I have not been active on BHW for some time now. Those who know me, know that I basically lost all my sites in one sweep in early 2015 and I lost most of my income overnight (span of 1-2 months). I made a decision then and there that I needed to stop spending so much time on forums. At the end of the day, I needed to rebuild or I would be forced to go get a job in the future (and who wants that, right?). It really all came down to taking action. So anyway, about a month ago now, I did a write up on Reddit that you can see here: https://www.reddit.com/r/Entreprene..._we_made_150000_profit_slinging_tshirts_as_a/. The damn thing went Viral and with over 1400 upvotes, hit the top 10 of all time in the Entrepreneur subreddit.f That Reddit post even got me featured on a major news network, funny enough, and the combination of those 2 things really helped launch a software company that is based around Merch by Amazon. I decided to write up a book to put on Kindle about my journey and basically detail all the exact steps that I took to build my Merch Account to 5 figures within a year. So, I cut out all the marketing aspects of that book and I am going to put it below for everyone to read. BHW helped me get my start so many years ago, and I hope this helps at least one person escape the rat race. All in all, we made about $180,000 through Merch by Amazon this year and growing! Who Am I? Before we get into the actual guide, I should probably preface that by letting you know who I am and why you should take the time out of your day to listen to what I have to say. When I was first starting out, like almost everyone, I looked up to the online "gurus". You know those guys who make all their money online by telling you how to make money online? They would post their screenshots that would inspire me. The more I learned about internet marketing, the more frustrated I got with these people. Rehashed info all for the sake of pushing beginners to buy the latest and greatest bullshit product that is neither needed nor helpful. You can read a quick, down and dirty background on my about me page. You will notice that I actually got my start with niche websites.(Thanks BHW!) Over the last year, my posts have focused heavily on Merch by Amazon. Merch by Amazon is probably the easiest source of income I have come across in my years of internet marketing. In just under a year, I was able to go from not knowing what the Merch by Amazon program was to earning close to $10,000 per month in passive income. I want to share the tips and tricks I used in order to get there. Unlike others who teach people how to do something and only make a few hundred dollars a month doing what they teach, I have actually been there and done that. Here is the most recent screenshot from my account. I do not post this screenshot to brag but to inspire you and show you that I know how to create real income streams from the internet. I also want to be straight forward and let people know that I actually know what I am talking about. When you first start selling shirts through Merch, it can be daunting. You may not see sales coming in right away, you are stuck at the 25 tier, and it almost feels like you are wasting your time. I know how that feels, and I know exactly how to get past all of those problems to create a long term sustainable business. If you are ready to work hard, work smart, and create a new large income stream for your family, your gears should be turning now. Let’s get into the entire guide. It is not often that such an amazing opportunity just lands in your lap, but that is what happened when Amazon launched Merch By Amazon in late 2015. In case you were not aware, Merch By Amazon is a t-shirt print on demand (POD) and fulfillment service. I have written a few posts about this service this year on my blog, but have just not decided to write a book on the entire process that is jammed backed with information. This is going to be a long one, but in the end you should have all the tools to have success with Merch. WHAT IS MERCH BY AMAZON? Merch by Amazon is a print on demand or POD service that launched late last year. To simplify the concept, you create artwork, upload that artwork to the platform, and then Amazon will print it on a t-shirt when someone purchases it. Amazon handles the printing, the fulfillment, and customer service. Each and every product that you put up becomes a listing in their catalog that is searchable for consumers. Did I mention that they are all eligible for prime? Time and time again I read about people starting a t-shirt business. In fact, I think a shirt business is what the majority of online entrepreneurs actually try out at some point in their journey. The sad part is the large majority of them end up failing. Do you know someone in that boat? Perhaps yourself? Where Merch differs is that you are selling on Amazon! There are no minimum sales required for the shirt to print, there are no upfront costs, no overhead, no customer service. All you do is research niches, upload artwork, and Amazon handles the rest. The best part about ALL of this is that you do not need to send traffic to your listings. Amazon is one of the most trafficked websites ever which means millions of potential customers each and every day. All you need to do is optimize your listings, which we will get to later. If you cannot see the massive potential with this program, turn back now. If the gears in your head are turning, let’s get to it. SIGNING UP FOR AN ACCOUNT Originally Merch was a program that Amazon envisioned app developers would take advantage of. Quickly internet marketers took notice and started signing up because they saw the massive opportunity. Since the program was so new, Amazon did not have enough printers and resources to run this program for everyone who signed up. After a month of registration, Merch was locked down and there is now a wait time to be accepted. This used to be many months, but Amazon has been working hard to expand capacity, and the wait time is much shorter today. If you are reading this and are already accepted, congratulations! For the rest of you, start by visiting the Merch homepage here: https://merch.amazon.com/landing This will require you to log in and fill out some information about your business. For the organization name, if you are an individual, this is your full name. I usually pick a Novelty T-Shirt store for the Industry type, and then if you have any websites where you could drive traffic, include those in the additional information. If you do not, no worries! Eventually everyone gets accepted to the program. Once you have filled out the information, submit it, and the waiting game begins. At this point you can get prepared for your acceptance! Also, make sure you check back and try and login to the account every so often. I had a friend that was accepted to the program and it took Amazon an entire month to send him the welcome email (even though he was making sales and designing that entire time!). DASHBOARD WALK THROUGH For anyone already accepted and designing, you are probably very familiar with the dashboard so you can skip down to the next section. For everyone else, let’s take a quick