Amazon Ads for Authors: A Comprehensive Step-by-Step Guide

This article is by book advertising specialist Matt Holmes (@MatthewJHolmes1).

Table of Contents

Amazon Ads offer a unique opportunity for authors: you can advertise books right where readers are looking for books to buy. Yet why do some authors see amazing results from Amazon Ads and yet others struggle to make a single (profitable) sale from them?

There are many answers to this question. I work on and manage a lot of Amazon Ads accounts, so I am in a fortunate position where I have access to a wealth of Amazon Ads data.

Some of the most common reasons I come across when reviewing and auditing accounts as to why Amazon Ads don’t work for some authors are:

  • The targeting is too loose (not specific enough)
  • The targeting is too tight (too specific)
  • The bids are too high (resulting in lots of clicks, but low/no sales)
  • The bids are too low (resulting in low/no impressions and clicks and therefore, no sales)
  • The targeting isn’t relevant to the book being advertised
  • Too many keywords are being targeted
  • The keywords being targeted have very little search volume (meaning not many people are searching for those keywords on Amazon)
  • The book product page isn’t doing a good job of selling the book
  • Not enough reviews (Amazon recommends at least ten reviews before advertising, although I’ve seen better results with 20+ reviews)

And occasionally, I’ll come across a book or series that just doesn’t do very well with Amazon Ads. Amazon can take a disliking to a book for whatever reason and you are charged very high costs, or you get very few impressions.

There are two key factors that play a role in the success of your Amazon Ads:

  • Your bid (i.e. how much you are willing to pay for a click on your Ad. Amazon only charge you when your Ads are clicked; you don’t pay for impressions, i.e., the number of times an ad is seen)
  • Your relevance (how relevant your advertised book is to the search terms you are targeting)

Other factors are involved in how successful your Amazon Ads are, but the above two are by far the most important.

So, I am going to walk you through the following in great detail:

  • How to find and test relevant keywords to target with your Amazon Ads
  • How to let Amazon find keywords and ASINs (i.e. individual books) for you to target
  • How to track the performance of your Amazon Ads
  • An introduction to optimizing Amazon Ads

Let’s start at the beginning.

Part 1: Find relevant keywords to target

A few years back, you could throw 500–1,000 keywords into a single Amazon Ads campaign and see great results.

Times have changed.

Back in 2019–2020, Amazon updated their algorithm and placed a huge emphasis on relevance, meaning that out of those 500–1,000 keywords, Amazon may have seen 5%–10% of them as relevant to the book you were advertising and ignored the remaining 90%–95% of them.

What does this mean for you?

Ultimately, this makes things much more efficient and less time consuming than before, because I have seen the best results from Amazon Ads when you are targeting not 500+ keywords, but 10–30 keywords within a single campaign.

So, here we go.

Step 1: Download the Amazon Ads Targeting and Tracking Tool I use every day when managing Amazon Ads for Authors.

Step 2: Think of 10–15 highly relevant keywords that are as strongly related to your book as possible and add them to the Targeting and Tracking Tool in the Targeting Ideas sheet. (Initially, we are focusing on search terms such as ‘british crime thriller’. Targeting author names is something I recommend you do further down the line.)

TOP TIP: If you are struggling to think of 10–15 keywords on your own, there are lots of tools out there that can help. One tool that I love is called Publisher Rocket, from Dave Chesson and his team at Kindlepreneur.com.

With Publisher Rocket, you simply enter a seed keyword and you will be shown even more keyword ideas for your Amazon Ads, with lots of additional data about that particular keyword, such as monthly search volume, average monthly earnings for that keyword, how many books are competing for that keyword, etc.

Step 3: Now think of 10–15 keywords that are still relevant to your book, but a little bit broader in terms of their relevance. E.g. if one of your keywords from Step 2 was ‘british crime thriller’, a broader keyword might be ‘crime thriller’ or ‘thriller’.

Step 4: Type each of these keywords into the Amazon.com search bar (or whichever Amazon store you are advertising on) and make sure that the book you’re advertising is relevant to the books you are seeing in the search results.

