7 Expert Tips on How to Clean Up Your PPC Account and Get it Ready for 2020

With so many new marketing trends on Amazon to prepare for, 2020 is sure to deliver a lot of exciting things to anyone advertising on Amazon.

And if you are an Amazon PPC specialist or business owner who’s in charge of running paid search campaigns or more, it’s a good idea to start the year by cleaning up your account and assess how you drive traffic to your products.

Not sure how to begin?

Here are seven tips from experts on the Pathfinder team that you might want to try when cleaning up your PPC presence.

1. Evaluate Account Structure

First on our list: auditing your account’s structure. Making sure you have implemented a systematic and scalable organizational structure paired with a searchable and clear naming system.

If a PPC campaign strategy is not performing as you wish you want to be able to notice it right away so you can take action to fix the problem as quickly as possible.

With many of the account structures we see when doing audits or starting with new clients, this is not easily accomplished and we have no idea what products are being advertised where. Names are whatever the person responsible for the account at that time thought sounded good and was easy to quickly type!

If any of this sounds familiar It might mean that you have to restructure your account.

Going through your campaigns and carefully considering their structure and coming up with a consistent and useful naming scheme may be taxing, but it’s an effort that you must undertake if you want to maximize returns on your campaigns for the long term. It will end up saving time in the future as you nurture and optimize your advertising.

Think of it as securing the money you’re already investing in promoting your products each and every day.

In general, you want to keep as few SKUs as possible in each ad group. This is thanks to how Amazon’s reporting works. We are given no indication of what search term converted against which product, only how it did in a specific ad group.

To work around this limitation and extract clear data from your account it’s usually best to build distinct ad groups for different colors, sizes, and other such variation differences. This way you can also direct search term traffic specifically to those products ensuring relevance is as close as possible.

For more general keywords that apply equally to all variations you can have several related SKUs in one ad group, but be aware of this limitation.

How to do it:

Download the advertised product report and break it out into a pivot table in Excel to see how SKUs are distributed in the account. Switch between the Advertised SKU being first in the Rows area showing all the campaigns and ad groups it’s contained in, and putting it last so you can see how SKUs are grouped inside each ad group. This will give you a top-level perspective on how the account is currently organized and highlight issues such as too many SKUs being in a single ad group.

2. Audit Negative Keywords

To get your PPC strategy working properly, it’s important that you conduct comprehensive research to find the right keywords that are relevant to your products and niche.

The reverse of that is knowing when and where to use negative keywords.

One reason to create a negative keyword against a search term is that it may have at one point been a contributing part of the account but is no longer meeting the desired ACoS % or exposure goals.

We often see this occur when seasonality plays a factor in the account.

These negative keywords should be periodically reassessed for inclusion back into the mix.

amazon ppc negative keyword tabs

Some negative keywords may have been added by accident in the past year so this is a good time to ensure that you aren’t inadvertently blocking quality traffic and left scratching your head, wondering why you can’t get any impressions on that shiny new keyword you just added last week.

How to do it:

1. Generate and download a Bulk Operations file from inside the Seller Central advertising area.

2. Open it in Excel and navigate to the sponsored product campaigns and sponsored brand Campaign tabs.

3. Enable filters and find the “Match Type” column. Filter by this column to show only those that have negative in their name.
This will quickly allow you to see only the negative keywords in your account.

4. Look to the “Status” column to see if those same negatives are currently active.
They will have the status “enabled” if that’s the case.

5. Examine all of those keywords paying close attention to what campaign and ad group they are associated with.

6. Switch the status to paused if it’s no longer a good idea to have that negative keyword active. You may even consider adding it as a keyword in the same campaign or elsewhere.

Why It Matters:

Apart from finding relevant positive keywords, it’s best practice to determine the negative keywords that you don’t want to be associated with your brand and product line.

This can be accomplished through examining your advertising data and adding negative keywords based on what you find, or by doing research on what keywords you should preemptively set from the start.

