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The WIRED Guide to Genetic Testing

The WIRED Guide to Genetic Testing

As these clinical tests became more common, scientists were also busy trying to drill deeper into the substance of DNA, the chemical structure of which had only been deciphered in 1953 by James Watson, Francis Crick, and Rosalind Franklin. Over the next few decades, scientists would come to understand that its helix-shaped pattern of paired bases—adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine—functioned like letters, spelling out words that a cell would decode into amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. They would also begin to realize that most of the human genome—about 98 percent—doesn’t actually code for proteins. In the ’70s, “junk DNA” became the popularized term for these nonfunctional sections.

Not long after, in 1984, a British geneticist named Alec Jeffreys stumbled upon a use for all that so-called junk DNA: crime-fighting. In these regions of the genome, the DNA molecule tends to duplicate itself, like it’s stuttering over the same word over and over again. Scientists can capture and count these stutters, known as “short tandem repeats.” And because the number of STRs a person has at various locations is unique to them, they can be used to build a personally identifiable profile, or DNA fingerprint.

In 1987, this technique was used for the first time in a police investigation, leading to the arrest and conviction of Colin Pitchfork for the rape and murder of two young women in the UK. That same year, Tommie Lee Andrews, who raped and stabbed to death a woman in Florida, became the first person in the US to be convicted as a result of DNA evidence. Since then, forensic DNA testing has put millions of criminals behind bars. In 1994, Congress signed the DNA Identification Act, giving the US Federal Bureau of Investigation authority to maintain a national database of genetic profiles collected from criminal offenders. As of September 2019, this database, known as CODIS, contains DNA from nearly 14 million people convicted of crimes, as well as 3.7 million arrestees, and 973,000 samples gathered at crime scenes.

Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, while cops were rushing to use DNA to catch rapists and murderers, geneticists were slowly doing detective work of their own. By linking health records, family pedigrees, disease registries, and STR locations and lengths, scientific sleuths painstakingly began to map traits onto chromosomes, eventually identifying the genes responsible for a number of inherited conditions, including Huntington’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and sickle-cell anemia. These diseases linked to single genes, so-called monogenic conditions, are basically binary—if you have the genetic mutation you’re almost certain to develop the disease. And once the sequences for these faulty genes were revealed, it wasn’t too hard to test for their presence. All you had to do was design a probe—a single strand of DNA attached to a signal molecule, that would send out a fluorescent burst or some other chemical flare when it found its matching sequence.

As the new millennium approached, companies were beginning to pilot such tests in various clinical settings, i.e. with a doctor’s order. That included testing amniotic fluid as part of prenatal screening, testing the blood of prospective parents (what’s known as carrier screening), and testing the cells of embryos created by in vitro fertilization, in a process called pre-implantation diagnosis. These tests were expensive and targeted only at people with family histories of so-called monogenic diseases. Developing tests to assess a healthy person’s risk of developing more complex conditions caused by the interaction of multiple genes—things like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer—would require a more detailed map of human DNA than the fragmented picture scientists had so far decoded. Luckily, that was just around the corner.

In 2000, a rough draft of the human genome sequence was made freely available online, followed three years later by a more complete, high-resolution version. With it, scientists and engineers now had enough information to load up chips with not one or two DNA probes but thousands, even hundreds of thousands. These microarrays made it possible to simultaneously scan a person’s genome for thousands of SNPs, or single nucleotide polymorphisms—single changes in the arrangement of DNA letters that make people unique. These SNPs, or variants as they’re alternatively known, can be tallied up to rank a person’s susceptibility to various illnesses.

And because this SNP snapshot technology, known as genotyping, could be done much cheaper than full sequencing—in 2006 it cost $1,000 as opposed to $1 million for a full-genome scan—it launched not only a new wave of research but a new industry: direct-to-consumer DNA testing.

Starting in the mid-2000s, dozens of companies began selling people a new genetic experience that didn’t have to take place in a doctor’s office. They would take a sample of your DNA—a few laboriously salivated milliliters of drool sent through the mail—scan it, and peer into your ancestral past as well as forecast your genetic future. In the early days, these tests could provide only a limited amount of information. And many companies went under while waiting for researchers to amass more knowledge about the links between certain genes and human traits. But one deep-pocketed Silicon Valley startup weathered the creeping adoption curve (and a spat with the US Food and Drug Administration) to become synonymous with the retail genomics business: 23andMe.

