The Most Comprehensive Guide to Optimizing Your Amazon Sponsored Ads (PPC Campaign)

Hey everyone!

My names Taylor Benterud, I manage the amazon PPC campaigns for a supplements company that does nearly a quarter million in revenue / month and it’s an honor to be doing this guest post for Brendan ! I don’t want to waste your time talking about my story.. I’ll post it in the AMZ Ninja facebook group if you want to read more on my background.

In this post, I’m going to go over ( in detail ! ) a step by step easy to follow process I’ve been using to create successful PPC campaigns in the shark tank of amazon ( supplements niche ) and hopefully everyone reading this will be able to find something that will help them along their journey selling on amazon !

SO before we begin I’d like to start with a quick narrative,

Let’s start from the beginning…. Imagine you’ve had your product live on amazon for 1 week, you’re so anxious to get selling because it took you 3 months of product research to find this product, long nights of going back and forth with suppliers in china, dealing with the learning curve of FBA policies and requirements, you’ve gone through the process of getting professional images done, writing a decently optimized listing ( Title, Bullet, Descrip.. Etc ) You’ve gotten those vital first 1015 initial quality reviews from friends and family to give you that much needed social proof.

AND NOW you’re FINALLY ready to freakin get started with PPC and get a taste of success selling on amazon… problem is you don’t really know where to start and you’re overwhelmed by the amount of noise on the internet from different so called “amazon gurus” All claiming to have the silver bullet for PPC…

I’m here to tell you their is NO DAMN SILVER BULLET because creating successful PPC campaigns takes hard work, money, persistence, focus, and most importantly patience.

So ready to put in the work !! Good let’s JUMP IN 🙂

It’s Important Read the ENTIRE Post before applying anything you’ve learned here!


This step begins like I said in the story once you’ve got those initial 10-15 quality reviews and you’ve done a decent job optimizing your listing.

  1. Run an Auto Campaign for 7 days with a daily budget between $10-25 dollars (The more you’re willing to spend the better. If you’re spending $25/day you could finish this in 4-5 days)
  2. Set default bid to be relatively low 0.75 $ (This depends on your niche. For us in supplements I’d set it to 1.25 $ because this is low given how competitive the majority of our keywords are)
  3. LET IT RUN FOR 9 DAYS and DON’T TOUCH IT regardless of ACOS (unless you’re seeing abnormally high ACOS then something’s wrong but you shouldn’t have this problem if you’ve as I said decently optimized your listing)
  4. Once you’ve ran for 9 days, Request a “Search Terms Report” (HOW : When on seller central home page hover mouse over “Reports” > click “Advertising Reports” > Click “Search Terms Reports” > Click “Request Report” > check back in 5-15 minutes > Look under “Check Report Status & Download” you should see your report > click Download)
  5. Open your Search Term Report in an Excel Spreadsheet / google sheets to easily view / sort through data ( HOW : Once you’ve downloaded the report > Open it and If you’re on a Mac you’ll see a .TSV file > Now open it up > Highlight all the data in the report > Copy it > If you have a gmail go into your google drive > Click “New” > Click “Google sheets > now once you have a google spreadsheet open, simply PASTE all the data you’d copied from your search term report and it will be neatly organized ! I’m going to try and make a video screencast of this. As I know it can be hard to follow
  6. Sort impressions from Highest to Lowest, (In google sheets click “Sort sheet ZA”)
  7. Now look at your top 10-12 Search terms with the highest impressions and look to see if ALL THESE SEARCH TERMS are RELEVANT to the product you’re selling.
  8. If all search terms are relevant to your product, or at least 80-90% then amazon fully understands the product you’re selling!

This is the purpose of Step #1 It’s to make sure amazon thoroughly understands the product you’re selling and is of course presenting / promoting your product to the appropriate audience. While you also get some data on keywords.

Now if you see some search terms that are completely irrelevant that’s fine you can Exact Match NEG out these search terms, But the majority of your search terms should be relevant. (NOTE : to be safe double check your Title and back end search terms to make sure you didn’t accidently put in a keyword about your product that’s not relevant)

Take a look at the following example ( which is a pretty scary report.. But it’s good to get a glimpse of the shark tank and what it can look like when you don’t know what you’re doing in PPC ! )

The columns I’ve boxed all the way around in red are the most important columns, and really the only ones you need to worry about ( in the beginning )

*** Something a little more advanced *** Is creating a NEW column which can display the net profit on all the keywords.. I’d Advise everyone does this to get a clear picture of how much money a given keyword is making or losing you opposed to ACOS just showing a % which can at times be deceiving.