walk through the dashboard to get familiar with where everything is. The first thing you will see when you login is a page that looks similar to this When you first get access to your account, you have 25 total slots, or design spots that you can upload. The Merch program works on a tier structure. You will start with 25 designs, but as soon as you have sold 25 designs, you get tiered up and more spots will open up. Tier Levels Include: § 25 § 100 § 500 § 1000 § 2000 § 4000 § 6000 § 8000 The tier levels above are the ones that I know people have hit. Sometimes you may get tiered up and completely skip a tier. This means that when you have 25 shirt sales, instead of getting tiered to 100 designs, they may bump you up to 500 because you are selling to well. Also note that the Merch FAQs section notes a different tier structure than what actually seems to be happening with the program. COMPANY PROFILE Before you can put up any t-shirts live on Amazon, you need to fill out some information. Click on “My Account” in the top right hand corner. Under company profile, you need to fill out your information. If you have a business already, enter in that information. If you are an individual, your business name is the name you go by. Enter in your address, phone number, and an email you want to receive notifications on and hit save and continue. PAYMENT & BANKING On the left hand side of the same page, you will see payment and banking. You want to be paid for all the work you are about to do, so go ahead and click on “Add A Bank Account” and put in your information for direct deposit. TAX INFORMATION On the same page, on the left hand side, click on Tax Information. You will need to take their short quiz that will fill out the tax information before you can upload a shirt. Remember that if you are in the USA, Amazon will send you a 1099 at the end of the year. Save around 30% for taxes, as none are taken out when you get your direct deposit! RESOURCES Now, at the very top of the page next to the “My Account” tab, you should see Resources. Click on this. You will want to read through all the information here as it is very important. This will go over exactly how your royalties are calculated, best practices, content policies, FAQs, and the legal terms and conditions. Make sure you read through all of it and really familiarize yourself with the platform. From here, we have the 5 main tabs that you will be using. Dashboard, Create, Promote, Manage, and Analyze. *Note: Merch by Amazon promotions are in-app only. This means they are not available to you if you do not have an app. DASHBOARD The dashboard is where you will see all your products for sale. These will appear in the right hand column as well as links to that product. The middle column is used for active promotions. If you are not an app developer, this will be blank. On the right hand side, you will see the column called “Messages”. This is where you can get any updates about the platform. MANAGE The manage tab is where you can keep track of all the shirts you have “live” on Amazon. You will be able to see their name, a very small image of what the design looks like, the date it was created, the price you are selling it for, the status, and you’ll be able to edit or create promotions. Since I am not an app developer, I will not be talking about promotions. There are multiple statuses that may show. After you upload a shirt, the first status that you will see is that it is “under review”. This is completely normal. Once it passes under review, it will change to “starting processing” and quickly go to “processing”. This means that your shirt has been accepted and now it needs to process before it goes “live”. Eventually it will go live and you will get an email stating so. People can now begin finding your shirt in the Amazon catalog. ANALYZE Once you start selling, this is going to be the tab that you visit the most. Here you can see what products sold on what days. You will also see an earnings tab up top. When earnings finalize, they will show here so you know exactly how much you are making. Make sure to check this page daily to see which products are selling! That about covers everything you need to know and will use in the backend! T-SHIRT NICHE RESEARCH Now that you have an account, or are waiting for an account, this is the time that you need to research niches. There are two key aspects you MUST understand for you to have any success on Merch. The first is BSR or Best Sellers Rank, and the second is understanding Copyright. AMAZON BSR (BEST SELLERS RANK) Every product on Amazon has something called a BSR or Best Sellers Rank. When you come across a product in the Amazon catalog, simply scroll down past the product pictures and right under the product description, you should see a box that looks like this: Here you can see the Amazon Best Sellers Rank for this item. The BSR is a representation of how well that item is selling. From my time selling on Amazon FBA and selling on Amazon Merch, a good rule of thumb is that if an item has a BSR of 100,000 in clothing, that shirt is probably selling 1 design every day. The lower the number, the more shirts are being sold each day. If the BSR is around #2,000 you can expect that the shirt is selling 25-50 of that design daily. Around #400,000 and the design is probably selling once or twice a week. The more you sell on Amazon and keep track of the BSR, the better idea you will get on how it correlates to sales. Just remember that the lower the number, the more popular the shirt is with consumers! Keep that in mind when doing research. COPYRIGHT You also need to have a full understanding that you cannot infringe on copyright with Merch. You may come across some shirts with a very low BSR, but they might have Disney characters or sayings on them. You clearly do not own the intellectual property to those sayings or images so this would be infringement. If Merch catches you, they will take that design down and send you an email telling you not to do it again. If you get enough of these, your account will eventually be closed, so you need to be careful. To ensure no sayings or characters are copyrighted, you should be checking all your ideas through one or both of these websites. I prefer Trademarkia, as they are much more user friendly and I have had zero issues since starting Merch by using them. Trademarkia USPTO FINDING DESIGNS Now that you understand Amazon’s Best Sellers Rank, and know that you need to be checking Copyright, you can now start looking for designs. The goal is to find shirts with a low BSR that cannot be Copyrighted. This means they are SELLING and that customers like products in that niche. You can then go on to create shirt designs that are much better than what is currently being offered and make sales! You could go on Amazon and start searching for keywords. You could go and click on each individual shirt that pops up for your keyword searches and look at each listing to see what the BSR is. You could also search for each and every name through Trademarkia individually. These are the exact steps that we took when building our accounts at first. In fact, it took a lot of hours of manual labor to find