Advertising Your Merch: How To Get Started Using Ads For MBA

In this interview I discuss how to get started advertising your Merch by Amazon products with Michael Essany, founder of Merch Momentum. You can see the original article here.

Michael is a wealth of inspiration when it comes to finding new niches, product ideas, and research strategies, which he shares through his Merch Momentum website and free to join companion Facebook group.

Michael Essany Interview

The appeal and power of advertising on Amazon are equally immense. And even though Amazon says “no advertising experience” is needed to get started, some sound advice can go a long way to ensure that campaigns and ad spent are optimal with minimum waste.

If you’re new to advertising on Amazon, a good person to know is Cameron Scot. Not only is he an accomplished MBA veteran, he’s exceptionally knowledgeable about advertising Merch.

I recently caught up with Cameron for an interview in which he outlined the most efficient and effective ways to get up and running with ads on Amazon.

Q: With so many new accounts being enabled for advertising, many Merchers are overwhelmed with this new feature and don’t know where to begin. In your opinion, who is advertising right for?

Cameron: Amazon Ads is right for anyone that’s willing to invest in their business and wants to grow sales.

Amazon rewards you when you make sales using Amazon Ads. These sales increase your product rankings, which leads to increased organic sales, and more reviews. This further increases your rankings and drives more sales.

This snowball effect, or sales velocity as it’s sometimes called, makes Amazon Ads a powerful tool for increasing sales and ranking across your products. And for high competition search terms it’s becoming necessary just to have a chance to compete.

Amazon Ads also bring a whole new level of data to your business. Data like search term reports that tell you exactly what people are typing into the search bar to find and buy your products and how much traffic those terms are getting. This data is incredibly valuable when it comes to developing new products and improving your existing listings and keywords. None of the research tools can compare to getting actual hard data straight from the source.

Q: With so much to learn and a strong desire to not waste money, how should a Mercher new to advertising get started?

Cameron: Everyone first starting Amazon Ads, especially those new to PPC advertising, should start with their mindset.

There’s no dollar wasted in Amazon Ads, except by those that quit too early and don’t collect enough data or use it to make actionable decisions. Even clicks that don’t lead to sales is useful information — it tells you what doesn’t work which is just as important as knowing what does work.

You need to always have a “always be testing” mindset. There’s no magic formula to running ads and no one knows what will work for your products. Different keywords, campaign structures, product segments, keyword match types, you need to test to find what works for you and your campaign performance.

Amazon Ads is an investment in your business. You’re investing in your products by putting them in front of potential buyers giving them more traffic, sales, reviews, and the best chance of success. Commit to a budget for your advertising as investment into your business.

Start with a budget you can afford. You can be conservative if needed while still having successful campaigns by starting with small daily budgets and low bids, and slowly increasing bids until you’re getting clicks

It’s also important to know that Amazon Ads are a time investment. Amazon Ads isn’t “set it and forget it” and requires continual optimization. More competition enters a market, search term traffic drops, ranking decreases, costs per clicks increase — While it doesn’t need to be a full time job, you need to be able to devote a small amount of time to weekly optimization otherwise risk bleeding ad spend.

And most importantly…

The best way to get started is to just get started. Running and testing ad campaigns is the best way to learn Amazon Ads. Launch your first campaigns and keep learning while it collects data.

Q: What are the basic steps to know for getting up and running with ads?

Cameron: Getting ads up in running is pretty easy from a technical standpoint, there’s not much you need apart from the ASINs of the products you want to advertise.

Outside of that I recommend everyone to start with the Sponsored Product campaign type and automatic targeting ads. Automatic Sponsored Product campaigns look just like normal listings and let Amazon do the heavy lifting with all the customer data they have available. They’re also great at driving traffic and converting sales.

If you’re looking for a jumping off point, start with a lottery campaign containing all of your ASINs inside a single campaign using automatic targeting.

LOTTERY CAMPAIGN SETTINGS

This is a fairly conservative starting campaign that utilizes the power of Amazon’s algorithms and customer data to get cheap impressions and clicks, across both long and short tail search terms. The more products you have in this campaign, the more ammo you’re giving Amazon to work with.

  • Sponsored Product campaign type

  • Campaign name: Lottery – All ASINs

  • No end date on your campaigns

  • Daily budget $1-5. This is the maximum amount you’ll spend in a day.

  • Automatic targeting

  • Dynamic bids – down only

  • Adjust bids by placement

    • Top of search: 100%

    • Product pages: 100% (note: I now recommend starting at 0% for Product page placements)

  • Ad group name: Auto

  • Products: Enter list of all of your ASINs

  • Set bids by targeting group

    • Close match: .05

    • Loose match: .05

    • Substitute: .05

    • Complements: .05

  • Launch campaign

SINGLE ASIN CAMPAIGN SETTINGS

If you’re looking to be more aggressive in your advertising, you can also launch single ASIN campaigns for your best selling products or products with reviews. This is similar to the lottery campaign but with a few different settings and only a single ASIN.

  • Sponsored Product campaign type

  • Campaign Name: [ASIN] – [Ad Type] [Targeting] – [Keywords or product title]

    • Example: B08965JV8D – SP Auto – Sony Digital Camera

  • No end date on your campaigns

  • Daily budget $1-5.

  • Automatic targeting

  • Dynamic bids – down only

  • Adjust bids by placement

    • Top of search: 0%

    • Product pages: 0%

  • Ad group name: Auto

  • Products: Enter single ASIN

  • Set bids by targeting group (lower for conservative, higher for aggressive)

    • Close match: .05-.50

    • Loose match: .05-.50

    • Substitute: .05-.35

    • Complements: .05-.35

  • Launch campaign

Having a goal for your campaigns with a game plan is the next step in your advertising journey, which you can learn while these campaigns are getting going and collecting data.

