Structuring Your Amazon Advertising Campaigns

There’s two types of sponsored product ads in this playground we call amazon advertising.

Automatic Targeting Campaigns, and Manual Targeting Campaigns.

In automatic campaigns, amazon chooses the keywords you appear for.

In manual campaigns, you choose the keywords you appear for.

Pretty straight forward.

So which one should you use?

Well… Both.

AUTOMATIC CAMPAIGNS

Automatic campaigns use your product description and historical sales data to guess which keywords and products to show your ad for.

This means it’s crucial that you’ve done your keyword research and have high keyword density in your descriptions, or the automatic campaigns won’t work properly.

Pros

  • Discover new keywords you may not have thought of

  • Easy setup, amazon picks all the keywords

  • Low maintenance

  • Easy to scale with lots of products

  • Can show up on competitor’s product pages

Cons

  • One bid for all keywords in a match type

  • Cannot add negative keywords

MANUAL CAMPAIGNS

In manual campaigns you’re picking the only keywords that your ad will show up for.

Pros

  • Create high profit campaigns at scale

  • Test specific keyword ideas

  • 1 controllable bid for each keyword you pick

  • Suggested bids for each keyword

  • Add negative keywords

  • Can pause keywords

Cons

  • Much more complex and higher maintenance

  • Can take a lot of time to properly optimize with lots products

  • Can easily lose money if left unattended

So how do they all work together?

Some philosophy…

When starting a new product campaign you want to cast a wide net.

Finding new, profitable, longtail keywords for your product in the vast ocean of amazon search traffic.

When you find these profitable keywords, you amplify them with bigger budgets and bids.

When keywords aren’t working out, you reduce or eliminate them entirely.

Cast a wide net

Amplify

Reduce and eliminate

It works like funnel

Your automatic campaigns are your wide net that you cast to find new and profitable keywords you might not have thought of.

The keywords that show promise get moved to a manual testing campaign where you have more control of your bids on specific keywords.

Keywords that are proven winners graduate to their own manual campaigns with bigger budgets and higher bids. Your A team.

KEYWORDS, SEARCH TERMS, MATCH TYPES

Where keywords are what you tell Amazon what you want your ads to show up for

The customer search term is what the customer actually searched for when they clicked your ad.

And it could be different from the keywords you picked.

Which is where Keyword Match Types come in.

Keyword Match Types

The match type tells Amazon how relevant a customer’s search term has to be to your keyword to trigger your ad.

Manual Campaign Match Types

For manual campaigns there’s three match types: Broad, Phrase, and Exact.

BROAD

Just like it sounds, broad match keywords have the widest reach and least amount of precision.

When you enter cat bed as a broad match keyword, your ad will show up for search terms

That match exactly: Cat bed

Have the keywords in any order: Bed for cat

Additional words before or after: Best cat bed for kitten

Or any other terms amazon thinks is relevant: Bed for small kitten

PHRASE MATCH

Gives you a medium amount of reach and medium precision.

When you enter the same cat bed keyword as a phrase match, your ad will only show up for

The exact match: Cat bed

And additional keywords before or after: Best cat bed for kitten

EXACT MATCH

Has the lowest amount of reach, but the highest amount of precision, and will typically be your most profitable keywords.

With the same cat bed keyword, you will only show up when a customer’s search term matches it exactly: Cat bed

Automatic Campaign Match Types

Automatic targeting campaigns groups keywords by their match type and each one can have their own custom bids set separately from the campaign’s default bid. Being automatic campaigns, Amazon still picks out the keywords for each match type, however.

Performance can vary greatly between the different match types so it’s recommended that you optimize your bids for each of the match types separately rather than just the default bid. They can be found under the Targeting tab in your Amazon Advertising dashboard.

Close Match

Close Match keywords uses keywords that closely match your product’s listing description (your description is the only way Amazon knows what keywords to target so don’t forget your keyword research!). These keywords would be similar to Exact and Phrase match for manual campaigns.

Loose Match

Loose Match keywords are the Broad match for automatic campaigns, targeting a much wider audience than close match.

Substitutes

Substitute Match displays your ad on competing product’s listing pages, rather than in the search results like Close and Loose Match. The products it targets are ones that your product would make a good replacement for, such as other shirts with similar designs.

Compliments

Compliment Match also displays your ad on other product’s listing pages, however, for products that would go well together, or compliment each other. For example, an ad for gardening gloves on the listing page of a gardening rake. In my experience the compliments match type rarely gets any impressions for Merch by Amazon product campaigns.