designs that we could do a better job at replicating. This works and works well. WHAT YOU NEED TO CREATE DESIGNS Once you have saved 25 designs to a spreadsheet, you will now need to get them created. Now you have a choice to make, do you make these designs yourself, or do you outsource them? Let’s start with creating them yourself which is exactly what we did when our accounts were brand new. MERCH BY AMAZON TEMPLATES Adobe Photoshop Template GIMP Template You will need one of the above templates depending on what program you wish to use to create your designs. Photoshop is a paid program (they do offer a monthly payment plan), or you can go with GIMP which is free. Since I already have Photoshop, that is what I have chosen to use. Open up Photoshop, and then open the template from Merch. It should look just like this: Now you need to follow the directions on the right side. Right click, edit contents, and then hit okay. The window that comes up is the design window. Design your image in this window. Once you are done, go up to the Photoshop menu, and save as a PNG. Saving as a PNG is important. If you use the supplied templates, the designs will be the correct dimensions! LISTING OPTIMIZATION + KEYWORDS Now that you have your images designed and saved, it is time to upload them to Merch! I will be using an example that I created for this blog before. This is the image I had: Now head over to Merch By Amazon, login, and click on upload new artwork. It should bring up a page that looks like this: Once your design is uploaded, click on Save selection and continue. This will bring up a page that looks like this: This is where your listing optimization starts! In a recent Merch by Amazon webinar, they let it drop that the colors are sorted by the most popular. That means that black, blue, grey, and navy blue are the 4 most popular colors. With that knowledge in mind, pick 5 colors (5 is the max), that you think looks best with your design. Your listing price is up to you. The price that is already entered is $19.99, but I have found that the majority of the shirts I sell are priced between $15.99-$18.99. I price them based on the competition. The less results/competition I have, the higher I price the shirts! Once you are happy with your color selection and your price, click on Save selection and continue. This will then bring up the most important aspect of your listing. The product details page! Choose a brand name that you think fits with the shirt design. You can add a keyword here, but do not make it look spammy. For this example the brand name is the name of this blog. The title of the product is very important. You want to properly describe the T-Shirt while adding as many keywords as you can think of (from a buyers perspective), without looking spammy. As you can see from the above example, I have the keywords “marketing”, and “money” included in the title. Always end your titles with T-Shirt because so many customers actually search that while looking for products to buy. If I were to do a cat t-shirt like the example above, I might title the shirt “Kitten My Nurse On T-Shirt Nurse Cat Love Tee”. From this title you can see that I have included a bunch of keywords that I think a potential buyer might search for. Remember: Think of keywords as if you wanted to find this shirt as a buyer!’ The key product features are what end up being your bullet points under your shirt. The title and the bullet points from my testing and experience are the ONLY thing that matter for ranking in Amazon. In fact, for my own account, I leave the description blank! The first product feature should be about the shirt itself! Remember to include keywords that a potential buyer might be searching for! Are they buying it as a gift for friends or family? You may want to include the word “gift” somewhere in there. The second bullet point is where I take the opportunity to tell potential buyers that all these shirts are printed to be fitted. Since I want to get 5 star ratings, I want to ensure that they are purchasing the right size. I will often let them know in this bullet point to order a size up if they prefer a looser fit. As I said, I often skip the product description but if you want to fill it out, go ahead and describe your shirt! Click on Save selection and continue when you are happy. It will bring you to a page that looks similar to this. Simply check the box that says “Sell – Public on Amazon” and click on submit! Your shirt will then go into the review process, and once it passes will be live for anyone to purchase on Amazon and make you money! OUTSOURCING DESIGNS After my account started to make money from the designs I did myself, I decided to outsource them! This is the easiest way I know of to scale as fast as possible. Since this was a side project, I wanted to free up my time as much as possible. So where do you find a designer you can count on? I have had excellent success by using Upwork. In fact, I found a designer that I have hired full time for $4 per design. I have found that a lot of great designers are in the Philippines and $4 a design really ads up to a great wage there. Ryan, if you are reading this, thank you for all the work you have done! Below I have posted the exact script I used to find an excellent designer. Feel free to use it yourself! Hey, I am in need of 400 t-shirt designs in the time period of 2-3 months. Your task will be pretty basic, I will send you ideas of t-shirts I want to make and you make them even better and unique. For example, I might send you a link of a already existing tshirt and I would need it being inspired by it and made even better and unique. I will leave you a lot of 5* reviews so that you will be able to get jobs easier in the future and this is a long-term position needed. Once we have done the first batch of 400 – around 4 per day, we could continue if everything looks good. I look forward to doing business with you! This works so well for a couple of reasons. The first being that you have a LOT of work for someone to do. This means continued work for them. It also works well because you will pick up designers that are looking to build up their Upwork profile by getting some great 5 star reviews. This means they will be putting their best designing effort towards your projects. Weeding Out Bad Designers When I first tried to hire someone to design for me, they stole images and straight up copied designs. This is wrong, and will get your Merch account banned. I was not able to use any of these designs. When I first hired someone, I let them know that they cannot use any images which are Copyrighted, or infringe on any Copyright someone else owns. Then, I will send them a T-Shirt idea that is very clearly Copyright infringement. If they copy it or do not change it enough to be considered free use, I will immediately get rid of that designer. The design may have cost me $4, but that is an extremely small price to pay to weed out the copycats! MERCH BY AMAZON T-SHIRT HOLIDAYS When you have found a designer that you like and can trust, one of the things that I love to do is create t-shirts around Holidays. Made up holidays, real holidays, it really does not matter. People