Today though, as costs sink even further and the internet makes the exchange of cheek cells for genetic insights virtually frictionless, 23andMe again has plenty of competition. A recent study identified nearly 250 companies offering DNA tests that people can buy online. Most of these are tests for disease predisposition, ancestry, and paternity. But others offer biological inheritance as infotainment—tests offering matchmaking services, predicting children’s talents, recommending the right diet, or even identifying wines you might be genetically inclined to enjoy.

Customers should be aware though, that many of these recreational tests offer results with little relationship to reality—the science is still just too premature to be truly predictive for most complicated traits. They might be fun, but don’t take them too seriously. (And if you care about genetic privacy, don’t take them at all!) Even the more medically focused tests, like 23andMe’s health reports, should be taken with a grain of salt. Its testing formula for breast cancer risk, for example, is built around just three genetic variants in the BRCA genes, common in Ashkenazi Jewish populations and known to be associated with cancer. But there are thousands of other variants in those genes that can also raise your risk of breast cancer. It’s just that 23andMe’s DNA chip isn’t set up to capture them. In other words, a clean bill of health from 23andMe shouldn’t be taken as definitive. The company emphasizes that its tests are probability readings, they’re not meant to be diagnostic. So if anything does come up, you still have to go see a doctor for confirmatory clinical testing.

100k Business In One Year – Merch by Amazon Case Study Update 1

100k Business In One Year – Merch by Amazon Case Study Update 1

100k Business In One Year – Merch by Amazon Case Study Update 1

After being involved with Merch by Amazon from near the beginning, we have seen all sorts of changes to the platform, changes to the community, and have had the opportunity to watch everyone grow their businesses in all different directions. Not only has this been super rewarding but it has also given us a lot of insight on what it takes to be successful on the platform and how many ways there are to make money in the world of print on demand.

There are people who’s sole focus it is to turn print on demand (POD) into a full time income so that they can live life on their own terms, people who want to pay their car or mortgage payment with their POD royalties, and then those who just want to make some beer money for the weekends.

No matter what your goal is for your business, no matter how big or how small, I want to first let you know that it IS possible to achieve! Anyone can do this, and that includes you (yes, you, the one who is reading this).

Over a year ago, we started a case study here on the Merch Informer blog going from ZERO to an average of $4,000 per month through just the Merch by Amazon platform in an attempt to pay off school debt.

100k School Debt to Financial Freedom – Merch by Amazon Update 1

This case study got so much attention, that many people actually started their print on demand journey from reading it!

Many people have reached out to us asking if we were going to do another case study since that one helped them so much in order to get the proper systems in place for their business. Since I look at Merch as a BUSINESS, I know that systems are important and anyone can replicate this success if they put in the time and effort. Instead of continuing on with the old case study, I decided to take another approach and bring back the case study series!

With the improvement that Merch has given us to the platform, along with new tools and methods, we believe that we can build on an abandoned Merch by Amazon account and bring it up to a six figure business in 12 months.

I want to encourage anyone out there that might just be starting, or struggling with their Merch business to follow along! This case study is going to be about putting in the work, showing you what works, and how you can leverage your time and resources to create a business that pays you ever month for years to come.

Without further ado…

The Backstory

Note: This first case study is going to include a lot of math and data. This is what is important and why the system is repeatable, so don’t skip it!

If you have been involved with Merch and print on demand for any amount of time, you know how addicting it can be.

This involves telling pretty much everyone you know what a great opportunity it is, and how you can make money by just uploading things to Amazon and getting paid for it! But how many people that you mention it to actually follow through?

…not many!

In fact, I only know a handful of people that I have told about Merch that actually signed up and uploaded anything at all.

It usually goes like this:

  1. Tell them about Merch by Amazon
  2. They ask 1001 Questions
  3. Sign up for an account
  4. Get Accepted!
  5. Upload a design or two
  6. MAYBE make a sale
  7. Forget about it, or worse, become complacent

Sound familiar?

I have a good friend that I explained the platform to, they signed up and got accepted, and initially was really into it! They uploaded some designs they created themselves and started seeing a few sales trickle in (that is when you know it works and typically want to upload more and more). However, if you do not have the time to dedicate to something, real life typically takes over.

After months, more and more focus went into their day job, and Merch fell to the wayside.

However, that initial work that they put into their Merch by Amazon account is STILL paying them every month. Just check out their earnings graph since they started in 2017.

