’s what to do:

From Amazon Seller Central click the Inventory tab and then Manage Inventory.

Where to find suppressed listing information in Amazon Seller Central? Manage Inventory!
Screenshot from Amazon Seller Central Europe (UK!) of Inventory Reports

Then from the horizontal menu select Suppressed (you won’t see this option if you don’t have any suppressed listings).

From there you’ll see the suppressed listing with a Reason and Missing Attribute Column. Forgive the poor screenshot from my phone of a screen but it’s been quite a while since I’ve had a suppressed listing so I had to go digging through old pics to find one to show you.

Quick screenshot of Amazon FBA Suppressed Listing due to Missing Attribute

Once you know the problem then click Edit and go to the Edit Product Info page where the missing details will be highlighted.

If it’s a missing info problem, enter the correct details and click Save and Finish.

If it’s an image issue, then re-upload valid product images.

If for whatever reason you can see that your listing is suppressed but it’s not clear specifically why then open a Case with Amazon support and they’ll let you know exactly what the problem is.

Customer support response for Amazon FBA sellers inquiring about a suppressed listing.
Email response from Seller Central Support about a Suppressed Listing

Any changes you make will have to be checked by Amazon so your listing won’t immediately be un-suppressed, but it’s usually a very quick process.

And that’s all there is to it!

As far as I know and from my real-life experience on Amazon, there’s no continued negative effect once your listing is un-suppressed such as lower search results or anything like that, so you’re good to go.

But just so it’s clear, because some people seem to take suppressed to mean lowered, while your listing is suppressed it won’t show up in search results AT ALL, so you won’t be making any sales in that time.

One final note to end off today’s post – I’ve seen a few companies online selling suppressed listing scanning software to let you know immediately if your listing is suppressed but I really don’t see the point… after all you should be keeping an eye on your listings yourself anyway and will notice immediately if this happens from the drop in sales.

There’s definitely much better software that I would rather spend £20-£30 a month on!

And that’s it for today.

Until next time!

All the best,

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Rising Shipping Costs: What’s an Amazon FBA Seller to do?

February 20, 2021 by Andrew Minalto - 2 Comments

As if COVID-19 hadn’t caused enough shipping problems for Amazon FBA sellers importing from China, we now have to deal with the Brexit disaster and even some snowstorms to top it all off!

Any Amazon FBA seller who imports from China knows that 2020 saw some HUGE increases in Amazon freight rates, with costs increasing by up to ten times. Typically, shipping a 40ft container would’ve cost between $1,500-$2,000, but we’re now seeing ocean freight rates of $10,000-$15,000 for the same 40ft container.

And that’s not all, my fellow Amazon FBAers! Consider you pay import VAT on the total amount of the goods you’re importing, including shipping, so the government adds insult to injury with your higher VAT bill, too. 

This has had a significant effect on margins and profitability, and for many Amazon FBA sellers has meant having to increase their prices. The only saving grace is that this shipping nightmare affects everyone importing from China: not just you, but your competitors, too.

What’s causing this increase in cost to ship to Amazon FBA?

These increases were initially caused by carriers reducing capacity in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic last year by introducing “blank sailings,” which basically means a cancelled sailing. This can be the entire sailing or the removal of certain ports on the route.

The outcome is that a lot of importers had their goods stranded and they had to find another free vessel with space so they could ship their products. With this happening on a large scale, coupled with increasing ecommerce and Amazon FBA sales, demand for shipping containers skyrocketed globally. There simply weren’t enough empty containers in China to meet this demand.

And as we all know, increased demand and decreased supply only means one thing – higher prices!

The issue worsened and worsened, reaching its worst point in Q4 last year when there were severe congestion problems at some of the major port hubs in Asia, which then spread to Europe and the UK, in particular Felixstowe port, which all saw severe delays.

I saw firsthand the effect this had on businesses here with some Amazon Sharks members having their products stuck both at port and then again at Amazon FBA fulfilment centres as the delays caused a huge bottleneck. Despite all this, they managed to hit their biggest Q4 sales ever, so just imagine what it would’ve been without the shipping problems!

Now I know what some of you may be thinking – “if there’s such high demand, why not just produce more shipping containers?” Simple right?

Well sadly, no – it doesn’t work like that. For various reasons, COVID-19, of course being no.1, container production in 2020 was actually down compared to 2019 (H1 2020 container production was 40% less than H1 2019). This decrease in production coupled with the sudden increase in demand has led to a significant drop in global container availability.