This is a routine optimization step that is absolutely necessary but we so often see it omitted when we do account audits.

In a mature advertising account, there should be dozens if not hundreds of distinct Phrase and Exact negative match keywords set in campaigns and ad groups across the account with few exceptions.

This is especially true for Auto campaigns and those that contain more open match types such as Broad.

As of late 2019 we have negative keywords available in Sponsored Brand campaigns so they should also be used there.

You should periodically audit your negative keywords because as the seasons change, the market landscape shifts and your own product listings evolve, some keywords that didn’t work or were not relevant previously now may be so.

For instance a keyword you added as a negative during the Summer might win you sales during the Winter, or now that you have more 5-star reviews your conversion rate has increased enough that bidding on that previously expensive term now wins you a better ACoS % than was previously possible.

3. Check Products Currently Being Advertised

As part of your 2020 PPC audit checklist, you should also go through your product listings, and consider which of them is a good fit for advertising.

At Pathfinder we call well-made listings with strong conversion rates “retail ready” and advise clients to spend on advertising for them.

There are other considerations of course such as inventory levels and seasonality, but if a product is doing well organically it should receive advertising traffic too. 

Depending on what marketplace you’re in, it’s a good idea to lead with promoting your brand using your top-performing and most in-demand products. 

You can check which of your products are receiving ad spend two ways.

One is to download the Sponsored Products Advertised product report, and the other is to use the Brand Dashboard, a recently introduced feature available for businesses with Brand Registry that allows you check which products are receiving ad spend.

Keep in mind that both of these methods only cover Sponsored Product ad spend. If you have a lot of Sponsored Brand campaigns you’ll need to check them manually.

This is where having a good campaign naming system (as mentioned in point number 1) makes things so much easier!

4. Check for New Ad Features That You Can Use

One of the great things about working with an agency that provides Amazon PPC ad services is that they are responsible for keeping up to date with all the new platform developments and testing those in the variety of client accounts they work with in order to determine which are useful.  

These updates when adopted swiftly right after they are introduced can give you a competitive advantage when your products appear in new ad slots and formats your competitors aren’t trying or even aware of.

This first mover advantage can get you great exposure on the cheap.

A good example of this we’ve seen recently are Sponsored Brand Video campaigns. 

If you are managing ads then it falls on you or your team to spend time listening to podcasts, reading blogs, browsing Facebook groups, and comparing notes with others to see what is working. 

At the onset of 2020, investigating new features in advertising can pay off big time.

Here are some that we’ve seen drive sales at great ROI recently:

  • Product attribute targeting by ASIN – now available in both Sponsored Product and Sponsored Brand campaigns.
  • Campaigns built specifically for priority keywords that are then adjusted using the “top of search” bid % increase feature
  • Sponsored Brand campaigns that take advantage of video
  • Sponsored Brand campaigns targeting Store Pages (only if store pages are high quality, we’ll cover that next!)

And here are features that aren’t about building new ad efforts but allow greater refinement to your existing efforts:

  • Using the Search Term Report now available for Sponsored Brands
  • Deploying negative keywords in Sponsored Brand campaigns
  • Use Portfolios to organize your campaigns and allocate budget more carefully

Even if you tested a new feature and had a poor experience, set aside some budget and be willing to test it again later on.

Amazon tends to quickly release features or programs that are in beta or at least feel like they should be in beta!

The good news is they iterate fast and improve things so setting aside some budget allows you to retry and find ways to out-maneuver your competitors who are sticking with the same strategies they’ve used since 2017.

5. Rethink How You Use Your Store Pages

A properly organized Store can mean the difference between a sale or a quick exit from a potential customer, so every business on Amazon should understand the importance of creating visually stunning and user-friendly Stores.

In just the last months of 2019 we’ve seen Stores become a bigger part of the ecosystem on Amazon.

They are a highly desirable place to send advertising traffic because they function as a great landing page free of competitors where you can educate consumers about your brand and products without distraction.