Step 5 (optional, but highly recommended): Use Publisher Rocket (or a similar tool) to check the search volume of each keyword in your list and make a note of the search volume number in your spreadsheet. Make sure that the monthly search volume is above 500 searches per month. If there are less than 500 searchers per month for a particular keyword, your Amazon Ads aren’t going to be seen by many people (impressions) and therefore, won’t receive many clicks or sales.

Step 6 (if required): If any of your keywords have a monthly search volume of less than 500, find an alternative keyword to take its place, until you have at least 10 highly relevant keywords and 10 slightly broader, but still relevant, keywords.

Step 7: On your spreadsheet, highlight the highly relevant keywords in green and the broader, less relevant keywords in yellow. (You’ll see why we are doing this very shortly.)

Your spreadsheet should now look something like the screenshot below (with your own keywords of course):

Image: spreadsheet column labeled "Search terms" containing a list of 15 keyword phrases highlighted in green and another 7 highlighted in yellow.

Part 2: Set up your keyword targeting Amazon Ads campaigns

Now it’s time to take those keywords you’ve just discovered and build out your first (or next) Amazon Ads campaign; this is where all your hard work in the research process starts to pay off.

Before we jump into the step-by-step process, I first want to lay out what you are going to be building and why.

Together, we are going to be creating three campaigns:

  • 1 x Automatic Targeting Campaign
  • 1 x Broad Match Campaign
  • 1 x Exact Match Campaign

If these campaign names don’t mean anything to you at the moment, fear not. All will become clear as we move through the campaign building process.

In essence, the Automatic Targeting and Broad Match Campaigns are acting as your research or discovery campaigns and the Exact Match Campaign is what you are going to use to scale by focusing on the 80/20 (i.e. the 20% of keywords that deliver 80% of the results).

The Broad Match and Automatic Targeting Campaigns are going to be feeding into the Exact Match Campaign. And as you can see from the diagram below, there will be a fourth Campaign to add into the mix at a later date that will be targeting individual books (ASINs) that have converted well in the Automatic Targeting Campaign. (The Automatic Targeting Campaign targets both keywords and ASINs.)

Image: flow chart showing how successful keywords and ASINs from the broad match and automatic campaigns feed into the exact match campaign.

Before we dive into building the campaigns, there’s one more piece of crucial information for you to understand: Amazon Ads Campaign Structure.

As you can see in the diagram below, there are three levels to the Amazon Ads campaign structure:

  • Campaign
  • Ad group
  • Ad
Image: organizational chart showing how a Campaign (which encompasses budget and bidding strategy) is at the top. Nested beneath it are Ad Groups (which consist of targeting and bidding), and within those are individual Ads.

The campaign level is where you will set the budget and bidding strategy (i.e. how much you want to spend on a daily basis and how aggressive you want to be with your overall strategy).

The ad group level is where you tell Amazon which keywords/ASINs you want to target within this particular campaign.

And the ad level is the ad creative that readers see when they are browsing Amazon looking for their next book to read.

You can have multiple campaigns within your Amazon Ads account (thousands of campaigns, if you need them!), and each campaign works independently of the other campaigns within your account.

So, that’s a brief overview of the Amazon Ads campaigns structure; now let’s jump into building your first campaigns.

Campaign 1: Exact Match Campaign

Step 1: Head on over to advertising.amazon.com and set up your Amazon Ads account if you haven’t done so already.

You will need a separate Amazon Ads account for each country you want to run Amazon Ads in. For example, if you want to run Amazon Ads on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.au, you will need three separate Amazon Ads Accounts.

Step 2: Once you’re inside your dashboard and your billing information is all setup, click on the yellow Create Campaign button.

Image: screenshot of Amazon Ads Campaigns dashboard, with arrow pointing to a button labeled Create Campaign.

If this is a brand new account, you won’t see your dashboard just yet; you will be taken straight to the Choose your campaign type screen, shown below.

Image: screenshot of Amazon Ads New Campaign dashboard

Step 3: Once you are on the Choose Your Campaign Type page, choose the Sponsored Products option by clicking the Continue button.

Image: screenshot of Amazon Ads Campaigns dashboard, with arrow pointing to a button labeled Continue.

