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Amazon Ads: Basics & Basics simply explained

In order to successfully run Amazon Sponsored Products campaigns, one must understand the basic control elements. You can only use them optimally if you know how they work, what their advantages and disadvantages are and what they are used for.

In this article we therefore clearly explain the most important control elements of Sponsored Products:

  • Search terms vs. keywords
  • Campaign types
  • Keyword Match Types
  • Negative keywords

CPC bids and their control are explained separately in a following article.

Search terms vs. keywords

In short, search terms are what the customer enters and keywords are the terms on which one bids as a dealer.

Sponsored products ads are displayed when a customer uses the Amazon search (either in the search result or later on the product detail page). The terms that the customer uses in the Amazon search are the so-called "search terms". Dealers can specify the search terms for which they want to appear with an advertisement. To do this, the dealers define “keywords” on which they place a bid for the price per click. If the customer's search term matches the retailer's keyword sufficiently, then the advertisement can be displayed.

It is important to understand that search terms and keywords do not always have to be the same. This may sound strange at first - after all, as a retailer, you bid on a keyword and then appear there when a customer searches for it - but it makes perfect sense that keywords and search terms can also differ. For example, if the customer makes an input error and enters "wallet" instead of "wallet", Amazon will still display the ad if a retailer bids on "wallet". In this case, the keyword is “wallet” and the search term is “wallet”. As a retailer, you can also use the so-called "match types" to influence the level of control yourself. These are explained in the next paragraph.

Match Types - Set ad spread

Match types are used to determine the degree of correspondence between the keyword and the search term so that an advertisement can appear. This can be used to control how many different search terms per keyword an ad can be displayed. There are 3 different match types in which advertisements appear under the following conditions:

  • Wide: Search term contains all components of the keyword in one any sequence
  • Phrase: Search term contains all components of the keyword in the same sequence
  • Exactly: Search term matches the keyword word for word (same order + same components)

Note: If a keyword consists of only 1 word, the match types broad and phrase cover the same search terms, as there is no word order.

In addition, all 3 match types also cover search terms that differ slightly from the keyword, e.g. when differentiated by:

  • Upper / lower case (e.g. "purse" covers from "purse")
  • Singular / plural (e.g. "purse" covers "purses")
  • Umlauts (e.g. "purse" covers "geldboerse" or "geldborse")
  • Slight misspellings (e.g. "wallet" covers from "wallet")
  • Filler words (e.g. "purse" covers "everything for purse")

The following graphic illustrates the spread of the search terms for the 3 different match types using an example:

Advantages and disadvantages of different match types

Basically it is important to understand that there is no such thing as “the best” match type. Instead, each match type has its advantages and disadvantages. The art lies in using the match types correctly according to their advantages and combining them if necessary.

In short, with a broad match type you can cover many search terms with little effort in campaign control, but you have to compromise on precision. More effort is associated with closer match types, but more precise control is possible.

In the following table we have summarized all the advantages and disadvantages of a comparison of the match types wide and exact. The match type phrase is not listed in the table and is positioned between broad and exact. As a slightly weakened version of Breit, it is much closer to Breit than Exakt for all its advantages and disadvantages.

In the following, we have also illustrated the advantages and disadvantages of the match types using an example:

A dealer sells a large, black wallet made of real leather. He has the choice of whether to use keywords with the match type broad or exact to advertise his product.

  • Alternative A: 1 keyword with the match type broad is used
  • Alternative B: Several keywords with the match type Exact are used

Here, too, it becomes clear that when broad keywords (A) are used, fewer overall keywords are required to cover a set of different search terms. The effort for researching and controlling the keywords is therefore less than when using many exact keywords (B). At the same time, the control with broad keywords (A) is also less precise than with exact keywords (B). Search terms that are irrelevant (marked in red) are also covered. For example, the search term “men’s fabric wallet” does not match the product because the wallet is made of leather. If you work with exact keywords (B), you can avoid this by only bidding on suitable keywords. In addition, with broad keywords (A), only one overarching bid can be used for all search terms. With exact keywords (B), the bid can be differentiated depending on costs, conversion rate, etc. in order to get the most out of each keyword.

Negative Keywords - Exclude unwanted search terms

Negative keywords can exclude one or more search terms from being displayed. There are 2 different match types with the following conditions:

  • Negative Exact: Search terms match the negative keyword word for word
  • Negative phrase: Search term contains all components of the negative keyword in the same order

Note: If the negative keyword only consists of 1 word, the match type negative phrase excludes all search terms that contain the keyword, as there is no word order.

Even with negative match types, very similar variants are also excluded, e.g.