First start by learning how to set your ideal target ACOS for your campaigns. This is your benchmark for your campaign’s performance and will set the stage for nearly all of your advertising decisions.

Learn more about what a target ACOS is and how to set it

Next you’ll want to learn how to make basic optimizations to your ads to improve performance. Start with these four simple weekly optimizations.

Q: Is there an ideal blueprint for an ad campaign on Merch By Amazon?

Cameron: The ideal blueprint for an ad campaign is the one that works for you and your campaign goals.

There’s a 1000 different ways to organize and structure your campaigns and you’ll likely use different systems and structures simultaneously and throughout your advertising journey as you learn and your goals change.

Generally you’re balancing better reporting and more control over your bids and budgets with difficulty and time in managing those campaigns.

On one of the spectrum is a campaign like the lottery campaign above, with all of your asins inside a single ad group and campaign. Easy to manage, but not much control over bids and budgets.

On the other end of the spectrum is a separate campaign for every individual keyword for each ASIN. Providing granular control over your bids and budget, but difficult and time consuming to manage.

Zooming out further to a “macro level” you also have structures for how campaigns interact with each other, such as moving keywords from one campaign to another. A successful macro campaign structure acts as a funnel to find and isolate new products and high performing keywords,

It can be a lot to manage and a little overwhelming to a beginner which is why I recommend starting with the two campaigns above to get your feet wet, and start collecting data while you learn the ins and outs of Amazon Ads. Overtime and as you get more click and order data (from more ad spend) you can expand your advertising funnel with additional automatic and manual campaigns.

For those that are a little further in their advertising journey or looking ahead, here’s some of my current campaign structure preferences:

At the “micro” level I prefer to use a single ad group inside the majority of my campaigns, for both single ASIN and multi-ASIN campaigns. This is mostly due to how placement adjustments on bids works in that they’re set at the campaign level and apply to every ad group and target inside the campaign.

Similarly for more granular placement and budget control I like to keep the number of targets inside a campaign small. For auto campaigns I segment by targeting group, having an individual campaign for each one (close, loose, compliment, substitute). For manual campaigns I try to keep the number of keywords or product targets under 30.

For my “macro” campaign structure, it’s a funnel.

Lottery campaigns are used for product discovery and are at the very top of the funnel. These are used to find products to launch more targeted single ASIN campaigns.

Next in the funnel is the automatic single ASIN campaign. This campaign is used to find promising search terms to test keywords in a manual targeting campaign for the same ASIN. Keywords that continue to perform in the testing campaign get promoted to a performance manual targeting campaign, and then on to a single keyword campaign.

I also use additional campaigns for other campaign goals, such as targeting key competing products or search terms I’m ranking for.

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Q: In your opinion, what are the rookie mistakes to avoid?

Cameron: The two biggest mistakes that I see new advertisers make are:

  1. Using data from the campaign or account level to make campaign decisions and not data at a granular level

  2. Not collecting enough data to confidently make campaign decisions

If you’re making the first mistake, you’re likely making the second mistake too. The data you see at the campaign level is an aggregate of all the ads and keywords performance inside of it. One automatic campaign has four different targeting groups (close, loose, substitute, compliment) that can perform wildly different from each other, with each group targeting thousands of different search terms and products. And if you have have multiple ASINs in a campaign, each of those an perform wildly different from each other across each of those search terms and products.

The worst case scenario you have a campaign with already performing keywords or targeting groups but they’re overshadowed by poor performers that are eating up all of the spend. When you’re only looking at the campaign level data you could be turning off your next winning keyword or targeting group.

For this reason you want to evaluate and make adjustments to your campaigns at the targeting level for more granularity. For automatic campaigns this is the target group level (close, loose, etc.) and for manual campaigns in the keywords or product targets level.

This leads into not collecting enough data before making decisions.

Broad targeting options like automatic campaigns and broad match keywords show your ad on hundreds or thousands of search terms. You may have 20 clicks on a broad keyword without a sale, which may look a good candidate to pause, but those 20 clicks are likely spread out across a handful of search terms, which each having only two or three clicks.

If one of those search terms you’re getting clicks for would have a 10% conversion rate, which would be considered good, only one person purchases for every 10 people that click on your ad. You could get 10 clicks on that search term before getting a sale and it wouldn’t be a statistical anomaly. If you negate that search term with only a few clicks, you never gave it the chance to perform.

Of course we never know what the actual conversion rates will be so it’s a balance between collecting enough data you can be confident you’re making the right decision and not wasting ad spend.

The broader the the targeting the more data you want to collect to make decisions as that data will be spread out across more search terms. Where 15-20 clicks is likely enough to evaluate and make a decision on pausing an exact match keyword, which targets only a few search terms, you may want 30 or 40 clicks for auto targeting groups and broad match keywords where your clicks are spread across more search terms.

Data from your search term reports can also be utilized to negate specific poor performing search terms from broad targets, rather than pausing the targeting group or keyword itself. This way giving other potential winning search terms a chance to perform

Q: Are there any informational resources or guides you would recommend to help newcomers better understand advertising on Amazon?

Cameron: There’s a ton of a free resources for Amazon Advertising, and everything you need to learn on your own is free and accessible across YouTube, Facebook, and elsewhere, from myself and other great advertisers.

I run the Amazon Ads University Facebook group which is free to join. It’s a great place to ask questions, from beginner to advanced, and has lots of content from myself and thousands of other advertisers.

But no matter the resources you use, there’s no secret or sure-fire strategy to running Amazon Ads or to get the perfect ACOS. Keep learning how Amazon Ads works and learn from others and soak in their strategies. The most important thing is to continually test everything you can to find what works for you and your products.

Cameron Scot

Merch Jar Cofounder