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Taking Amazon Advertising to the Next Level




Evan: Hello, everybody, and welcome. Thank you so much for joining us today. We've got a great webinar for you and we're talking about your Amazon advertising and taking it to the next level. We've got some of the best in the industry. 

A little bit about our guests here. We've got Robyn. She's the co-founder of Marketplace Blueprint that's a digital agency that specializes in listing optimization and advertising on Amazon. She's got over a decade of experience in selling online to Amazon, eBay, and other e-commerce venues. Very happy to have her here.

She's a regular contributor to Search Engine Journal. She speaks a lot at some of the most prestigious Amazon and e-commerce conferences in the US and abroad. She's actually written a bestselling book on Amazon and it's titled The Unlikely Entrepreneur, and it's about her journey starting her business. Hi, Robyn. How's it going?

Robyn: Hi. I'm so excited to be here. I love getting to share about Amazon. There's a couple of things in my life that I really geek out about, and when you're with your regular friends, you can't really geek out about ACOS and ROAS and things like that, so I'm excited to geek out with people that will not just have that “aha” look. 

Evan: We've also got Prabhat. He's a marketplace consultant helping online sellers expand their presence in Amazon and eBay, over 10 years of experience and worked with UK and international businesses. How are you today?

Prabhat: Hi. Yeah, I'm good today. Really excited. Looking forward to talking to you all.

Evan: All right. I think we're ready to get started. Prabhat, you want to share your slides and take over?

Prabhat: Today I'll be talking about taking your Amazon advertising to the next level. The topics for today within our talk would be optimizing the keywords, going through how do you optimize advertising cost of sales. We'll talk about structuring your campaigns. And then talking about portfolios, which is a new feature launched by Amazon. Then we'll talk about sponsored brand ads and sponsored display ads.

I've been working with Amazon Sellers since 2007. Primarily I was working with somebody full-time and later on I'm going freelance. At the moment, I'm working with Amazon Seller Central or Vendor Central Sellers to launch a product to optimize, to advertise, and so on. Let's dive in the topic.

There are three kinds of Amazon ads popularly used by Seller Central and Vendor Central users. Sponsored brand ads that appear at the top of the listings and it can appear at the bottom and product display, product listings as well. Then you've got sponsored product display ads are sponsored product ads that appear on the search result, on the product pages, and on the key features area on the product pages.

Then we've got sponsored display ads that appear below the buy box and below the key features area. Now, Amazon is taking positions of all of these ads across different pages as of now.

Targeting the Right Keywords in Amazon Ads

Let's dive into the first topic. How do I optimize the keywords? I think making sure you're targeting the right keywords at the right bid is one of the important secrets of getting the best out of Amazon advertising.

The first thing you'd want to do is once your advertising is running for a week,two weeks, three weeks, you can look into your search term report. That's primarily available through your advertising reports tab. Amazon has also rolled out these reports on each campaign as well. 

Once you download this report, you'll be able to find out what keyword actually converted and what keyword didn't. You'd want to take in the irrelevant keywords that didn't convert or that have cost you a lot of money but didn't convert and add them into negative.

Then you've got again, a list of keywords that are converting. They're generating sales. Then we want to take that on to do manual adverts, which is manual keyword-targeted words. And we want to keep the bid optimum to the level that you are getting continuous sales.

If you look at an example of a search term report here, so you can see, yeah, so this particular keyword cost us $7.50, then we have no sales. Same here, $16 41 and no sales. These are the keywords you would want to put in negative. 

Just going back to the slides a little bit, in Seller Central, you'll get seven days total sales. But in Vendor Central you'll get 14 days total sales. That's why there is a slight difference on the reporting. We want to increase the bids for the keywords with a low number of impressions if that's not generating you much clicks, which means it's not a high enough bid for you to win the clicks.

Then talking a little bit on the ACOS, advertising cost of sales, is your ad spend divided by sales and percentage. That determines how much profitability you are getting out of sales. Then also there is another measure you can do which is popularly used in Google Adverts called returns on ad spend (ROAS). That's sales divided by spend. 

