E275: Diving Deep into Untapped Keywords and Shopper Trends in Your NicheAugust in Ecom-Crew-Podcast
Today’s guest is George Lawrence, the founder of MerchantWords. I’ve been wanting to get him on the podcast for ages. Finally, we’ve had the chance to record this episode.
Before getting into the meat and bones of what his awesome tool does, a bit of storytime.
George is known in and around the industry as one of the good guys. Not just for his generosity in sharing what he knows but also for his resilience in the face of setbacks. Last year, his house burned down in one of the fires that ravaged parts of Southern California.
Fortunately, personal and business experience instilled a sense of preparedness in him. With things up on the cloud and having a distributed workforce, he was able to forge on with his company.
Now on to MerchantWords. If you ever wanted to get in-depth insights on what people are searching for in your niche, it’s definitely a must-try.
Here’s George giving the 411 on this awesome tool.
- how Merchant Words started (9:50)
- what MerchantWords does (16:40)
- how it’s beneficial to sellers (18:25)
- some real-world examples (23:15)
Sign up for MerchantWords using our link and get $21 off on a monthly plan.
Speaking of great tools, we recently did a series of webinars with Helium 10, which we turned into a mini-course.
Even if you don’t use Helium 10, I think you’ll find the information there that’s really interesting. Head over to ecomcrew.com/helium to watch the entire series.
Finally, if you enjoyed listening and think this episode has been useful to you, please take a moment to leave us a review on iTunes.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. Happy selling!
Full Audio Transcript
Mike: [00:00:00] This is Mike and welcome to Episode #275 of the Ecomcrew podcast. Hello from British Columbia. Up in the Great White North of Canada, doing an RV road trip up here. Just got done doing Banff and Jasper National Parks and getting ready to pull into Vancouver here shortly to catch up with my trusty partner in crime, Dave Bryant. Before I get into all that today, I do want to mention we have a special thing going on here.
Mike: [00:00:28] If you go over to Ecomcrew.com/Helium, we put together a three-part series with the guys from Helium 10. Some pretty cool stuff, there’s some keyword research, product research. We use real-world examples of some of our products, go through about three hours of video content, all for free over at Ecomcrew.com/helium. Even if you don’t use their tool, there’s lots of great content in there on how we’re now optimizing our listings for Amazon. And since we’ve done this, we’ve had a really big uplift in our traffic and sales to our listings, it’s been awesome. Everything in there, step by step shows you how to do that. Ecomcrew.com/Helium.
Mike: [00:01:13] Now today’s episode is with George from Merchant Words, I recorded this way back, when I was back in California, before we did Women’s Month, which hopefully you guys enjoyed. I enjoyed putting it together. We had a bunch of awesome women entrepreneurs on, and now it seems like we’re back to all the guys that are in e-commerce. And George is someone that I’ve admired from afar for quite a while.
Mike: [00:01:34] I’ve known him for a while as well. And Merchant Words is one of the pieces of software that I first used back in the day when I first got started in e-commerce. And this guy doesn’t disappoint, it’s a great episode. George has been through some crazy adversity. He actually was pushed to come on the podcast like a hundred episodes ago and right before we were set to record, his home burned down, which is crazy. We talk about that in this episode as well. So how to deal with adversity and a whole bunch of other stuff in this episode. So I hope you guys enjoy it. I wanna thank George again for coming on and doing this episode. And right after the introduction, we’ll get into the interview with George.
Intro: [00:02:13] Welcome to the Ecomcrew Podcast. The Web’s most transparent podcast from two seven-figure sellers who share the good, bad and the ugly about running an e-commerce business. You’ll learn how we build our brands, find products and develop marketing strategies that will help you start and grow your own million dollar e-commerce brand. And now your hosts Mike Jackness and Dave Bryant.
Mike: [00:02:38] Hey, George, welcome to the Ecomcrew podcast.
George: [00:02:41] Oh, man. It’s fantastic to be here. Thanks for having me.
Mike: [00:02:44] Of course, yeah. So we first met– Oh, man. It’s been a while now. It was at Retail Global last year in Las Vegas. And I’ve known of you for quite a while, I’ve actually been– I used your software for quite a while and you’ve kind of been like a mainstay in the e-commerce space.
Mike: [00:03:00] And we were supposed to record a podcast last year and something pretty crazy happened right before we’re supposed to record, you wanna talk about it for just a second?
George: [00:03:10] Sure! So, you know, I like to liken everything that happens in life to kind of like what happens with your business, right? You’re always going to face setbacks. You’re always gonna have up and downs.
[00:03:18] And if you’re ready for it, if you expect it, then it really doesn’t hit you quite so hard. But in my life personally what happened was, some of you may have heard that recently, you know, Southern California had a lot of fires and I wound up losing my house. And like many of you, I’m sure it was also the base of my business right? Now, we had a lot of things up into the cloud. But still, when you lose your home base, both your business and your personal life, that was pretty devastating. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t want to oversell it like boo hoo hoo, poor me. But wow, that was really something.
