By George Crosby

In this blog, we run through the features of Amazon Advertising (formerly Amazon Marketing Services) with some of our best practices including how you can build campaigns; optimize towards your KPIs; and report on campaigns successfully.

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Amazon is one of the largest and most dominating e-commerce platforms of our generation and sells everything from vintage vinyls to fresh food. More importantly, you’d be hard pushed nowadays to find someone who hasn’t used it to buy something at some point, let alone someone who hasn’t gone on a payday induced spending spree more than once (I for one, am guilty as charged). On top of this, it’s likely that in 2016 Amazon had somewhere in the region of 65 million registered Prime users worldwide (according to Morgan Stanley).

It therefore only seems natural for Amazon to offer up the opportunity to use Paid Search advertising to help sellers and vendors market their products more specifically to people searching for, or with high intent to buy, certain products. Enter Amazon Advertising. Many sellers are comfortable nowadays with marketing their products on Google Shopping or perhaps Bing, but neglect this key potential area for maximising ROI. Our handy guide below on the three Pillars of Amazon Advertising can help you get set up and give you all the pointers you’ll need!

Pillar 1 - Building

The foundation of every great Amazon Advertising campaign is in its build. Having a pre-planned strategy is integral, and the basis of this can be found in the use of ASINs (or Amazon Standard Identification Numbers) and targeting methods. There are a range of campaign types available to support these including Sponsored Product Ads (SPAs), Sponsored Brand Ads (SBAs) and Product Display Ads (PDAs), for which a handy introduction is available on our website here

Amazon Advertising Campaign Types

a) Defensive & Offensive ASINs

ASINs are Amazon’s all-important product ID codes, and it’s best to have a clear idea of which products you want to advertise, and therefore structure your account around, before you start building. ASINs can be used in one of two ways, either ‘defensively’ or ‘offensively’. ‘Defensive’ campaigns are where you choose to promote certain products to make sure you’re sealing in those sales and driving off competitors. These could also be used for cross-selling or upselling to customers who are already interested in your brand. ‘Offensive’ campaigns are used to show your products alongside those that may not be your own. This could be above more generic searches to try and win over customers from competitors, or more specifically picking a competitor’s ASIN and targeting it with your own PDA campaign. Having a mix of both Defensive and Offensive campaigns helps to create a blend of securing customers that are already searching for you, while poaching others who may be about to buy from a competitor.

b) The Power of Targeting

Equally important as ASINs are your targeting options. There are a few different options available here depending on the campaign type you’re building and how granular you’d like to go.

SPAs have a choice of either manual or automatic targeting. Automatic is useful if you want to show your products to searchers based on the product information available on Amazon. Naturally this relies upon having up to date and accurate info, which can be tricky to maintain. It also restricts optimisation; which is where manual keyword targeting comes in. This is done through uploading keywords of varying match types (Broad, Phrase, Exact, Negative Phrase, Negative Exact) to match what your customers are searching for; allowing you to more accurately optimize and measure intent later on. For SBA campaigns Amazon also handily provides example keywords you might want to consider, and how much potential traffic you can capture with your assigned max bid. PDA campaigns are the odd one out as they can’t use keywords. Instead you can choose to target a specific product ASIN to appear under, or alternatively select from a list of interest categories. These categories are much wider as they’re based on shopping behavior so should only be used in campaigns with a broader reach.

While we’re on the subject of keywords it’s worth mentioning some top tips to get the most out of them. Firstly, start off with a range of keywords that are both relevant but wide-reaching. You can always pause keywords that aren’t performing so if a phrase or word is relevant to your product, it’s worth including to measure performance. What’s more, Amazon Advertising allows you to include multiple keywords in an account whilst preventing self-competition. Where on other platforms your identical keywords would both be entered into the ad auction and would try and outdo each other, Amazon only chooses one based off your estimated cost-per-click and in the case of a tie, bid amount. This’ll let you create campaigns featuring your bestsellers for example, without fear of conflicting with your existing activity.

c) Don’t Forget To Name It!