When we look at this ACOS or ROAS, that will help you determine whether your campaigns are profitable or not. There is a cost you are paying to Amazon for fees, and there are other costs involved with vouchers or any other promotions you're running. These are your additional costs, so bare those other costs in mind.

Once your automated ads are running for some time, then you take the keywords from the manual ads. There are, again, other tools that you can use to find the new keywords or additional keywords. One of the tools I use...is sonar tools. I know a lot of people also use Helium 10. Whichever tool you use, you're trying to find out a source of keywords that's relevant to you or to your product.

If you look up a search result here, I looked for a keyword, circular saw, and there is a list of keywords that Amazon customers are searching and that's organized based on the higher proportion of the search to the lower. You could take these keywords and add them to your manual campaigns as well. When you run a manual campaign, and when you group them together, I found success when I grouped 20 to 30 keywords in a group.

One, it's manageable. Secondly, it allows your budget or budget within the campaign to perform or distribute amongst all these keywords. What I didn't find useful was adding 100 and 150 keywords because not all the keywords were getting chances to be advertised. 

Once these adverts are running, then you'd want to analyze the performance of each keyword to assess their strength. Some keywords will have higher cost, some keywords will have lower cost, and some keywords will not perform. In that case, what we want to do is build the efficiency based on what sort of advertising cost of sale you're getting.

There could be weaker keywords with a high spend and low conversion. We may want to even add them into negative. Then you've got other cost-effective keywords which generate you sales with a minimum spend there; you would want to allocate optimum bid for that. If there is any keywords or group of keywords that's working quite well, it makes sense to put a higher budget on them, compared to other ones.

Also, we'd want to look into different match types of the keywords. There is exact match, there is broad match, and there is phrase match. Generally, people assume that exact match is better than broad and phrase. But I wouldn't say so. You'd want to try all of them. You'd want to put each of the match types into different groups within the campaign. You're giving chances for each of the keywords to work and find out what's working or what doesn't. 

How to Optimize Your Advertising Cost of Sales

Then the next topic we want to go into is, how do you optimize your cost of sale? First of all, we want to define what is your cost of sale. For that, you want to obviously know your profit margin for each product or its groups of products. Once you have got a profit margin, say, for example, 43%, and within that, if your cost of sale is 20%, then you're getting 23% additional returns on that. If the ACOS is higher than 23%, then you are not generating any profitable sales.

But that's acceptable sometimes because when you're launching product, your advertising cost of sale may be high. Some people do that to launch the product, to get that sales going. Once we have the sales, the organic ranking of that product improves.

Then, when you want to lower the bids on these high ACOS keywords, that allows us to get the sale but at a lower cost. In that case, we may not get the same amount of orders, but at least the cost of sale is lower than before.

Then this is the last thing you'd want to do to optimize or lower the wastes, or lower the ACOS is to stop advertising. Not completely. I didn't mean to say completely, but if there is any variation, maybe the size, the color, the material type of a particular product, if that's not performing well, then you would want to pause the advert completely for that protocol or pause the keyword completely.

Then we've got another type of ad response or brand advert, which is known to have higher ACOS. Sometimes for these, we'd have to measure what we call percentage of new to brand. What it's saying is these sales are there from customers who haven't bought from us in the last 12 months. We have to look into a little bit detail because if I'm gaining a new customer and if the ACOS is high, it may be acceptable because I may get repeated sales from that particular customer. So, for sponsored brand ads, try and look at the percentage of new to brand sales as well.

Structuring Your Amazon Ad Campaigns for Success

Let's go into how do I structure my campaigns for success. Structuring a campaign is grouping the campaigns into different campaign structures, different groups and different portfolios. This grouping you can do based on your type of product or your aim. And it could be seasonal as well. 

