The Amazon Sponsored Products Guide for 2018

For Amazon, Sponsored Products represent the flagship PPC ad type and one of the most prominent tools for brands to boost the presence of their products on the Amazon Marketplace. It’s an excellent tool for brands to drive up their sales for both new and already existing products.  

With Sponsored Products, you can build ad campaigns to launch new products or improve the discoverability of your existing products. There are two campaign options: Automatic campaign and Manual campaign. The automatic campaign option has Amazon targeting ads to all relevant customer searches based on product information and overall data. The manual campaign allows brands to manually set keyword options for their targeted ad campaigns. 


In 2017, we saw some really significant changes to Amazon’s Sponsored Products which we definitely need to take into consideration for 2018. Most important, Headline Search Ads were made available on SC! Previously, these were only available on VC. Along with that, more and more ambitious brands and sellers have joined Amazon and this will be the case for the following years too. This has led to an increased competition on the Amazon Marketplace and there may be a slight increase in the cost of PPC rates in 2018. Increased competition and higher keyword bids will affect your click-through rates, in fact, lower your overall clicks. As a result, advertising is becoming the single most factor to stay ahead of the game. 

Here are a general guide and some of the best practices to make the most of Amazon’s Sponsored Products in 2018:


Increased competition is going to compel you to fight with your bids against both new and established brands. You need to work on your keywords and bid on the most relevant search query to improve your click-through rates. 

Basically, click-through rates are the percentage of people who click the ad when they see it. For the most part, this is connected to your relevancy to that customer’s search query. For this purpose, even if you use an advertising tool to see which of your keywords have higher volume, you will not necessarily know which of your keywords will give you the better click-through rates. However, you can run a ‘reverse ASIN search’ for your own products and check for which customer search terms you are relevant for and your ranking as per relevancy on the first page.

You can do this prior to running your own keywords to measure the click through rates and also prior to weeding out the keywords which have lower click-through rates. This step will always replicate the customer search terms that your products are relevant for. Bidding on these keywords will most certainly give you higher click-through rates compared to any other keywords you might be bidding on. 


To simplify it, this is a twofold approach. First, figure out which keywords you are organically ranking for, that is, the keywords which will most certainly have higher click-through rates than any other keywords for you. Second, analyze, on a weekly basis, the search terms that your campaign is running to decide which has the highest click-through rates giving you the keywords to focus on.

Keyword research and harvesting were important for PPC in 2008 and it will be as important for PPC in 2018! As a result, looking at high volume keywords, stealing keywords from your competitor listings, and generating high-quality keywords backend strings for your products will be as crucial for your success in 2018 as much as it has been so far. One of the most important takeaways will be not to skip this step. You may feel that you have your listings optimized, and in most cases they really are! However, working on your keyword research in parallel to running your auto campaigns is a very important practice to ensure your ad campaign’s success. It will also make a great deal of difference when you start working with manual campaigns. 


Auto and Manual Campaigns


While launching campaigns on Amazon, it is best to start with Auto campaigns. It allows you to better understand how Amazon sees your products and which audiences it thinks are suitable for you. Additionally, while making a move to manual campaigns, it’s not necessary to shut down the auto ones. If the auto campaign is profitable to you, leave it running. 

The best way to ensure your manual campaigns are getting more attention compared to your auto ones would be to bid higher on those keywords than the auto campaigns. Week by week the auto campaign will provide you with additional customer search terms and you can use these keywords to improve your results on the manual campaign. This will help you to focus on conversions more with your manual campaigns. At the same time, it will allow you to use the auto campaigns to generate high-quality customer search terms, on a weekly basis, to transfer to your manual campaigns. 


Search Term Reports

Search Term Reports on the Sponsored Products dashboard gives you a great deal of insight into how your keywords are working and how it’s helping brands. It gives you valuable information about the terms that should be focused more on. Looking at Search Term Reports at least once a week will help figure out which of the terms convert and which don’t. It will also help decide what needs to be added as a keyword in the manual campaigns and what needs to be removed.

Another best practice for 2018 would be to include a single SKU per ad group to make working with the Search Term Report much easier and faster. Even though it doesn’t show the ASINs, once you navigate to the ad group level and see how much you have spent and sold with that ad group, you can easily make the connection between that ad group and the ASIN included there. You can include one ASIN per ad group to save time throughout the year looking at the search terms and analyzing the impact advertising has had. 

The Search Term Report is your friend! You must use it to learn about customer search habits that are bringing them to your products. It is crucial to really leverage that while looking at your product page as well. 