Step 4: Now you are in the Campaign Builder and the first thing we need to do here is define a naming convention for all of your Amazon Ads campaigns. The naming convention I like to use is the following:

[BOOK TITLE] | [TARGETING DETAIL]

For example, to put this into context:

The Forbidden | Search Terms [EXACT]

This first campaign we’re going to be setting up is for search terms and we are going to be using something known as an Exact Match Type (I’ll explain this in more detail shortly). So I recommend that you call this campaign:

[BOOK TITLE] | Search Terms [EXACT]

Image: screenshot of the Settings section of the Create Campaign window; the Campaign Name field is highlighted.

Step 5: You can leave Portfolio as default for now (No Portfolio) and sort campaigns into different portfolios later on. Think of portfolios as folders to help you organize your Amazon Ads campaigns to keep your account neat and tidy.

Step 6: Leave the Start Date of the campaign as today and leave the End Date blank. (Unless you have specific reasons to use a particular start and end date, I recommend that you leave them as default.)

Step 7: For the daily budget, I recommend that you set this to $30-$50. Don’t worry, you won’t spend anywhere near that amount in most cases! But showing Amazon that you are prepared to spend a good amount of money each day will make them more inclined to show your ads.

Step 8: And finally, on this initial section of the Campaign Builder, you need to choose Manual Targeting, which will allow you to target the keywords you’ve discovered that you added into your spreadsheet earlier.

Your Amazon Ads campaign settings should now look something like this:

Image: screenshot of the Settings section of the Create Campaign window. Fields are Campaign Name, Portfolio, Start and End dates, Daily Budget, and Targeting.

Step 9: Moving on to the Campaign Bidding Strategy: this is where you decide how you want to bid on the keywords you are targeting. Another way to look at this section is how aggressive you want to be with your bidding.

  • Dynamic bids – down only: Amazon will lower your bids in real-time if its algorithm thinks that a click is less likely to convert into a sale of your advertised book
  • Dynamic bids – up and down: Amazon will raise your bids by up to 100% if it thinks a click is more likely to convert into a sale, or lower bid if it thinks a click is less likely to result in a sale.
  • Fixed bids: Amazon won’t make any changes to your bids; they will use your exact bid.

Here are my thoughts on each of the bidding strategies:

  • Dynamic bids – down only is certainly the safest bidding strategy to use as it provides a bit of a safety net for you.
  • Dynamic bids – up and down is something to use when you have a campaign that is working well using the Dynamic bids – down only option.
  • Fixed bids can be a great option to use with new campaigns if you are struggling to get traction with Dynamic bids – down only.

For now, I recommend that you start with Dynamic bids – down only.

TOP TIP: If your campaign has been running for 7 days and you still don’t have many/any impressions or clicks, then I would suggest changing your bidding strategy to fixed bids, as you are forcing Amazon to take your full bid into account, rather than letting them decide when a click is more or less likely to convert into a sale for you.

Step 10: The Ad Format section allows you to add a few lines of custom text to your Amazon Ad. I haven’t seen any noticeable difference in performance with ads that use custom text and ads that don’t use custom text. It’s also worth mentioning here that custom text is only available when advertising on Amazon.com; it isn’t available on any of the other Amazon Ads platforms (i.e. Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, etc).

So, I recommend that you choose Standard Ad (which won’t allow you to add custom text) and will now show you a new box where you can add an Ad Group name. An Ad Group is simply a folder within a campaign; within each Ad Group, you define the book you are advertising, the targeting (e.g. keywords) and the bids.

Another benefit of using a Standard Ad is that you can advertise multiple books in a single campaign, whereas with a Custom Text Ad you can only advertise one book.

For the Ad Group Name, I always use exactly the same naming convention as the campaign name. So, for this example, our Ad Group Name will be:

The Forbidden | Search Terms [EXACT]

Image: screenshot showing the Standard Ad option selected under the Ad Format heading, and the Ad Group Name populated under the Create An Ad Group heading.

Step 11: Now, you are simply going to choose the book you want to advertise with this campaign from the Products section of the campaign builder. So, find the book in the list on the left and then click the Add button.

Image: screenshot of the Products section of the Campaign Builder, where products can be searched for and added. An arrow points to the Add button next to a specific book.

Step 12: It’s now time for the exciting part—the targeting! First of all, make sure that you have Keyword Targeting selected.

Image: Under the Targeting heading, an arrow points to the Keyword Targeting selection.

