In lots of cases, advertisement and other marketing are risky business, particularly for e-commerce brands. There’s no guarantee that your spent dollars will translate into new customers or an increase in purchases. To their credit, the people behind Amazon have built their pay-per-click (PPC) program into a proven, affordable solution for e-commerce brands who want to expand.
For those just starting out on their PPC journey, however, it can be difficult to watch your hard-earned money go into the system without seeing solid results.
We hear these questions all the time: How long do I have to wait before starting to see a return on investment (ROI)? What’s making it take so long? Is there anything I can do about it right now?
There are two types of people who ask these questions. The first is a brand-new PPC advertiser who’s looking for a timeline for ROI. The second is the one who’s run advertisements in the past but has yet to see the desired results. Some of the variables are different in these two situations but there's a lot of common ground into where these brands can look when beginning a campaign or working to make it stronger.
1. Where to begin
Starting a PPC account from scratch might seem like a monumental and difficult task, but there are some practical best practices to get you off on the right foot.
A. First and foremost, think about your goals—are you looking for greater brand awareness, a greater sales volume, or both? This will help dictate how much you want to allocate for your daily budget, as well as help you map out a timeline for when you’re aiming to achieve that ROI.
B. Keywords are critical as well—doing proper research before beginning a campaign is crucial. Amazon itself will help you with keyword suggestions, but those are often not necessarily relevant to your product. Other online tools can help with research as well, and you might want to dip into some of your existing analytics for ideas like finding out what search queries are bringing customers to your site right now.
C. Beyond that, put some thought into whether or not you have high competition in your particular market or niche. If so, and if you’re also a relatively new brand, you might have to set different expectations compared to an established brand.
2. What to look for in your listings
If you’re already engaged in a PPC campaign, you’ll want to make sure your product listings are optimized. For brands new to PPC, these steps certainly won’t hurt either.
A. Make sure that your product is in the right category—if not, Amazon will place your advertisements when customers aren’t looking for that item.
B. Make sure that you created parent-child SKU branching in the right direction. When you put many relevant products together (such as different colors/sizes of a given shoe), the reviews for all the children are compiled together, which will improve your organic position in search results. Plus, customers will be happy to see they have lots of options.
Note: We’ve found a great deal of success in creating one parent category with a number of relevant products beneath it. By placing multiple relevant products under one parent, reviews are compiled together across all your variants, which will help you strengthen your positioning in search results. In addition, it’s powerful when someone clicks on a specific variant of your product and discovers that more options are available.
C. Optimize your product copy for the keywords you’re advertising against. These keywords should be present in both the title and product description. Backend keywords can help as well—don’t forget to enter relevant keywords discovered during your previous research.
3. The value of automatic campaigns
Once you’ve shored-up your product listing and have 1) a daily budget, 2) reasonable expectations about your ROI potential, you’re ready to start campaigning. We highly recommend creating automatic campaigns to begin with, because they feature automatic targeting and deliver valuable information to you based on the search queries that come up. From here, you can harvest both converting keywords and negative keywords that could be used to narrow down the search funnel.
Of course, automatic campaigns come with some minor headaches, most obvious of which is that they offer less control than manual campaigns—you can’t decide who to target, and they start slowly, oftentimes taking two or more weeks to ramp up. If you shut off the campaign before that growth happens, frustrated the ROI isn’t coming sooner, the campaign loses pace and will have to grow from scratch when it’s restarted again.
If you need help setting up automatic campaigns for your brand, request a consultation with our PPC team, here.
4. Shift into manual campaigns later
Once you’re more experienced in creating optimized listings, setting solid budgets, and discovering converting keywords, manual campaigns promise greater amounts of flexibility.
Customers are targeted by three different types of keywords—broad, phrase, and exact—to deliver better potential customers. You can even bid manually on each keyword for maximum flexibility, and negative keywords will help you narrow down the search funnel.
We recommend manual campaigns for more experienced PPC campaigners because there are more variables to go wrong. If you don’t do thorough, detail-oriented keyword research before the campaign begins, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. With irrelevant keywords, you’re spending your hard-earned money on irrelevant traffic that simply won’t convert. It’s also easy to bid too high on specific keywords and overspend for the return you’ll be able to achieve.
All those potential negatives aside, manual campaigns provide the flexibility and opportunity that ambitious brands require to get the most out of their PPC campaigns. Think about it like the difference between an automatic- and manual-transmission car. The former is great when you have your learner’s permit, but the latter is going to be a lot more fun on that windy country road.
5. Have patience!
One our of clients had a few niche food products that weren’t being recognized by Amazon customers. Even relevant keywords weren’t driving the right amount of traffic or generating sales.
To fix that, we created an automatic campaign with a modest daily budget so that we could begin to gather data about the best keywords and what kind of customers they were driving. After two weeks, we started to see positive results and began to harvest that data to further refine backend keywords and product descriptions. We even figured out some new negative keywords based on keywords that were high spending and low converting.
From there, we could branch out to manual campaigns for more refined, long-term success.
Related: If you're struggling with ad campaigns not ranking to their full potential, read this article to learn about the most common factors which may be responsible for slow performant ads.
No matter how you approach PPC campaigning, patience is critical. It might look like nothing is happening for a while, and that you’re throwing away money. Keep in mind that Amazon’s dashboards have a 72-hour delay when displaying sales and revenue, but even then, we typically expect automatic campaigns to take between two weeks and a month to begin growing.
In the case of our client, the campaign actually took two months to mature. During this time, it was important that they stayed calm and patient, knowing that growth would come based on the daily optimization practices that were put in place. As you can see, after two months, the campaign’s success accelerated rapidly.
Too rapidly, in fact. Demand was so high that the client didn’t have enough inventory to cover new sales, forcing us to “slow down” the sales while the client caught up.
Of course, not every PPC campaign will ultimately be “too successful” and leave you out of stock, but it proves the point: with patience and due diligence, and not giving up on the value of your product plus the research you put into your campaign, there’s always hope for that positive ROI.