Auto campaigns, you can structure that based on the category, types of product, top sellers, or seasonal campaigns. This is one typical example of auto campaigns. You could group them into three different sizes of the bottles of perfume if you want to put them into different groups and measure the success of each size. Or you can put them into one subgroup of all the product sizes together, or you can put another perfume into another campaign, again in subgroups. The idea is putting similar products together if you want to on this. But here it's a bit more granular measuring, trying just to find out what sort of size of the perfume works best for you.

Manual campaigns. These are generally the second phase of advertising for a lot of people. What you could do is you could group them, again, based on your converting keywords from your auto campaigns. Then you can also target based on brand campaigns. That's one type of campaign structure. Another type of campaign structure could be based on phrase match, broad match, and exact match, which we just discussed before.

Doing these broad, phrase and exact is a very granular way of creating the campaigns. Amazon does allow to put all three in one group, and it's not wrong putting in one group, all three match types. But if you split them, you are finding out what works best for you.

It's best not to assume and allow the system to test it. And to test it, you can always put a lower amount of budget so you don't waste a lot of money at this stage. You can run both automated and manuals together, and with automated ads, you can add negative keywords. 

A manual keywords campaign does not appear in product pages...but auto campaigns do. There are other types of campaigns which are within the manual field called ASIN target, which can appear on product pages. 

You can spend a lot more time researching keywords, but your auto campaigns eliminate this work. When you run auto campaigns, it allows you to find out what works for you and then you can run manual campaigns together. 

The next one, organizing campaign structure into portfolios. This is a relatively new feature. What it does is it allows you to group the campaigns in a logical way. Let's look at some examples. Some businesses may want to group them into one portfolio, which is Valentine's Day. And you can put sponsored product ads and sponsored brand ads within that portfolio and give a budget. 

Then there is another type of portfolio that you can do “defensive”, which means you are displaying your product against yourself, which is like, for example, in the product target ads, you can target your own products against your own products. When somebody lands on our page, on the bottom where it says “sponsored related products”, you appear for your own products there. That allows for a cross-selling and upselling opportunity.

Getting the Best from Sponsored Brand Ads

Let's talk about now, how do you get to best out of sponsored brand ads. The sponsored brand ads are eligible or are applicable for the accounts which are brand registered or vendor central accounts. Sponsored brand ads also used to be known as the headline search ad. It allows your product to appear on the top-most position. That's a really good position for you to get the brand recognition.

You're paying only per click. Having those impressions that can have a positive impact on your brand itself. Now Amazon have expanded that; it used to be by the keywords. Now, on the top of the first page of the Amazon pages, these sponsored brand ads appear on the ASIN. You can target by a product, and you can target by category as well. 

How do you do this? You can advertise your store. If you've done Amazon stores, which is applicable to, again, brand-registered people, you can advertise your home page or category pages, upload your logo, upload your tagline here, and select three products. You need to have a minimum of three products to advertise. You can change these three products, by the way. 

Then you can target by keywords, like sponsored product ads. Again, you've got three sets of keywords here and you'd want to target only keywords that are performing well on the sponsored product ads. There's less testing involved in this one. 

Similarly, you can do the product range. If you haven't got a brand store, you can choose product range here. Three products minimum. Then when somebody clicks on that shop now, that allows the customers to see your three products.

Within the sponsored brand ads, they've also released what we call “target product”. And these targets could be your products, which is suggested by Amazon. You can also target a specific competitor, or you can target a complimentary product sometimes. You can sell select from here, or you can search, or you can add an ASIN.

Use the metrics like advertising cost of sale or ACOS to find out, to measure the performance of this. Now, with this sponsored brand ads, we touched base very briefly earlier, it's good to look into what we call “new-to-brand” orders. With new-to-brand orders, it allows you to find out whether your campaigns are getting new customers or not. 

If you see this result here for sponsored brand ads, out of £11,000 sales, with 17% or you can say 18% ACOS, 93% of the customers were new. They haven't bought from us before. I personally think this is a successful campaign because we're gaining these new customers.