are interested in all kinds of things. LEVERAGE PINTEREST MARKETING TO SELL YOUR MERCH SHIRTS Amazon is an absolute powerhouse for selling items online. At the time of writing this, they are the 5th most visited website in the USA and the 10th most visited website in the entire world. With over 2 billion visitors each and every month, Merch by Amazon has allowed us to start to leverage this incredible traffic source to make more sales. With all the traffic available though, there are also a lot of sellers that are relying only on organic traffic to make money. This can make sense if you are in the higher tiers and have hundreds if not thousands of designs uploaded to the platform. But what of the beginner who only has 25 shirts uploaded and cannot seem to get any sales to tier up? How can you make yourself stand out among the more than 1 million shirts uploaded to Merch thus far? You start advertising yourself! Where Should You Market? There are two types of marketing, free and paid. If you are new to internet marketing in general, learning paid advertisements is a long and hard process. Marketing for free is much easier and generally a lot more fun! The first thing you need to figure out when looking into what platform you are going to start marketing on, is ask yourself “Where does my target audience hang out”. You want to go to where they are, not have them come to you. In this section I am going to be going over Pinterest as a form of marketing, and why you should not be skipping this tactic if you are selling shirts on Merch by Amazon. Target Market: Pinterest Coming from an internet marketing background, Pinterest is one of the most overlooked platforms that you can be on. Pinterest is perfect for driving mass amounts of traffic and especially sales. The demographic breakdown is perfect for our target audience. This infographic by sprout social lays it out perfectly. The platform is dominated by women who are educated and have disposable income. I may be generalizing here, but most of the women in my life love to shop! People who love shopping and have the money to spend? THAT is the target audience we want to reach, and now we know they are hanging out on Pinterest. Let’s get into how to set up your account and exactly how you can leverage this audience to make more sales. Setting Up Your Pinterest Account The first step in setting up your account is to actually sign up! You can do so by visiting this link: https://www.pinterest.com/join/. When you are signing up, you have two options. You can either sign up for a personal account, or sign up for a business account. Let me make it VERY clear right now. You want to sign up for a personal account with a female name. If that did not register the first time, please read it again and then do it! I have run businesses and personal accounts on Pinterest and for the purposes of selling shirts, you want the best traction you can get. You will simply get more followers (more eyes on your shirts) if you have a female name and it is not a business account. The sign up page will ask you for your name (make one up!), and your gender (female!). Fill these out and click come on in. It will ask you to choose 4 topics you like. For this, I generally just pick whatever looks interesting. Finally, the next step will ask you to get the Pinterest browser button. You want this! Get it! The screen it will bring you too is called your home feed. Notice at the top there is a little search bar? Go all the way to the right and you will see a little person figure. Click this to bring you to your profile. This is the area where you will be building out your profile! It should look just like this: The way Pinterest works is that you “pin” or place images into boards that are interesting to you. These images can contain links that will let someone know where they can learn more. No one is going to want to follow or check out a person on pinterest if they do not have anything interesting to look at. Your goal is to be someone that has something to share. In order to do this, we need some boards with images! Remember that you are creating a persona here. You want your persona to like all the niches that you created t-shirt designs about! Makes sense right? To get started, click on that big red “create board” button front and center. It will then bring up a page where you can create your board. Give it a niche relevant name, a description, category, and then click on create. For the purpose of this example, let’s say my niche is “dogs” and I have shirts created under this niche. After you create your board, it will be completely empty with no images. This is where the plugin you downloaded and installed into your browser comes into play. You can either go to Google and start looking for images from your board. Once you open an image, simply click on the pin button in your browser and add it to the board you created. Pro Tip: My favorite way to fill out these boards though is by repinning images that are already on Pinterest! To do this, simply go to the top search bar and search for images that you want to include on your board. Find an image you want to place on your board and click on it. You should see a little Pin/Save button on the upper right hand corner of the image. It will then ask you what board you want to save it to. Save it to the board you just created! If you navigate back over to your profile, you will then see the image in that board. Now that you know the process of adding images, you need to add lots of images. I would say about 30-40 images per board. Here is the kicker. You NEED to look like a real person who has real interests for this marketing strategy to work. This means that you need to create 20-30 boards each having 30-40 images. Yes, this is a lot of hard work, but it will pay off in the form of Merch by Amazon sales! Make sure that each board you are creating is at least semi relevant to one of the t-shirt niches that you have online. Once you are done creating your boards and populating them with images, you are ready to move on to the next step, getting followers (which means traffic!). Gaining Followers and Getting Traffic Followers are how Pinterest operates. The people who chose to follow you are the ones who are going to see the images that you upload in their feed (sort of like Facebook). This means that if you have enough followers, the moment you post a t-shirt that you have on Merch by Amazon, your followers will see it in their feed and might go purchase it. You are getting your products in front of more eyeballs instead of relying on organic traffic on Amazon. Following the suggestions I am about to show you, this is an image of an account that I have been working on for about a month. So far I have not advertised any of my shirts on it, but I think I am almost to the point where it will be helpful: As you can see from the above image, I am following more people than follow me. This is because the entire technique to gain followers is to follow other people! By following other people, they will get a notification that you followed them and most likely check out what you have on your own boards. If they like what is on your boards, they will follow you