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Structuring Your Sponsored Product Campaigns

How you structure your automatic and manual ad campaigns play a key role in campaign optimization. A good campaign structure will allow you to test keywords and have more control over your budgets and bids, while a poor campaign structure not only makes it more difficult to properly optimize, it will also result in worse performance for your winning search terms and keywords.

Campaign Structure Basics

Your advertising account has a built in organizational structure for your ads:

Portfolio

The top most level of your ad campaigns. A portfolio is best thought of as a container for campaigns. A budget can be set at the portfolio level for all of the campaigns contained within it, however, you can only set a budget for a specified date range with an end date rather than an ongoing daily budget.

Campaign

The campaign contains your ads and is the level you will work with the most. Each campaign can hold multiple ads. For Merch accounts, this is the level that you set your targeting (Automatic/Manual/Keywords), your daily budget, and your bids.

Ad

The ad is the lowest level of your advertising account and is the product (ASIN) that you will be running ads for in your campaign. Multiple ads (products) can be added to a single campaign.

Ad Groups – while Ad Groups aren’t displayed in your Merch advertising dashboard, each campaign does have a single ad group that houses all of your ads which can be seen if you download a bulk operations spreadsheet. Other types of advertising account do utilize ad groups, however, for our purposes it’s not super relevant to Merch.

Organizing Your Campaigns

With how Amazon structures your campaigns in regards to targeting and bidding, you want to organize your products in a way that allows you to effectively optimize each one.

The targeting of your ads is done at the campaign level, which means all of your ads in a campaign will be shown to the same audience.

Because two different products, even the exact same design on different shirt colors, can perform differently when shown to the same audience I recommend using only one ad (ASIN) per campaign to get the most accurate data.

For organizational purposes, I also recommend each of your portfolios only contain campaigns for one ASIN. Each portfolio will end up with multiple campaigns, however, each of those campaigns should be advertising the same ASIN.

When naming your campaigns and portfolios there’s many different strategies, but it’s important to keep a consistent naming convention across all of them. I recommend using the ASIN in your naming for every portfolio and campaign for easier searching. Here is a simple naming convention I use:

Portfolios

ASIN – Niche – Target ACoS

Example: B07NFS451V – Dog Mom – 26% B07NFS451V – Karate – 22%

Campaigns

ASIN – Targeting Type

Example: B07NFS451V – Auto 1 B07NFS451V – Keyword Testing B07NFS451V – Broad

Structuring Your Campaigns

With PPC advertising the general strategy is to cast a wide net to find keywords, amplify the keywords that are converting, and reduce/eliminate keywords that aren’t. In this way, your campaigns can be broken down into two distinct roles: Keyword Harvesters and Keyword Winners.

The Keyword Harvesters are your wide net you cast to find the winning keywords. These are your automatic targeting campaigns and your manual testing campaigns.

Keyword Winners are the keywords that are proven to sell and have multiple orders.

Here is what a full campaign structure would look like using this strategy with the naming convention from above:

Harvesters

Automatic Ads

B07NFS451V – Auto 1 B07NFS451V – Auto 2 B07NFS451V – Auto 3 B07NFS451V – Auto 4

Keyword/Product Testing Manual Ads

B07NFS451V – Keyword Testing B07NFS451V – Product Testing

Winners

Manual Ads

B07NFS451V – Broad B07NFS451V – Phrase B07NFS451V – Exact B07NFS451V – Product Targeting

This structure works like a funnel. Your Auto ads are used to find new keywords to get tested, which then get added to your Manual – Keyword Testing campaign. When the keywords in your testing campaign are proven winners, they get moved to your Winners manual campaign for its match type. This lets you have bigger bids and bigger budgets for your proven winners.

This structure also takes advantage of a hidden metric set at the campaign level that the Amazon algorithm uses, similar to a quality score for Google Adwords or relevance score for Facebook ads, when determining which ads to display to their customers. Campaign conversion rate is speculated to influence your ads delivery, which means with this structure keywords that you’re testing won’t be bringing down your already proven, high converting winning keywords.

Phrase Match While I included phrase match above for illustrative purposes, for most advertisers I recommend skipping Phrase match and only using Broad and Exact match types in your keyword testing and for your winners. Broad match campaigns will cover all of the phrase match keywords and it will reduce the amount of complexity of your campaigns, the time it takes to optimize, and the amount of spend needed to properly test your keywords.

