The Secret to Amazon Sponsored Ads with Viral Launch Head of Innovation Leo Sgovio (Follow the Data Ep. 23)

The Secret to Amazon Sponsored Ads with Viral Launch Head of Innovation Leo Sgovio (Follow the Data Ep. 23)

Sponsored ads provide sellers with an incredible opportunity to gain exposure to streams of shoppers. But most sellers don’t know how to utilize sponsored ads, spending way more money than they need to for minimal returns. Join host Cameron Yoder as he talks to sponsored ads guru and Viral Launch Head of Innovation, Leo Sgovio, to find out how you can grow your business using Sponsored Ads. 

 

 

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Follow the Data Show Notes

Podcast Transcript

CAMERON YODER:
Sponsored ads provide massive potential for sellers to gain exposure to streams of shoppers, but most sellers don’t know how to utilize sponsored ads, spending way more money than they need to for minimal returns. I’m Cameron Yoder, your host for Follow the Data: Your Journey to Amazon FBA Success. In this show we leverage the data we’ve accumulated at Viral Launch from over 30,000 product launches and our experience working with 6500 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon and, more importantly, for success as an Amazon seller. In today’s episode we sit down with our Head of Innovation, Leo Sgovio, to talk about the best practices for sponsored ads. We’ll talk about how to use sponsored ads to your advantage without breaking the bank so you can put your money towards more important investments for your business. Let’s jump in.

All right, so we’re here today with Leo. Leo, how are you doing today?

LEO SGOVIO:
Amazing, guys. Thank you for having me today on the podcast. I’m really excited.

CAMERON YODER:
For sure. And you’re in Canada right now, right?

LEO SGOVIO:
Yes, I am.

CAMERON YODER:
What’s the weather like?

LEO SGOVIO:
It’s cold in Canada. It’s terrible outside. Actually, it’s not too bad lately. It’s a big plus so I can’t complain.

CAMERON YODER:
Okay, that’s good. Well, just to intro Leo a little bit because he deserves introducing, Leo is a performance-based advertising specialist with expertise in multichannel digital advertising, and he’s the Head of Innovation here at Viral Launch. So he’s worked for over nine years in digital marketing, during which time, during this time he successfully built and managed multimillion dollar traffic acquisition strategies in travel, career, real estate, finance and online retail marketing, including Amazon.com.

So Leo, can you tell us about your past a little bit, just kind of everything that you’ve been involved with because you’ve been – I mean obviously you’ve been involved with a lot. So maybe just expand on the experiences that you’ve had and just briefly kind of what you’ve learned from everything.

LEO SGOVIO:
Yeah, thanks for the introduction, Cam and Casey. So like you said, I’ve been involved in the digital space for a very long time, and that’s really what gives me an advantage when it comes to understanding what the major search engines, including Amazon on the sponsored side of things, does. So I’ve been managing over $6 million, $7 million a year ad spend on both Google AdWords, Bing, Facebook. And so when it came to – when I started selling on Amazon.com I adopted sponsored ads almost from day one because I knew that it was one of the best ways to always drive traffic to my product and always have my product in front of people that were looking for it. So I didn’t use that as a second option when my sales were low, for instance.

And yeah, so going back almost like 10 years ago when, you know, Google was still in its infancy I understood that for them there was an advantage of, obviously, for us as an advertiser it was an advantage on using sponsored ads together with traffic that we were getting organically because there was a field that the search engine obviously looks at it. Okay, they’re making money when you buy traffic from them. And so there is some sort of reward when obviously they see that you are both paying for the traffic through their sponsored programs and as well as, you know, doing well organically. So it’s a win-win situation that works well for the advertiser and the partner you are working with, which in this case would be Amazon.com.

CAMERON YODER:
So how did you initially just even get involved in the SEO space?

LEO SGOVIO:
Yeah, that’s funny actually. When I came to Canada, and I was visiting this country, I was already doing some SEO stuff back in Italy where I’m from, and I got really passionate about it. And I remember and I met one of my family members, and I asked him okay, you need to tell me what’s the hot job right now that is going to make me good money? And he’s like you know you should learn SEO, and a week later I was already Google certified. You know, I had already started all the hoops. And you know I got the certification of Google AdWords, and I was ready to rock it. And then since then I just, you know, kept studying and learning, and this is how I really got into it. But it became a really a passion for me. I would never do anything else right now. I mean I love e-commerce. I love, you know, like understanding traffic sources and generating sales online and all that comes with it. So I’m really happy what I’m doing right now.