Sponsored Display Ads

Lastly, getting the best out of sponsored display ads. This essentially works based on targeting the audience. This audience is automatically created based on your shopping behavior. These are applicable currently just for the US Amazon accounts; I haven't seen this in the UK accounts, although some accounts may have.

Then it's based on interest, so you can display these on the product detail page. Choose your product to advertise and then target the audience. And the audience targets are based on who you want to engage or the audience that's engaged with Amazon already. The audience targeting function is similar to Google's custom intent audience that's made for specific types of people who searched about that particular product before.

With Amazon search-based targeting, that's building the audience based on what they've searched on Amazon before. You can see here interest targeting. You can target by people who are browsing the category on clothing, for example, or books or whatever's relevant for you. Again, the next stage is creating the creative, which is uploading the logo, putting the tagline, headline again, and then your ads will appear.

These ads will appear below the buy box, so you could potentially take over somebody else's sale. But also it can appear below the key features as well. When you target, you can target by products as well. You can target a particular product, so you want to display against. And same thing, again, you can pick suggested or search for it, or you can target any competitive product or complimentary. Or even if you wanted the defensive, you can target your own products. 

Key Amazon Advertising Strategies

Finally, let's conclude with Amazon strategies. There are three strategies I personally have experimented on the Amazon accounts I've worked with. There is defensive adverts where I target my own brand name if my brand name is popular. I target my own products and I target my own keywords on that.

To gain market share, I target competitive terms or competitive brand names, then generic words. Competitive brand names; these are across sponsored brand ads, sponsored product ads. Also, I target against competing ASINs, a generic keyword, and again, automatic placements. You've covered all that bit, all that opportunities there.

To increase the market share, we are targeting your subcategory. And sometimes targeting a root category may be beneficial because it may allow you to gain the sale on your product, which you otherwise may not have got. But again, there is a chance of wasting some money as well.

This is the end of my presentation. I'll pass on to Evan now.

Evan: All right. Thank you very much, Prabhat. That was great. Robyn, I wanted to open up to you a little bit. I know there is a lot in there. Anything you want to add or any comments on that before we hit the questions?

Robyn: I think one thing is, different kinds of ads and different kind of product mixes are going to yield results with different strategies. Prabhat, he literally works with smaller ad groups. We really focus on the number of keywords in the ad groups. We're going to do between 50 and 500 per ad group. 

That does take a little bit more to manage. You just have to balance that and you have to look at the budget that you have. For companies that have at least a decent size budget, so maybe even $1,000 per product per month, then it gives you an opportunity to test a lot of things.

The other thing that we do is we really use automatic (campaigns) to verify the relevancy, and the keywords that make sure that Amazon is finding us relevant for what we are assuming that it's going to convert for us. 

Then we take the keyword research that we did and we put a whole bunch of additional keywords, and we always test in all of the match types. We test broad, phrase, exact. We see how they're working, and then we kind of go through it systematically and looking at conversions. The ones that are working, we bid those up. The ones that are not working, we bid those down.

From that, because we're going to be in that automatic campaign, we're going to get to see some ASINs that are going to have already converted. Then we're going to use that to start to develop the product targeting and some of the category targeting. It kind of allows us to unfold things as we move through. 

Make sure that you're taking the words that are converting really well for your ads, and you want to put them back into your listing, maybe rewrite some things, maybe make sure that the ads are showing you that the target avatar that you wrote the listing for is actually the customers coming and purchasing.

Q&A on Amazon Advertising

Evan: Yeah, I think that's a great point. It's good to bring up too how the size of the campaigns are really going to dictate what strategies that you want to go with when you're working with smaller sets, it's always a lot of different than some of the major ones that have a lot bigger budgets.

Talking about some of the automatic side of things too, right, I've had a lot of people say that automatic campaigns, they're really not necessary if you know what keywords that you want to target. What are your feelings on that? 

