In September 2018, Amazon made changes to the way you set up your AMS Sponsored Product ad campaigns. This is due to the fact that AMS (Amazon Marketing Services) has now become a part of the merged Amazon Advertising. New tools have been added for customizing Sponsored Product ads which include more keyword matches, bid guidance for keywords, Bid+ for top of search results and negative keywords. There are some things in the new ad creation interface that are better, in my opinion, but there is also a concern that Amazon Ads could become more costly and less effective.
Up until now, AMS ads were one of the ways that self-published authors could get their books in front on Amazon readers for a relatively small fee. Instead of a previously recommended $0.25 CPC (cost-per-click) bid, that amount has been raised to $0.75 making it more difficult to run a profitable campaign. They’ve also introduced a Bid+ option to the Sponsored Product ads. Bid+ allows advertisers to automatically increase their bid by 50% when an ad is eligible for top placement. With the raised prices and increased competition, self-published authors may now struggle to make their Amazon ads profitable. It will require some updates, keeping a closer eye on ads and possibly raising your ebook prices to run profitable ads.
You can access Amazon Advertising at advertising.amazon.com using your KDP log-in. Amazon Advertising through KDP for authors is available in two formats: Sponsored Products and Product Display Ads. These are (CPC) cost-per-click ads, so you pay only when someone clicks on your ad and you control your campaign budget.
Sponsored Products promote your book using keywords to target customers searching for items similar to yours. The ads can appear in search results and look much like regular product listings except that they have a small gray “sponsored” label. They also appear on other similar book pages under the “Sponsored products related to this item” section and on the checkout page when someone buys a related book. You’ll only pay for the ad when a customer clicks on your ad which takes them to your regular Amazon book page. It’s then up to them whether they decide to buy your book or not. Where your book will show up depends on the keywords you enter into your ad. The more popular the keyword, the more expensive your CPC bid will be.
Product Display Ads deliver relevant ads to shoppers who are viewing specific products by interest, related products or categories. They look more like ads and are there to try and sway customers away from buying another product and buying yours instead or along with the product they are viewing. They can appear on Amazon sites, apps, devices, and third-party sites.
In this post, I’m going to be focusing on Sponsored Product ads as I think this is the best place for self-published authors to start.
How to Create a Sponsored Product Amazon Advertising Campaign
Login to KDP and on your Bookshelf, click on PROMOTE AND ADVERTISE next to the book title that you want to set up an ad campaign for. On the next page, click on CREATE AN AD CAMPAIGN on the right hand side. This will take you to advertising.amazon.com. Here you will click CONTINUE under Sponsored Products.
(1) Choose a campaign name such as the title of your book and the date.
(2) Choose the start and end date. I recommend leaving the default as the current start date and no end date so that your campaign will run continuously because if it is doing well, you don’t want it to end! However, please remember to check your campaign regularly as otherwise you could wake up one day and have spent a fortune without realizing it. You can pause or terminate ads at any time.
(3) Enter your daily budget. Your daily budget is the amount you are willing to spend on a campaign averaged over a month. But don’t worry, you won’t always reach your daily budget. I recommend starting with a daily budget of $5-$10. You can always change your daily budget later.
(4) Targeting – I recommend choosing Manual Targeting. This means that you will be entering your own keywords.
(5) Ad Format – Choose Custom Text Ad. This means that you will enter custom text for your ad.
(6) Products – choose the ebook you want to advertise.
(7) Default Keyword Bid – this now shows up as $0.75. But instead start with a lower default bid of around $0.35 or something just above what is recommended in the suggested bid range below in gray text. Your CPC bid is the highest amount you are willing to pay when your ad is clicked.
(8) Bid+ – decide whether you would like to pay an extra up to 50% on your bids to show up in the top of search results where possible. If you are new to ads, then this might not be a good option for you until you are more familiar with how your ads are doing.
(9) Keywords – Start by adding any keywords from the suggested list that you feel are relevant to your book and then you will select ‘Enter Keywords’ which is where you will add your own list of keywords.
At this point I recommend clicking on SAVE AS DRAFT at the bottom of the page while you do your own keyword research.
Choosing Keywords for Amazon Advertising Campaigns
Start by opening a document to save all your keywords; I use an Excel spreadsheet. You want to aim for 100 keywords per campaign, but up to 300 if possible. The limit is 1000 keywords. The keywords you want to use are search terms that are relevant to the content of your book. Put yourself in the shoes of a reader. What phrases might your target audience type into the Amazon search bar to find books they are looking for? Think about how you would describe your book and think of some of the keyword phrases that are relevant to your book. Other terms that are good for keywords are related book titles and authors. The keywords you choose must be relevant to the advertised book in your campaign. If Amazon determines that a keyword is not relevant, then your ads will not receive impressions when customers search for that keyword.