CAMERON YODER:
I think your perspective is so valuable, number one, because you’ve been in the space for a really long time, not in just the Amazon space, right, but the Google space as well. So your perspective is very valuable, and it’s a perspective that not a lot of people have, especially in this space. And so I mean we’re talking about – this show is all about Amazon specifically, but there’s value in comparing Amazon to something like Google, especially when it comes to sponsored ads. So can you touch on, just here in the beginning, kind of what the difference is for when it comes to sponsored ads between Amazon, Amazon.com and something like Google?

LEO SGOVIO:
Yeah, so I think it depends on like, you know, what perspective we look at it, right? So for example, in both cases, right, Google AdWords, or Bing, or Facebook, or Amazon sponsored ads, you know we’re familiar with display advertising. You know, format is pretty much the same, as well as, you know, text ads. So if we look at it from a format perspective, then, you know, it’s pretty much similar, right, when it comes to the way we build ads, like starting with a campaign, ad groups, and then, you know, looking it down all the way to keywords.

However, when we look at objectives that’s when things are really a bit different. So for example, on Amazon.com the main goal is to drive sales to your product. And so when you look at Google or Facebook instead there are so many different objectives. You can set it for your goals, for example, or it could be an email capture or, you know, an account creation. Or if you’re an e-commerce store obviously a sale, a purchase. So these platforms are similar in certain ways and completely different in others. So it really depends on how you look at it.

CAMERON YODER:
So really when it comes down to the primary differences Amazon is very focused, right? Like Amazon, the goal of sponsored ads on Amazon is just kind of one; there’s like basically one goal, and it’s to drive sales to your product. At least that’s one of the primary goals, right?

LEO SGOVIO:
Yeah, and that comes, you know, because of the, obviously the intent of the user on the platform. It’s a different kind of intent. When you’re on Google.com you’re, it’s kind of, you’re looking for information. You’re still in the shopping process. You’re looking for something. You’re, you know, gathering information around the web, and then eventually you make your decision. When you go on Amazon.com you’re ready to purchase. You probably already have your credit card on the desk ready to be, you know, typed in – the card, right, the checkout page. So over there you’re going to be really – do your best to make sure that your product is in front of these people. And so sponsored ads help you with that specific goal, right?

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, and that makes sense. People go to Amazon. If you’re searching in Amazon, like the search engine of Amazon, you’re intending to buy something off of Amazon.

LEO SGOVIO:
Correct.

CAMERON YODER:
If you’re searching in Google you’re searching for a large number of different things. It could be to buy something, but it could be just for like, for another piece of information.

LEO SGOVIO:
Correct. And you can see like the conversion rate, for example. It’s a good metric when it comes to, you know, understanding the difference between the two different platforms. Usually an e-commerce site, Shopify or WooCommerce, as a – in a good case scenario, like the average, let’s say, conversion rate is probably like 3%, 4%, sometimes lower, like say in the travel space I’ve seen is 0.8%. And on Amazon I personally aim for at least 25%. So it’s a huge difference there, right? So obviously user intent is, you know, where the conversion rate comes from, right?

CAMERON YODER:
Of course. So okay, in your mind, in your experience using sponsored ads on Amazon specifically, is it – is using sponsored ads more focused on making a profit or gaining something like keyword ranking, or a little bit of both?

LEO SGOVIO:
Well, yeah, I’d say little bit of both. I mean there are different goals that are usually set when I use sponsored ads. The main one is obviously to generate more profit, and I’ll explain that in more detail. Let’s say if I’m just launching a product and want to start generating awareness toward my brand or build sales history, which is very important for a brand-new product, then I don’t care much about profits. As long as I can break even my numbers look good based on the analysis that I’ve done prior to my launch. Then I’m fine with, you know, like breaking even, even losing maybe a few cents, a dollar. But my goal at that point is to generate, to build my sales history so that Amazon, you know, falls in love with my product because eventually it’s going to make money. So once I’m comfortable with these numbers I took the listing first of all to get a good conversion rate. And so when we look at using sponsored ads for rankings, it’s a little bit of a different strategy. But yeah, both – like I use it for both reasons. One is obviously to drive rankings. The other one is for profits.