Optimizing Your Keywords

When starting your product’s campaigns you’ll always begin with auto ads as your harvesters. I like to start every product with multiple automatic targeting campaigns (typically 4 duplicated campaigns).

Amazon’s algorithm uses the campaign’s and product’s sales history to determine who to show your ad to. For new campaigns, especially products with few organic sales, Amazon doesn’t have this sales data so it takes a bit of a shotgun approach for who to target, which can cause a lot of variance between your campaigns. Having multiple automatic ads helps you cast your net further, faster to find the winning keywords.

Often you’ll find one automatic campaign or targeting option outperform the others in which case you can pour the budget from the non-performing ones into the single winner. Over time as you find profitable keywords and move them into manual campaigns, the majority of your budget will begin to shift from automatic ads to manual ads. However, I recommend every product, even well-optimized ones, using at least one auto targeting ad to continue finding longtail keywords and phrases, or keywords you may not have thought of.

For new product campaigns, you can also start with a Manual – Keyword Testing campaign if you’ve done your homework and did keyword research ahead of time. This will help speed up the optimization process, otherwise, later you will create a keyword testing campaign and add keywords to it once you have the search term data from your automatic ads.

After running your campaigns for a week or two, use the search term report found under Advertising Reports to find search terms and keywords for your product that have gotten sales. These are the keywords that we will test out or move into their own winners campaigns.

In your search term report simply add a filter and sort the number of orders (14 Day Total Orders (#)) in the spreadsheet heading) from top to bottom, then scroll to find all of the orders that have exactly one order.

These search terms (what your customer typed exactly into the search bar) with only one order you will add to your Manual – Keyword Testing campaign as Broad Match, and then again as Exact Match (and Phrase Match if you choose to use that match type) to test variations of the search term. Each keyword and match type will need to be evaluated for performance individually from each other – about 20 clicks with no sales is a general rule of thumb for when to turn off a keyword.

Orders vs. Sales – I recommend using number of orders vs. revenue when moving keywords to get a better picture of keyword performance. If one person purchases 2 of the same product it could just be a fluke, where if you have 2 separate orders that’s much less likely to be the case.

If you have any search terms in your search term report that have two or more orders, add those keywords to your Manual – Exact campaign as an Exact Match type, and turn off the Exact Match type for the keyword in your Manual – Keyword Testing campaign if it’s running. Adding this term as a Broad Match to your Manual – Keyword Testing campaign might be a good idea if it’s not already there to test out additional variations of the search term.

If you have any Broad Match keywords in your Manual – Keyword Testing campaign that have two or more orders (they’re not a fluke!), add these keywords to your Manual – Broad campaign as a Broad Match keyword, and turn off the keyword in your Manual – Keyword Testing campaign.

Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are keywords that your campaign will not show for. Because we’re using multiple manual campaigns for the same product, we need to make sure that we’re not competing against ourselves as best as we can.

Whenever you add an exact match keyword to your winning Manual – Exact campaign, you also need to add it as an Exact Match Negative keyword to all of your other manual campaigns: Manual – Keyword TestingManual – Broad, and Manual – Phrase if using. Negative keywords cannot be added to Automatic campaigns, although this is an available option for other Amazon Advertising account types (Amazon please…)

When you move a keyword to your winning Manual – Broad Campaign, you’ll want to add this same keyword as a Phrase Match Negative keyword to your Manual – Keyword Testing campaign. Do not add it as a negative keyword to your Manual – Exact match campaign.

If you’re using Phrase match, when you move a keyword to your Manual – Phrase campaign you will also add the keywords as a Phrase Match Negative keyword to your Manual – Broad campaign and Manual – Keyword Testing campaign.

Product Targeting

Product targeting works in much the same as keyword targeting except instead of keywords, you’re targeting actual products (ASINs). In your search term report, when you see an ASIN in the customer search term (they always start with B0), it means that the customer clicked on your ad from a product page rather than from their search results page.

You can use a similar strategy as above using the number of orders to find products you’d like to test, and then moving those products to the Product Targeting winners campaign once they’re proven sellers.

Wrapping Up

How you structure your campaigns is an important aspect in how you will manage and optimize them, as well as how successful they will be. A campaign structure that casts a wide net, tests your keywords, and separates out your winning keywords from the losers takes advantage of Amazon’s algorithm and gives your proven winners the largest bids and budgets. Take the time to structure your campaigns and you’ll be rewarded with easier campaign

Cameron Scot

Merch Jar Cofounder