Robyn: You might be selling paper straws and eco-friendly straws, you focus on all of those things. But what you're missing is that there's a huge trend on Pinterest to make pinwheels out of your paper straws. And you would be missing out on all of that traffic. But Amazon's going to notice that people who are doing this are also buying this. They're going to find you relevant for certain things, so it can open doors to entire new realms of keywords and search terms for you to play with.

The other thing is it's going to let you know you're going to see some product targets that are already converting. Maybe there's a competitor that you weren't really aware of, means that they're slightly adjacent, that you could do some branded competitor targeting on sponsored brands or sponsored products that would really be able to get you a really ROAS and be able to scale up those ads a lot faster.

Evan: Prabhat, there was a question here from Kyle Smitherman. He was wondering, how would you go about optimizing the keywords with multiple match types? Would you still keep the ad groups up to 30 keywords maximum if you were looking for that?

Prabhat: Yes. What I've found, having maximum 30 keywords on each match type, if that's maxing max keywords you have, I've found it useful. What I've also found, that once those keywords are converting, I go onto the next level, which is profitability. If a certain keyword is driving sales but not profitable, then I'd want to either lower the bid for that or pause them completely. I know that's a very ultimate and a hardliner approach, but that's the optimizing process as you go along.

Robyn: And we go through a series of steps. We look at if this has this many clicks and no purchases, then we're going to reduce the bid this much. You don't want to just raise your total bid. You might say, "Well, I just really want to be top of search for this, so I'm going to take my bid from a dollar to $17." That's not going to get you the results that you want. You want to do small increases, and you want to do that really based off of the data.

Prabhat: And also, sorry, to touch base on bid strategy, that's additional thing Amazon have added. If certain advert or certain campaigns are doing really, really well, there are three bid strategies we have. We've got fixed, we've got up and down and we've got down only. 

If your advertising cost of sale is working well to your profitable level, I would be inclined towards trialing up and down or I'd be inclined to trial down only with top pages, with 10% off, 20% off, because I was looking at somebody else's campaign the other day and we found out that best amount of cost of sale we got on the placement was first page on top of the sale compared to the product pages. 

Evan: Yeah, definitely. We did also have a question from Taylor Carter wondering what the minimum budget you would recommend for product ads.

Prabhat: All right. Here's one mistake we did. It was a really bad mistake, but it turned out to be a really good result. We were supposed to put a very minimal, 50 pounds per product in a particular group of products. That's per day, when we trialed that. And that was sponsored brand adverts. But by mistake there was one zero added. That became 500 pounds per day for a group of products. We didn't spend 500 a day, but we spent 500 over a period of month. 

We got 18,000 pounds returned in terms of revenue. To trial, if your advert is new and you are trialing, I always go lower budget. That can be a $20 a day, $30 a day, $40 what you can afford towards that. Then once you're achieving the cost of sale, which is profitable, there is no harm put it beyond what you can afford. If you can afford $100, if you put 200 it may not spend $200, but the chances of you getting sales from the campaign is higher.

To answer your question, the minimum amount of budget you may want to put is an affordable level to trial with, and then create a new budget based on the cost of sale you're getting.

Robyn: I would say that it's kind of like asking how long is a piece of string. The budget is going to depend on the number of products and the competitiveness of the product.  $20 a day might be more than enough for your underwater basket weaving kit for left-handed weavers. There's probably not a lot of competition on those keywords. If you're trying to do garlic presses or yoga mats or fish oil supplements, you are going to need a much larger budget.

Hat tip to Navah Hopkins. One of the things I heard her say, I think it was an SEJ podcast. She said, "You want to have enough budget to have 10 clicks per day in your campaigns. And that would be the budget that you want. If your CPCs are high, then you're going to need a bigger budget.

Now, in reality, we know that most companies are going to say you have $500 or you have X budget now. Let's say they give you a $3,000 advertising budget and there's 30 products, don't try to do all 30 products. Try to do three, get results that you can show that the ACOS is going to be really great on these. You're going to get really good return on that investment. And then you're more likely to be able to get that budget moved up.