CAMERON YODER:
So kind of the baseline, bottom-line goal of sponsored ads really, like we said before, is to drive a sale. But in that, that purpose and that primary goal kind of splits into two things. You can use those sponsored ads to either drive a sale or promote keyword ranking, really. Like it’s kind of twofold. So Leo, can you describe for us then, can you even expand a little bit more on advice you’d give when it comes to increasing ranking using sponsored ads?

LEO SGOVIO:
Sure. So the first thing I do when I start with a brand-new product, for instance, is launching ad campaign and set it on automatic targeting, which means that Amazon targets your ads to all relevant customer searches based on your product information. So if my product is in a highly competitive niche, which means that the search volume is high, obviously, I wait let’s say 4 to 7 days and then I download the report that shows me the customer search terms and the keywords that resulted in clicks on my ads.

CAMERON YODER:
You said you do that first, right? That’s like one of the first things you do?

LEO SGOVIO:
I actually, yeah, that’s one of the first things I do because I want to make sure that whatever I’m doing after makes sense, right, like I’m targeting the right keywords. And so at this point I know what consumers are searching for rather than just relying on you know, a guess, or I see how there through other tools. And I first tweak and optimize my listing to ensure that those keywords are included in the key section of my listing. For example, the title, the description, bullet point. This is very important because if I’m targeting something out through a launch, for example, either way or sponsored ads and my listing is not optimized, I don’t think I’m going to get as, you know, results as good as otherwise, right, if my listing was optimized for this keyword.

And so once I make sure that I have the right keywords in the listing I then create campaigns targeting these specific keywords using exact match and phrase match only. Then I look at the report. Usually if I have time I look at the report, you know, on a daily basis, maybe every two days. I just want to make sure that the campaigns are performing well. I look in my [unintelligible], and if it makes sense for me then I keep running these campaigns, or I tweak. So ideally this process lasts about a month, and during this month I try to build campaigns very targeted. So with my experience with, for example, Google AdWords, Google also, when you add a very thin campaign, a campaign, very tight so the name of your campaign, ad groups, what you are targeting in terms of keywords, as well as the ad copy. So I try to use the same practice, same guidelines on Amazon as well. And so I end up with a campaign that only has exact match keywords because those ones are clearly [unintelligible] and usually the CPC is pretty low, and then I go and use one for like phrase, phrases only. And then I keep an eye on this one because obviously it gives me a little bit more insight. It might be that search strengths change, or people are searching for the product in different ways because maybe a press release came out, or someone is advertising the product in a different way, and so people go on Amazon and search for it. So I try and go and discover these new keywords within this report.

But again, it’s very important that, you know, the listing is obviously, you know, it keeps optimizing it so that eventually Amazon grabs these keywords from your listing and ranks your product, especially if you have that automated campaign still running to gather data.

CAMERON YODER:
I think a lot of people get overwhelmed from this whole process. Like they see sponsored ads. If they’re not familiar with SEO they get overwhelmed easily, and then they just throw on an automatic campaign and then just leave that forever because it’s just easy to do. But I really like your process. And correct me if I’m wrong, but there were like maybe like three steps with it, -ish, maybe four. So run the automatic campaign, get the primary keywords, change your listing to match the most, like the best keywords, or at least use that as part of that process, and then run specific kind of targeted sponsored ads and then reevaluate consistently?

LEO SGOVIO:
Correct, correct.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, that’s – and you’ve found that process to be just very effective?

LEO SGOVIO:
It is, yeah. It is. It’s like you said, just four simple steps. Like find, optimize, tweak and scale.

CAMERON YODER:
Yep. And that’s very easy to digest, and I, for our listeners I think that’s so valuable. Again, just to map it out and to make it less complicated, that’s great. So you’ve touched on this already a little bit, but when talking about looking up specific keywords you mentioned using auto campaigns. Again, that was like the first step that you mentioned, but is there any other way or any other thing that you would recommend for sellers to really dig into which keywords they should select to optimize sponsored ads or just there listing in general?