So in column V type in Net Profit just as I have, then in the box below that ( V2 ) you want to follow this formula… Total Sales Total spend (Same SKU units + Other SKU Units ) * Total product Expenses per unit

As you see in the top left the formula looks like this = P2 – K2(R2 +  S2 )* 12.84 So in this case the total product expenses per unit are his actual product expenses per unit. Essentially this comes down to your Total FBA fees + production cost of product shipping it to amazon, insert cards.. Etc (really any expense to do with your product)

So what you guys want to do is just copy and paste this formula = P2 – K2(R2 +  S2 )* 12.84 into cell V2. Of course be sure to change 12.84 to what your total product cost is.

And the column “Total Profit” ( Contradicting I know… I’m to lazy to change it ) Is essentially just adding up each Net profit column to give you the sum of money you’re either making or losing.. And in his case you can see his losing a good amount of money.

This is the formula I use to get this total =SUM(V2:V393)

V2:V393 just means you’re adding first cell to last cell in the V column so scroll down to the last cell in that column and whatever the number is that’s the number you’ll use. In this case he is ranking for 393 keywords.

Copy and paste this formula into the second cell (W2) =SUM(V2:V393)

Again make sure and change V393 to the total amount of keywords your ranking for.

NOW that you have this in place (and have tested the “Net Profit” column to make sure it’s accurate) clearly the next step is to simply sort the column from highest to lowest so your can see how profitable each keyword is for you…

When I first did this It was like night to day… relying on ACOS can be very deceiving so again MAKE SURE AND DO THIS..

If there’s a lot of confusion on how to do this I can create a video If anyones asking for it.. (Youtube it first to see if anyones already done it though please)

Brief overview of each of the columns and what they mean before analyzing the STR:

“Customer Search Term” (STR): the EXACT search term a shopper is typing into amazons search query. ( and of course their are keywords within their search term which you are bidding on which results in your ad being displayed to this customer ! )

Make sure you guys really get a good grasp on this column as it’s where you’ll spend 80% of your time looking at. You can search amazon help for better explanation or find a blog that can explain it better then me ! BUT UNDERSTAND THIS COLUMN

“Match Type”: This is simply the match type of the keyword you’re bidding on !

“Impressions”: The total impressions your ad has received for the given search term (An impression is simply when your ad is displayed on the customers screen, he may not even actually look at your ad however since it was displayed on his/her screen this counts as an impression)

“Clicks”: The total amount of times your ad was clicked on for the given search term

“CTR”: Total % of people who actually clicked on your ad. Clicks / impressions = CTR

“ACOS”: Advertising Cost Of Sale > I’m not even going to try and explain this.. Google It and UNDERSTAND this metric as it’s an extremely important metric you’ll be constantly looking at ( If you don’t add the “Net Profit” Column )

“Orders”: The amount of orders placed for the given search terms. Clearly an important straightforward metric. It’s always good to often when looking through a STR to sort the Data from highest to lowest on this column just so you can get a visual on what the most converting search terms are.. Because essentially this is what matters most ( excluding ACOS )

Let’s pretend this STR is an auto campaign and has been live for only 9 days ! ( Note this data shows results for 2 products, 1 NO2 supplement and 1 Testosterone supplement, you just can’t tell because cropped out “campaign” and “Adgroup” also I should’ve sorted the data so it’s not mixed )

So looking at the top 10-12 search terms which are getting the most impressions I can immediately see amazon has a good understanding of what he’s selling. I actually like the bottom half of the reports search terms ( that have some orders ) a lot more than the top 10-12.

However there are a couple search terms which he’s ranking for which are extremely broad and irrelivent resulting in costing him a good amount of money. So this probiotic keyword is totally irrelevant and I would advise he removes it from his Title or Search terms because It’s clearly not converting for him and has no relation to his products. (This may seem really obvious guys but you’d be surprised how many sellers just don’t do the obvious)

pre workout, probiotic, probiotic supplement, supplements, muscle building supplements

Right away I would Exact match NEG out these search terms. And although there are some other search terms with horrible ACOS you don’t want to NEG out these right away because they are relevant. (I’ll explain this further).

