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Amazon PPC Optimization: 8 Strategies for Growth

During the last 5 years, we’ve worked with over 5000 sellers on Amazon, and the biggest difference between the successful and unsuccessful ones was their understanding of Amazon PPC optimization. 

Organic placements on the first page are decreasing every day now and Amazon has become completely pay-to-play for sellers. But before you invest the big bucks in PPC, you need to learn the right Amazon ads optimization tactics to implement.

8 Amazon PPC Optimization Tactics to Increase Sales

Before we show you the tactics we use, we thought it would be better to help you visualize their effect with a before and after case study.

This is one of the 5000 accounts we’ve worked with. In August of 2022, they had very little sales because of poorly set up PPC campaigns.

Exactly one year later, they were doing a lot better. 

Here are the 8 campaign optimization strategies we used to get there:

1. Target Expansion 

One year ago, there were exactly 291 active targets in this account. Today there are 6494. To really understand how big of a difference that is, we have to look at clicks. 

August 2022: we got 840 clicks.

August 2023, we got 24,499 clicks. 

That’s over 23,650 extra customers seeing our products each month, or almost 30x the visibility.

With that increase in visibility, ad sales exploded and organic traffic also blew up.

Here’s how we achieved this:

Using all Match Types and Targeting Types

6494 targets don’t equal 6494 unique targets. 1 keyword used in broad, phrase, and exact are technically 3 different targets.

Is that cheating the system? Not exactly. Going from targeting a keyword in only 1 match type to targeting it in all 3 can increase clicks and impressions by 30-80%, so step number one of target expansion is duplicating all keywords in all match types.

Now, step number 2 is to make sure you’re using all targeting types. Before we got involved, this seller was only using keyword targeting for his campaigns. After we started working on the account, we introduced ASIN targeting, auto-targeting, and category targeting which increased the total number of targets in the account by 876.

Finding and Adding New Keywords

The second way we increased targets was by adding new keywords to the account.

Here are some of the ways we’ve found those keywords:

Keyword Harvesting

Amazon has an incredibly efficient keyword research tool and it’s called the auto campaign. Using AiHello, you can automatically harvest search terms from the auto campaigns you have set up and insert them directly in manual to increase the number of targets you have.

All you have to do is connect your auto campaigns to the relevant exact, broad, phrase and ASIN targeting campaigns and determine how many conversions a search term needs to be transferred. From there, the system will add dozens, or hundreds of new keywords automatically each month.

This alone has increased the number of targets we have by 1521.

Reverse ASIN Lookup Tools

A reverse ASIN lookup tool allows you to see what keywords your competitors index for, which makes it very useful for keyword research.

All you have to do is input a competitor ASIN, we recommend using at least 5, and the tool will show you between 1000 to 10,000 keywords that they’re ranking for.

Of course, not all of these keywords will be relevant, so we recommend adding filters like “only keywords within a certain rank range” or “Only keywords that include this phrase” and then also manually verifying the accuracy of remaining keywords.

Top Search Terms Report

Amazon provides a list of the top 2.4 million search terms by volume in brand analytics for sellers to look through. 

You can put your own keyword in, like “Castor” in the example above, and see all the search terms that are similar to it and use them for your campaigns.

Search Query Performance Report

The search query performance report shows you the top-performing search terms for your ASINs or brand.

This report is particularly useful because it gives you specific data about your performance on each search term. You can quickly see which search terms you’re doing better or worse than average on and decide what to use accordingly.

2. Accurate Bidding

Another thing that could be greatly improved with the account was its bidding. Previously, the account owner was too busy to really make regular bid changes or decide on a good bid strategy. This caused many poor-performing keywords to continue spending a lot of money and left many good keywords with much lower bids than they needed.

The way to solve this was to implement a regular bidding system that would handle this for them, which could be done either manually or automatically.

Manual Bidding

Manual bidding, as the name suggests, is the process of increasing or decreasing your bids manually on either the ad console or bulk sheets.  

There are multiple ways of doing this but the most common strategies are RPC (revenue per click) and rule-based bidding.

To do either effectively, you need to have an ACoS target in mind, we usually suggest either using your current ACoS as your target if you’re trying to grow sales, or targeting 5% under what you’re currently getting if you’re trying to decrease ad costs.

Once you have an ACoS target in mind, you can implement one of the these two strategies:

RPC Bidding: This is where you multiply your ACoS target with your RPC to find out what your ideal CPC would be. For example, let’s say your target is 30% ACoS and you earn $5/click on a keyword. You should be getting a $1.5 CPC to hit your target (0.3 * 5.0). Of course, a $1.5 CPC doesn’t necessarily equate to a $1.5 bid but that’s a story for another time.

Rule-Based Bidding: This is where you set certain rules for your bids. For example, if ACoS is above X amount, decrease bids by Y amount, and so on. This is more difficult to master, especially for beginner sellers, but can be worth it if you find RPC bidding doesn’t work for you.

Automated Bidding

Automated bidding is essentially the same as manual, in the sense that you’re trying to hit a predetermined ACoS target by adjusting bids. The only difference is that it doesn’t involve you making changes or coming up with your own bidding rules.

The main idea behind automated bidding, is that the seller inputs their ACoS target and the the algorithm adjusts bids every day to get them there.

Behind the scenes, what happens is that the AI develops its own set of rules for each account based on historical data. This makes it more accurate than RPC bidding and more straightforward than manual rule-based bidding.

This is what it looks like inside AiHello. The bid changes above were for a poor-performing keyword and you can see the logic the software used at the bottom to make these changes.

3. Ad Type Expansion

As a general rule, you should aim to have only 85-90% of your ad spend on sponsored products, anything above that signals that you haven’t used the other ad types sufficiently.