LEO SGOVIO:
Yeah, so this is my perspective on things, but I believe that automatic targeting campaigns are one of the best ways to start because you’re buying data straight from Amazon rather than relying on tools that might not give you accurate results. And so you really see what users are searching, and this is also very good practice when you’re starting a Shopify site or an e-commerce site. Usually you build a campaign in AdWords with a broad match, and you just, well, you’re wasting money. You’re just throwing money outside the window, and that’s fine because you’re just buying data from that source. So it’s the best way to know exactly what people are buying. And so you have now a good set of keywords to go after.

However, if I’m just getting an idea of what people search, I usually – I do these, and I’ve shared with some people a couple of times, and I’m hoping that those that are listening will start adopting this method. What I do, I usually scan my competitor’s listing why I keep this Chrome extension open. It’s called SEOquake. This extension was initially used for, or was an SEO extension, was just, you know, built to understand what the page was optimized for and calculate the keyword density within the page. And so I use this extension to show me what are the keywords that this specific competitor, let’s say the top 50, are going after. So the SEOquake, once I click on a link, sorry, a page analysis, it’s going to show me a list of keywords. And then I can filter by two-keyword phrase, three-keyword phrase, four-keyword phrase [unintelligible] keywords. And it will sort them by keyword frequency. So it’s basically like a density score.

And so it gives me a good overview. It’s like okay, if this user, this seller is optimizing for this keyword it means that it’s probably working for him, right? It’s probably ranking well, and so I should also keep an eye on this keyword. And then what I do, I combine in Excel all the keywords I find using SEOquake, the keywords I have from the automatic targeting campaigns, and then some keywords – I also use the Google keyword tool to get an idea on, you know, what people search on Google because it’s very important considering that these days Google is still the homepage of any website out there, and every search starts on Google. And then my secret weapon, it’s actually the AMS person campaign builder, like the campaign builder, because what I do, the way I use it, I create just a fake campaign. I never launch it. But what you could do there, you just create a new campaign and, you know, ad group and then with AMS you have the option to actually advertise any product, not only yours. And so you can now select a competitor’s product, and Amazon is going to give you suggested keywords based on that product. And I thought that was amazing, right, because I get keywords straight from Amazon without really relying on anything else that I don’t know data.

CAMERON YODER:
So you create a campaign for a competitor’s product, and you don’t start – did you say you start the campaign or you don’t start it, you just –?

LEO SGOVIO:
No, I never start it. I delete it after. I just download the keywords that Amazon is giving me, and then I delete that campaign. I don’t need this. It’s just for me to see okay, this is what Amazon thinks are really good keywords.

CAMERON YODER:
Gotcha. Okay, wow. Shoot, I actually have not heard of that before. That’s great. And you found success from that so far, at least mixing that with other things?

LEO SGOVIO:
Yeah, of course.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, that’s great. And so jumping back to the other tool, the other tool that you mentioned was SEOquake, and I think the principle – I don’t think people are very familiar with the principle of what that’s doing, or at least with the idea behind something like keyword density that you mentioned. So in this case what this is doing, or one aspect of SEOquake with Amazon is it’s pulling – it’s basically kind of a – you put in a search term like fish oil, and then it searches for keyword density, which in this case means which keywords are being used frequently across each listing, right? And then it’s giving you that information.

LEO SGOVIO:
Well, kind of. Like so if you search for fish oil on Amazon, then what you will do, you will click on each one of the results, and once you are on the listing, then you will click on this chrome extension, SEOquake, and then it will analyze that page and give you a result of all the keywords that have been used in that page and score them by, like score them by frequency, right, or density. And so the ones that are obviously at the top, maybe if you look at one keyword phrase or the two keyword phrase you might find words like “buy now” or these things that don’t really matter because they appear on every page. But as you go down to like the third and fourth result, now you see like some pretty cool keywords, like for example fish oil, right? And then you get a 4%, 5% density. So this is now – I don’t want to go off topic, but it’s very super important for SEO, for example, we can have another podcast about it, but what I do usually, I analyze each keyword, each listing, and I see that on average each one is optimizing this listing with a let’s say 4% density, right? And so when I build my listing I try to match that or go a little bit higher so that when the Amazon bots go and crawl my page, consider mine as relevant as theirs, if not more, right? So that’s obviously now going into optimizing listing, but that’s what I use also the tool for.