BUT IF the majority of your search terms are irrelevant there’s a few things you need to check over to fix this. If you’re not having this issue, skim your way down to “How to edit/optimize your listing”

  1. It’s most likely to do with your Title & Search Terms, as these are what I’ve found to be the most heavily weighted metrics when it comes to Amazon sponsored ads… SO go over your Title make sure it’s relevant to your product, the best way to write your title is look at your top competitors who’m are obviously selling basically the EXACT same product.. Observe their Titles… what keywords are they using to describe their product ? how does this differ from your current Title? (NOTE : just be careful, and make sure that if you’re going to use the same / similar keywords from your competitors title that it can also be applicable to yours… EX. your selling a plastic spatula, and your competitors in their title say “ Chemical free “ Now if your product isn’t also chemical free then DON’T put this keyword in your title, obviously because it’s not relevant to your product… so in conclusion MAKE sure what you choose to put in your title is in fact 100% relevant to your product)
  2. It could also be something to do with your Search Terms in the backend… you may have put in some keywords that are simply irrelevant, or too broad / not specific enough. When it comes to search terms guys ( which are extremely important for PPC ) you should ONLY be putting in keywords that are specifically describing your product. For a simple understanding of search terms this is an image of a chart I’d pulled from a blog a while ago.

** NOTE : 2 things I disagree with on this chart,

  • Order: although amazon states to put keywords in most logical order, after testing this quite extensively I’ve come to conclusion that order really doesn’t have an affect.. That being said I still do my best to put the keywords in most logical order but don’t stress over it guys.
  • Singular & Plural: I could probably do a whole nother post on this topic, long story short, once again although amazon states in their help videos that they account for Singular & Plural forms of keywords, I advise you put both singular and plural versions of prominent keywords in your search terms… this is something we’ve more recently been testing ( over last month ) and now with the character increase update ( 5000 character limit ) it really can’t hurt to put both in. An easy way to immediately see that amazon can’t possibly be accounting for both plural and singular forms is just Search “Night cream” then search “Night Creams” and look at the total results…
  • Last but not least check the category or other wise known as “Browse node “ Amazon has placed your product in… Double check to make sure your organically ranking for the important search term that’s most likely to be searched, If your ranking organically that’s good but also ask yourself Is this the most relevant category for your product to be in? The best way to determine / answer this question is to look at your top selling competitors. See what category / browse node they’re ranking in…

You can find this info in the “Product information” part of the listing page. It looks like this >

A free tool you can use for this process if you’re really lazy is this is also useful because it gives you the actual Number for the browse node which you’ll need to give to an amazon Rep in the case you’d like your product listing to be changed over into a more relevant browse node

( **To my understanding this is still the practice required to change categories.. If you’ve recently gone through this process please leave a comment below updating this info !** )

Interesting *OFF TOPIC NOTE*: You may see some top sellers product is ranking in multiple categories and wonder how you can also do this…Amazons now really cracked down on this and it’s much harder to just get a amazon Rep on the phone and request your product also be listed in X category… When this was possible there was some black hat tactics going around (seller’s asking AMZ rep to enter low competitive niches completely irrelevant to their product and due to the amount of sales they were getting per day they could easily acquire a “Best Seller Rank” anyways long story short amazon’s really cracking down on this and It’s MUCH harder to do now although not impossible)

>How to Edit/Optimize your listing the right way

Here I just want to do a brief overview on how to edit your product listing the right way so you don’t cause yourself the major confusion thousands of sellers go through each day.

First understand this,

****For severe changes like title editing and Category moves, they are ONLY done when it’s 100% necessary and when your organic search term position risk is low.****

  • 2 most prominent parts of your listing in terms of PPC are the Title and back end search terms. (there are more the 10 factors but these 2 have the greatest effect)
  • If you’ve been selling your product for a while now and have a decent ranking with a steady flow of sales coming in I advise you DON’T edit the Title before trying to edit the back end search terms. Simply because Editing the title has a tremendous affect on both PPC and Organic ranking.
  • In the case you want to change your title and you’ve got a decent organic ranking I advise you make tiny changes.. Maybe 13 words and then test the effects over a 10-15 day period and repeat. (In theory you’d think if you were to change your title and you dropped in ranking, you could always change it back but I’m not so sure you’d be able to instantly recover 100% so just be careful)

In greatest to least what I’ve found to be the most heavily weighted metrics on your listing (That you can control) for “Organic Ranking” excluding images…

Title > Search Terms > Bullets > > Description > Answered Questions

Answered questions has a very small effect on keyword ranking hence why I’ve put it last BUT there’s something profound about the answered questions section and that’s the effect it can have on your listing conversion rate…

I found that by going through competitor’s listings looking at 1-2 star reviews and finding the most common issue / concern from customers is something we should be addressing in our Q&A section (Even if we’ve addressed the issue in the description or bullets, because some customers that land on your listing may just go straight to the “Answered questions” link which is alongside your review count)

You can have a friend create the questions for you on your product to make it look legit if you want.

