As Amazon continues its steady ascent towards world domination, Amazon Advertising (the newly unified name of Amazon’s ad offerings) is playing an increasingly significant role in that growth. Recently, Amazon overtook Bing to become the 3rd largest digital ads platform by market share. So, if you’re a digital marketer anywhere near ecommerce, Amazon Advertising is a critical part of your mix. And if it’s not, you’d better have a really good reason for abstaining from their marketplace that starts and ends with “we’re better off sacrificing huge volume in exchange for the direct-to-customer relationship.”
But the front-line reality is that we see most businesses sell themselves short on Amazon not for some noble protest, but because they think they don’t know how to use Amazon’s advertising products well (yet).
Spoiler – If you know PPC you know Amazon Advertising so dive in
Look, I get it: you’re probably already spreading your digital efforts and money across a bunch of platforms, and focusing on the winners. How are you supposed to learn an entirely new platform, using advertiser tools that are far less sophisticated than Google Ads (for now), AND build a presence on Amazon Advertising that’s profitable, without taking your eye off of the incumbent channels?
Shameless: The cheat-code answer, of course, is that you can hire someone like Portent to do it for you!
That said, if you’ve got the bandwidth and drive to make Amazon Advertising a core competency for your marketing team, there’s increasingly good news for seasoned search marketers.
Amazon Advertising shares some of the most useful, common features with platforms like Google Ads and Bing Ads. If you have knowledge and experience on either the Google or Bing ad platforms, you already know how to leverage a few of the most useful features on Amazon.
Here are a few of the biggest and most important similarities to get you started.
Account Structure on Amazon Advertising
In Google and Bing (read, traditional PPC platforms), search campaign and ad group structure provide the basis for account organization and performance monitoring.
Campaigns that are built and organized well encompass the main theme (for example, “Seattle souvenirs”) with subordinate ad groups providing a break-out of sub-topics (think “Seattle souvenir mug” and “Seattle souvenir pencil” as separate ad groups).
The structure in Amazon is very similar. To get started with a new campaign, decide between highlighting individual products or focusing on promotion of your brand as a whole.
It’s imperative to understand the difference between the two options. Are you trying to focus on sales for single products? If so, the individual products option (Sponsored Products) should be selected. This ad type is the typical ad medium most advertisers envision when they think of placement on Amazon.
If you want to focus on promoting your WHOLE brand on Amazon, the “Sponsored Brands” option would be a better choice. This is a newer ad offering that’s more in-line with Amazon’s goal of letting businesses spend to drive greater brand awareness and brand presence on their platform. Both options are visible in the image below:
You’ll then fill out the campaign settings and create your first ad group(s), similar to what you’d do in Bing Ads or Google Ads with a new campaign. However, on Amazon you have far fewer options to choose from for targeting purposes. Options like location and language targeting simply don’t exist in the Amazon user interface (yet).
One additional nuance that’s unique to Amazon is the Manual vs. Automatic targeting feature although Google’s Smart Shopping campaigns overlap a bit. Automatic targeting campaigns are designed to have Amazon do all ad targeting via algorithm, sacrificing some control but offering better efficiency in time and potentially results. Amazon pulls primarily from your product pages and the behavioral data it keeps on shoppers, meaning you don’t select keywords or need to hassle with pesky things like your experience, intuition, or knowledge of your customer (not that we’re biased). With manual campaigns the keyword selection, including match types, is in your hands. More time required, but with the trade-off of tighter control.
Keyword Research on Amazon Advertising
The Google Ads and Bing Ads keyword planning features have become familiar and useful tools for many marketers. Simply add a few potential keywords or URLs and magical results filled with terms, competitive landscape, and even suggested bids on the keywords listed appear!
Well, guess what? Amazon has its own keyword tool. The catch, though, is that it’s not quite as front-and-center as the tools provided by Bing and Google.
To access the keyword-planning feature in Amazon you’ll need to navigate to the ad group level of a manual campaign. Automatic campaigns however don’t use keywords so it’s not even offered from those campaign screens.
In manual campaign planning and research, you’ll have the option to view and add suggested keywords based on your product details, manually enter your own keywords, or upload a file (XLSX, TSV, or CSV formats) to add new keywords to a specific ad group.
Like the Google and Bing platforms, Amazon also provides keyword bid suggestions for you to use as a basis for projecting cost. Unlike Google and Bing, Amazon doesn’t provide search volume estimates. For that, you will have to look to third-party ecommerce keyword research tools like Merchant Words.