When we first started working on the account, exactly $0 per month went into sponsored brands or sponsored display.

Today, we have around 10-11% in sponsored brand ads and another 3% in sponsored display.

Here’s a quick guide on how to use both:

Sponsored Brands

The beauty of sponsored brands is that you can reuse the same exact keywords and ASIN targets that work in SP and get increased visibility on them.

Step 1 of implementing this would be to just download your search term report for the past couple of months and filter for anything that has produced at least 2 orders (you can do 1 order only if you need more targets)

I’d then sort the targets by ASIN, and create at least 7 sponsored brand ads for each ASIN you have. 3 for regular SB (one in each match type), 3 for SB video (also one in each match type), and one product targeting campaign.

From there, just watch the performance and adjust your bids accordingly. You may also have to add negative keywords in because SB tends to show up for broader search terms.

Sponsored Display

Sponsored display is the newest, and most underutilized ad type on Amazon. It usually represents only 0-4% of ad spend for Amazon sellers and around ⅔ sellers don’t use it. 

It’s generally not that big of a deal if you don’t utilize it but it can be useful for remarketing to shoppers who interacted with your listings before.

As you can see in the screenshot above, you have two options for remarketing – view remarketing and purchase remarketing.

View remarketing can be useful to capture some of the visitors who visited your product listings but didn’t buy and then try to convert them into customers.

Purchase remarketing can be used to target existing customers to either upsell them, cross-sell them, or get repeat orders for products you’ve already sold them.

You can select your own look-back window for remarketing and it can generally be 7-90 days, with 30 days being the ‘standard’.

4. Gold Panning Campaigns

A gold panning campaign is an ad strategy where you put a large number of loosely relevant keywords in a broad match campaign and keep them all at very low bids.

The main idea behind it is that you’re casting a very wide net for visibility. So even if the search terms you get for it aren’t super relevant, and you don’t show up that often because of your low bids, you’ll still get enough traffic to make some sales – and oftentimes it will happen at a very low ACoS.

The only downside though is that it’s very hard to gain significant volume using gold panning. In the screenshot above, you can see that we only did about $35,000 in sales between January and September.

It did happen at a 14.42% ACoS though, which means that at the 30% gross margin we had, we did technically net $4750 in profit from this strategy.

5. Catch All Campaigns 

Catch all is another campaign strategy that operates on the same premise as gold panning. Only this time, instead of stuffing broad match keywords in a manual campaign, you’re stuffing all of your ASINs in an auto campaign with low bids. 

Catch-all campaigns tend to have an even lower ACoS than gold panning (usually sub-10%) but it’s more difficult to get a decent sales volume with them.

6. Ranking Campaigns

While having an ACoS target for every campaign is good, it can actually hold you back sometimes.

Sustaining a low ACoS generally means foregoing a high sales volume. And when you decrease your sales volume on a keyword it becomes more difficult to rank for it.

So paradoxically, having a high ACoS on certain keywords can actually lower your TACoS overall by bringing in more organic traffic.

Which is why ranking campaigns exist.

Ranking campaigns are essentially single-keyword, exact-match sponsored product campaigns with higher-than-average bids.

Their main objective is to drive a high amount of traffic to exact search terms that are either already important to you organically, have a conversion advantage, or are almost ranked top 10, but not quite there yet.

This excess ad traffic usually results in a larger sales volume, which signals to Amazon that you’re highly relevant for this keyword and allows you to rank higher.

Pro tip: the best way to check if your rank campaigns are working is to see if your organic sessions are increasing for the ASINs you’re advertising over a 3-month period.

7. Brand Defense

According to Amazon, up to 30% of customers searching for a specific brand end up buying from a competitor instead. 

And even if someone makes it to your product detail page, they might be won over by a competing sponsored product ad at the bottom of your listing.

In short, everyone is out to get your customers. Which is why it’s important to run brand defense ads.

Keyword Brand Defense Ads

Keyword brand defense is essentially targeting your own brand name to prevent any of your competitors from showing up for it.

Here’s an example of when it’s done well. You can see that pretty much all of the top spots are secured by the brand itself.

Here’s an example of it not being done well. The two top positions are taken by competing brands and a video placement that’s right below these two rows has been taken by a competitor.

ASIN Brand Defense Ads

ASIN brand defense is simply setting up sponsored product ASIN targeting campaigns and putting your own ASINs as the targets.

This is another example of the same brand doing a good job at it, you can see that none of the sponsored product placements belong to competitors.

And this is an example of the second brand doing a bad job at it. None of the ASINs shown are sold by the brand itself.

Running proper brand defense ads can increase your sales without costing you too much money. The CPC you get on them will often be lower than usual and your conversion rate will be higher which makes them pretty cost effective.

8. Asymmetric ASINs

Asymmetric ASINs are the first thing I look for in any account. If you’re wondering what they are, they’re a high-revenue ASIN that contributes a much larger % of total sales than total spend.

This means two things:

1. It has a much higher ad efficiency, so it produces more revenue per dollar invested than normal

2. If there’s enough search volume, and the margin is good, I’ll try to shove as much ad spend into it as I can

In the case of this account, 70% of our ad budget goes into only 2 SKUs (they have a 50 SKU account) because the ad efficiency on them is much higher than average.

These SKUs’ sales have grown more than 4x over the past year which helped lift the entire account with them.

Wrapping Up

These are the 8 strategies we used to 15x both sales and spend over the course of a year without increasing ACoS.

If you still feel a bit lost with PPC optimization and you’re not sure what’s the best way to increase sales, let’s book a 20-min consulting session. I’ll share a few Amazon Ads tactics for you to walk away with, regardless of what happens on the call.