You can see that it started off slow, then started to ramp up. They started in August 2017, and the last design uploaded to the account was in March of 2018.

Since then, they have added the same design to some of the new products that have been released (we will go over this in a second), but really, over that time period, all of the unique designs were created, and just let to sit. There was no optimization, no more designs uploaded, and no more work done.

The Math Is Impressive

Just taking the previous month’s earnings at $608.55, this is incredible for something that is paying every month but no work is currently being put in.

Imagine Merch like a stock that pays dividends EVERY MONTH. Most stocks do not not actually pay monthly dividends, but only once per quarter.

So here I am, talking to my friend about Merch again and blabbing about stocks I have been looking at. We get to talking about dividends, and that is when I decided to pull out a phone.

So lets say over the next 12 months, if he were to do nothing, he pulls in an average of 600 dollars a month. This equates to $7200 doing nothing.

Pretty good right?

When you sit back and think about how much money it would take to make THAT amount in the stock market, it gets even better.

Stock dividends are all over the place, but you can find plenty of good stocks that pay anywhere between 2-4{f13b14818244ee8be0241054b12eff09e2e113b8d956c35789086f705cbd5219} per year.

So, to make that same $7200 a year, you would need:

  • $180,000 yielding 4{f13b14818244ee8be0241054b12eff09e2e113b8d956c35789086f705cbd5219} per year
  • $240,000 yielding 3{f13b14818244ee8be0241054b12eff09e2e113b8d956c35789086f705cbd5219} per year
  • $360,000 yielding 2{f13b14818244ee8be0241054b12eff09e2e113b8d956c35789086f705cbd5219} per year

That is just what the account is currently making! That means if you wanted to make the same amount of yearly income from the stock market in dividend investments, you would have to have anywhere between 180,000-360,000 working for you to make the same amount of money that the Merch account is currently putting out!

The Goal Of This Case Study

If you want to be running an online business worth 6 figures (100k), then you need to be making around 3,000-3500 per month given around 30X multiple. This is usually how businesses are evaluated when they are sold.

The goal of this case study is not to make 100k after 12 months, but have the business be worth 6 figures at the end.

Currently, the 6 month average earnings per month are at $652.55.

At a 30X multiple, this means the business is currently worth $19,576.5

In order to reach the goal for this case study, we need to add about $80,423.5 worth of value to the business. We are going to do this by building up our print on demand revenue!

Another way to look at this is by going back to the stock market example.

If we manage to hit our goal, we need to do around $3333 per month averaged out. This equates to $40,000 per year.

To make that same $40,000 per year in the stock market you would need:

  • $1,000,000 yielding 4{f13b14818244ee8be0241054b12eff09e2e113b8d956c35789086f705cbd5219} per year
  • $1,333,333 yielding 3{f13b14818244ee8be0241054b12eff09e2e113b8d956c35789086f705cbd5219} per year
  • $2,000,000 yielding 2{f13b14818244ee8be0241054b12eff09e2e113b8d956c35789086f705cbd5219} per year

So, you either need to have 1 million or more dollars working for you OR you can be working on your Merch account. I know which one looks more appealing to me! I also know which one is a LOT easier to achieve (hint, its the Merch business!).

Merch Account Audit

Before we kick off this case study, we need to actually do an audit on the business as it stands right now.

SO MANY people that do print on demand completely miss this step, or just never go back and do it. BIG MISTAKE.

Doing an account audit will let you know where you currently stand so that you have something to go back to to measure your results.

If you are following along with this case study, this is the first step you should take!

So, what all should be included in an account audit? Here is my list:

  • Live Products
  • Sold Products (Sell Through Rate)
  • Reviews
  • Time Until First Sale
  • Amazon Choice
  • Sales by Brand
  • Unique Products Sold
  • How Many Niches?

Most of this information is pretty easy to get by using a few different tools.

First, I installed the Productor plugin which gives your dashboard a few different tabs that will pull a lot of these stats for you.

So far, we have the amount of products live (506), out of the total tier (2k tier).

We have the amount of products that have sold out of those live which is 364. This gives us a sell through rate of 71.937{f13b14818244ee8be0241054b12eff09e2e113b8d956c35789086f705cbd5219}.

There are a total of 117 reviews on the account and 2 of them are Amazon choice.

The account has an average of 56 days between uploading a design and making the first sale on that design.

It also pulls the brand list information so you know the breakdown by brand (this is also helpful if you group brands by niches).