I addressed only 4 common concerns in the Q&A section that I found looking through page 1 competitor listings and after about 3 weeks had gone by I saw a 3% increase on the listing conversion rate. I’m 90% certain this was a result due to the 4 most common concerns I addressed because I hadn’t touched anything else on the listing nor were we nearing the 4th quarter or going through a season. This may not sound like much but believe me it’s significant for little work it requires.. Of course upon seeing these results it was a no brainer to do the same to the rest of our SKUs but GUESS what? Only 1 other SKU saw a noticeable increase in conversion rate.. And like I said earlier 1 tactic that works for 1 product may not work the same on another.

So addressing the concerns / worries of your customer in the Q&A section is extremely important, and could possibly have a serious impact on your listing conversion rate.

Moving forward…

As I said in the beginning If you don’t pass the validation phase and you’re forced to make some changes to your listing I advise you don’t go full commando and start furiously changing everything…. Change 1 to 2 things at the most.. and in this case (not passing phase 1) you should be editing the Title and Back end search terms.

  1. Edit Title and or Search terms accordingly based off data presented from the auto campaign and also looking at competitors. ( NOTE: If you have been running this product for quite some time and have an ok organic ranking I wouldn’t touch the title as this can have a huge impact on your ranking.. So instead edit the search terms backend )
  2. Allow 24 hours to pass before repeating through product validation (This is to make sure amazon has updated your listing changes into their system )

I talk to at least 2 sellers / week about listing optimization and the most common MISTAKE I see being made is changing / optimizing too many things in their listing at once. Why is this a problem ?

Example: You change your Bullets, image, and description all at once. Next thing you know your sales have increased from 5 per day to 10 per day… but you have no clue on what caused that because there’s simply too many variables.. And this is why I stress you do your best to be patient and change 1 thing at a time ( 2 at most if your listing is brand new and you know it’s poorly done )

Pretty fundamental lesson but just to recap “When optimizing your product listing you should ONLY change one thing / part of your listing this way when you test the changes over a 10-15 day period you’ll actually know what caused the results” 

That’s it for this quick overview on how to correctly optimize / change your product listing… I hope this will suffice to put you on the right path, I could spend hours writing on this section alone going in depth on how to write each section of the listing but do some digging and find some reputable sellers out there giving their advice and test everything you learn from each seller.

If there’s ONE thing I want you to take away from this sections it’s understanding that editing the title as well as changing categories is NOT something you want to do frequently or ever. So please I stress you do your best to create an awesome Title straight from day 1 and spend a good 3-5 hours doing it!

I want you to really think of your Title and the categories you’re placed in as your PPC foundation and everything else is just building on the foundation, so when you finally get your product up, running, and selling… Trying to change the foundation when you’ve got a whole house built on it can cause some problems.


This is where the real fun begins ! and where things get a little confusing so pay attention closely as I do my best to explain this as simple as possible.

  1. Once you’ve validated your product, reduce your auto campaign default bid by 50% and now It’s time to start with a manuel campaign.
  2. In your search term report now Identify the top 5, 10, or even 20.. depends on how much data you’ve collected but most likely you’ll only have 10 Search terms you have that are converting ( Your ACOS will vary on niches )
  3. Now out of the search terms list you see cut it in half to what you think are the MOST relevant search terms to your product.
  4. Create a Manuel campaign with Broad ad group Phrase ad group and exact ad group
  5. Set the Daily budget of no lower than $15 ( You guys have to be willing to spend money to collect data and find out what match type works best for the given search term.. If you really can’t afford $15 then $10 is the absolute lowest you should go)
  6. Set Default bids of each Adgroup… Personally I usually start by making the Broad 1.50 phrase bid 2.00 and exact match 2.50 ( this is because I’m in the shark tank of amazon ) for someone in a less competitive niche you could start out with default bid Broad $0.75, phrase $1.25 and exact match $1.75 ( Note: I advise testing different types of bids for each match type every 7 days )
  7. put your list of search terms that you cut in half into the PHRASE and EXACT match ad groups, but not the BROAD yet
  8. Let this run for 9 days then request a search term report
  9. Repeat steps 2 and 3 on this report
  10. Take your list of most relevant and converting search terms and put them into a keyword tool (Merchant words, keyword inspector, Azon keyword, or my personal favorite Scientific seller)
  11. Copy and Paste the HUGE group of keywords you’ve collected from this tool into each Ad group, BROAD , PHRASE , and EXACT (*** now you are using the broad ad group)
  12. Continue going through this cycle for 3 weeks (or longer)
  13. Once you’ve been running for 3 weeks + you should have a clear picture of where which search terms convert best (Is most profitable for you)
  14. Now that you’ve identified which keywords perform best, DO NOT just pause the keywords in the other Match types / Ad groups… Just LOWER the BID by increments of 0.20 $ every week until you see a change in conversion/profitability ! (You will more then likely be able to find an optimal bid amount that makes the keyword in the other match type perform a little bit better. And from there you can determine if it’s worth keeping at that bid or going down another $0.20 to see if It performs better with an even lower bid)
  15. If you’ve lowered the bids to the point where you’re essentially getting no impressions, no click just leave it there.. But whatever you do DON’T PAUSE THE KEYWORD. Or It may have an affect on your organic ranking. This is something we’ve more recently been testing and I haven’t proven it to the point where I’m confident to say it Isn’t just a theory but look it doesn’t hurt you to just leave the damn keywords running because it won’t cost you anything.