Search Term Report.png


Ad groups

Another step to help evaluate search terms even faster would be to create different ad groups per keyword match type you have available. This will be the broad, phrase, and exact match and will be in addition to the single SKU per ad group. Basically, if you are navigating within a campaign which is promoting a single SKU, you will have three groups and each of them will include the same SKU and only that one. Furthermore, each of these groups would have a broad phrase and exact match types within them. As soon as you navigate to the ad group level, this will ensure which is the match type that works better for your account. The rule of thumb is that it will be the exact match types if you identify the keywords which really work well for you, however, that’s not always the case! Therefore, finding ways to evaluate search terms fasters is always beneficial.



To look forward to in 2018…

While there haven’t been any changes to the manual part of Sponsored Products ad campaigns, there has been an update in the auto campaigns in the latter end of 2017. However, it was only available for a few days and removed later. Having said that, it’s definitely a sign that it may be coming in 2018! 


This new addition was the availability, a check-box, to ensure your ad campaigns are getting displayed outside of Amazon to its partner network such as the affiliated websites of Amazon. It would be a change where you get to have your ad campaign displaying on Amazon and an additional campaign with the same settings displaying on the partner network as well. You would get to see which one of these would bring in more sales and a better return on investments. This feature was available on SC’s Sponsored Products, however, there isn’t any feedback since it has been removed. It may be coming in 2018 and we need to be ready to take full advantage of it!

This feature would be great for all brands and especially for those who are looking to launch on Amazon or those who haven’t had an active presence in the past on the Amazon Marketplace but are looking to kickstart things. Since we are also seeing an increased number of sellers on Amazon, it’s getting a lot more competitive for brands who are not so active to build momentum against brands that already have a lot of reviews and mature ad campaigns with better performance. This new feature of reaching out to customers outside of Amazon will give a lot more opportunity to both new and existing brands to boost momentum and sales. 


Final thoughts

While it has become harder for new brands to sell on Amazon now, Amazon is also giving them new and advanced tools to promote themselves. They now have a richer palette of advertising options available to compete against the well-established brands. 

In 2017, we saw several functionalities introduced to SC or moved to SC from VC. These include Headline Search Ads becoming available for 3rd party sellers, which was previously only available on VC, and, having the storefront functionality available on SC which brands can include on their Facebook pages, emails, personal websites, etc. All of these are an absolute plus for brands. As a result, investing considerable time into creating a good storefront will be essential to work on in the next few months. It is important to note that the Storefront functionality is only available to registered brands on Amazon, nevertheless, it is beneficial to brands along with the enhanced brand content.   

These changes also link back to the broader trend, the Vendor vs. Seller model of selling on Amazon. We predicted for 2018 that Amazon would focus more in the Marketplace model rather than the Vendor model because of the higher margins and that they don’t have to provide support for each vendor. As a result, these changes would be Amazon trying to entice more and more brands to sell through SC rather than through VC. 

In 2018, we may also see features from other advertising platforms such as Facebook, AdWords, etc., becoming available on Amazon. These could be features such as geo-targeting, the availability to run your ads on a specific part of the day and basically, changes in the features of the advertising platform to provide brands with more freedom and flexibility of when and where their advertisements will be displayed. The changes would be driven towards providing brands with more control over the display of their ads and the audience it’s being displayed for. The flexibility of sponsored ads and more integration of customer data for keyword harvesting will be essential for Amazon to get and retain serious brands in light of increasing competition in the Amazon Marketplace. 

This sophistication of the platform is essential as it’s evident that more brands are recognizing that over half of the product searches online originate on Amazon. Today, brands cannot afford not to be on Amazon and there is a lot of budget allotment for advertisements in favor of Amazon compared to Facebook, AdWords or even Google shopping. While Amazon ‘Retail Analytics Premium’ was improved on VC, we are yet to see improved reporting on SC. If Amazon can roll out new and improved features to a point that brands on Amazon can advertise at different points of the day, have  a better look-back period and increased functionality of placements overall, Amazon will continue to steal ad dollars away from these other sophisticated advertising platforms. Amazon may also come through with better reporting in terms of providing performance data according to search result placement. This data will allow brands to understand where they stand in terms of customer searches and their product relevancy. All these changes and additions will improve the brands’ ability to better target product ads to their audience and further improve customer satisfaction. A sure step to get more customers on Amazon and to get more ad dollars for Amazon! Amazon is the place to be now and it can only go up from here! 


How can Bobsled Marketing help you?

PPC has become even more important since Amazon has taken away the option of incentivized reviews for brands while launching their new products. It has become an integral part of selling on Amazon and in our strategies for launching new products as well as optimizing existing established brands on Amazon. 

With existing brands, we help implement and monitor PPC for them. We ensure that their ad campaigns are efficient and optimized and that there’s no wasted spending or lost opportunities. For new brands, PPC is integral to the launch of their products and it helps bring their products to the customers in their searches. We help ensure that their ad campaigns are bringing their products to the right customers and that the ads are showing up with the right relevance. Again, we monitor that the ad dollars spent are not wasted and that brands are really leveraging their ad campaigns successfully and efficiently.