CAMERON YODER:
Gotcha. And that’s very relevant. I think that’s something that not a lot of people are familiar with, so that’s great. I’m going to switch up topics just a little bit, just to keep things moving. But when it comes to cost, that’s one thing that a lot of sellers ask is oh, how much should I be spending on my sponsored ads, which I’m sure depends a which ads you’re running. But do you have any just general advice on costs that people should be spending or where people should cap themselves at, anything along those lines?

LEO SGOVIO:
Yeah, I actually have a really simple formula that helps to calculate the cost, and obviously it’s focused on ROI. But the formula is pretty simple. What I do, I look at my organic conversion rate. So for example, if my listing is converting at 30%, and then I look at the selling costs, so how much is this product costing me after all the FBA fees and the margin that Amazon is making, the referral fees. So by dividing that, right, by the conversion rate, you get your break even ACoS. So by making the calculation you get, okay, in order to break even my ACoS should be, let’s say, 10%. And so once you have that you know your organic conversion rate and the selling price, now you calculate your recommended default bid.

And now you obviously base your budget on that, right? Like if you cannot afford to spend more than $0.50 because now you’re going to lose money, then go below that. And so I usually calculate that default bid just before starting so I know that, and you know, in this case I’m breaking even. And then I tweak my campaigns as I go. So I launch, you know, like a bunch of different campaigns. The budget is obviously based on how much you can afford to spend. But at least you know that worst-case scenario you’re not losing money; you’re breaking even, unless you’re willing to lose money, for example, doing maybe just a ranking campaign but you don’t care about making money; you just want the product to end up on page 1. And so that’s usually what I do. It’s pretty simple, and I think it would be really beneficial for the listeners.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, that’s really good. And there may not be another answer to this. I just want to kind of jump back to automatic campaigns. So automatic campaigns can be good for finding your initial keyword list, right? But are there any other things that people should use automatic campaigns for, or should they just kind of stay away from them once they get more advanced? Like you said before, it was kind of that first step in your process for optimizing sponsored ads and listing and everything. But is there any other place for automatic campaigns, or not necessarily?

LEO SGOVIO:
So I think the main goal of an automatic campaign is to give you that initial set of keywords, kind of like understanding of what people look for when buying, looking for your product. However, obviously once you get familiar with the sponsored ads and become more experienced with the platform I will suggest to, you know, keep automatic campaigns running with huge budgets. Most likely you’re going to waste a lot out of it but however, I still have some catchall campaigns that I’m usually running on automatic targeting, and those ones, usually what I do, I lower my bid so I won’t be more than let’s say $0.10, $0.15, and they turn out to be pretty profitable, to be honest with you. So yeah, I usually just keep a catchall one after I’m done with, you know, the optimization scaling process, and these ones will just catch everything else that I’m not covering in my targeted ones.

CAMERON YODER:
Yep. So once a campaign is, I guess, successful in your mind, in your eyes, once a product is converted organically for a keyword that you’re targeting through sponsored ads, what generally would you say is the next step, just to kind of lower everything down and keep on going or to just keep an eye on everything? Like where – what is the next step from that point on?

LEO SGOVIO:
Well, if you’ve identified some good profitable campaigns I would scale the budget as much as I could. I mean as long as you are making money I would just feed the beast, right? Traffic on Amazon, like is there. Like people are searching for your product. So why leave that, you know, food on the table for somebody else to eat it? And yeah, like I would still try to look for other low-hanging fruit. So what I usually do, for example, one of my best practices with not only like with sponsored ads I only go and target, for example, my competitors with display ads, right? It does work extremely well for me when I target some related products, not necessarily my competitors. Obviously I get some good results when I target a specific competitor, they’re selling the same product and I know I have better and more reviews than them. So it’s pretty easy to win that customer. But it’s also very profitable for me when I go and look at for example, I’m selling, I don’t know, a face cream and someone is going to buy something related to it, maybe like a face brush or something to like related anyway, but not necessarily my direct competitor. And that works really well for me. There is a tool that shows you, for example, the frequently bought together. It’s called YASIV, y-a-s-i-v.com, yasiv.com. It shows you all the combination of like it’s a graph that pretty much maps all the frequently bought together. And that’s a good way to target your competitors and non with display ads. Those tend to do really well, and what I do is – I’m giving away a tip here as well – I usually target one competitor at a time per campaign. And this way it’s easier for me to see which one is winning, and then I just pause anything that is below like, you know, like 10% ACoS. And like you know, ended up with like 1500 winning campaigns.