Mike: [00:03:49] Yeah. I mean, obviously, it isn’t one of these things that, like you said, you can plan for. It just kind of happens in a blink of an eye and I also live in Southern California. I’ve had ash raining on our house from a fire that was just right next door to us. And luckily, we didn’t lose our home. But it makes you realize how quickly things can change. I’ve also had friends that have lost their homes to fire. One of my best friends actually had his home struck by lightning of all things, up in South Dakota. And he had to, like, run out in a panic. Because I mean, it was like an inferno. Even less planning than you get with a wildfire coming through. So, yeah, pretty crazy.
Mike: [00:04:22] And the reason we want to talk about it, because we were just chatting right before the podcast is like, do we talk about this or not? I think that that’s the stuff that’s always missing in podcast is the real life stuff, that life is never a straight line up, that people are dealing with things all the time. And to kind of think about that and respect that and like you said, not boo-hoo me, but its something that none of us want to go through. And it sounds like you’ve come out the other side stronger and you just kind of realize it is what it is.
George: [00:04:49] Well, hear my thoughts on that. And in some cases, yeah. Man, I was really unlucky to have your house burned down. That was a bummer. But on the other hand, you can think about it that even though I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been, like I didn’t have 100 fire extinguishers standing outside my front door ready to go. But the thing of it is, some of the things we had done, both personally in our business life, sort of helped us for this crazy thing that happened. You know, like most software companies, most of our things are up in the cloud. We actually, we’re a distributed workforce.
George: [00:05:20] And so all of our programmers and data scientists and everybody worked from their home. We don’t have a central office that, you know, might have been lost.
George: [00:05:26] And then a good number of my personal mementos, you know, family pictures and things were also all stored up in the cloud. Not everything, so we lost a few things, but most of the good stuff that we wanted to say was up in the cloud. And so really, when I think about it, it could have been a lot, lot worse. And so I’ve got a lot to be thankful for, even though it was a bit of a bummer, too. But, you know, like we’re saying, man, that’s life. You know, whether it’s a business or personal or whatever, things go up, things go down. And it’s sort of that friction, if you will, that kind of pushes us all forward. And so if life was just easy, it would get kind of boring.
George: [00:05:56] And my opinion is this kind of stuff is kind of texture of the up and down of everyday life. That’s what keeps it exciting and interesting. So I simultaneously love it and hate it that my house burned down because it was a big drag but the challenges of overcoming it moving forward have been, you know, really exciting.
Mike: [00:06:10] Yeah, I mean, entrepreneurship is the same way. I mean, obviously, hopefully not to the point of your house burning down, but I feel like it’s just as emotional. It can be just as back and forth and isolated in terms of your emotions and super high highs and super low lows and things that you weren’t planning for the day before. I mean, you obviously don’t plan for a Google update to throw your business off or Amazon to shut your account down or the government to pass regulation. Now, the blue or all these types of things that have happened to me, you know. But you figure out a way to get through them. I think the people that are able to do that are the ones that ultimately are successful.
George: [00:06:46] Yeah, well, you mentioned a lot of great things to do to get ready for, kind of weathering the storms of business, but hopefully no one will ever have their house burn down. Let me just offer one bit of advice, though, just in case you live in an area where your house might possibly burn down. And that is two things really, is make sure that if you think you have everything backed up into the cloud, go double check, because unless you have everything backed up from the cloud, when it’s time to like flee the fire coming down your street and jump in your car and go speeding away, you don’t want to have any moment’s hesitation to think, oh, did I– did I really– did I back up everything or not? You would rather be rest assured that you got it all up in the cloud, so don’t worry. So that’s one.
George: [00:07:22] And number two is maybe a lot of homeowners don’t realize this, that your limits don’t automatically rise every year. It’s up to you to call your insurance company and say, hey, you know what? Back when I bought my house, it only cost this much. And now 10 or 20 years later, it’s worth a lot more. So I’d like you to readjust for me, please. And that’s a thing that’s on you to get back in touch with them. And a lot of folks that thought they were covered because they had the same insurance guy forever and they knew the broker and he was a friend and everything, it turned out to be actually they were under insured just because they had never had that conversation of Hey, over the years, let me up my rates.
[00:07:54] So two little tidbits that I’m going to pass along to you. And if I learned anything from this experience, it’s man, make sure your rates are at the very top of where they should be and you gotta be on top of that. Number two is go back and double check to make sure everything’s in the cloud for me, please. Because you want to drive away and not have to worry about, oh, what bucket of pictures do I save? Forget it! It’s all up in the cloud.
