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Even the most seasoned search marketer will likely find advertising on Amazon to be a challenge. The Amazon Advertising UI is a platform in its infancy. While the platform has evolved quite a bit in the last two years, it still has a long way to go before it would generally be described as “user-friendly”.
I’ve been at the SEM game for quite a while now, developing strategies and structuring campaigns for advertisers big and small since 2009. In 2017, I started to manage Amazon Advertising campaigns for a few of our clients. I was surprised to find that the platform seemed to be a good 10-15 years behind the likes of Google or Bing.
The main challenges I faced on the platform were with reporting and executing optimizations efficiently.
- The UI lacks flexibility in reporting, making it difficult to gain meaningful insights in an efficient way.
- The platform is difficult to navigate, making it impossible to implement smart optimizations at scale.
- An overly complex campaign structure will make daily/weekly optimization efforts incredibly difficult.
In the beginning, I struggled, but eventually, I developed a method of structuring Amazon Advertising campaigns that have enabled me to manage, analyze, optimize, and report more effectively and efficiently.
In this article, I share my approach to campaign structure on the Amazon Advertising platform. My hope is that these strategies will help you to set up your Amazon PPC campaigns to work around some of the unique challenges posed by the platform.
To demonstrate my approach, I’ll walk through the campaign development process for a fictional advertiser selling t-shirts, jeans, and sneakers on Amazon.
The below table is the final campaign structure we’ll arrive at.
Now let’s walk through the process of how we’ll get there.
Step one: Product categorization based on the Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN)
When building out campaigns for a new advertiser, my first step is to group all ASINs into product categories defined by myself. The purpose of this is to take an account, that may consist of hundreds of ASINs, and segment it into more manageable buckets of ASINs.
The product categorization will inform campaign structure, reporting and bid management. ASINs within a product category will be managed within the same group of campaigns.
ASINs should be categorized based on:
1. Logical product grouping
Keep the categorization high-level to allow efficient management. Further segment product categories down the road based on performance data, as needed.
2. Product price range
If you will be managing your campaigns to a target Return On Advertisement Spending (ROAS) then initial keyword bids should be set based on the price range of target ASINs. By applying an assumed conversion rate to the average price per order you can calculate the keyword bid range that will allow you to reach your target ROAS. However, for this to be accurate, the target ASINs within a campaign must be in the same price range.
A major limitation of the Amazon Advertising UI is the lack of robust reporting options. If ASINs from different product categories are advertised together within one campaign, it can be very difficult to report on the performance of different product categories. For this reason, it’s important to think through how you’d like to view the performance from a product category perspective.
To address this, I follow a general rule in which I only advertise ASINs from the same product category within a given campaign. This allows me to populate a report template that I’ve created which aggregates campaign-level data based on the product category. Because my report template is based on campaign-level data, reporting needs should also inform product categorization.
Using the below product categorization as an example, if it is important to show performance of “Straight Fit” vs. “Boot Cut” vs. “Skinny Jeans” on a regular basis, then the product category, “Jeans” should be segmented into “Jeans_Straight Fit”, “Jeans_Boot Cut”, and “Jeans_Skinny”.
However, if that level of granularity is not required for reporting, then the ASINs should be categorized at a higher level, “Jeans”.
Initially keeping the product categorization high-level, where possible, is recommended for a good reason. It will minimize the number of campaigns and make for a more manageable account overall. Once the campaigns are live and have collected a sufficient volume of clicks, the analysis may provide data that makes the case for further segmentation. More granular campaign segmentation should be implemented once there is data behind the decision.
Step two: Target ASIN selection
The next step is to select the ASINs you’ll target for each product category. Each product category will be supported with multiple campaigns supporting the same group of ASINs.
Select five to ten ASINs for each product category. If you only select one ASIN to target within a product category, then you are limiting your reach. This is because Sponsored Product campaigns may display multiple ASIN ad placements for a single search query, but only if multiple ASINs are targeted within the campaign. Additionally, in order to run sponsored brand campaigns, you are required to target at least three ASINs.
Test and learn approach
If you select more than 10 ASINs to target within the same campaign, then reporting and optimization become more difficult to maintain. If many ASINs fit within a product category, select your 10 bestselling ASINs to target initially. Run your campaign for one month and analyze the ASIN performance. Then, keep your top five performing ASINs and swap out the other five with other ASINs within the category to be tested against the top performers. Repeat this process until all ASINs within the category have been tested.
Select “Retail Ready” ASINs
“Retail Ready” is a term coined by Amazon which refers to a list of criteria that an ASIN should meet before being included in an advertising campaign. An ASIN that is deemed “Retail Ready” has met these criteria. Some items on that list are as follows:
- At least 15 reviews with an average rating of 3.5+ stars
- ASIN is “in-stock”
- Clear and accurate product content with character limits maximized
- Includes at least five high-quality images
Step three: Campaign build-out
The next step is to build-out your campaigns. Each product category will be supported by multiple campaigns targeting the same group of ASINs. The purpose of running multiple campaigns to support one product category is to speak to users at each stage of the path to purchase. Each campaign serves a specific role to build brand awareness, generate interest, and move users down the funnel.