Write down a list of keywords and phrases you can think of, however, these are not necessarily Amazon search terms. You want to find popular and competitive keywords that are currently being searched for by readers on Amazon. To find keywords that are specific to Amazon, starting typing your ideas into the Amazon search bar. Amazon will auto complete phrases so you will be able to see what others are searching for and find relevant keywords in this manner. Copy all the relevant keyword search term results into your Excel sheet. Another tool for finding Amazon keyword phrases is this free Keyword Tool. You can search for any keyword and it will give you a list of related Amazon keyword phrases. Copy all the relevant ones into your document. Finally, look for a list of popular search terms from related book titles and authors. A handy way to find these is by looking in the Also Bought sections on other popular related books. You can also look at the Top 20 books in your relevant categories.
Once you have at least 100 keywords, you’re ready to continue setting up your Sponsored Product Ad Campaign. Go back to the Keyword section and select ‘Enter Keywords’. You can just paste in all your keywords into this section, one underneath the other and then ‘Add keywords’.
You will note that in the new ad creation interface, you also have the option to choose Broad, Phrase, or Exact. The Broad setting means that your ad will show up if a customer searches for your specific keyword or any variation of it. I recommend choosing the Broad option for all your keywords to start with. The Phrase setting is similar to Broad, but also allows additional words before or after. The Exact setting is exactly the keyword you added as well as very close variations.
Now comes the interesting part. In the new interface, you have the option to see what the average CPC bid range is for each individual keyword that you have chosen. I usually run through this list and look for keywords where the suggested bid is higher than my default bid, and then consider how important this keyword is to my campaign and decide on which keywords I will raise the bid for individually. It’s important to note that you will never again see the average bid range for keywords after you have launched your campaign. You might therefore want to make a copy of these to help you to manage your campaign later on. Another thing you can do if you want to see these again is to set up a duplicate draft campaign and in that way, you can see them again should you need to change your bids later on.
A note on bids – The higher your bid, the more you will win against other ads. It’s similar to an auction where you are competing for the same placement with other authors running campaigns on the same keywords. Setting a higher bid doesn’t mean that you will pay that amount, that is just what you are willing to pay if needs be. Setting higher bids will cost you more, so be careful not to go too high originally. You can always change bid amounts after a campaign is launched.
Negative keywords are those that will prevent your ads from displaying when a certain term is searched, which can reduce your advertising costs. I always recommend adding your book title as a ‘Negative Exact’ option. This way, if someone searches your book title (where your book would come up in a search anyway), you don’t pay for unnecessary clicks on a sponsored ad.
The last step of setting up your Sponsored Product Amazon ad is to write a short ad copy. You only get 150 characters so it needs to be catchy, short and sweet. You cannot change this after your ad is launched, so think carefully about it before launching your ad! Something important to note here is that Amazon will reject ads with grammatical errors, unsubstantiated claims (e.g., #1 Bestseller) or excessive punctuation. So avoid things like !! or – -, for example.
CONGRATULATIONS, you are now ready to do a final check and then click on LAUNCH CAMPAIGN.
Your ads should start displaying within a day or two after launching them and being approved and at that point, you’ll start to see some metrics in your campaign manager. It is very important to check these regularly or you could end up unexpectedly losing lots of money! There are several metrics you will see in your Campaign Manager such as Impressions, Clicks, aCPC (average cost-per-click), Spend, Est. Total Sales, and ACoS. Your Average Cost of Sales (ACoS) calculates the total cost of advertising divided by the number of sales generated. You never want to see an ACoS of over 70% as this means you are certainly losing money on your ads. You want your ACoS to be as low as possible which indicates that you are making money on your ads. There are several things to take into account here. Your total sales are not profit as you need to work out your royalties (what you actually make per book sale). Also, although clicks and impressions are reported regularly, sales can take a few days to show up, so your ACoS is not always accurate to date.
If you find that your listing is not performing as well as desired, start experimenting. Try a new book price, add new keywords, change your bids etc. You might also want to pause individual keywords that are costing you money, but not translating into sales. If some keywords are not getting impressions, it might be that the keyword’s CPC bid is too low to be winning any bids. Keep in mind that the most popular keywords likely have above average CPC. When you make changes, be patient, it can take a few days to see any changes.
There are no daily stats so you cannot compare daily metrics. I therefore recommend keeping notes, or taking screenshots so that you can compare your stats from one day or week to the next.
Lastly, I have found that there are some books that Amazon ads just don’t work for, no matter what you do. If you find this is the case with one of your books, then it’s best to try to market that book in another way.