Step 13: In the keyword targeting section, if your book has been published for a few months or years, you will likely see some suggested keywords from Amazon; some of these are relevant and can be great keyword ideas to test in the future. Some of these suggestions however, are completely irrelevant and are best ignored!

Image: Under the Keyword Targeting heading is the Suggested tab, Amazon's list of suggested keywords for a book.

So, instead of looking at the Suggested tab here, click on the Enter List tab and you’ll be able to add your own list of keywords you want to target with this campaign.

Image: Under the Keyword Targeting heading is the Enter List tab, where keywords can be manually entered into a field.

Step 14: Next, before you enter your keywords, there are just a few settings to change here. The first one being the Bid option in the dropdown menu; you can choose from:

  • Suggested bid
  • Custom bid
  • Default bid

I recommend that you choose Custom bid and enter a bid that is fairly aggressive for the initial 7–14 days of this new campaign; you can always reduce the bid if necessary at a later date. But with a new campaign, we want to collect data as quickly as possible so that we can make decisions on that data.

Depending on the genre of your book and how competitive your genre is, I recommend a starting custom bid of $0.40–$0.70. If you have a long series of books, or a big catalog of books and you know your read-through is strong, you could potentially bid more than this, but $0.40–$0.70 is generally a good starting point for collecting data.

Image: Under the Keyword Targeting heading is the Bid field. Arrows point to the Customer Bid setting, and a bid amount of $0.67.

TOP TIP: Enter an unusual number as your bid! Use a number such as $0.67 or $0.43, rather $0.65 or $0.40. The reason being that a lot of advertisers bid in increments of $0.05, so if you are bidding 1 or 2 cents above that, your bid is more competitive.

Step 15: With your bid set, it’s time to define your Match Type for the keywords you are going to be targeting. There are three Match Types to choose from:

  • Broad Match
  • Phrase Match
  • Exact Match

Amazon Ads match types offer you a lot of control over what customer search terms will match the keywords you are targeting inside your campaigns.

Accounting for every possible combination of search terms that Amazon customers may use when searching for a book like yours is almost impossible, but utilizing the different keyword match types helps you to tackle this problem head on.

When used correctly, match types allow you to discover new customer search terms (that you can then use as keywords), introduce your books to new readers and reduce, even eliminate wasted ad spend.

There are a few rules or definitions that accompany the different match types, Broad, Phrase and Exact.

If a close variation of a plural or singular forms a word, your ad could be triggered to show. For example, if your keyword is thriller book, but someone searches for thriller books, your ad is still eligible to be served.

However, any misspellings in a customer search term will not trigger your ad to show, even if only one letter is misspelt or missing. For example, if your keyword is fantasy books, but the customer mistypes their search term as fantays books, your ad would not be triggered to show.

If you notice that there are a lot of misspelled search terms that relate to your book, you should target these search terms as keywords, making sure you misspell them in your keyword.

And the final rule is that some words are ignored completely, no matter which match type you are using; these words are:

  • The
  • Of
  • When
  • And
  • If

Let’s look at each of the different three match types in more detail:

  • Broad Match: The customer search term must contain all the individual words within your targeted keyword, or close variations. The words within the customer search terms can be in any order and also include additional words to the words within your targeted keyword.
  • Phrase Match: The customer search term must match the keyword you are targeting, or a very close variation. Each word within the customer search term must also be in your targeted keyword, in the same order. However, the difference between Phrase Match and Exact Match is the customer search term can include additional words before and/or after the keyword you are targeting.
  • Exact Match: The customer search term must exactly match the keyword you are targeting, or a very close variation of that keyword. The words within the customer search term need to be in the same order as your targeted keyword and cannot contain any additional words.

TOP TIP: I generally don’t recommend that you use different match types in the same Ad Group, because they each perform very differently and your campaigns can really suffer in performance. On top of this, when using multiple match types in the same Ad Group, your data can become skewed and won’t provide a true picture of your Ad Group performance.

In general, the Exact Match Type keywords will have the highest conversion rate, but also have the highest cost per click and the lowest search volume.

The Broad Match Type keywords generally have the lowest conversion rate, but also the lowest cost per click and the highest search volume. However, this is by no means always the case! Each keyword behaves differently and there are other factors to keep in mind too, such as seasonality, new search trends, etc.