Next, I pulled the sales CSVs from Merch by Amazon and uploaded them to the Merch Analytics module inside of Merch Informer:

We see the number of unique designs sold is sitting at 350. This is very close to the sold designs in Productor which basically tells you that almost all of these unique designs are t-shirts but there are a few sales in there for popsockets and other products.

Note: 24 hours after writing this article, Productor has added this functionality in the left hand menu under the “productor manage” tab. Since most of the designs are from the old upload system, and the new one was tested a few times, these numbers can be slightly skewed.

Finally, we go through the entire account and basically do the hard work to determine exactly HOW MANY niches we are in.

If you ask almost everyone how many niches they are in, they have NO IDEA. This is information you should know.

If you went to a car dealership and asked them how many models they had on their lot do you think they could tell you? Of course they could, because they are running a business!

If you don’t know how many niches you are actually in, then you are flying blind.

Going through everything, we determined that the account is currently in 73 different niches. We are defining a niche as an overarching category. So for example, “politics” would be considered a niche as would “cars”. If you had a shirt about trucks, and a shirt about sports cars, these are both in the overarching niche of “cars” or “automobiles”. We are not counting these twice.

So, here is what we are left with:

  • Live Products: 506
  • Sold Products (Sell Through Rate): 364 (71.937{f13b14818244ee8be0241054b12eff09e2e113b8d956c35789086f705cbd5219} sell through rate)
  • Reviews: 117
  • Time Until First Sale: 56.1 days
  • Amazon Choice: 2
  • Sales by Brand: See screenshot above
  • Unique Products Sold: 350
  • How Many Niches?: 73

What Does The Data Tell Us?

All of this data gives us a good starting point for the case study.

Right off the bat, we notice that we have 506 products live but only 350 unique designs have sold. This basically boils down to not adding all the unique designs to all the products so that should be a quick and easy win right there.

It also shows us that by pricing low to start (and he never raised his prices), his royalties per shirt is really low. This allowed him to gather 117 reviews from only 506 live products. This is REALLY REALLY good and just goes to show that pricing low at the start works. However, there is room for improvement here as the reviews are there, but the prices have not been hiked to increase the royalties. This can be an easy win, or we can decide to keep the price low and load the business up with more unique designs. Time will tell what we decide to do here.

The sell through rate is also REALLY good. This again points to low pricing being a driving factor in the sale decisions. I would almost guarantee that anyone pricing high and running the same account audit is not going to see the same STR (sell through rate). That being said, this gives us more opportunity to play around with the pricing and start milking more royalties from the same designs.

The niches are a bit high for such a small account. One of the things we will do going forward is actually break down the account by niche, and go deeper into the niches that are already working. That is another easy win since we know what is working there.

Goals For Next Month

I am going to be doing a lot of the research for this case study as well as providing direction. This means I will probably be doing some live videos, answering questions, and really leading the charge to get this business to a 6 figure valuation.

Why would I do this?

Because I share in the profits from the account. One of the easiest ways once you know how to build a Merch business to make extra money is actually partnering with new people and helping them as well. (NO I will not do this with you or the people who are bound to leave comments asking =)). The reason I bring this up is because the work load will be split since he has a day job and we want to be as transparent as possible during this case study.

So, here are a list of goals that we will hopefully hit for the next month’s update:

  1. Upload designs to ALL products and locales. The account has some very good selling designs but they are only uploaded to 1 or 2 products at best. Going through the account and getting every unique design uploaded to all products and all of the locales should easily fill up the slots and make the account eligible for a tier up.
  2. Research existing niches that the account is already a part of. Formulate a plan to go deeper into those niches.
  3. Discuss pricing. Q4 is upon us, but since this case study is a year long, we may be better off keeping the low pricing and trying to push as much volume during December as possible. This is all up in the air currently.

Wrapping It Up

This about wraps it up for the first series in the new case study. For everyone that is going to follow along and build their accounts alongside us, DO YOUR ACCOUNT AUDIT!

Once you have done your proper audit, drop a comment below to let us know where you currently stand. We are going to document everything month by month as we aim for a 6 figure business in one year. This is the perfect opportunity to start, or restart your side hustle and turn it into something that you can count on each and every month.

Will we make it in 12 months? Who knows!

80k+ in value added to a business in a year is not a small task, but in the end, I think everyone will be happy with the results.

To your success!

