Major Discovery in Amazon Sponsored Ads & How To Use It To Boost Efficiency


On January 1st Amazon released three new features in sponsored products, Dynamic Bidding, Bid Adjustments, and Placements. Among a variety of benefits, these new features led the Viral Launch R&D team to a major discovery. This discovery has resulted in the development of a new PPC bidding/optimization strategy that is driving incredible results for sellers implementing the strategy properly. It’s important to note that this is one of many strategies we use and you can employ, and it really depends on the product and the market as to which one works best.

This post will walk you through the details of this new PPC tactic we’re calling Placement Optimization strategy and how you can begin using Placement Optimization in your PPC campaigns and begin seeing results immediately!

What Are Bid Adjustments & Placements

Performance by Placement

Once in Seller Central, you can click into a campaign and view a new tab titled “Placements.”  This new Placements tab provides insights into your campaign’s performance based on where the ad was displayed at the time. Amazon breaks it down into three placement groups: top of search (first page), rest of search, and product pages (defined below).

Top of Search – The top of search (first page) refers to the sponsored products ads at the top row on the first page of search results.

Rest of Search – Rest of search refers to sponsored products ads shown in the middle or at the bottom of search results, and all sponsored products ads in the second page of search results and beyond.

Product Detail Pages – Product pages refers to sponsored products placements on the product details page, and certain other placements off search results like the add-to-cart page. These ads show in the Sponsored Products Related To section on a listing’s detail page. Ads can show here through keyword targeting campaigns or by setting up product targeting campaigns.

Bid Adjustments by Placement

Bid Adjustments put the control in your hands to allow Amazon to spend above and beyond your set CPC for a specific placement. Amazon allows a number between 0 and 900% as a modifier to your set bid. Amazon does not allow you to set a specific bid amount for each placement, only this bid adjustment.

“For example, if you have set your CPC to $2.00 and Dynamic Bidding – Down Only selected, but set the Bid Adjustment to 50% for “Top of Search”, Amazon will bid up to $3.00 allowing for more positioning in the top sponsored ad results.


We’ll discuss below how to really take advantage of this feature to maximize your ad’s top of search placements.  

Our Mind Blowing Discovery

After looking through the placements report for a number of campaigns we are managing, we noticed some interesting tendencies around how frequently our keyword targeting campaigns (auto campaign, broad/phrase match campaigns, etc.) were showing on product pages. So we aggregated over $1MM in ad spend worth of campaigns to look at what was happening at a wide scale.

Here are the mind blowing stats:

On average ~84% of our newer keyword targeting campaigns are delivering on product pages!

We knew that ASIN targeting campaigns typically have a low click-through rate (CTR%), but this explained why some search terms had incredibly poor CTR%; they were delivering mostly on product pages! Meanwhile, while the clicks were more expensive, conversion rate (Conv.%) was ~60% higher for top of search traffic. It makes sense that a prospective customer is more likely to click into a product at the top of the search results for a given keyword than on a sponsored product showing on a competing product.

What was so mind blowing is that, this whole time advertisers have been turning on / turning off keywords based on their performance (CTR, Conversion, ACOS, etc.) assuming that keywords are / are not relevant based on the aggregated performance. In reality, those keywords we thought our products were not very relevant for, may have performed well for top search, but just happened to be a worse offer on the product pages Amazon decided to show us on.

For example, let’s say you are selling fish oil pills at a higher than average price point with only a handful of reviews. You run campaigns for the keywords “fish oil pills” and “omega 3 pills”. Prior to the insights Amazon’s new Placements feature provided, if the campaign targeting “omega 3 pills” resulted in low CTR, low conversion rate, and a high ACOS, you would assume that customers do not find your product very relevant for “omega 3” related keywords. In reality, there is a chance that Amazon was simply showing your new product with low reviews and a high price, on competitor pages where the competing products had more reviews and a lower price point. It’s very possible that your product was performing well for the “omega 3” keyword, but it was not performing well on the specific competitor listings Amazon chose to show you on.

Put differently, this should challenge everything you know about how relevant your product is for various keywords! There may be plenty of keywords you had passed off as poor performing and less relevant you may find actually perform well in search alone.

Fortunately, you have the opportunity to look at Placement reports for historical campaigns to begin answering some of the questions.

How To Use This Placement Optimization To Boost Efficiency

Within just over a week of releasing this new Placement Optimization strategy, we’ve received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback and case studies on improvements to campaign efficiency and/or overall sales improvements. We want to make sure you have the knowledge to be able to apply it yourself!

The case study below highlights how removing inefficient traffic from product pages allows the traffic to flow through our most profitable placement. By allocating 100% of the budget to top of search, we saw a significant increase in sales and a significant decrease in ACoS!

1/1/19 – 1/7/19

1/21/19 – 1/27/19

In this section we will walk through:

  1. How to Isolate Traffic with Bid Adjustments
  2. How to apply the strategy for maximizing efficiency/sales

How to Isolate Traffic with Bid Adjustments

The R&D team at VL has come up with a quick and simple solution to segment ad traffic across ad campaigns to optimize efficiency across delivery placements.

To set up a campaign that will only deliver for Top of Search ad placements, set a low base bid for the keywords targeted i.e. $0.30.  A high percentage bid modifier can then be applied to Top of Search bid adjustment (ex. 800%). This will keep the bid amount low enough to not deliver in auctions for other placements, while also modifying the bid amount to deliver in the top ad placements only. Example: $0.30 bid with 800% modifier will deliver only at Top of Search placements at $2.40 bid.

