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Written by Caroline Cox on Jul 20 , 2020

This primer can help you understand Amazon Advertising, determine which methods are best for your business, and ensure your ads are a success.

Here, you’ll find:

  • A breakdown of Amazon Advertising
  • How to set up your ads for success on Amazon
  • The various types of Amazon ads
  • The approaches you can take to ad creation

What is Amazon Advertising?

We’re going to guess that you’ve likely seen Amazon ads before. When searching for a product on Amazon, you’ll often see a few “sponsored” items at the top of your results. And it’s not just products — brands and entire stores can advertise themselves as well.

Amazon Advertising (formerly known as Amazon Media Group, Amazon Marketing Services, and Amazon Ad Platform) may seem daunting at first. But know that if you’ve launched a website or are familiar with social media for businesses, you’ll probably catch on quickly. The moving parts are different, but the way they interact will probably seem familiar.

How Amazon ads can benefit your brand

Amazon Advertising refers customers to your product pages, and traffic to those pages is a big part of influencing your placement in search results. The relationship between your product page and ad content is a lot like the relationship between your website landing pages and the Google Ads that drive traffic to them.

But there’s a key difference here: the diversity of ad choices and placement. Unlike search engine ads on Google or Bing, your campaign can also appear in recommendation emails, on-site product recommendations, and banner ads, in addition to the keyword-inspired campaigns that bear resemblance to Google Ads.

Alright, now that we’re on the same page, let’s break it down.

hawksem blog: amazon sponsored ads

Optimize your product pages

Before taking out ads on Amazon, you need a fully optimized product page. Each aspect of the page description and layout is integral to your success, so it helps to have a checklist. You can opt for a DIY approach and build your own internal team, or you can outsource your digital marketing to pros who know the platform.

Either way, deciding on your goals and tracking their success can help you best manage your outcomes. Here are some things that should be on your list:

  • Product descriptions with information vital to the buyer, including specifications for technology, cut and fit information for apparel, and other similar details
  • A narrative description connecting your brand and a small group of keywords to the product specifications
  • Selected keywords for the product page metadata
  • Quotes from editorial reviews, if applicable — often relevant for books and other media
  • A product title that’s accurate, descriptive, and thorough
  • Bullet points that will appear at the top of your product listing to highlight the most important item details and features in a skimmable way

While Amazon restricts the number of keywords you can include in a product listing’s metadata, you can use other keywords in your product description, and the algorithm will identify and weigh them accordingly. This is a great way to leverage multiple terms while giving extra support to your highest priority selections.

Select a format

There’s no one-size-fits-all method to Amazon Advertising, and new products are introduced regularly. Because of this, it’s wise to keep an eye on the site’s advertiser information to stay in the know about feature updates and developments.

These are the major sponsored ad categories you can choose from when setting up a campaign. It’s a good idea to experiment with them since it’s hard to predict which format will reach your audience best for a given product.

  • Product display ads work by selecting other products or keyword-related interest themes to seed your product as a recommended product or similar option.
  • Brand ads display as banner ads in search results for selected keywords, similar to the mechanism for Google Ads.
  • Product ads appear within the search results for selected keywords as promoted results relevant to the person’s search.
  • Brands videos are a new cost-per-click ad type that auto-plays a video while also showing an image, description, and link to the product below it.
  • Lockscreen ads allow you to target your audience with ads for ebooks they may be interested in reading.

As you can see, your choice of keyword is vital to your success on the platform. Even with product display ads, identifying the right interest or theme is important, and on-target keywords can help with that, too.

Again, it helps to run test campaigns in each format to figure out which one delivers the best return for a particular product, and to see if using a few ad campaigns together provides even better results.

Pro tip: Amazon recently released new product targeting capabilities for U.S. sellers leveraging sponsored display ads. This beta feature allows you to target shoppers actively browsing similar or complementary products and categories to yours.

amazon dog bowl sponsored ad results

Take advantage of the available features

Amazon is consistently updating and expanding its ad features. At the end of 2018, they began offering portfolios for sponsored campaigns to silo and organize campaigns. For keywords, Sponsored Brands broad match can now use “modifiers +” to ensure the word is in the search, rather than pure broad match that can match with related words or phrases.

More recently, they rolled out ad groups for Amazon Advertising vendors. This gives you the ability to further organize and efficiently structure your campaigns. (It was originally only available in the Seller Central platform.) 

Decide on sponsored brands vs. sponsored products

A sponsored brand campaign can be effective for more general or broad keywords. These campaigns also let you show an array of products instead of a single item. For example: If someone searches for “running shoes,” you can show several of your best-selling sneakers to give the user more options and highlight variety. 

Sponsored products, on the other hand, will show a single product. These ads are great for more specific searches. If someone is looking for “women’s minimalist trail running shoes,” you can show a more specific product than you would in the previous example. 

Conduct keyword research

The research you put into appropriate keywords is the key to getting the returns you want out of Amazon Advertising. You can do manual research by plugging words into Amazon’s search bar and seeing when you find products similar to your own (though it can get time-consuming). 

You can also make use of negative keywords. Look through your Search Term report for negative keywords to prevent irrelevant traffic, which results in wasted clicks and spend.

Amazon offers its own marketing tools to assist new advertisers, which can give you some starter keyword recommendations. These aren’t always right for your product, but they can be a place to begin testing.

Pro tip: You can send traffic from other sources (such as social media, email marketing, or your main website) to one of your Amazon store pages and make use of tags to see the performance of these sources. 

hawksem blog: amazon ads

Have a thoughtful bidding strategy

Outside of your main bids on keywords or ad groups for automatic targeting, you have the ability to adjust bids on placements where your ad shows. For automatic targeting, you can bid on targeting groups. 

When it comes to deciding between manual and automatic bidding, we’ve found that manual targeting is the best way to control what your ad shows for as you put in keywords with match types and bids. You can run manual targeting with more budget focus in tandem with an automatic campaign with less budget focus — the campaign can help you discover new keywords to strengthen your manual targeting. 

The takeaway

Using Amazon as a marketplace and order fulfillment hub is a great opportunity for businesses of all sizes, but it’s not a guaranteed road to riches. 

You’ll need a good strategy and determination to play the long game to get the results you want. Follow the steps above to create Amazon ads that shoppers can’t help but notice.

This article has been updated and was originally published in September 2019.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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