Mike: [00:08:13] Yeah, makes a lot of sense. Luckily for me, I learned that cloud lesson a very long time ago. I’ve been operating basically for the last 10 years. I mean, Dropbox has been out for quite a while, completely in the cloud. I think it’s because we’ve been traveling a lot. We were living abroad. You just want to be able to go from computer to computer without having to stress about it. So I’ve kind of lived my life where I could throw my computer away at any second, go get a brand new one and install a few apps and everything else is in the cloud. So that’s– and I agree, I mean it just takes the stress of “Is my hard drive going to crash?” “Did my computer gets stolen? Did I drop it by accident?” “Did it burn down in a fire?” or whatever extreme you want to take, you’re more mobile that way.
George: [00:08:50] Yup, totally agree. And you know, I thought that, too. And everything the last 10 years or so, 100 percent is the case. But there were things that like, you know, pictures on the wall that we had never really thought to, like, take down and scan and put back in the days before digital photography. You know, those kinds. And I’m just saying, go back, walk through your house and imagine if this was gone in a second, everything you’re standing around. Would you have a way to get back whatever it is that you would like to see again?
Mike: [00:09:15] Interesting. I mean, I definitely have boxes of old photographs that are around that definitely have not been backed up. That’s an interesting one to think about.
George: [00:09:20] See? There you go.
Mike: [00:09:23] Yeah, no doubt. You made me think about that. Yeah, you take it for granted. It’s in a box in the basement and you never know, you know.
George: [00:09:29] Exactly.
[00:09:30] Well, let’s talk about something more fun, because people are out there like, “Okay, enough of poor George and his home”. Let’s talk about your awesome business that you’ve had for quite a while. Like I said, I’ve known about you since I got into e-commerce. Talk a little bit about Merchant Words and what you guys do over there.
George: [00:09:44] Sure, you want me to tell you how I got started?
Mike: [00:09:46] Yes, absolutely. I love the how I got started story.
George: [00:09:49] Great, so fantastic. So, you know, about maybe 10 years ago or so, I was just a regular guy. I had a few young kids and, you know, they were going through high school and everything. My life is perfect because I had a job that I liked and I’m a computer programmer is my background. I was working as a computer programmer, writing some database software and some mobile app software, having a great time. But then I realized, you know, even though I love the companies I’m working for and they’re giving me a decent salary and everything’s good there.
George: [00:10:17] I just don’t really feel like I’m ever gonna break through, right? And kind of level up. Sure, you get a raise every now and then. It’s not like you can double your raise. And so I was thinking there’s gotta be something out there more for me. And what I started doing is selling on eBay and Amazon, you know, these early days of Amazon selling but selling on eBay and Amazon. I’m like, wow, this is actually kind of cool. You know, I can kind of do with the big stores do and I can do it myself.
George: [00:10:39] And I got really excited about doing that. So I was leaning into it more and more as a way to just make a little fund money for our family to, you know, get a little extra. We’re big Disney fans and so I was using that extra income to be like and how we could afford vacations and things because, you know, the prices of stuff with design are crazy.
George: [00:10:54] But as I was doing this, I realized that, you know, maybe I could leverage my experience as a computer programmer, you know, familiar with databases to see if I could level up this little business that I just got off the ground. And the thought occurred to me, if I could understand how people are searching, you know, what they’re searching for. Of course, you know, what they want to buy is important, but more importantly, how they search for it.
George: [00:11:13] If I could figure that out, then I could sort of step out in front of some of the other sellers and market my products better than they can, because, especially if you were selling something similar or the exact same thing as other sellers, you need to make sure that, you describe your products, whether it’s a bundle or a private label, whatever it is. But you need to make sure that your product kind of connected better with customers, because if you do, you’re gonna pay less in advertising if advertising your thing or you’re gonna show it better in organic because you’ll match the long tail searches more often. And so what I did is I use my computer programming skills.
George: [00:11:45] And I wrote a little tool that observed the Amazon search bar, you know, that little drop down suggestions that happened. And I thought, wow. If I could observe enough of those suggestions. Maybe I could sort of reverse engineer or kind of observe some patterns and see what keywords are more popular than what other keywords. And so I wrote this little tool and I didn’t really give it a name. I was just a script running in my garage, saving stuff onto a hard drive. And, you know, back in those days, I didn’t really have any plans of turning that software into any kind of business or anything. You’re just running for fun. And, you know, I showed a couple of other seller friends of mine. They’re like, wow, this is great stuff. But for the longest time, I never really did anything with it. I just kind of let it sit there and coast along, collecting data, helping out myself and a few other buddies.
George: [00:12:27] And at the same time, though, and this is you know, I hope the listeners of this podcast aren’t sick of me talking about my personal life. But at the same time, I sort of ran into a problem that maybe some other parents or folks out there have felt. And that is, you know, my oldest child, my daughter just graduated from high school. And she said, hey, dad, I want to go to an expensive college, it’s my dream college. I got in. Can we pay for it? I’m like, well, of course we can pay for it. You know right, what kind of Dad wouldn’t tell his daughter that.