Whereas you spread it really wide, you're not going to get any good results because you're not going to have enough money to really see the results turn through. And so, getting those ad budgets increased is going to be really, really difficult.

Evan: Yeah. I guess, talking about products too, what type of products do you recommend using for sponsored brands?

Robyn: Prabhat, since Amazon doesn't have a quality score, how do you determine what listing needs to be re-optimized before you actually go in and start trying to scale up those ads?

Prabhat: I think it's down to the business report. Your business report does tell you the amount of clicks and impressions, and you can compare between different products within your store. If you are launching five products and one of them is getting higher clicks, then that is better than the others. That's one way of looking at. 

Also, Amazon does tell you the conversion rate of each product in your business report. If you are getting clicks, but there is not many sales on that, that conversion rate will tell you that that product is not performing. It's not only about keywords. The product offering may not be good enough, or the quality of the images may not be good, or the information may not be good. To answer your question very quickly, we can look at it based on the impressions and the clicks you're getting within the product to see whether that's been optimized or not.

Evan: Really taking a look at the data and seeing where you should start. I guess, is there a place that you normally start on the product detail page itself to start making changes?

Prabhat: Yeah, absolutely..it would be product detail page. Obviously, the weight of the keywords optimizer would be on the title. Then you'd want to look into key features. Then at the back-end, there is a search term. 

What you could do is check whether you are ranking for the keywords you want to rank. To check that...there are various Chrome extensions. One of them is AMZDataStudio that allows you to plug your ASIN and the keywords that you want to rank for. And it will tell you whether you are indexed or not.

There are other third-party tools. Sellics. There is DataHawk that allows you to find out whether you're ranking for a particular product. It even tells you the changes in the ranking. To measure the success, you can go very high end by investing in a third-party tool. But if you don't want to, you can check against a particular ASIN within your account through AMZDataStudio as well. And that's a free tool to use.

Evan: One thing I've noticed is the recurring trend with anybody talking about Amazon is, Prabhat, you were saying, what you're aware of because things are always changing. What, so far, I guess, recent six month-ish changes are you most excited about?

Prabhat: What I've not seen in the UK was video ads (in the US Amazon account). That's something really exciting. I've actually had an email of somebody who is already trialing that and they're getting good results, good success on them. I'm looking forward to having that in the UK.

Robyn: I would say that I am really excited about those video ads. We work with a lot of people who are trying to learn ads too. Amazon has this really great thing called the learning console. If you Google Amazon learning console, they walk you through step by step how their match types work, which one of these ads would show, which one would be the winning bid?

For example, on Amazon, the definition for broad match is very different than it is on Google right now. All the stuff that happened with close variants and all that stuff that happened in Google. If you came from a Google perspective, I'd highly recommend that you take the time for that advertising console. It's really, really great.

Evan: Yeah, it's definitely a good starting point. Like you said, a lot of times you come in from a Google Ads background, as a lot of Amazon advertisers that I speak with. And it's a good starting point to understand the fundamentals of pay per click advertising. But there's a lot of differences when it comes down to the two platforms.

Awesome. Great. Thanks again for the time, everybody, especially everybody watching the webinar here. If you have any follow-up, want to reach out to me directly, my name's Evan, Director of Sales and Marketing for Foremost Media. You can always find me on Twitter @evanfacinger. To help spell it, it's right there on the screen. Robyn, how could people find you?

Robyn: You can find me at marketplaceblueprint.com. You can find me on LinkedIn and Facebook. Usually, if you type in Robyn, Amazon and Google, you can find me pretty easily. And then I also have a podcast called Marketplace Blueprint. We have a bunch of stuff on advertising. 

Evan: And Prabhat, where could people find you?

Prabhat: So I'm available through daytodayebay.co.uk. My Twitter handle is daytodayebay. That's where you can find me. My name is Prabhat as you can see on the screen. Yeah, you can Google me or find me in LinkedIn. I'm more than happy to help you out.

Evan: Okay. Perfect. Well, thanks again to everybody.

All levels

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