WARNING: You should not force all campaigns to target only top of search. You need to follow the data for your own product and make sure it fits within your broader PPC strategy, which we discuss below. Test and analyze the results of each placement before making any decisions!

How to apply the strategy for maximizing efficiency/sales

Step One: Analyze existing campaigns. Consider historic performance, campaign type, match type and campaign objectives. Further, with the release of campaign bidding strategies, Amazon has made it extremely easy to spend more than you intended. It is our recommendation that you do this test initially with Dynamic Bidding – Down Only as your selected bidding strategy. Having an Up & Down bidding strategy selected could result in Amazon spending an additional 100% of your bid on top of your placement multiplier! This could lead to major overspending if left unchecked.

Other situations and scenarios to consider:

  • Since Placements are set for the entire campaign, if you have a lot of keywords in a single campaign, it’s difficult to know which keywords are actually delivering at top of search.
  • Auto campaigns are difficult to control, so a top of search tactic might change the words it’s delivering for and make the historic data you’re basing the decision off of useless for Placement decisions.
  • Lastly, if your campaign is performing well in all ad placements, there is a risk that changing it will disrupt that performance so you might want to instead just increase spend on that campaign.
  • If you are starting a new campaign, it is recommended that you gather data around each placement before setting any bid multipliers. Discover whether or not your product converts well for all placements and then adjust accordingly. To get some initial profitable sales, listen to our Product Targeting podcast where we discuss what can be one of Amazon’s most efficient traffic sources!

Step Two: If a campaign is spending above your target ACOS in one placement (ex. top of search or product pages) while spending below your target ACOS in another placement, then this is an indicator that you should begin isolating traffic away from the inefficient placement. In some instances, top of search is the unprofitable placement, while in other instances, product pages are the unprofitable placement.

If all placements are performing below ACOS, that’s great. You may have an opportunity to scale up your budget and increase your sales!

Step Three: If you have crunched the numbers and decided to focus traffic toward top of search, look at the bid you’ve been delivering at top of search for. Set a bid and bid adjustment to focus on that traffic. For example, the top of search (first page) clicks below have been delivering at an average CPC of $0.95. If you want to isolate traffic, you can do the math. You could set your bid to $1.00 for top of search by setting a bid of $0.13 ($1/800%). By not having a premium on product page placements, your campaign should divert traffic from inefficient product pages and push more impressions and clicks through top of search where you’re more likely to get sales!

If you’ve spent a lot of time and/or money doing Amazon’s PPC, you know there are a few levels between what you try to do and what Amazon delivers; and Placements is no exception. After you change the placements, you need to monitor results very closely to make sure it’s performing at the efficiency and effectiveness you want.

Practices to Avoid While Testing

We recommend everyone go test these new bidding strategies and placement adjustments based on the goals and objectives of their campaigns. When testing these new strategies, there are a few things that you should be sure to avoid…

  • Applying a large bid multiplier to top of search on campaigns that perform well for product page placements. If your campaign is running within desired ACoS and driving a significant amount of sales, it is not advised to interrupt the efficient flow of ad traffic.
  • Testing new bidding strategies such as Dynamic Bidding – Up & Down on a new campaign. Without a significant amount of ad history and data, Amazon will struggle in determining whether or not your ad is likely to convert. Test the impact of this new feature on an existing campaign to fully understand the impact it may have on your Amazon advertising methods.
  • Creating two campaigns with the same keyword set, bids, etc… and testing them against one another using different bidding strategies. Since both campaigns have the same keyword set, they would be competing against one another for the same auctions. Testing in this manner will likely lead to results that do not accurately represent how the campaign is likely to perform in an unbiased testing environment.
  • Recreating an existing campaign with a new bidding Up & Down bidding strategy. By copying the original campaign and creating a new one, you are essentially setting up a brand new ad that Amazon has never seen before. This campaign would have no ad history making it difficult for Amazon to predict the likelihood of a conversion in any given auction.

Conclusion

Adjusting bids by Placement can be a really powerful strategy to change how your campaign delivers. Now that you know what to look for, and how to make the change, you’re ready to go out and dig into your own campaigns. You need to follow the data for your campaigns and make sure that you are making the right decision for your product and campaign. Check your campaign metrics regularly and Follow The Data!

Comments

comments

4 Comments

  1. John said:

    I posted in depth questions about this in the data hunters FB group being a little critical because it has not worked like this imo since our adjustments. Was considering hire VL to help with it based on a candid reply. No reply whatsoever.

    January 28, 2019
    Reply
    • Hey John, our apologies but we’re not quite sure where you message in data hunters is. If you wouldn’t mind sending your questions to service@viral-launch someone will definitely be able to answer them!

      January 29, 2019
      Reply
  2. Amanda said:

    Thanks for the info. Is there any way that you’ve found to target rest of search, avoiding product pages?

    April 17, 2019
    Reply
    • Hey Amanda, that’s a great question and one we put a lot of thought into! Unfortunately, no, it doesn’t seem that there’s a way to isolate rest of search traffic. The best option for you if rest of search is your best performing placement would be to remove any placement modifiers you have on either product pages or top of search. Then optimize your bid for rest of search based on the CPC you’ve historically delivered at in that placement. You will still likely deliver on some product pages with this setup, but for now, there isn’t a workaround for rest of search delivery isolation. Thanks for your question!

      April 18, 2019
      Reply

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