Mike: [00:12:52] Right.
George: [00:12:54] Right, exactly and so, I’m like I got a little bit of savings and I got a little business I’m running on the side. Hopefully this will all work out. So, yeah, go to your expensive college. And as kind of fate would have it, in the first year, I sort of burnt through all of the college savings I had. And now I’m like, you know what? This is actually going to be tough. So what I was thinking is that, I’m going to put a priority on my daughter’s education. That’ll be the first bill I pay no matter what, because I don’t want to have any trouble with her continuing to go to college.
George: [00:13:21] And then all of a sudden, like, I remember, like, oh no, I just got a notice from my mortgage company. Now I’m a couple months behind on my mortgage, I better turn my attention to paying that bill first. I don’t wanna be kicked out on the street, but then after doing that for a while, I get the nasty Graham from the tuition company, the tuition folks. And they’re like, hey, you haven’t paid tuition in a while. You know, don’t make us send your daughter home. And I’m like, oh no, what do I do? So I don’t know how many other people have kind of felt this. But as sort of the personal economy of your life goes up and down, you know, you realize you’ve got to make a change, right?
George: [00:13:51] And so what I thought was, this business I’ve been cooking on the side of selling things, let’s get more serious about it. But also, let’s see if we can do something with this software I’ve been working on.
George: [00:13:59] And then that’s when I decided, let’s see if anybody else found it interesting. So I sort of put the word out there in an early kind of way. I made a few posts on Reddit and things and I said, hey, you know, I’ve got this database and I picked a name for it was Merchant Words. You know, I haven’t changed since, it just came to me one day and the dot com was available so I’m like, “alright, it sounds good.”
George: [00:14:15] And I threw this out there, and I said, hey, is anybody interested in this? If so, you know, it’s a subscription. I’m selling it for a few bucks. See if you can– see if this is useful for you. And simultaneously, it actually was, I’m almost tearing up a little bit to tell you the story because at the same time that I was actually helping other sellers, sellers were kicking in a few dollars every month, which would actually help me save my house from foreclosure and, you know, make sure my daughter could go to college.
George: [00:14:41] And so it was kind of this you know, I hate the phrase win-win because we use it a lot but it really was. It solved the two biggest problems that were going on in my life at the time. And that was I’d written something useful that I hadn’t really done anything with. It was just kind of languishing. But I figured if someone else could find it useful, great and at the same time, maybe it’ll help me solve my problem of can I still pay my mortgage and my tuition?
George: [00:15:02] And as luck would have it, you know, everything turned out OK. My daughter graduated from college, she’s doing great. And saved the house. And then unfortunately, the house that I saved was the one that later burned down a few years later. So that’s kind of ironic, right? But at the time, we were very happy that we were able to save the house and everything was working out great.
George: [00:15:21] And then, lo and behold, you know, Merchant was kind of– got some early traction. And all of a sudden people were telling me, “Hey, man, this is great, right? I had no idea that you could kind of make these observations about Amazon Keywords.” So, you know, fantastic. And word of mouth spread and they told two friends and so on and so on.
George: [00:15:38] And we were really kind of the first company out there saying, “Hey, we’ve got some interesting stuff we can tell you about Amazon that we’ve been observing. If you’re at all interested, come. We’d love to tell you about it”. And, you know, really, honestly, looking back on that, it really makes me happy. Not so much that my daughter got to go to college and I saved my house and all those other things. Those are great, but what really makes me happy. What really gratifies me about the whole thing is I was able to help out all these sellers who were exactly like me thinking, you know, if I could only figure out how people are searching for stuff on Amazon, man, that would really help me.
George: [00:16:08] It solved my problem and solved the problem for thousands of other folks. It really was gratifying. So that, in a nutshell, is kind of the early days of Merchant Words. That’s how we got off the ground.
Mike: [00:16:16] Very cool. So, so fast forwarding to 2019. I mean, let’s talk about how the tool can help in today’s marketplace. What does the tool to help with and how can people apply that to their business. I know you can use it for PPC search. You can use it for building your listing. But let’s talk about some real world examples of how I can use that to bet on your business in a substantial way.
George: [00:16:40] Sure. Great question. So, you know, over the years, as we’ve added more capacity to our infrastructure, hiring great data scientists and all those kinds of things. We’ve also been able to observe more of what’s happening on Amazon. And the distinction I want to make and sometimes it’s caused a little bit of confusion to people is we don’t tap into any kind of like special back end secret API or door to get our data from Amazon. We look at Amazon just like the public looks at Amazon.