  • Upper / lower case (e.g. "purse" excludes "purse")
  • Singular / plural (e.g. "purse" excludes "purses")
  • Umlauts (e.g. "Geldbörse" excludes "Geldboerse" or "Geldborse")
  • Slight misspellings (e.g. "purse" excludes "purse")
  • Filler words (e.g. "purse" excludes "everything for purse")

Negative keywords cannot be added for individual keywords, but can be added for ad groups and campaigns. The exclusion of the search term therefore applies to all advertisements (products) in the respective ad group or campaign.

The following example shows which search terms are excluded by the various negative match types:

With the negative exact keyword “wallet small”, only the exact search term “wallet small” is excluded in this example. If the negative match type phrase is used instead, all search terms that contain the phrase "small wallet" are excluded (e.g. "small wallet", small wallet for men "and" small black wallet "). For example, the search term "money purse men small" is not excluded, as the word order is different here. In order to also exclude this search term, the negative keyword “small” with the match type phrase could be used instead of “wallet small”.

What can negative keywords be used for?

Negative keywords can be used to reduce the costs of advertising campaigns or to control traffic in a targeted manner.

1. Avoid unnecessary costs

In particular with automatic campaigns and keywords with the match types broad or phrase, there may be 1. irrelevant search terms or 2. relevant but permanently too expensive search terms. Negative keywords can be used to exclude these search terms to reduce the cost of the campaign. Negative keywords are therefore a very important tool that can make the difference between a profitable and an unprofitable campaign. For this reason, the search terms of the campaigns should be checked regularly and negative keywords should be used if necessary.

Which match type is suitable for this?

  • Negative Exact: This match type is suitable if you only want to specifically exclude individual search terms. This is the case, for example, when 1. individual search terms are relevant but too costly. 2., for word combinations that are individually relevant, but together irrelevant (e.g. the search term "leather black", for a black leather wallet).
  • Negative phrase: This match type is suitable if you want to exclude all search terms that contain certain words. This is particularly useful when it comes to words that do not match the content of the product (e.g. "red" as a negative phrase on a black wallet).

2. Control traffic

Sometimes it happens that you bid on the same keywords or search terms in different campaigns (e.g. if you have several similar products in your range). In this case, multiple ads from different ad groups and / or campaigns may be eligible for a specific search term. In this case, the impressions are usually distributed across the various campaigns. In order to bundle the impressions on a certain campaign, negative keywords can be used in the other campaign that should not receive any traffic.

Which match type is suitable for this?

  • Negative Exact: If the keyword that is supposed to receive the traffic has the match type Exact
  • Negative phrase: If the keyword we want to get the traffic is match type Phrase or Broad

Campaign types - automatic vs. manual

There are 2 different types of Sponsored Product Campaigns: automatic and manual.

The two campaign types differ in the following points (for an overview, see graphic above):

  • Keywords: In manual campaigns, retailers can specify exactly which search terms their advertisements should appear for by defining a set of keywords. In automatic campaigns, however, Amazon independently decides for which search terms the ads appear. Amazon is based on the keywords contained in the article information (title, bullet points and general keywords).
  • Keyword Match Types: Match types (exact, phrase, broad) can only be used in manual campaigns.
  • Negative keywords: Negative keywords can be set in both automatic and manual campaigns at the ad group or campaign level.
  • Keyword-specific bids: Only in manual campaigns can individual bids be submitted for each keyword in order to optimize costs and sales for each keyword.

Advantages and disadvantages of automatic and manual campaigns

The fundamental difference between the two types of campaigns is that manual campaigns can be controlled much more precisely. In contrast to automatic campaigns, you have the option of narrowing down exactly for which keywords advertisements should appear and which click prices should be offered for the individual keywords. In this way, unnecessary costs due to irrelevant keywords can be better avoided and with relevant keywords a more precise optimization for the best possible profitability is possible. However, more precise control options also mean a greater effort. For manual campaigns, therefore, a higher control effort must generally be planned than for automatic campaigns. Because Amazon selects the keywords in automatic campaigns itself, they can also be used for keyword research.

Combination of both types of campaigns

In order to take advantage of both types of campaigns, they can be combined with one another. The automatic campaign is used for keyword research. New, high-performance keywords that are identified in the automatic campaign can then be transferred to a manual campaign in order to optimize them specifically for the best possible profitability with better control options (match types, keword-specific bids and negative keywords). This strategy combines the best of both worlds.

Amazon Ads Controls: Effort vs. Accuracy

As you can see from this article, the choice of the right match type or campaign type or the decision how intensively to use negative keywords is generally a choice between effort vs. accuracy. Depending on how much time you have and how high your goals are, you should therefore choose the right controls.

Content Marketing Manager at Sellics. I regularly conduct analyzes, experiments and case studies on the topic of Amazon and share them on our blog.