Merch by Amazon German and English Marketplace Data Added – See The Best Sellers For Each Market

Merch by Amazon German and English Marketplace Data Added – See The Best Sellers For Each Market

Merch by Amazon German and English Marketplace Data Added – See The Best Sellers For Each Market

We have been working hard behind the scenes to make some pretty big upgrades to Merch Informer!

Many of these things are specifically what the community has asked for, and in our attempt to make sure that every Mercher has the best possible tools at their disposal, we have added them all to the Merch Informer modules.

So without further ado, lets go over what has changed!

Revamped International Database

Since Merch Informer has launched we have followed closely with the updates that Merch by Amazon has made to their platform. We quickly adopted search when the UK and DE markets were launched to aid sellers in these new market places.

However, since half our team is from the USA and the other half is from a country that does not have a merch marketplace (yet), the focus still remained on the US market. The US market is where the majority of the sales occur, where most of the buyers are, and where most of the sellers are!

Since Amazon updated their create tool to automatically push products to both the new marketplaces, we decided we needed to revamp our international database.

There are now 2,000,000+ new results for the UK and DE database alone and growing everyday.

This means that you as a seller now have access to more details than ever before!

Merch Hunter Update

The Merch Hunter (if you are not aware), is a recreation of Merch by Amazon to display the BEST selling designs at any given point. This is often used to figure out what trends are hot right now, what customers are spending their money on, and basically just have a pulse on the Merch by Amazon heart beat.

Today, we have updated the Merch Hunter to not only include t-shirts, but the other products that are available in those locales.

To see how this works, simply log in to your account (or grab a 3 day free trial) and head to the Merch Hunter.

Use the drop down menu to select a marketplace.

Then select your other parameters such as how many best sellers you want to look at, what sales rank range, what price range, and then finally, what category.

As you can see, I have selected the DE market (Germany), and the products offered there are now shown:

Click on search, and just like that, you have a list of where German customers are ACTUALLY spending their money so that YOU can come up with unique designs and phrases that they want to purchase.

This will work for both the UK and DE with lots of information on each shirt as well as the estimated moving average sales. This is a great metric to take a look at to see how customers are behaving over time!

Movers and Shakers / Trend Tracker Modules Now Include The International Marketplaces

Do you want to find trends right as they are hitting or slightly before an event skyrockets?

This is what the movers and shakers module is for!

Recently, it was just for the US Markets to check daily, weekly, and monthly sales charts to see which had the biggest drop (meaning a shirt has began to sell).

No longer!

The movers and shakers now includes the UK and DE marketplaces for t-shirts!

On the flip side, if you are more interested in what is CONSISTENTLY selling, pulling in money every day, and what customers are buying day in and day out, then you have to check out the trend tracker.

What this module will do is look at a time period, and a sales rank range, and show you designs that have consistently remained in that sales range over that period of time.

We have also updated this to now include both the UK and DE locales!

As you can see, I selected a period of 2 months with an average sales rank up to 100k in the DE marketplace.

Hit search and you can see what shirts have been selling consistently in this range for the last 2 months (what I selected in the parameters).

Merch Archive Turned On Internationally!

One of my most used features inside of Merch Informer personally has been the Merch Archive which is invaluable for finding out what customers were spending a year ago during a holiday or an event. This is also a great way to check seasonality of different niches.

It is basically a calendar to show you the top 500 results that were selling on Merch by Amazon on a given date. This allows you to look back in time!

We have now just enabled access to both the UK and DE marketplaces moving forward. So that means starting today and going forward, this information will be available. The longer this is available, the more useful it will get!

Next Halloween season, you can look back at this feature and know exactly what people were buying!

This makes seasonal and holiday research simple as pie so you can come up with your own unique designs and phrases in the niches that ACTUALLY make money!

Advanced Competition Checker Now International

When it comes to checking competition, the advanced competition checker is a great place to start.

This module will tell you (based on a keyword or phrase) the:

  • estimated product count with phrase in title
  • Estimated product count with phrase in features
  • Estimated product count with phrase in description
  • Estimated merch count with phrase in their brand name
  • Score from A-E (E being harder to rank for than F)

Then below this information it will show you some of the best sellers for that keyword in the market so you can see again, what customers are spending their money on!

Previously this was just for the US market, but it is now available for both the UK and DE marketplace!

Favorites Module Update

When it comes down to doing research, we often find ourselves revisiting old designs, digging up products in different ways, and need a quick way to reference these in the future.