And this is really the problem at the moment – there’s simply not enough containers, along with congestion and delays caused by COVID-19, which is causing a number of further issues, including:  

  • Delays in the return of containers to China.
  • Lower productivity at ports and terminals.

Take Felixstowe port, for example, which was hit particularly badly in the busy Christmas season last year. As a result, they’re currently moving 22-23 containers per hour, down from the usual 28-30.

That might not seem like a huge difference, but these bottlenecks add up and cause more delays, exacerbating the problem further and further. And with the big 3rd wave of COVID-19, it’s really not a surprise – there were 250 staff off from COVID-19 at Felixstowe at one point, though this is now down to 130.

I’ve seen a few people online suggesting this, and in theory, it makes sense. After all, nearly all factories are closed for most of February, so there’s no production and no new shipments, which will allow the backlog to be cleared…

Won’t Chinese New Year clear the backlog and get everything back to normal for your Amazon FBA business?

Unfortunately not. While there will be a drop in shipping volumes for a short while, March will see another significant increase as all the delayed orders are shipped out. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if anything, I expect the problems to worsen after Chinese New Year.

What about shipping using other methods? Or ordering from suppliers in another country?

I’ve had a lot of people messaging me asking these questions, and the short answer is it won’t really help.

While, yes, the problem is being caused by sea freight, this has spread and affected both air freight and even rail shipping from China. And it makes sense because those who can switch to air freight have done so, thereby increasing demand and affecting pricing and services.

I would still suggest speaking to your freight forwarder about this option because it could be the case that while sea freight costs for you have doubled, air freight is only 50% higher… so it might still be worthwhile switching.

Then in terms of ordering from other countries, by now this is a global issue with nearly all ports and hubs being affected, so that’s not really an option to save on shipping.

So that’s it? Are we stuck paying $15,000 for a 40ft container?

No, and thankfully I can finally give some good news.

Speaking to Andy Ball, the Director of Trade for Asia for Woodland Global and he told me that the general feeling moving into 2021 is that “carriers operating ocean freight services have learned some harsh lessons since the outbreak of COVID 19, and in the main, the best lesson they have learned is that it’s no longer a race to the bottom in terms of rates. They are managing their utilisation much better and are limiting the amount of business they want to take on of lower rated contracts thus forcing the considerable surplus freight to move on higher rated spot contracts, meaning they don’t necessarily have to have their vessels full to make profit. 

The general feeling is that rates will come down at some point this year as the current levels simply cannot be sustained but they will not return to the levels that have previously been enjoyed with the general consensus being that 40ft/HC rates settling around USD 5000-6000 mark but again there is no timeframe as to when this will happen and it’s only a feeling being shared amongst forwarders.”

So there you have it. If nothing further goes wrong, rates should start to settle, and while we won’t enjoy the same prices as before, we also won’t have to pay the current exorbitant fees.

What should Amazon FBA sellers do?

I’ve spoken in-depth to a number of Amazon Sharks members to try and help them navigate through this and my answer is really that it depends on your individual business, and there’s no one blanket suggestion that will apply to everyone.

This is the plan of action I would suggest:

  1. Speak to your supplier/freight forwarder about alternate shipping options and see what they say. Compare air freight and sea freight quotes and see what makes sense for your business. You will always pay more for air freight, but it does offer a number of benefits to Amazon FBA sellers, such as much faster shipping times (especially important now when sales are up) and decreased storage costs as you don’t have to hold as much stock, either yourself or with Amazon.
  2. Reassess your margins and pricing.

Again, this is very specific to each individual business as it depends on how much your Amazon seller shipping costs have increased, your margins before and after, your competitors and whether they’ve increased their pricing etc.

But you have to make sure you know all these numbers! Please don’t be one of those sellers who blindly charge the same amount while their costs have increased, not even knowing their margins and net profit. Work it all out, and then make the best decision for your business.

One final piece of advice is that now, more than ever, it’s so important that you work with a good freight forwarder. And my suggestion is Woodland Global.

I’ve recommended them countless times on this blog and to my Amazon Sharks members, and I’ll continue to do so as their service is always fantastic. They’re sending out a lot of emails keeping us all up to date, and you can also check their page here for more info: https://www.woodlandgroup.com/news/news/global-shipping-update/

Last but not least, for today’s post, I do want to point out that it’s not all doom and gloom!

Yes, COVID-19 has meant much higher shipping costs, but it’s also meant much higher demand for e-commerce and Amazon FBA goods! Many of my students hit new sales records in November without spending a penny on PPC. That resulted in big jumps in NET PROFIT in one month, so the opportunities for Amazon FBA sellers really are bigger than ever.

Until next time!

All the best,