back! Pretty simple right? So who should you follow? Remember above when I gave you the pro tip of repinning images to your board that are already on Pinterest? Well, each one of those images has probably been liked and commented on by someone already. Go back and find those images. The people that liked/commented are interested in your niche, and like the content you are likely offering. We know this because they already engaged with the content! Now all you need to do is follow them. Since they are active users, once you follow them and they see that the content you have is good, they will follow back. Each and every follow is another potential customer, always remember that. Follow Limits When you first start following people and do not have any followers, there is going to be a limit between how many people you can follow before they decide to block you for a while. If you reach this wall, simply wait a bit (typically 15 min to an hour) and you can start following again. Eventually, enough people will begin following you back that you can keep going. If after a few days you are still at the limit and cannot continue, start unfollowing all the people that did not follow you back! This gives more room to follow people who are interested in your content. If someone does not follow you back, this means they will never see your content, or your shirts that you will be posting at a later date so they are useless. Unfollow them and continue! Automating Follows/Unfollows The above can all be done with lots of spare time and a little patience. It does take a while to get done but it does work extremely well. If you are a little more tech inclined than the average person, you may be able to start automating this process. There are 2 ways to do this; software, and imacros. This section will not go over how to use these tools, but if you want to go with a premade software, I have used pinblaster in the past. This is a paid software, so only use it after you have seen some results with the methods that have been laid out in this article. The other is to use imacros. This is essentially a plugin that you can use to automate certain internet tasks. You can visit and download imacros here: http://imacros.net/download. In order to make imacros work, you need to be able to write a script or find one online. Simply search and see if you can find a working one. Best Way To Gain Followers Fast The best way I have personally experienced is to put up content that has been shared/liked lots of times. In one of my niches, the content that dominates are the images with motivational quotes overlaid on them. These get shared time and time again, and when content is shared, your account actually grows as well! People are able to see where the content was shared from, and will follow back to your board. This is actually why Pinterest is so popular! Once you have a good foundation of followers and images, you will continue getting traffic almost forever as people share and repin images that are old and continue showing up as fresh content to new pinners. Posting Your Merch by Amazon T-Shirts to Pinterest When building your Pinterest account, I really suggest that you do not start posting your shirts right away. You want to come off like a regular person! Does a regular person start pushing products down your throat as soon as they sign up? Most likely not. I personally like to wait until I have a good sized audience before I would start advertising to them. I think a good rule of thumb is wait till you have around 5k followers. At this point, you can start pinning your Merch T-Shirts to the boards you have up. Make sure to mix them with other content as well. You do not want to make someone unfollow you because you are spamming them with unwanted t-shirts. If they see it and like it, they will purchase from you! If they repin that image from your board to their own, then their audience will see your shirt. How great is that? More eyeballs on your shirts without paying a single cent to market them! Pinterest/Merch by Amazon Advanced Method During your time building your Pinterest account you may have come across something called group boards. These are Pin boards where multiple people can post to the same board. These are generally massive, and followed by a LOT of people (aka, lots of potential buyers). If you follow the instructions above to build your account, eventually these big boards are going to contact YOU to pin on their group boards. I get probably 20 of these invitations a month. I simply go through, check to see if the board has a lot of followers, and if it does, I will become a submitted to that board. If not, I will simply decline and go on with my life. You could wait for these to start coming in, but you can also contact the person who runs that board and request an invite. These a lot of the time are ignored, so I would suggest simply waiting until your account is big enough (around 5-10k followers) before you start going with that strategy. Just The Beginning This is really just scratching the surface of what is possible by promoting your Merch tee shirts on Pinterest. There are so many potential buyers out there in your niche that would love to purchase something from you if only they knew it existed. Get your products in front of the audience that cares and leverage Pinterest to sell more shirts than you thought was possible. This is a great way to drive traffic yourself, and for free! Following the above strategy, you should skyrocket yourself right out of that annoying 25 tier from Merch by Amazon. MERCH BY AMAZON SEO ULTIMATE GUIDE Selling shirts on Amazon with Merch can be super exciting! It can also make you question what you are doing with your life if you take the time and effort to design your shirts but they just are not moving. This can be extremely frustrating, and often times, the person ends up giving up for good before they even get out of the 25 tier (the hardest tier by far)! You could learn to drive outside traffic like I just wrote about in the previous section, or you could learn to optimize your listings. A combination of both is ultimately the best but this article is going to focus on the later. Coming from an internet marketing background, I have noticed that for a lot of you, making money through Merch by Amazon is your first attempt to make it online. To that I say congratulations! This may mean that you are not as familiar with keywords (the base of good Amazon optimization) as I am. That is okay, we will be going through all the basics here and then towards the end moving into more advanced Merch SEO. Optimizing A Merch Listing In order to SEO your listing properly, there are a few key points we need to cover. These are: Price, Brand, Title, Bullet Points and of course competition. Price I know in most of the Facebook groups people preach to sell your designs for 19.99 and never go below that. I am just going to come out and say that I believe that is WRONG! Your price should not be based on what you think it is worth. Your price should be based on the market, and the competition you face. So what does this mean for you? It means that the less competition you face, the higher price you will