Coming back to the Exact Match campaign we are currently building together, you’ll need to deselect Broad and Phrase, to leave only Exact selected.

Image: Under the Keyword Targeting heading is the Match Type section. An arrow points to the Exact selection.

Step 16: It’s now time to enter the keywords from the spreadsheet into your Amazon Ads campaign. So, head on over to your spreadsheet, select your well researched, highly relevant keywords (the ones you highlighted in green), then copy and paste them into the text box in your Amazon Ads campaign builder:

Image: Under the Keyword Targeting heading is the Enter List tab. An arrow points to where keywords have been manually entered into a field, and another arrow points to the Add Keywords button.

Once the keywords are in this box, all you need to do is click the grey Add Keywords button (highlighted in the above screenshot) and your keywords will move from the text box on the left to the column on the right of your screen, as you can see in the screenshot below:

Image: Under the Keyword Targeting heading, keywords have been added. Also displayed are the match type, suggested bid, and bid amount for each keyword.

You’ll notice in the section on the right of your screen that there is a column labelled Sugg. bid, which is short for Suggested Bid.

The Suggested Bid is the bid that Amazon recommends you enter for a particular keyword, based on the data they have that other authors are paying for a single click on that keyword.

Some authors follow the suggested bid at all times, others completely ignore the suggested bid and some, myself included, put more focus on the suggested bid range, the numbers in grey below the blue suggested bid number.

The suggested bid range has a high number and a low number and theoretically, if you bid within this range, you should receive impressions, clicks and sales. However, that is not guaranteed in any way, shape or form.

If you’re more conservative, then aim for the lower end of the suggested bid range, but if you want to be more aggressive, then bid around or even above, the top of the suggested bid range.

The more you bid, the more likely you are to receive more impressions, clicks and sales. However, as I’ve just mentioned, nothing is guaranteed, so you must bid what you are prepared to lose, particularly in the beginning stages of your Amazon Ads campaigns as you discover what works and what doesn’t work for your books.

If you want to tweak any of the individual bids that you are targeting, you can do that now by clicking in the relevant text box for that particular keyword and adjust the bid accordingly.

Image: Under the Keyword Targeting heading, an arrow points to the bid field for an added keyword. A bid can be manually entered, or a user can select the "Use default bid" option.

Bid optimization is an on-going process of Amazon Ads, but we need to start somewhere. And personally, I prefer to bid aggressively from the outset in order to gather data as quickly as possible, then refine my bids over time; lowering bids on keywords that don’t perform (or even turn them off) and increasing the bids on those keywords that are delivering profitable results for you.

Once you’re happy with your bids here, you can move onto the next step.

Step 17: The next section is negative keyword targeting; however, because you are using Exact Match keywords in this campaign, you can leave this section blank. Amazon is only going to show your ads for the EXACT keywords you are targeting. Negative keyword targeting becomes more important when using Broad Match and Phrase Match keywords, as well as Automatic Targeting and Category Targeting Campaigns.

All that is left to do now is review all the settings of your campaign so far and click the yellow Launch Campaign button at the bottom of the page.

Image: Under the optional Negative Keyword Targeting heading, an arrow points to the yellow Launch Campaign button.

And that is your Exact Match Campaign launched! Now it’s time to create your Broad Match Campaign.

Campaign 2: Broad Match Campaign

Your Broad Match Campaign is going to act as a discovery or research campaign, where you can have some influence on the keywords that you are targeting, but at the same time, are allowing some scope for your ads to be triggered even if a customer search doesn’t exactly match the keyword you are targeting.

This way, you will see how readers are searching for books like yours and discover new customer search terms that you can then target using an Exact Match Type keyword.

Step 1: Setup a brand new campaign from your Amazon Ads dashboard, by clicking the yellow Create Campaign button and choose to create a Sponsored Products Campaign, as you did with the first campaign we set up together.

Image: screenshot of Amazon Ads Campaigns dashboard, with arrow pointing to a button labeled Create Campaign.