Sponsored Product campaigns
Each product category should generally be made up of the following Sponsored Product campaigns:
1. Category/product target campaign
In November 2018 Amazon launched a new non-keyword targeting option for Sponsored Product campaigns. Category/product targeting allows you to choose specific products, categories, brands, or other product features that are similar to the product in your ad. Use this strategy to help shoppers find your product when browsing detail pages and categories, or when searching products on Amazon.
Typically, I have found this targeting option will not drive a ROAS on par with that of keyword-targeted campaigns. However, this targeting option will drive a higher volume of impressions and help build brand awareness, which is essential for long-term growth.
2. Keyword targeted campaigns (one brand and one non-brand)
Just as in any PPC strategy, it is essential to segregate brand and non-brand keywords. Non-brand keywords are typically searched by users who are not brand aware but are in-market for your product and in the process of consideration. Non-Brand campaigns showcase your brand in front of these highly-qualified users and help drive them to purchase.
Brand keywords are searched by users towards the bottom of the purchase funnel. Their intent is to purchase from your brand. Brand campaigns allow you to maximize your conversion rate among these users, as you can control which ASINs are displayed for brand terms searches. Additionally, brand campaigns can help block competitors who may be bidding on your brand terms.
3. Auto target campaign
Auto target campaigns serve ads by contextually matching your product descriptions with a user search query or with similar products.
These campaigns should be run in conjunction with keyword-targeted campaigns. Keyword targeted campaigns give you more control as they allow for custom bids at the keyword level. As such, keyword targeted campaigns should be prioritized over auto campaigns. This is done by setting an auto campaign bid that is lower than all keyword bids. The auto campaign will act as a keyword research tool, identifying relevant search queries that are not included in your keyword campaign. A search query analysis should be conducted on a regular basis to identify the most relevant search queries being captured. Those search queries should be added as keywords within the keyword targeted campaigns.
Sponsored brand campaigns
Build-out two sponsored brand campaigns for each product category using the same keyword set utilized for your Sponsored Product campaigns.
Campaign naming convention
A standardized campaign naming convention is essential. It will help to keep the account organized, allowing for more efficient navigation, optimization, and reporting.
The purpose of maintaining a standardized campaign naming convention is to help you quickly identify a campaign without having to click into it. This is especially helpful when multiple people are managing one account. Additionally, a standardized naming convention will help to make reporting more efficient.
Campaign naming guidelines
- Ensure standardization across all campaigns.
- Reference all levels of campaign segmentation that you would like to include in performance reports.
- Utilize numbers within campaign names to ensure campaigns sort in a preferred order. For example, I prefer that campaign targeting types (“Keyword Target” vs “Category Target” vs. “Auto”) are sorted based on budget prioritization.
Step four: Reporting
A major pain point for users on the Amazon Advertising platform is reporting. For me, the two main reporting issues are limitations in the date range and an inability to view data trending by week or month.
- Date range: You can only run reports looking back 60 days.
- Trending data: You only have the option to run reports showing total data or data segmented by day, not by week or month.
I’ve created a report template to solve for these two limitations, which you can download here and customize to fit your needs.
Below are the steps to populate the report template.
1. In the first week of each month, download campaign performance data for the previous month from the Amazon Advertising campaign dashboard.
2. Sort the exported data by campaign name.
3. Copy performance metrics from the exported document and paste into the highlighted cells within the report template as indicated in the below screenshot. The “Product Category”, “Campaign Type” and “Targeting” table data (highlighted blue), will automatically populate using formulas that reference the campaign data.
4. Keep data for all previous months in your report, add data for each new month as you go. From this point forward, you will have historical data to reference and analyze (at least going back to the date that you started this process).
Wrapping it all up
For retail advertisers, it is becoming more and more important to include Amazon Advertising as part of an overall digital strategy. You may be hesitant, and understandably so, to spend significant advertising dollars on a platform that is not super user-friendly and on which it is difficult to analyze the performance of your investment. Because the platform is more basic, campaign management requires more discipline and can be more time consuming compared to PPC advertising on Google or Bing. But advertising on Amazon is essential to get that flywheel moving, and the payoff can be huge.
So, working around the challenges of the platform to find more efficient strategies and processes is essential. While the strategies I’ve shared here are not groundbreaking by any means, they have helped me a great deal and it’s my hope that you’ll find them helpful as well.
Matt Strietelmeier is Director of Marketplace Advertising at Stella Rising.