charge originally. The more competition, the lower the price (at first!). You see, reviews on Amazon are king! They are what really kick your earnings into overdrive. When was the last time you bought something off Amazon that was not a piece of clothing? I bet the first thing you did was read the reviews and based your purchase off of those right? Same goes with shirts. As soon as you get some good reviews, you can raise your prices and people will gladly pick your design over cheaper ones because you have reviews and they do not! This does not mean that you should be pricing your design as the lowest. My suggestion is to take a look by searching Amazon for your general niche design before you upload. Find the average price, and price your shirt right in the middle. You will not be competing on price at first, but you WILL be competing on how much better your design is. If you have a moderately priced shirt with a design that is blowing the competition out of the water, you will sell more shirts every time. This strategy that I outlined above is particularly important now that Amazon has released their new 60 day policy. Following the above, you will have a much higher sell through of your shirts, and will be raising prices as soon as you get those much needed reviews. Think long term here! This is not a quick money grab. There is no “right” price. There is only the price that the market determines. Brand Name Each and every shirt I create I generally put under a different brand. This is so that someone cannot just come and copy everything I have created. Now when you come up with a brand name, this is your chance to grab the attention of someone scrolling through the Amazon results. They will see a title and a brand and then a thumbnail. If your brand is related to what they are searching for, this increases the probability that they will click through. For this reason, I suggest adding a few keywords about your shirt. If you were to do a ghost shirt, something along the lines of “Scary Ghost Tees” or “Friendly Ghost Shirt Store” might make sense. Each of these has the keywords “Ghost Tees” and “Ghost Shirt” in them, something that a customer might be searching for. Each one of these optimization sections is just an exercise in pretending you are a potential customer. Title This is where keywords come into play. In order to talk about keywords, we first need to talk about competition. For an example, let’s say that you just created a killer design about cats. You upload your shirt after looking at similar designs and price it accordingly. Now you get to the point where you must select a title. What do you put? Do you just put “black cat t-shirt”? No, that is a big negative! If you were to do what I said above, you would be competing against almost 150 thousand other t shirts! How can you possibly expect to stand out or make any sales when you are swamped with competition? Chances are you probably will not, and get disappointed when you do not make any sales in the next 2 months. You need to really take a look at your design and describe it to yourself. This description process is really just adding different keywords in the title. Ask “What would a customer search for if they wanted to buy this shirt”. You need to niche down. Maybe your shirt has black cat ears on them. Black cat ears t-shirt might be a better fit. Check it on Amazon. Three thousand results. That is better, but still a little too much competition. Now is where you might want to try some adjectives. How about Cute black cat ears t-shirt? 1.3k results this time. What about adding one more thing to the title. There we go! 64 results. This is called “niching down” and getting very specific. I like to describe my t-shirt titles like I would describe the shirt to a blind person who cannot see. This sounds silly, but it works! Eventually you will get comfortable describing your shirts in detail and will not need to spend the time searching Amazon as that can be very time consuming. T-Shirt, Tee Shirt, Tees, Shirts When I am searching on Amazon for a t-shirt I always type “t-shirt” at the end of my query. I have always done this, and I think most people do. For this reason, I end every single one of my titles with “t-shirt”. I think you should too and this only makes sense. Some people may not search for t-shirt though, they may include operators in their search query such as “tee shirt” or something similar. What do you do with those? I personally include them in the description which we are about to go into. Since there is already “Shirt” in the title, the only other shirt variation I will include in the description is “Tee”. This is easy, and saves time. Bullet Points If the title is the first place to really catch your customer’s attention, then the bullet points are where you SELL them! This is where the majority of Merch sellers fail and I still do not understand this. There are 2 facets here. On one hand, you want want to make more sales so you need to be putting keywords in your bullet points. On the other, you do NOT want to describe your t-shirt and sound like a brick wall. You are here to make sales right? Act like a salesman/woman. Sell your customers! So how do you do this? You have 2 bullet points so you need to make the most of them. Let’s start with the first bullet point. For an example, let’s just say that we ended up creating a shirt like we described above. A nice cute black cat ears Halloween t-shirt. You have set a brand name, the title of the product and the price. Now you need to come up with your first bullet point. To do this, you need to think of synonyms of your main keyword. Since there are really no decent synonyms of Halloween, we will be focusing on the main root of the keyword here: “Cat”. If English is your first language, this should be super simple. If not, simply run the root keyword through a Thesaurus. You can do so by clicking that link. Synonyms here may include: kitty, kitten, the “type” of cat, and so on. Now that you have your synonyms, you want to include them in a sentence format. Remember, you are not just describing your shirt here. They can see your shirt right there! Your potential customers already know what your shirt looks like, this is your one chance to sell them on purchasing it. § Staying home on Halloween this season and just want to snuggle up with your kitty in the covers? Sounds like you need to purchase this cute kitten tee for your Halloween costume today or purchase it as a gift for that lonely friend who is always home with their black cat. See how that does not just say what was on our theoretical shirt but you are selling them? You included keywords such as “kitty” “cute kitten” “kitten tee” “Halloween costume”. You also included the “gift” keyword which really seems to help boost sales around the holiday. Now that your first bullet point is done and looking good, time to move on to the second. This is where I do things a little different from most people. I play damage control. Yes, you read that right. Amazon is not perfect and does a lot of weird printing mistakes. However the worst thing they do is use shirts that tend to run a size too small. This generally makes people ANGRY when