Step 2: Name your campaign using the same naming convention you used for the first campaign:

[BOOK TITLE] | [TARGETING DETAIL]

This second campaign we’re going to be setting up is for search terms once again, but this time, we are going to be using Broad Match Type keywords instead of Exact Match Type keywords. So I recommend that you call your campaign:

[BOOK TITLE] | Search Terms [BROAD]

Image: screenshot of the Settings section of the Create Campaign window. Fields are Campaign Name, Portfolio, Start and End dates, Daily Budget, and Targeting.

Step 3: Set the Start date to today and leave the End date empty, as you did before.

I recommend you set the Daily budget to $30–$50 per day to give Amazon enough budget to test your keywords and prove to the algorithm that you are willing to spend a reasonable amount of money on this campaign.

And under the Targeting section, select Manual Targeting.

Step 4: Set the Campaign bidding strategy to Dynamic bids – down only, and the ad format to Standard ad, just as you did on the first campaign we set up together. For the Ad Group name, copy and paste the campaign name, so that they are both identical.

Image: Under the Campaign Bidding Strategy heading, Dynamic bids - down only is selected. Under the Ad Format heading, Standard Ad is selected. Under the Settings heading, the Ad Group Name is entered.

Step 5: Under the Products section, select the book you’d like to advertise with this campaign by clicking the grey Add button.

Image: screenshot of the Products section of the Campaign Builder, where products can be searched for and added. An arrow points to the Add button next to a specific book.

Step 6: Choose Keyword Targeting under the Targeting section and then scroll down to the Keyword Targeting section.

Step 7: In the Keyword Targeting section:

  • Select the Enter List tab
  • Choose Custom Bid under the Bid drop-down menu
  • Uncheck the Phrase and Exact Match Types

With your Custom Bid for Broad Match keywords, you can bid a little lower than you did for the Exact Match keywords, but I still recommend that you bid relatively aggressively to make sure you generate enough impressions, clicks and sales to gather statistically significant data in a reasonable period of time.

For Broad Match keywords, I typically bid 10%–20% lower than my Exact Match keywords in the beginning and adjust accordingly from there once I have started gathering data.

Step 8: Add the Broad Match keywords from your spreadsheet—these are the less relevant keywords you highlighted in yellow in your Amazon Ads Targeting and Tracking spreadsheet.

Reminder: If you haven’t already done so, you can download my Amazon Ads Targeting and Tracking Tool.

Image: spreadsheet column labeled "Search terms". Beneath a list of 15 keyword phrases highlighted in green, an arrow points to another 7 highlighted in yellow.

Step 9: Once you’ve copied and pasted the yellow keywords into your Amazon Ads campaign, do the same with the green keywords. So, you should now have both your highly relevant keywords and your less relevant keywords within your Broad Match campaign.

To complete this step, just click the grey Add Keywords button.

Image: Under the Keyword Targeting heading is the Enter List tab where keywords have been populated. An arrow points to the Add Keywords button.

Step 10: Depending on your genre and the number of keywords you discovered during your research, you should have 15–30 keywords in your Broad Match campaign now.

Image: Under the Keyword Targeting heading, keywords have been added. Also displayed are the match type, suggested bid, and bid amount for each keyword.

If you want to tweak any of the bids for specific keywords, feel free to do so by clicking on the bid for that keyword, adjusting the bid accordingly and clicking the yellow save button.

Image: Under the Keyword Targeting heading, an arrow points to the bid field for an added keyword. A bid can be manually entered, or a user can select the "Use default bid" option.

Step 11: Now, at this stage, you may be thinking, “Why are some of the keywords in the Broad Match campaign the same as we’ve added into the Exact Match campaign”, which is a very good question. All is about to become clear.

Scroll on down to the Negative Keyword Targeting section, then copy and paste the highly relevant keywords from your spreadsheet (the keywords highlighted in green) into the Negative Keyword Targeting text box.

Image: Under the optional Negative Keyword Targeting heading, an arrow points to the keywords entered into the field.

Step 12: Make sure the Match Type is set to Negative Exact and then click Add Keywords.

Image: Under the optional Negative Keyword Targeting heading, an arrow points to the Match Type; Negative Exact is selected. Another arrow points to the Add Keywords button.

Let’s briefly discuss what we’ve done here and why we’ve done it.

By adding the highly relevant keywords and the less relevant keywords into the same campaign using the Broad Match type, we are creating the opportunity to find lots of new search terms we may never have discovered on our own.