Keyword Match Types on Amazon Advertising
Selecting the granularity of your keyword targeting is functionality that goes back ages (by digital standards…) on the Bing Ads and Google Ads platform. Match type usage provides specific instructions to the platform on how precisely or loosely to match an advertiser’s ads with keywords for relevant search queries.
And in what’s probably the most important parallel between Amazon Advertising and the entrenched PPC platforms:
You can absolutely use match types for targeting Amazon Sponsored Product ads, which is a huge step forward. The wonderfully familiar options of Exact, Phrase, and Broad match types are all ready and waiting for you.
Here’s a quick primer on each option for those who are new to PPC or a little rusty:
Exact: Triggered when someone types in the exact same search term or phrase you’ve targeted, or small variations thereof (think “Seattle souvenir(s)” if the term searched is “Seattle souvenir”).
Phrase: Phrase match requires the terms or phrase you select to be included within a search query for ads to appear. However, any other combination of keywords or phrases can be included in a given query. Also, the order of your keyword must be identical to the search query (“finding Seattle souvenirs” will trigger for Phrase match if your phrase is “Seattle souvenirs” while “souvenir locations Seattle” will not).
Broad: Assume everything even semi-related to your keyword will be eligible to display. That means the term you select, and even similar search terms may trigger your ad (“souvenir in Seattle” and “Seattle-related gifts” could both trigger a result for a broad-match “Seattle souvenirs”)
Pro Tip: It’s worth noting that Modified Broad Match as a match type option (from Bing Ads and Google Ads) is NOT yet possible within Amazon’s platform.
As with Google and Bing, there’s no right answer when choosing which match types to associate with your keywords. If you’re looking for tight targeting for which only identical or close queries match your keywords, Exact and Phrase match are the way to go. If casting a wider net via looser targeting parameters is your goal, Broad match is the ticket.
For more information on targeting strategy check out the post our resident Amazon expert, Tim Johnson, wrote onAmazon Sponsored Product campaigns.
So, what are the big differences on Amazon Advertising vs. Google and Bing?
There are obviously major differences in both audience mindset and overall platform, but the most obvious one is in the quality of the features for advertisers. Although Amazon is making constant improvements, both Google and Bing Ads have been around and competing for direct-response ad dollars for an eternity by digital standards. Amazon’s meteoric rise on the direct-response and programmatic advertising side are still relatively new, so it’s not surprising that the tools are still a little less sophisticated.
Pro-Tip and some very important examples: If you’re familiar with device targeting, ad scheduling, automated bidding, and location targeting, those features are NOT available via Amazon’s platform.
These features are known and loved by marketers and operating without them can leave you at a significant disadvantage as far as managing ROI or return on ad-spend (RoAS).
However, there are a number of 3rd party options such as Seller Labs or SellerApp that provide extensive research and performance toolsets that can be used in conjunction with Amazon’s built-in features. For our Amazon clients, Portent uses SellerLabs tools to manage a lot of the current shortcomings of Amazon’s on-platform controls, and to efficiently manage huge numbers of products and ads simultaneously.*
Another crucial difference with Amazon Advertising and overall presence is more subtle – Amazon Sales Rank can be improved via paid advertising efforts. The Amazon’s Sales Rank figure is a metric covering the number of sales for a product relative to the number of sales for competing products.
For Google Ads and Bing Ads, there is a clear separation between paid and organic listings. With Amazon, however, everything counts together.
This literally means that running paid advertising on Amazon will help increase your visibility for your organic listings as well because Sales Rank factors both listing types into the Amazon algorithm.
In Amazon’s case, you’re effectively double-dipping in that organic rank can be improved via paid campaigns. If you needed any more motivation to get started with Amazon Ads as a complement to your organic product listing optimization work, that should hopefully do it.
If you’re thinking about diving into Amazon Advertising you can absolutely leverage your existing experience in Google Ads and Bing Ads to get you started.
Specifically, there are similarities in account structure, keyword discovery, and keyword match types that can give you a running start. But again, we strongly recommend using 3rd party tools supplement your optimization efforts, and shy away from consultants or agencies who don’t do likewise.
Finally, if you’re looking for an added incentive to invest in Sponsored Product ads on Amazon, don’t forget that any sales increase will bolster your organic listings, as Amazon Sale Rank factors in sales across both channels.
Amazon is iterating like crazy to drive parity, so there are guaranteed to be more similarities that we’ve not touched on. What other pertinent advice or similarities between the 3 platforms would you highlight? Please chime in with your comments!
*Disclaimer – I have not been asked to write about either tool option here.
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