their clothing does not fit when they first get it and often times will end up in a negative review because they had no idea it would turn out like that. So what should you do? Tell them the shirt runs a size small and to order a size up! I will generally use this format: This “t-shirt title here” is designed and printed to be fitted. For a more loose fit, please order a size up. § This Cute Black Cat Ears Halloween T-Shirt is designed and printed to be fitted. For a more loose fit, please order a size up. With this technique, you pack even MORE keywords in their by using the title, but it does not look spammy at all. In fact, this single sentence technique has saved me more than once. After I started implementing it, negative reviews almost stopped for good. Note On Product Description From my time selling on Amazon through FBA and testing with Merch, it seems that the product description does not really affect where your shirt ends up in the results. I actually skip the description on 99% of my shirts since I have so many slots open and it ends up slowing me down. If you are still in the first few tiers and have the time, you can fill them out. THIS is where you describe your shirt, not the bullet points! Advanced Merch by Amazon SEO Following the exact strategy that I laid out above, I was able to bring my Merch account to where it is today. So the above screenshot has just been taken. This is all from organic traffic only using the proper keywords and bullet point strategy. In this advanced Merch SEO section, I want to go over how I plan on doubling these numbers. I could always just add more shirts (and you can sure bet I will!). There are over 7000 empty slots right now. I admit I have been slacking. The real secret to increasing those numbers without putting up more shirts (which costs more money if you are outsourcing), is to actually do SEO outside of Amazon. Keep in mind that this is an advanced section and most people will probably not try or attempt this. The ones who DO though, will put themselves far ahead of the competition. Google SEO (The secret no one is talking about) Remember near the beginning of this article I mentioned that I was mainly involved in creating websites? Well, the entire point there is to rank a website in Google for a specific search term so that it shows up at the top of the results. The closer to the top you are, the more visitors you get, thus the more sales occur. Pretty easy concept right? Well people search Google ALL THE TIME for clothing to buy. Millions of people are searching on Google rather than Amazon to find a certain t-shirt to wear. Up till this point, I am willing to guess you have completely ignored this outlet right? To do this right, you will probably have to go read some SEO guides on how the entire process works, but this article should at least get you started and get those gears turning on how to increase sales. Finding Keywords The very first thing you want to do in this entire process is find something that is selling well on Amazon. Now, you want to compare these niches to the same niches in Google. For example let’s just say that you have a “I love my pitbull t-shirt”. You know that pitbulls on Amazon are a good niche and you may be getting sales on that shirt. So you need to check it through Google. To do this, you need to sign up for a Google adwords account. You can do so here: https://www.google.com/adwords. Keep in mind that you may need to enter a credit card. We are not looking to run any advertisements though, we just need a tool that is inside the adwords account called the Google Keyword Planner. Once you are logged in, you should see it at the top, under Tools. Now, once you have navigated your way over to the Google Keyword Tool, you want to check the title of that shirt or keywords related to that shirt. This will toss back at you a range under the tab “keyword ideas”. If you are not running a campaign with them, they will just give you a range. It will look like this: This tells you a few things. It tells you that 10-100 people search “I love my pitbull t-shirt” each and every month. Those are potential customers for your Merch by Amazon shirts! It also shows you that if you were to set up ads for this keyword, each time someone clicked on your ad, you would probably be paying around 61 cents. Ouch! Probably not the best idea. You could be getting this potential traffic for FREE though! Each one of your shirts could be getting a stream of free traffic from Google and literally no one is talking about this. Why? My guess is most people in Merch are not internet marketers, nor do they want to take the time to get these products ranked in Google for keywords. I can tell you from testing this out on a family members account that it is both easy and a fun way to make more sales in the process. Lets go over exactly how to do it. Setting Up Your Merch Listing To Rank In Google In order to rank your design in Google for specific keywords, you will need two things. On page SEO, and backlinks. Just these two things can give you the extra traffic you want. The on page SEO are the EXACT steps we went into above. All you need to remember is to have the title of your t-shirt the exact same as the keyword you are looking to rank for in Google. That is it! As long as it has the exact title, it will be a lot easier to rank because Amazon is such a large website. I went ahead and Googled the keyword. As you can see, near the bottom of the page, there is a Merch by Amazon listing ranking! Now, it is the bottom of page 1 and is probably not getting a lot of traffic, but as you can see, their title is not the exact same as the keyword. Simply by making this change, you give yourself a better chance at beating it! All this shows though, is that a Merch shirt is ranking in Google while yours is not! So now you need the other piece of the puzzle, backlinks. Getting Backlinks/Making Sales Along The Way So what you now need to do is get backlinks. Backlinks are hypertext that link back to your product on Amazon. The more of these that you get that are from niche relevant locations back to your site, the higher you will rank in Google (very simplistic explanation). There are 2 easy ways to do this in my opinion. I have tested both of them and they have BOTH resulted in extra sales for my family members account while we wait for the rank increase in Google. Killing two birds with one stone here! Option 1: Niche Relevant Forums This is the option that I have been experimenting the most from lately, and trust me, if you do this correctly, you will make extra sales EASILY. You need to find forums related to your niche. In the example case, I did a shirt about pitbulls. So to make this work, I would search out forums about pitbulls or dogs in general. Once you have found a forum that seems active, sign up for an account and get involved! No one likes someone coming into their community and instantly pushing products down their throats. Do you? Probably not. You need to get involved in the conversation, be helpful, and be friendly. After you seem to have a place in this forum and have built up a few posts and maybe some rep, it is not time to make a post! Forums are places