How to Optimize Your Amazon Marketing Services Campaign

by Matt Ellis

If you’ve ever gone fishing, you understand that, sure, sitting around and doing nothing may bring in a fish now and then…but if you know how to bait a hook, where to cast, and how to work your line, you’ll get a lot more catches. The great thing about the Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) program is that it’s flexible. You need to adapt your AMS campaign to your particular business if you want to catch the big fish.

Here are a few of my own personal best practices for maximizing your profits and making the most out of the money you put in (spend better, not more!). We’ll start with comparing the two basic strategies, automatic and manual, and then list some best practices you can apply to any campaign.

AMS Automatic Targeting vs Manual Targeting

Really, it’s not a hard decision if you know what you want: automatic targeting takes less time and effort, but manual targeting produces more sales. What it all boils down to is how much time do you want to invest micromanaging your Amazon Marketing Services ad campaigns.

It’s worth noting, though, that a little effort in manual targeting goes a long way. The automated functionality of AMS is not quite up to task, so automatic targeting should only be a last resort.

This isn’t just speculation or one person’s experience either: at this point, it’s verifiable fact. Content26 conducted a test on two nearly identical products with the same prices and ad budgets. They found that manual targeting generated almost 3x as much revenue as automatic.

As if that weren’t enough evidence, just read these personal accounts of vendors, where the opinion is overwhelmingly, almost unquestionably, in favor of manual targeting.

Even if you’re not a keyword expert, the data shows that you’ll still sell more than the automated bot at AMS. If you have the time, it’s worth exploring and experimenting to earn the better results.

5 AMS Best Practices

If you’ve decided to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty with manual targeting, apply these 5 best practices to your Amazon Marketing Services campaign to increase your returns per dollar spent.

1. Alter Your Keywords by Match Type

AMS gives you three different options for matching your keywords to searches:

  • EXACT — Your ad only appears when shoppers search for the specified keywords exactly as written. Keywords: Ford Model T; Search: Ford Model T.
  • PHRASE — Your ad appears if the keywords exist anywhere in the search phrase. Keywords: Ford Model T; Search: 1919 Ford Model T Coupe.
  • BROAD — The algorithm accounts for variant spellings, synonyms, and broken phrasing for keywords, opening them up to a larger range of searches. Keyword: Ford Model T. Search: best ford cars for visiting speakeasys model t.

Exact keyword matching will give you the highest clicks per views, but the lowest amount of views. Broad matching offers the opposite: more views but less clicks. Phrase matching is somewhere in the middle.

To yield the best results, you want to rely on all three, but only after tailoring your keywords for each. Alter your target keywords in different campaigns to suit the match group. In other words, use precise and specific keywords for Exact, and more general categories for Broad.

To see what works, you may need to do some keyword research, which brings us to our next AMS best practice...

2. Research Keywords with the Customer Search Term Reports and Automatic Targeting

The AMS automatic targeting system may be poor for sales, but it works great for data collection when you’re first starting out. If you use automatic targeting for about a month, you can discover which keywords shoppers are using to find your type of products, and which ones lead to sales.

Once your Amazon Marketing Services campaigns are up and running, however, you’ll be able to use the Customer Search Term report for real shopper data. That way you can switch to manual targeting and apply what you’ve learned from your keyword research for more sales.

The Customer Search Term report offers insights on branded vs. unbranded searches, impressions, CPC, and CTRs…it’s a valuable tool, so don’t waste it.

3. Run Ads All Year Round

One of the common mistakes AMS beginners make is only running ads during specific time periods or seasons. While this seems like a clever way to save money, in practice it’s actually counter-intuitive.

For starters, you’re not the only one to have this idea, so the amount of competition skyrockets around high-sale times like holidays. This drives up the necessary prices of your bids, so it won’t save you as much as you think.

Moreover, you’re missing out on valuable customer data and unexpected patterns. For vendors selling a wide range of products, you may discover some time-sensitive trends on one product that could be applied to another, allowing you to create a more well-rounded advertising campaign across your entire selection.

Finally, more ads boost product performance in general, and product performance boosts organic search results. Year-round ads gradually strengthen your products over time and snowball into better search results with and without ads.

4. Bid Aggressively

Amazon’s PPC system can save you money — especially in comparison to other advertising venues like Google's Adwords program. Don’t be afraid to reinvest that money back into your Amazon Marketing Services campaign by raising your bids.

Especially for products with highly competitive keywords, your ads won’t even appear unless your bids are high enough. While ideally you want to find the keywords with the best results and least competition, that’s not always an available option, and it takes time and research to discover your best keywords.

Until you discover that “golden keyword phrase,” make sure you’re bidding enough to make your AMS campaign worth it.

5. Use Both Offensive and Defensive Product Display Ads

In a previous article, which delved into the three types of AMS ads, I mentioned that Product Display Ads let you specify which product pages the ad appears on. This has a variety of applications on your overall business strategy, both offensively and defensively.

For an aggressive AMS ad campaign, you can display your ads directly on your competitor’s product page. They’ll appear directly underneath the cart section, giving shoppers the chance to think twice before purchasing from your rival.

But there may be backlash from such a dog-eat-dog AMS campaign, so protect your own product pages by buying the Product Display Ad space yourself. It may seem a little silly to advertise on your own page, but it’s a foolproof way to make sure your competitors don’t get there first. Plus, if you have a wide range of products, you can put that ad space to good use promoting some of your lesser-known wares.

Customize for Best Results

Don’t think of Amazon Marketing Services campaigns like other advertising campaigns. It’s not as cut-and-dry as you put in this amount of money and get this in return. The beauty of AMS is that it’s customizable, so with a little extra effort you can stretch out the money you spend and make it do more. Apply the steps above to make sure your AMS campaign reaches its highest potential — and exceeds your expectations.

Originally published on August 22, 2017, updated June 1, 2019

This post is accurate as of the date of publication. Some features and information may have changed due to product updates or Amazon policy changes.