George: [00:17:04] We observe web pages, we observe search suggestions. But then from there, we do a deep dive on figuring out what’s useful to know from all that information. And when you do it wide, when you visit millions and millions of pages, you really learn a lot about what’s happening on Amazon and therefore what people are searching for.
George: [00:17:21] And so the first thing I want to tell folks is really this lets you do kind of like what I call the Vulcan Mind Meld right into what people are searching for. And like I keep saying, it’s not just what they search for. It’s how they search for it. Because some person would say baking dish. Another person will say casserole pan, it’s the exact same product, but people search for it completely differently. And then, there’s a whole nother world of misspellings.
George: [00:17:43] How many people misspell stuff and all of these things help you understand your customer. But at the same time, we can reverse engineer some useful data from this kind of observations that we’re making. And like, let me give you a quick aside. We were just taking a look at– just today, I was taking a look at the most recent batch of misspellings that we were able to observe. And it’s really interesting to me that the more misspellings, a word or a search phrase has, the more popular it is.
George: [00:18:08] And even if you didn’t know anything else about a product. Just understanding the variations of misspellings will give you a good sense of how popular individual products are. So it’s fascinating that learning from one piece of Amazon can really be instructive in other areas as well.
George: [00:18:23] But I’m kind of rambling here for a minute. You were asking about how to use it in your business. So the first thing I would say is you need to understand your customer and all the different ways they search for.
George: [00:18:32] Because in the classic blunder, as I kind of like to call it, is as sellers, we really focus on our products. We’ll look at a product and, you know, we’ll have maybe a sample from our manufacturer and maybe we’ll use it ourselves. But then we think, what’s it made out of? What’s its dimensions? Or how high is it, how you know, all these other things, the physical aspects of the product, what colour, etc, etc.
George: [00:18:52] And users don’t really think about products in that way. You know the old business adage, “people don’t buy a quarter inch drill because they need a quarter drill, they buy a quarter inch drill because they need a quarter inch hole.” Well, same thing happens on Amazon. So you face a problem in your life. You’re going to go to Amazon to buy a product to solve your problem. You’re really looking for a solution to your problem. And people will often do search phrases with things like, you know, I need a good gift for a two year old for, you know, a two year old birthday party.
George: [00:19:19] No seller in the world has listed their title “best gift for two year old birthday party”. That’s just not it. But the point is the smart sellers understand the different contexts that people use when they search.
George: [00:19:32] And if you’re just narrowly focused on your product and then you hope people are using the keywords of what describes your product, well, that’s one approach. But really, if you think about the problem of buyers and what they’re looking for solutions, then you understand. Well, you know what? If I describe my product more along the same lines of how my customer searches for it, then that will really help you in the long run. Now, this is great for organic. Naturally, you want to make sure your listening is perfectly in line with how your customer search and what they’re looking for.
George: [00:19:58] But this also helps you beat out the competitors on a PPC situation. Now, a lot of folks ask me, hey, you must tap into a lot of advertising data to make some of your keyword suggestions and stuff. And that’s another thing I’d like to kind of clear up. No, we don’t and that’s a purposeful decision. Whenever Amazon’s got, you know, the ability for us to connect and to observe PPC data and of course, being sellers ourselves, we have access to a lot of PPC performance reports and things.
George: [00:20:23] But we purposely don’t take those into consideration and here’s why. We learned that when you look at what advertisers are advertising against. That gives you a good sense of what’s important to advertisers and that almost kind of misdirection, if you will, if you stay focused, even though it’s harder really to get at this data. But if you stay focused on customer searches, then you understand better what’s actually in the mind of your shoppers, not what’s in the mind of other advertisers. And so the irony here is by staying away from PPC data, you can actually become better PPC advertisers because you’re kind of like avoiding where all the hot spots are for other advertisers and you’re focusing in on exactly what customers are searching for.
George: [00:21:06] And so you’ll build PPC campaigns that outsmart your other PPC advertising competition by focusing on exactly what customers are looking for.
Mike: [00:21:15] It also has the added benefit of the day that Amazon decides not to share the API on you and your business isn’t shut down.
George: [00:21:21] Yeah. And you know, we’ve seen that some of our other competitors and folks who have keyword data out there. I kind of heard through the through the grapevine that they were tapping into some of these APIs that Amazon had accidentally leaked. And, you know, we thought for a moment, hey, let’s jump in on that, let’s join that party and just pull all this advertising data down. And the first thought was, you know, Amazon is gonna shut that API leak down eventually.
George: [00:21:41] But even if they didn’t, like I said, I still don’t want to focus on advertising data. That just tells you what is going on with advertisers. Although the ironic side effect of that is when a number of other tools pop up and they’re all getting their data from the same source, then they compare that to Merchant Words. They actually made the false conclusion that hey, Merchant Words must be wrong because these other three guys all have basically the same information. Merchant Words is different, so Merchant Words must be the wrong one.