CAMERON YODER:
So this is a – I know it’s a relevant question, but it’s a little bit out there, as well. How much time do you think people should be spending on sponsored ads and optimization, just optimizing the ads that they’re running, the campaigns that they’re running or starting new ones? How much time should people be spending on this?

LEO SGOVIO:
I would say obviously at the beginning you need more time than later on when you’re product has really been selling organically. But I would say probably I think a couple of hours a week, like two, three hours a week is plenty. You don’t need to, like the first week just to set everything up, and then maybe the second week, you know, it goes down to two just to, you know, go through the reports and make sure that everything is optimized. Maybe even one hour is enough. It doesn’t take really a long time unless you have, you know, a lot of products. Then it’s a different story. Maybe I will use a service for that. But I wouldn’t, like personally, I don’t spend a lot of time on building and managing campaigns.

CAMERON YODER:
And I guess it takes time. Like you said, it’s going to take more time at the beginning.

LEO SGOVIO:
Of course, yes.

CAMERON YODER:
Especially if you’re not familiar with how sponsored ads work, or SEO, or practices in general, like that. But once you learn all of that, really I’m assuming it just becomes easy to kind of just press play and go and spend a couple hours here and there a week, optimizing everything.

LEO SGOVIO:
Correct, yeah.

CAMERON YODE:
So I mean you’ve given a lot of really cool hacks and tips so far, especially like yasiv.com and the other tool that was called – what was the other tool called, the chrome extension?

LEO SGOVIO:
SEOquake?

CAMERON YODER:
Yes, SEOquake. But are there any other just general hacks, tips or tricks that you would recommend for people when it comes to sponsored ads?

LEO SGOVIO:
With sponsored ads, to be honest, it isn’t – like it’s a straightforward process and platform. So there are no really hacks that you can adopt so that, you know, your sales go up. I mean it really comes down to how smart you are and how, you know, like if you think outside of the box, okay. Really like what I find really effective is the kind of wording I use in my headlines, for example, or my, you know, like display ads. I try to trigger some sort of interest in like, so playing with the customers’ emotion, and then that usually gives me a higher click through rate, which means, you know, lower CPC. And that applies to all the different, apart from including, you know, Facebook, or Google, or Bing, if you play with a good ad run you usually tend to perform much better. What I would suggest as a good tip is to, you know, build different variations of your ad, not only one, because one of them most likely is going to outperform the other ones. And so I think that’s super valuable.

CAMERON YODER:
So essentially split test the ads you’re running?

LEO SGOVIO:
Exactly, yes.

CAMERON YODER:
Well, Leo, thank you so much for being on the show. Thank you so much for everything you do, for all your information. Really, there’s so much value, I think, and in the space that a lot of people get overwhelmed by. Leo, again, thank you so much. Really it was a blast having you on the show.

LEO SGOVIO:
Thank you, guys.

CAMERON YODER:
Well, that is all for this week. Thank you all for joining us on Follow the Data. For more insights and reliable information about how to succeed on Amazon, subscribe to the podcast and also check us out on YouTube. I have a series of product discovery walk-throughs up on our channel that will really help you understand how to leverage the tool. And if you want to check it out, just search “Viral Launch” on YouTube. Go to our page and look for my face. So if you’re listening on iTunes and you like what you hear, don’t forget to leave a review and rate the show. You can also leave feedback on our Facebook page or tweet at us @viral_launch. Use the hashtag #VLFollowtheData.

And if you have a seller friend who you think would appreciate the show, tag them in your post and send them our way. We want to really be a great resource for sellers and the information source in this space. So please tell your friends. Tell your family. Spread the word, and share the show. And thank you all again so much for listening. And as always, if you want to be featured on the show, or if you have an Amazon-related question, or in conjunction with today’s episode, if you have a question for Leo or another idea for an episode, feel free to leave us a voicemail. Our number is 317-721-6590. Until next time, remember, the data is out there.

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