Finally, one of the most important rules of Amazon Advertising campaigns – naming convention. Once you’re up and running you can only change the status, daily budget and end date of a campaign, so you want campaign names that will be useful in the future. It’s best to include any aspect of your campaign that you wish to segregate by, be this campaign type, product category, brand vs. non-brand etc. See the below diagram from our Merkle Amazon Ads Playbook for an example of our best practice naming guide. This is particularly important for reporting purposes as we’ll come onto.

Amazon Advertising Naming Convention

Pillar 2 – Optimisation

While optimisation through Amazon may not be as advanced as other more widely used platforms just yet, there are still a plethora of tools to experiment with to help improve performance. Chief among these are good old-fashioned maximum bid changes. As with all PPC platforms, increasing bids on keywords with a high ROI should help bring in more revenue, and decreasing bids for the poorer performers will work towards maximizing spend efficiency.

Amazon have also launched Search Term Reports for your SPA campaigns, allowing you to see all the terms people have searched that triggered your ads. Using these you can easily include extra keywords that are relevant to your campaigns that you missed out while building or want extra visibility on. Alternatively, you can exclude irrelevant keywords using negative match types to save that budget for more useful searches. For a long while, changes to keyword lists and bid changes had to be done manually, but now the introduction of Bulk Operations has sped up the process; allowing you to make thousands of changes more easily in Excel, to then re-upload in one go later on.

Amazon Advertising Bulk Operations

Although bid strategies don’t yet exist in Amazon Advertising, the Bid+ feature is a step in this direction. Working a little like eCPC in Google Ads (as Charlotte describes here), Bid+ allows Amazon to boost your Sponsored Product keyword bids by up to 50% if this would enable you to appear at the top of the pile of search results. This can help give your top performers a little boost whenever a highly relevant search is made and prevents you from having to have a bid applied that’s too much for your budget if it was active all the time.

Amazon are also in the process of rolling out 'Automated Bidding' for SBAs, an opt-in feature allowing Amazon to automatically optimize bids for placements below the top of the page based on their conversion rates. Another new release are 'Custom Manual Bid Adjustments' which allow you to manually increase or decrease bids by a specific percentage for placements below the top, allowing for much greater bidding flexibility.

Pillar 3 – Reporting

Reporting is another area where Amazon has been allocating a lot of recent development time. While the ability to pull reports based on devices, demographics, locations or time of day are still absent for the time being at least, it’s now possible to pull campaign reports from pre-specified or custom date ranges; saving you the trouble of having to make regular manual performance downloads. What’s more, alongside pulling the aforementioned Search Terms report, you’re able to pull top level keyword reports for SBAs and SPAs; Advertised Product reports showing the visibility and sales figures for your SPA products; and SPA Placement Reports, showing performance based on where your ads showed on the results page. 

Amazon Advertising Search Terms Report

Despite these additions to reporting, and the insights they bring to the table, reporting is still slightly limited. Firstly, is the issue of how up-to-date the data is. Unfortunately, some of the sales data still takes a while to trickle through – 3 days to be precise; so if you want a report for ALL sales on the 1st of the month it’s best to wait until the 4th to pull the report. Secondly is the inability to filter your reports, as they currently give you all the data you might want instead of just the data you need. The best way to work around this is through careful campaign naming conventions as previously described. This will allow you far greater visibility on the performance of particular categories of product, keyword or type of campaign when you download those broader campaign reports.

So there you have it, a brief introduction to the three pillars of Amazon Advertising and everything you should need to get started. While Amazon still has a way to go to catch up with the likes of Google Ads and Bing, it’s rapidly heading in their direction, and with the speedy development time we’ve seen on some of Amazon's newest features it won’t be too far in the future. It also presents another key opportunity to advertise using more targeted and measurable methods on one of the largest e-commerce websites of all time. With ROI’s as strong as we’ve been seeing for some of our clients, it’s not surprising to see that so many are already using the platform. We expect to see even bigger and better things from Amazon in the future, but this isn’t their only advertising offering, check out Abbie’s post on Amazon Advertising Platform for Programmatic (now known as Amazon DSP) activity to read more!

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