This is the basis of the favorites module. You create a category tree for your research, and stuff designs in it!

Previously, you could only add favorites from either the product search or the merch hunter.

We have heard you, and today we updated this feature!

You can now add favorites from the Merch Archive, Movers and Shakers, and the Trend Tracker.

To do this, first head to your favorites and create a new category (make sure to hit save).

Then, when you are doing your research in say… the Merch Archive, all you need to do is click on the heart button under neither the design:

After that, it will pop up a screen to allow you to save it in one of the categories that you have created in the favorites module:

Once you select the category to save it to, it will be in your favorites and will be marked by a red heart:

The same thing works for the Trend Tracker:

And the Movers and Shakers module of course!

Wrapping It Up

This basically wraps up this massive update that we have been working on behind the scenes.

This should open up a LOT more opportunities in these international markets as well as make your research just a little bit easier with the additional update we pushed to the favorites module.

Until next time, keep uploading great unique designs in niches that SELL!

The WIRED Guide to Cyberwar

The WIRED Guide to Cyberwar

Hacking didn’t need to be confined to some tactic on the periphery of war: Cyberattacks could themselves be a weapon of war. It was perhaps that definition of cyberwar that President Bill Clinton had in mind in 2001 when he warned in a speech that “today, our critical systems, from power structures to air traffic control, are connected and run by computers” and that someone can sit at the same computer, hack into a computer system, and potentially paralyze a company, a city, or a government.”

Since then, that definition for cyberwar has been honed into one that was perhaps most clearly laid out in the 2010 book Cyber War, cowritten by Richard Clarke, a national security advisor to Presidents Bush, Clinton, and Bush, and Robert Knake, who would later serve as a cybersecurity advisor to President Obama. Clarke and Knake defined cyberwar as “actions by a nation-state to penetrate another nation’s computers or networks for the purpose of causing damage or disruption.” Put more simply, that definition roughly encompasses the same things we’ve always identified as “acts of war,” only now carried out by digital means. But as the world was learning by the time Clarke and Knake wrote that definition, digital attacks have the potential to reach out beyond mere computers to have real, physical consequences.


The first major historical event that could credibly fit Clarke and Knake’s definition—what some have dubbed “Web War I”—had arrived just a few years earlier. It hit one of the world’s most wired countries: Estonia.

In the the spring of 2007, an unprecedented series of so-called distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attacks slammed more than a hundred Estonian websites, taking down the country’s online banking, digital news media, government sites, and practically anything else that had a web presence. The attacks were a response to the Estonian government’s decision to move a Soviet-era statue out of a central location in the capital city of Tallinn, angering the country’s Russian-speaking minority and triggering protests on the city’s streets and the web.

As the sustained cyberattacks wore on for weeks, however, it became clear that they were no mere cyberriots: The attacks were coming from botnets—collections of PCs around the world hijacked with malware—that belonged to organized Russian cybercriminal groups. Some of the attacks’ sources even overlapped with earlier DDoS attacks that had a clear political focus, including attacks that hit the website of Gary Kasparov, the Russian chess champion and opposition political leader. Today security analysts widely believe that the attacks were condoned by the Kremlin, if not actively coordinated by its leaders.

By the next year, that Russian government link to politically motivated cyberattacks was becoming more apparent. Another, very similar series of DDoS attacks struck dozens of websites in another Russian neighbor, Georgia. This time they accompanied an actual physical invasion—a Russian intervention to “protect” Russia-friendly separatists within Georgia’s borders—complete with tanks rolling toward the Georgian capital and a Russian fleet blockading the country’s coastline on the Black Sea. In some cases, digital attacks would hit web targets associated with specific towns just ahead of military forces’ arrival, another suggestion of coordination.

The 2008 Georgian war was perhaps the first real hybrid war in which conventional military and hacker forces were combined. But given Georgia’s low rate of internet adoption—about 7 percent of Georgians used the internet at the time—and Russia’s relatively simplistic cyberattacks, which merely tore down and defaced websites, it stands as more of a historic harbinger of cyberwar than the real thing.