George: [00:22:06] You know the irony there is well, we’re working hard. We’re busting our butts, trying to figure out what the best non-advertising information we want to give you is to be a better advertiser. And then people make the false conclusion that because our data’s different, it must not be the right one. That gives me a little bit of a chuckle. And we still sort of try to represent ourselves in a way that helps people understand that, you know what, even if we don’t agree with some other tools you might be using, that’s on purpose. And it’s a good thing because you wouldn’t want us to anyway. We’re going to stay focused on customer search behavior. We always have. Always will. Even though you might have other sources of tapping advertising data, that’s just not where we think you ought to have your mindset.
Mike: [00:22:45] Gotcha. It makes a lot of sense. So let’s talk about I’ll put you on the spot here. Let’s talk about like a real world example. I totally understand what you’re saying at a 30,000 foot view but if someone were to, you sell stuff on Amazon so you can pick any random product or they type in a keyword in to Amazon or an ASIN into Merchant Words and start doing research.
Mike: [00:23:05] What are some things that are some real world examples of things that would show up in your tool that people could start PPCing for that might not show up in other tools?
George: [00:23:14] Yeah. Great question. Well, there’s a bunch of different ways you can use Merchant Words and in fact, it used to be– we had one simple interface. You just put in one phrase and BOOM, we’ll show you everything that has other phrases with that phrase in it. Very simple. But then we rolled out, as you mentioned, support for ASINs. And now you can actually turn that around and do a reverse ASIN search. Like I mentioned, we got misspelling data coming in and that’s got a real ability to tell you lots of interesting information.
George: [00:23:39] We’re doing some really interesting stuff with comparing you against your competition, understanding how your competition lines up against the other. So I’m going to give you an example. I promise I’ll answer your question. But the interesting thing for us is in the history of the company, we went from a very simple tool: one way to use it to there’s a bunch of different ways to get interesting information out of Merchant Words.
George: [00:23:57] That’ll still continue to be the trend as we roll out new features. Very exciting time. So what I like to do, to answer your question, I like to tell folks, to sellers, “Say, look, think about what’s in the mind of your shopper, things about what the shopper is going to search for and then plug in something else”. I was chatting with someone ages ago at a trade show and she sells bottles. And so we said, “Alright, let’s just jump in and plug bottles in to Merchant Words and have a look”, and we saw all the different varieties of bottles you can imagine, baby bottles, beer bottles, et cetera. And she sells bottles that people might wish to collect. And she saw a depth of customer searches that she had never realized before.
George: [00:24:31] People are looking for whiskey bottles, but not only just whiskey bottles, whiskey bottles of a particular year of a particular vintage, a particular producer. All these very, very specific niche style searches. And she’s like, “Oh, my goodness, I can’t believe it. I could create blog posts about this. I could create content about this. I can create better advertising about this”, and anytime she kind of doesn’t jump in and go deep into her niche, then she’s really just scratching the surface. She might create an advertising campaign with all the kinds of bottle key words you can think of where she might create some content describing bottles in general.
George: [00:25:04] But when she does a deep dive, looking at the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of variations, even in a niche as narrow as something like, you know, particular kind of bottle collectors, then she really understands the depth of what everything’s looking for.
George: [00:25:15] Now, you know, I’d love to give you an example of exactly what your listeners sell. But, you know, even if I could tell you, “here’s my best selling product and I’d love to tell you all about it so you can run out and compete against me”. You know, even if I had a good story to tell about that, right, I want everybody to realize that they’re on their own unique journey. So no matter what good advice you hear from me or anyone else, don’t really take the tactics that we’re talking about and use them exactly as is, learn from our tactics and adapt it to whatever your business niche happens to be.
George: [00:25:47] So we’re all sellers, of course. So we all basically do the same thing. But every niche is a little different. If I’m selling Halloween inflatables because it’s a seasonal thing and it’s kind of a niche thing, but if I’m selling baby bottles, it’s a completely different mindset, right? The needs of other customers, what the customers are interested, what the variations are that they search for are very, very different. So I’d say don’t follow anybody’s advice, even mine. One, two, three to the letter of the law. Learn from what our approach is, kind of understand the philosophy behind our approach and then apply that same philosophy to the details of your particular business in whatever categories you’re selling.
George: [00:26:24] So I’m not sure if I really answered your question or not, but what I would say is jump into Merchant Words, understand the depth and the variation of what’s going on with your products, because only then can you really understand what’s in the minds of the shoppers. Many people will have the details of your product in mind still, they’ll search for a particular colour or size. But many people also just have a purpose in mind, right? “I need a gift for a two year old birthday party”, that didn’t mention anything about a product, but you can understand the need that you’re trying to help people solve with your products.