that people hang out and talk about something they are passionate about. This makes the absolute best buyer out there! Think outside the box for this one. You could make a post showing off your t-shirt that you are wearing! Show them how great your design is and give them a link (backlink cha ching!) to where you got it. If that is not your forte, maybe make a post about how you started a t-shirt business and one of the designs you just created just so happens to be about the niche of the forum. In this case pitbulls. Give them a link to your design (backlink cha ching!). By giving out the links to your designs in niche relevant forums, you will make extra sales, as well as build links to be ranking in Google. While your friend is desperately out there waiting to tier up out of the 25 tier, you are doing something about it, and pocketing the money along the way. Option 2: Purchase Your Shirt For Website Owners Wouldn’t it be great if you could just approach someone who owns a website in your t-shirt niche and have them post a link to your shirt for you? After all they have an audience that could buy your designs! The fact is, that very very rarely will anyone take time out of their day to help you out (a stranger), for nothing in return. It is just the truth. I run several large sites myself and ignore probably 99% of the email I get because people are begging. Do you want to know how to stand out? Give them something in return! You could offer to give them a bit of money to post your design. That is a bit boring but it does work! Instead though, what about purchasing your own shirt and having it shipped to them? I can tell you the few times someone shipped me free things in the mail, I went out of my way to help them in return because they gave me some pretty great stuff! To do this, first you need to find some websites in your t-shirt niche. As the example was laid out is pitbulls, I would find some good pitbull websites. Remember, we only want to reach out to sites that get some traffic! If they do not have any traffic, giving or posting your shirt on that site is not going to help you out. To find out if a site is getting any traffic, copy the URL of the website and put it into either Semrush, or SimilarWeb. Make sure they are getting a few thousand people a month as a starter. If they have just a few hundred or even less, move on. They are probably not worth your time. So once you have found a website that you want your shirt to be seen on, you now need to reach out to the person who owns it! If they have a contact form, go ahead and send them an email and ask them if you could send them a shirt. Be creative with the email, you want to stand out. If there is no contact information listed on the website, you can still get it! To find information on who owns a website, simply run their URL of their website through WHOIS. This will give you the name of the person as well as their email. You can then use this information to personalize the information and send them an email about your shirt and how you want to send it to them! Make sure to ask for a link back to your Amazon page if they like the shirt and keep in touch. Making connections is the biggest part of this business and the people who take the time to do so are going to FAR outsell the ones who do not. When you do get a website owner to post your shirt, chances are it will be send out to an email list the webmaster has, or their traffic will see it somehow. This will give you increased sales right away. You ALSO will get a backlink to your shirt on Amazon. Get enough of these backlinks and your shirt will start to show up for keywords you have in the listing and that people are searching for on Amazon. This in turn will give you even MORE sales. A Final Word We are getting up there in word count, so I think it is time to wrap this up. You can go ahead and follow the guide to optimizing your Merch by Amazon listings that I laid out above. This works and works pretty well! If you happened to see my screenshot, then you can go ahead and say that the first half of this is exactly how I build a $10,000+ a month business without driving a single visitor to the page. For a lot of people, this sounds really great and would probably be satisfied if they hit those numbers. What is really going to set people apart the longer the Merch program goes on though are the people who are satisfied with their organic earnings, and those who are never satisfied and continue to push for more. These are the people who are going to follow the second half of the merch SEO portion and start driving outside traffic. As I laid out above, driving traffic can be absolutely free! You do not have to spend a dime in advertising if you really do not want to (it just makes it easier when getting those backlinks!). You may pick whatever avenue you chose. Whichever you do go with though, make sure to give it your all! SELLING YOUR T-SHIRT BUISNESS When it comes down to it, this is a business and should be treated as such (not just a hobby). We are all here to make money. I have hinted at this in the past, but now it is just time to come out and say it. Earlier this year, my business partner and I decided to sell a Merch account. Since the platform was so new, we knew it was going to be difficult to find a buyer. We reached out to a few website brokers, but none of them were willing to accept a Merch account as the vast majority did not have any idea what the platform even was! Then I got in touch with my friends at Empire Flippers. I had sold a site with them previously and am told it is still doing well to this day. I reached out and asked if they would be interested in taking on this project and selling it for me. It turns out they were! I described exactly what the platform was, how it works, and what needed to happen to get the process started. Since it is not a website, I simply paid the listing fee, and then emailed them over all the earnings statements and documents needed to prove that we owned the account and it was making what I said it was making. The account averaged about $3,000 a month at that point. I ended up doing a seller interview with them, and got the listing posted. We talked to a bunch of interested parties, but finally came to an agreement and sold the account without an issue! Where We Are Now It has been just around a year since we started with Merch by Amazon. We sold 1 account for 73k as you can see from the previous screenshot that was under my biz partners name. You have seen screens of my account above and I am around the 10k a month mark (actually higher but Amazon will not let anyone talk about it =/….yet!). In fact, all together this year, we have made somewhere around $180,000 with Merch by Amazon. It has been stressful but a pretty fun and interesting ride. Currently Amazon Merch is STILL invite only but if can design or tell someone else to design, then I highly recommend you sign up. I have heard wait times are down to 3 weeks in some cases. Merch is the wild west right now. Selling on Amazon without holding inventory and barely anyone knows about it? There is still so much opportunity to create huge income streams. Any questions just drop them below.