Sponsored Ads on Amazon – manual vs automatic campaign targeting

Amazon PPC (Pay-Per-Click) or otherwise known as “Amazon Sponsored Advertising” is where you’re bidding for your product to appear when customers search for products in Amazon or on competitor products.

There are three different types of campaigns, sponsored products, sponsored brands and sponsored display. You will only get access to sponsored brands and display if you are brand registered. We’re just going to focus on sponsored products here because that’s the biggest driver of sales. Also, everyone has access to them and they are the only ad type with the automatic targeting option.

Sponsored products have two different major targeting options; automatic or manual. We’ll explain more details, and discuss the pros and cons of each route in this article.

With Cost-Per-Click Ads (a.k.a  “all ads on amazon”), you’re only paying money for the ads that customers click on. If no one clicks on your ad placement, you pay nothing. If lots of irrelevant traffic (i.e. people with no intention of purchasing your product) click on your ad, you pay for each click. So, getting your ad campaign set up properly and matched well to your personal skill level is really important.

As we know, customers search on Amazon using ‘keywords’ and ‘key phrases’. When looking at products, they are also recommended related products (you can appear as a related product too). For each keyword/key phrase that you want to appear under in Amazon search results, you can even control how much you spend to appear for your chosen keyword/s. Read our Amazon PPC bid management article to understand more about how this works.

So, you’re choosing your keywords when setting up Amazon PPC campaigns. You’re also setting how much you want to bid in order to appear under that keyword. For a very specific keyword relating to what you sell, you might want to bid a bit more. With less specific keywords, you might want to bid less.

What’s the difference between Amazon PPC Automatic vs Manual Campaign Management

What is an Amazon Automatic Campaign?

Typically, this is a route that beginners take. It is less effective but it can be ok if you really don’t know where to start.

Amazon will automatically choose your target keywords for you, based on your product category, title, bullet point, description and related customer searches. It’s a fairly intuitive technological route, but not always very accurate. Therefore, you have no control as to which keywords you will appear under in Amazon customer searches.

With automatic campaigns on Amazon, you will be bidding on four big groups of targets; loose match, close match, substitutes and complements. You do this instead of choosing individual keywords. This means all the keywords that fall under close match to your target keywords get the same bid. Even if you appear in the wrong sorts of searches, you are paying the same bid as the right searches. So people still click on your product, resulting in you wasting your budget on irrelevant keywords (i.e. irrelevant audiences to you click on your products and click back off them again).

With automatic Amazon PPC campaigns, your ads will show up on relevant search results and product pages related to what you offer. So it is doing both keyword and product targeting.

What is an Amazon Manual Targeting Campaign?

The manual campaign allows you to choose exactly which keywords you want to target. So, you can choose which customer searches and competitor products you appear in.

You can target three types of keywords: ‘broad’, ‘phrase’, and ‘exact match’ keywords.

There are two different types of product targeting:

  1. Category (so, quite broad like home cleaning products) and;
  2. Individual ASIN’ (e.g. Ecover Multi Surface Dual Spray 500ml)

Each individual target, whether it’s a keyword or product target has its own unique bid. This means you have much greater control over where you spend your money compared to automatic targeting. You can learn more about the different strategies for keyword management in our article here.

Weigh-up the pros and cons of automatic vs manual Amazon sponsored campaigns:

  • As a singular, long-term way to do marketing on Amazon, automatic campaigns are generally inefficient. So, they are very costly in comparison to how many sales you generate
  • However if you’re not experienced or technologically savvy, manual campaigns could stand to lose you significant budget if you don’t do regular account management through incorrect targeting and bidding. Consumer searches and trends change often – so do keywords!
  • Automatic can be great to find which keywords are the best performing, so to start your strategic work with automatic bidding can be helpful for a short-term period
  • Then, finessing your keywords and keeping only the high-performing keywords is how you start the beginnings of manually controlling your campaigns

Is there a ‘best’ route?

In general, it’s not advisable to just place your bids on your well-performing keywords and leave it there. A keyword’s effectiveness can change as often as consumer trends do! So if demand increases for other keywords, you could be missing out on new keywords. If demand decreases, your high bid on previously top-performing keywords could start to decrease your profitability. The key is to regularly analyse your data and update your campaigns accordingly.

There are many factors that influence how much you bid (more on Amazon bid management here), how you should strategise and how you should run your campaigns. Factors such as:

  • Your time available
  • Your appetite to learn and ‘do the work’ yourself
  • How much you might be losing in sales by not having a professional run these campaigns for you (think, if your sales dramatically increase that could pay for the professional services and still leave you in great profit!)
  • The life stage of your brand and business – are you well known in the market, do customers search for your brand and products by brand name or are you further down the brand awareness funnel?
  • How competitive is your industry and how competitive are the keywords for your products. So, is everyone bidding high amounts for your product category? Perhaps you need to think outside of the box with your keyword research to keep costs down

Professional Amazon PPC Management firms like ours will take all of the above into consideration when on-boarding you and setting up your campaigns. We run regular performance reports that are shared with you regularly, and we optimise and increase your profitability.

This is the great thing about Amazon PPC (Amazon Sponsored Products). The success and failures of campaigns are evident very early on. The numbers don’t lie, so there’s high transparency when reviewing your campaigns performance. It also means the chance of your campaign performing very well when it’s being optimised properly – is very high.

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