Mike: [00:26:53] Alright. Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. It does answer the question and the bottle example is a really good one. It’s also making me think that you can use this not only for PPC, but to engineer your listing itself differently as well by including some of these words in a title or bullets or description, back-end keywords, etc. because “Gift for 2 Year Old” might not be something that you were going after because that’s not necessarily a PPC term that anyone of these other tools are going to turn out.
Mike: [00:27:22] But the reality is, is that specifically we sell gifts for 2 year olds and with some of our baby stuff that we have in our baby line. And that’s a really good example in that regard and you can put it in the description or in a bullet point, “Makes a perfect gift for a 2 year old.”
George: [00:27:37] Yeah, exactly right. But remember, to everyone listening in, you know, even to your particular baby products you’re selling. That might not be actually a fantastic keyword to advertise against or bake into your listings but I’m throwing it out as an example.
George: [00:27:49] So understand the philosophy here. The philosophy is, think about your product, about how– put yourself in their shoes, think of how they might search for it, and then you’ll discover those through Merchant Words and then you’ll be able to see, you know what? I’ve got a phrase here that I know people are searching for. Now, what’s the best way to leverage it? And early on we had a lot of people saying, “Man, that’s a lot of work. Holy smokes. I can’t use your tool all day and then go back and think of a million different. I just, I can’t do it.” And that’s why we launched some services that will help you.
George: [00:28:17] We’ve got something called Listening Advisor. You don’t have the time to do your own listings like you mentioned, because it’s a lot of work. Figuring out where the bullet points and the titles and everything go. You know, (Inaudible at 28:26) for a few bucks, we’ll do that for you. But the philosophy here is when you understand what’s important to your customers and how they search, because those two things are really big humps to get over. You can’t fly around the whole country and understand how people talk. And there’s a few great examples that we know. Some people call it soda. Some people call it pop. Some people call it coke, even though they’re talking about a Sprite. They still call everything Coke. That’s what they do a lot in the south around Atlanta.
George: [00:28:49] But, you know, a funny thing I was out in the south the other day, about a month ago, and I just did a little poll with the audience. I went up on stage and said, how many people call this thing soda and how many people call this a pop? Few hands. How many people call this Coke, even if it’s not a Coke? How many would just call it Coke. Everybody raised their hand. I’m like “Wow”, You know, that’s really true.
[00:29:07] People talk completely differently across the country. So that’s one hurdle you got to get over. And then the other one is, even though they use different words to describe different things, they still bake in a thousand different variations. You got to understand all those different variations and that’s the whole purpose of why I made Merchant Words; to help sellers understand that– first, it was solving a problem for me. And then, it turned out to be useful for my buddies.
[00:29:28] And then it turned out, you know what, I’m just going to let everyone else tap into this because there’s no way everybody’s gonna compete against my products. I’d rather help all the other sellers than worry about if any competition is coming after me.
Mike: [00:29:40] Yeah, that makes perfect sense. I love that. Very cool. So we’re running towards the end here. We’re out of time. But any other tidbits, anything that we missed that you think would be helpful for the audience? We love to do value bombs on the podcast. Anything else we can cover?
George: [00:29:54] Wow. Man, well, I’m an open book. I love to chat about anything else you’d love to chat about. The thing about being a seller is, you know, that old joke, two guys are out in the woods and also of a sudden, a bear shows up. So they start out, they start off running and, you know, they’re huffing and puffing. And one guy says to his buddy, hey, you think we can outrun the bear? and he says back. Well, I’m not trying to outrun the bear. I’m just trying to outrun you.
George: I think about that joke a lot because everybody knows seller friends, and we meet em at conferences and shows and listen to them in podcasts, we’re always talking to other sellers and it’s not about I’m trying to crush all the competition but I am trying to be a little smarter than you. I am trying to outsmart all these other seller friends of mine and one of the ways we can outsmart them is go right to the source and so many people think about, “Oh Amazon does this, or Amazon does that, if I could buy this ad on Amazon then I could—” and don’t get me wrong, Advertising is a really cool technology and it changes all the time.
George: A few months back, as everybody knows, they allowed you to target by ASIN. ASIN targeting is really cool and we’re noodling around with different ways that we can help folks target by ASINs and we’ll have some data and reports from Merchant Words to be able to help you with that but the idea is, even though things are always changing, one thing that doesn’t change, is you’re on a constant battle, if you will, to be smarter than other sellers. Not because you want to them to fail or get eaten by the bear like in the old joke or whatever, but if you think about it, at least this is my personal philosophy, is I’m on a mission to be a better seller so I can actually help a customer.
George: There’s someone out there looking for the product I’m selling and I know I can make their life a little better if I can make the connection, if I can let them find me, so I’m going to do everything I can to help my listing be the one they find, because I want to solve their problem, I want to make their life a little bit better. And when you have that philosophy, then you align yourself with what’s important to Amazon. Because that’s Amazon’s philosophy, they want to be helping their customers as best they can too, why shouldn’t we as sellers, also help Amazon in their same mission?