You may perceive the sole purpose of Step #2 is simply to discover where each keyword performs best… but It’s so much more then that.

Through testing the same keyword across each Match Type you’ll be acquiring more market research on your customers than any of your competitors, and this research is the most important part of PPC.

Your finding out what it is that people who ACTUALLY BUY your product SEARCH before buying it !

So please expand your mind and see the big picture here, in this step we are trying to figure out what your target customer searches before purchasing your product, and by figuring out this. It’s obvious what comes next, and that’s building your listing around these search terms that are converting so well for your product.. Now as I said before, I’m not going to go in depth on this as I could write another blog post on this.. But as you read in the beginning I give a quick guide on how to make changes to your listing the “Right way” and how different parts of your listing are weighted in terms of importance for ranking, and PPC. (If anyone knows of a great blog post on this topic, leave a comment for everyone !! that’d be great!)

BONUS Step #3

Now that you’ve setup your campaigns to be testing your already proven to convert keywords you’re probably thinking “Great ! now I’ll just Lower the bid to $0.02 on these non converting keywords that are bleeding my money ”

NO this is not what you should do ( this is what I was doing for a long time ) But just over 1 week ago I came in contact ( over facebook ) with a guy named Brian Johnson I did a bit of research on him listened to a bit of his podcast and immediately connected with him in that his approach to PPC was very similar and came across his theory (proven now) of NON CONVERTING keywords and turning them into converting keywords…

Of course I was instantly hooked, and after nearly 8 days I can say after testing through slightly over 100 non converting keywords I successfully turned 4 into converting keywords that are no longer bleeding my companies money and making me more money (cause I get paid on performance base relative to ACOS)

So.. how to do this ? well it’s actually quite simple !

  1. Look at all your non converting keywords (bleeding you money)
  2. Exact Match NEG out all the keyword bleeders that are 100 % IRRELEVANT to your product.
  3. Put the rest of the RELEVANT keyword bleeders into a manuel phrase and exact match type.
  4. Set daily budget for 10$/day.
  5. Set default bid on these bleeders to be same as what you have for your Phrase and Exact match default bid.
  6. Allow this to run for 7-9 days, then request a search term report.
  7. Look to see now how these bleeders are performing in a separate match type, If in fact nothing has changed or it’s worse just lower the bid on them by $0.20, allow another 7-9 days to pass and check again.
  8. Continue to go through this until you reach a bid of basically $0.02

And for me in the last 7 days I’d tested this with just over 100 keywords using the same process as above and I turned out 4 keywords that are now “Decent” performers.. Don’t be expecting to turn a bleeder into a money printing keyword. I only saw a 10-15% decrease in ACOS so it’s nothing substantial.

If you’re reading through this thinking “I really can’t afford this “ because you’re on a tight budget and every dollar counts ! then you can just reduce the bid to 0.02 as I’d done for so long but keep track of the ones you’re reducing and come back to them at a later point to test with when you have the money.

That’s about it for this section on turning bleeders into performers… Like I said though I myself am in the early staging of testing this and most definitely will be updating with more information on this strategy in the AMZninja FB group.

Before I end this post I’d like to thank Brendan for allowing me to write this guest post on his awesome site!! I really hope everyone can take something away from this post or even add some value in the comments below !

I’d really love to hear your opinion, if there’s something you disagree with, areas where you’re confused, or feel I should talk about in more detail just comment below !

I’ll be posting activley with more updates on some of my PPC experiments in the FB Group


See you there! and thanks for reading 🙂

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