First Shots

The world’s conception of cyberwar changed forever in 2010. It started when VirusBlokAda, a security firm in Belarus, found a mysterious piece of malware that crashed the computers running its antivirus software. By September of that year, the security research community had come to the shocking conclusion that the specimen of malware, dubbed Stuxnet, was in fact the most sophisticated piece of code ever engineered for a cyberattack, and that it was specifically designed to destroy the centrifuges used in Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities. (That detective work is best captured in Kim Zetter’s definitive book Countdown to Zero Day.) It would be nearly two more years before The New York Times confirmed that Stuxnet was a creation of the NSA and Israeli intelligence, intended to hamstring Iran’s attempts to build a nuclear bomb.

Over the course of 2009 and 2010, Stuxnet had destroyed more than a thousand of the six-and-a-half-foot-tall aluminum centrifuges installed in Iran’s underground nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz, throwing the facility into confusion and chaos. After spreading through the Iranians’ network, it had injected commands into the so-called programmable logic controllers, or PLCs, that governed the centrifuges, speeding them up or manipulating the pressure inside them until they tore themselves apart. Stuxnet would come to be recognized as the first cyberattack ever designed to directly damage physical equipment, and an act of cyberwar that has yet to be replicated in its virtuosic destructive effects. It would also serve as the starting pistol shot for the global cyber arms race that followed.

Iran soon entered that arms race, this time as aggressor rather than target. In August of 2012, the Saudi Arabian firm Saudi Aramco, one of the world’s largest oil producers, was hit with a piece of malware known as Shamoon that wiped 35,000 of the company’s computers—about three-quarters of them—leaving its operations essentially paralyzed. On the screens of the crippled machines, the malware left an image of a burning American flag. A group calling itself “Cutting Sword of Justice” claimed credit for the attack as an activist statement, but cybersecurity analysts quickly suspected that Iran was ultimately responsible, and had used the Saudis as a proxy target in retaliation for Stuxnet.

How To Use Rank Tracking To Optimize Merch by Amazon Listings

How To Use Rank Tracking To Optimize Merch by Amazon Listings

How To Use Rank Tracking To Optimize Merch by Amazon Listings

This post is also available in: German

The vast majority of Merchers use a spray and pray approach when it comes to uploading shirts. You upload your limit of shirts, and hope something sells.

This CAN work, but over the years it has gotten hard and harder, making research even that more important.


Let’s say that you went through all the research steps, found a good subniche where there are buyers for your shirt designs, and you know what makes up a good design! All that is left is to list it right?

Yes and no!

The first step is listing it, using keywords in your title, bullet points and description to make a great listing for a customer. However, if you want to have a design catalog with thousands of designs that are selling monthly (and not just hoping someone buys it), then you NEED to keep an eye on your listings to optimize keywords in order to push your shirt up the rankings. The higher ranked your shirt is for specific keywords, the more sales you will make and the more royalties will flow into your account.

This works great for new listings, but also is important and something to keep in mind with sellers that you think you can grab some more volume from.

If you want to follow along in this guide and do NOT have Merch Informer, make sure to grab the 7 day free trial here: (no credit card required) so that we can start optimizing your shirts.

Optimizing a Merch T-Shirt Design

Keywords are what make this business go round! The better placed your keywords are, the more visibility they will have with the audience that will buy your shirts.

If you have a great design but do not take the time to optimize anything, you might be stuck at the back of 50,000 other designs with no way to get seen. The best thing for you to do if you are in this position is actually go watch the video in this post which lays out how to get started:

How to Keyword Merch Listings

Once you have a good understanding of how this all works, we can start actually optimizing the listings.

Step 1: Adding Designs

The first thing you want to do is make sure you have a Merch Informer account, so go ahead and log into that.

From the left hand corner menu, select the Merch Tracker. This handy little module will let you track your designs and keywords across Amazon. This will allow us to figure out where we are ranking so that we can make the appropriate changes in order to boost our position.

Go ahead and add the ASIN of one of your designs to the ASIN box. If you do not know where to find this, you can open up any Merch by Amazon t-shirt, scroll down to the product details, and then copy and paste the ASIN inside of Merch Informer:

I have selected a trump design to illustrate how this works for example purposes. We are using this design because the seller is missing out on a lot of opportunity here. Enter in the ASIN into Merch Informer:

Go ahead and click save and you will get a notice that it has successfully been added:

Step 2: Adding Keywords

The second step to this is adding some keywords. First though, lets break down all the functionality to get you used to using the tool.

When you first add a design to the tool you will see the design itself, a little clock, a trashcan, and the title, ASIN and keywords slot.