George: I guess my parting shot is I know you want to win, I know you want to grow your business, I know you want to dominate the world and make millions of dollars. I get it. But if you just adopt the philosophy of let’s help our customers, let’s help people searching to solve problems and they’re looking to Amazon to solve their problem, let’s participate in being a beneficial solution for them by being the best seller we can by making sure our listing is easily found and connects exactly with what their problem is and the way they’re looking for it. And if we do that, we’ll win by a side effect, we’ll get what we’re looking for, we’ll get the success we seek, but we’ll do it because we really helped improve people’s lives and I think that that’s fantastic.
George: That makes me go to bed happy at night, thinking “wow! I helped the world a little bit, isn’t that nice?”
Mike: Yeah. I love it. I think that’s a great way to end things and on top of that, we actually have one more thing to end things with, which I thought was awesome. You offered a substantial discount on your software to our audience which— anything about Ecomcrew these days is because we’re getting larger people do things like this. And this is not an affiliate link, we always disclose it when we do but we’re just sending the traffic over to you cause we think you’re awesome. And this is a rebuild your house fund or something maybe but MerchantWords.com/Ecomcrew.
Normally, it is $60 a month for the keyword plan that you have but for Ecomcrew listeners, it’ll be $39 a month so that’s a third off or so? Which is quite nice, and that’s lifetime once someone signs up so that’s MerchantWords.com/Ecomcrew. Again, its not an affiliate link or anything like that, we just think its awesome software. It’s something that I’ve signed up for, I think, in the first 2 – 3 months when I first got into ecommerce and realized what an awesome tool it was and definitely everyone regards you as one of the good guys in the business and definitely it was good to have you on the show and talk about this stuff and appreciate the offer that you gave to our audience.
George: Well, thanks! It was our pleasure to offer it and as more interesting tools come out, we’re working on new stuff everyday. It’s been a thrill for me to help sellers both understand their audience better and offer just a little discount, maybe that helps them out a little bit. If you’re just starting out, every little bit helps. And if there’s anything that Merchant Words can ever do to help anybody, just reach out and get in touch with us. We’re happy to work really hard everyday to give you the best keyword tool, the best understanding of what’s in the mind of the sellers, happy to offer a little bit of a discount to your audience and I’m just happy to know that we’re helping other sellers do a great job or reaching out to their customers.
Mike: Awesome. Thanks so much, man. Really appreciate it. Best of luck with everything in the future and hopefully the fire’s will stay away from wherever you— did you rebuild in the same spot or are you going to move to a different area?
George: We’re about to, and first of all, you just got done thanking me, no no man, thanks to you, Mike. It’s been great. I appreciate the chance to come on to your show and chat with folks, but to answer your question, we’re going to build exactly where our house was but we’ve heard from a lot of folks who’ve been through this before, rebuilding their house after a fire can take a long time. Unexpected delays and some of the other folks have told us, expect 4 or 5 years until the last hurdle gets jumped over and you can move back in to your rebuilt house. So what Jennifer and I decided to do is we’re gonna go and buy another house somewhere, kinda just lay low there, get another basecamp while the first house gets rebuilt and then move back from that one. So basically we have two, right now. We got another house that we’re moving into, so we’re going to be good there for the next few years and then when our home, the one we really loved the most, when that’s rebuilt, then we’re gonna move back in.
Mike: Gotcha. In the meantime, you can use it as a rental property or something, you never know, you always talk about the good things that come out of things you don’t expect and maybe it’ll be good for that later.
George: Yeah, that’s right. Well, the good news is the kinda temporary house that we’re buying and sort of our temporary basecamp, is right next to DisneyWorld so we’re using that to scratch two of our itches. Number 1, we needed a new place to live, but also we wanted to be close to Disneyworld and the thing of it is, if there’s any listeners out there, if you happen to be going to Disneyworld, since that’s my new neighbourhood, call me up, I’d love to jump on a ride and jump into space mountain with you or something. That’d be fun.
Mike: Awesome. Well, cool man. I really appreciate it and hopefully our paths will cross and until then, we’ll talk to you then.
George: I look forward to it. Thanks you guys, wonderful chatting with you.
Mike: Alright guys. That’s going to wrap it up for the 275th episode of the Ecomcrew podcast. As always, you can go to ecomcrew.com/275 which is the episode number, to get to the shownotes and until the next one everybody, Happy Selling and We’ll talk to you soon.
Michael started his first business when he was 18 and is a serial entrepreneur. He got his start in the online world way back in 2004 as an affiliate marketer. From there he grew as an SEO expert and has transitioned into ecommerce, running several sites that bring in a total of 7-figures of revenue each year.