They can also be used with off-Amazon paid and social traffic and paired with a tracking code so you can see what those shoppers actually do.

In every case having a well-organized Store is the key. Some best practices we follow when building them for our clients:

  • Keep navigation clear and concise to ensure customers can quickly find what they are looking for
  • Individual subpages are the best place to send Sponsored Brand traffic so be sure to make them
  • Make the page look as much like Amazon as possible – you may use the same assets like your website but it’s not a website – it’s a sales page that should visually resonate with Amazon
  • Use Store Insights to optimize the layout and redesign when traffic starts to flow
  • Avoid using a basic product grid, provide context and sell instead of just presenting products

By optimizing listings on your store page, you get to make the most of every click that you get from your PPC ads. 

It will also allow you to promote the trustworthiness, quality, and reliability of your brand.

6. Break Out Branded Ad Spend

We recommend that in nearly all cases branded ad spend should be broken out into different campaigns from that of generic or category keywords.

When branded spend is mixed into these same campaigns the data from them causes several problems:

  • Obscures what your actual spend and returns are for keywords which you want to rank for and build a sales history against
  • As Click-thru Rates and Conversions are often high for branded terms it artificially improves the campaigns performance metrics masking poor performing ad groups and keywords
  • Spend that should be allocated to priority keywords is instead spent on branded terms. Budgeting needs are different for branded keywords.

Distinct branded campaigns should capture those searches and consolidate their data in one place.

This will still keep competitor ads off of those branded searches but is able to be finely tuned to keep in line with your spending and exposure goals.

For more information, see also: Why We Help Clients Spend Against Their Brand Name On Amazon

To prevent branded terms from showing up in your campaigns simply add your brands and close variations as negative phrase match keywords and pause any active keywords that are directly bidding on branded terms.

7. Make Use of Videos

By now, you should already understand how important it is to use product descriptions and images to promote what you are selling in your store. 

But apart from images, it’s also a good idea to start using videos to better promote your brand. While at a conference in late 2019 we heard someone who regularly speaks to Amazon claim that “2020 is the year of video on Amazon.”  Moreover, you can also use videos to show your products while in use and allow shoppers to gain a full understanding of how that product fits into their life.

Videos are showing up on all sorts of places on Amazon in 2020: product detail pages, ads on mobile and desktop and Stores. Who knows where they might appear next.

With more and more sellers joining the Amazon marketplace, the competition between stores in the same market is becoming tighter. 

So if you want to be a top choice for your target audience, it’s important that you clean up and improve your PPC presence to get it in fighting shape for 2020.

If you want to read all the advice straight from our expert PPC managers, read the raw and unedited suggestions below:

“Creating new Auto campaigns in order to benefit from the new targets, reduce Phrase match weight, set up portfolios for better budget allocation, experiment all new features (PATs, Bid Increaser for Top of Search, Video, etc..)”

“New ads features are opportunities to expand the current campaigns running, it doesn’t mean you will remove the old ones. But if it’s an upgrade like the auto-targeting option, I will let the old campaign run and when the new campaign is getting the impression/ performance I want then I will pause the old campaign. Expand campaigns, try the new features.”

“I would expand instead of clean up. Really looking into the SB PATA and SB PATC at the moment and it seems this is very underutilized. SB campaigns, in general, can be played with a lot with different ad copy, primary images, and the new search term report for these campaigns would even let us run phrase or broad KW sets (although I’m not so much a fan of that). For accounts that have video features enabled, that could be big, as not many accounts even have videos ready to add so if you do you have the advantage. Single KW campaigns can be very helpful in steering some ad spend and managing the account more precisely. In general, all new Ad features should be active. Performance varies in each account, but they should be running or at least be tested for sure.”

“I always try and test the new features that Amazon is implementing. I would say cleaning up the account is an ongoing but important job. Stay up to date with the new ad types/placements and get as much data as possible on them then test them on a larger scale after learning best practices.”

CategoriesAdvertising Strategy

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