The little clock icon will track this design over time to show you sales rank and pricing. The trashcan will remove it from the list. The longer you keep tracking your designs, the more data you will have to actually optimize your listings!

What is really important here are the keywords.

Here is the listing of the design that we added:

You can tell it has some decent keywords in there, and it looks like the design in question has 10 customer reviews (ASIN screenshot above). However, this seller is leaving a LOT of money on the table by not actually optimizing this listing.

Head on over to the product search inside of Merch Informer and look up the keyword “Trump” and you will see what I mean.

You can get to this screenshot by clicking on the little “i” icon under the product.

You will see that this shirt not only is priced higher, but it is selling a LOT.

Take a look at their listing:

What you should be doing is figuring out WHAT keywords in these other listings are doing well for these designs, and we will try and incorporate them into our listing after we track them to figure out what is going on.

So now, let’s add some keywords to the original listing that we put into the tracker.

The first thing I like to do is actually look at any reviews and see if there are any keywords THERE that we could possibly add to the listing.

It looks like there is:

Right there in plain site we see the keyword “president trump”, yet somehow this is NOT included in the listing for the shirt we are going to track. I also notice in these other listings the following keywords:

  • donald trump shirt
  • president trump
  • trump 2020
  • trump is my president
  • trump supporter

So start by adding these to the keywords inside of Merch Informer.

When you first add them, they will look like this:

If a keyword has not been tracked, you will want to click on the “not tracked yet” button which will give you a rank for the design on Amazon.

After adding all the keywords, we have this:

Only a single keyword out of the ones we are tracking is ranking (and not very good ranking at that). The rest are not even in the top 100 results! This means that this seller is leaving probably a good $1000+ a month on the table, because they are not taking the time to optimize the listing.

So, lets optimize!

Step 3: Optimizing the Merch by Amazon Listing

Here are the two bullet points in the design we are tracking:

  • Haters gonna hate! This funny trump tee is the perfect shirt for any conservative or republican who loves seeing liberals get up in arms about the president. Support Donald and the cause by rocking out this political gift tee today!
  • Funny Haters Gonna Hate Donald Trump T-Shirt President Tee makes a great gift for friends and family.

These are “okay” but the goal here is to actually get some of the keywords that we are tracking into these bullet points AND the title where it makes sense. If Amazon sees these keywords in the right spots (where it makes sense of course) then they will slowly move the shirt up the rankings.

Here is the title of the design:

  • Funny Haters Gonna Hate Donald Trump T-Shirt President Tee

First, let’s tackle the title.

The title by itself is good, but I want to put 1 keyword in there.

From our list of tracking, we see that we have the keyword “president trump” but that is actually not together in any of the listing.

So, if I was this seller, I would make this small change to the title:

  • Funny Haters Gonna Hate Donald Trump T-Shirt President Trump Tee

As you can see, all we did was add “trump” to the title, to make the full keyword president trump show up.

Now that the title is taken care of, lets move on to the bullet points. We have 4 more keywords to POSSIBLY use (there is no need to always use all of them. Using too many could make your listing look spammy).

  • donald trump shirt
  • trump 2020
  • trump is my president
  • trump supporter

Lets see if we can fit these into the bullet points. Look for the bolded text to see what was added:

  • Haters gonna hate! This funny trump tee is the perfect donald trump shirt for any conservative or republican who loves seeing liberals get up in arms about the president. Show that you are a trump supporter and the cause by rocking out this political gift tee today!
  • Funny Haters Gonna Hate Donald Trump T-Shirt President Tee makes a great gift for friends and family. Show your activism for trump 2020 by wearing this design so that you can proudly say trump is my president!

and there you have it! With just a single sentence and a few slight changes, we have optimized the bullet points to include some extra keywords that other designs are pulling in the sales with.

The next step would be to change these on Merch by Amazon and then watch your ranks inside of the Merch Tracker every day. I would personally give them about a month or so to see some movement. After 30 days, you may wish to revisit your design, or start looking at putting some ad spend behind your shirt!

Wrapping It Up

This method DOES require a little bit more effort – about 5 minutes more.

However, if merchers actually took the time to optimize their account and keep tabs on their designs, they would easily grow with the platform and see increased sales.

All it takes is a few minutes a day or one big day of optimizing to start seeing some returns. After all, it takes a while to get ranked, but even if you are ranked, you could STILL be missing out on some of that Merch Money.

Let me know if you have any questions or how we can help you to optimize your designs even easier in the comments below!

To your success!