However, by adding the highly relevant keywords (i.e. the same ones we are using in our Exact Match campaign) as Exact Match Negative Keywords in this Broad Match campaign, we are forcing Amazon to go out and find new keywords based on these high performing keywords, because we are targeting them with the Broad Match type.

Let’s put some context around this with an example.

One of the keywords we are targeting here is historical fantasy in the Broad Match Type, but we have also set historical fantasy as a Negative Exact keyword, meaning that Amazon cannot show this ad when someone searches for historical fantasy. If someone does search for historical fantasy, it will be our Exact Match Campaign that is triggered, not our Broad Match campaign.

However, if someone were to search for historical fantasy books for adults, because we are targeting historical fantasy as a Broad Match keyword, providing we are bidding enough and Amazon deems our book relevant to this search term, our Broad Match ad will be triggered to show, but our Exact Match campaign won’t be shown, because we aren’t targeting that specific search term as an Exact Match keyword.

If we see that the search term historical fantasy books for adults starts to generate sales and/or page reads, we can add this as a keyword to our Exact Match campaign and bid on it more aggressively and ensure we are showing up for this exact search term when someone types it into Amazon.

Step 13: To complete the setup of this Broad Match campaign, review all the information you’ve entered and when you’re happy, click the yellow Launch Campaign button.

Image: Under the optional Negative Keyword Targeting heading, an arrow points to the yellow Launch Campaign button.

Campaign 3: Automatic Targeting Campaign

We’re now moving onto creating the final campaign of this trifecta; the Automatic Targeting campaign. This is going to act as another discovery or research campaign for you, finding new keywords to target, as well as individual products/books (ASINs) that could convert well for you, when your ad is placed on the product page of another book.

Automatic Targeting campaigns are incredibly quick to set up and are often very scalable once they have been running for a few months, providing you are optimizing the campaign effectively and trimming wasted ad spend (i.e., reducing money spent on irrelevant keywords and ASINs).

You sacrifice some control with Automatic Targeting campaigns by letting Amazon’s algorithm do the research for you. Yes, they may target keywords or ASINs that are irrelevant to the books you’re advertising, but through ongoing Negative Targeting, you can train the algorithm to focus on relevant targets.

By using Automatic Targeting campaigns, you will save yourself a lot of time, both in the setup process and ongoing management of the campaigns. They can also be a superb way to find new ASINs and keywords you may never have thought of that you can then choose to manually target and claw back some control on that particular ASIN or keyword.

With that being said, let’s dive right into it.

Step 1: Back on your Amazon Ads dashboard, once again, click the yellow Create Campaign button and then choose to create a Sponsored Products Ad.

Image: screenshot of Amazon Ads Campaigns dashboard, with arrow pointing to a button labeled Create Campaign.
Image: screenshot of Amazon Ads Campaigns dashboard, with arrow pointing to a button labeled Continue.

Step 2: Name your campaign using a naming convention that works for you; here’s how I like to name my Automatic Targeting campaigns:

[BOOK TITLE] | Auto

Image: screenshot of the Settings section of the Create Campaign window. Fields are Campaign Name, Portfolio, Start and End dates, Daily Budget, and Targeting.

Step 3: As we have done when setting up the previous two campaigns, set the Start date to today and leave the End date empty.

I recommend you set the daily budget of your Automatic Targeting campaign to $30–$50 per day to give Amazon a reasonable amount of budget to cast a wide net and test keywords and ASINs that may be relevant to your advertised book. A $30–$50 daily budget also proves to Amazon that you are willing to invest a substantial amount of money into this Campaign, which will encourage the algorithm to show your Ad to more people than if you were to use a $5 per day budget.

Under the Targeting section, select Automatic Targeting.

Step 4: As we did on the earlier campaigns, set the campaign bidding strategy to Dynamic bids – down only, and the Ad format to Standard ad. With the Ad Group name, copy and paste the campaign name, so that they are both identical.

Step 5: Choose the book you are going to advertise in this campaign by clicking Add.

Image: screenshot of the Products section of the Campaign Builder, where products can be searched for and added. An arrow points to the Add button next to a specific book.

Step 6: Now comes the targeting section of your campaign setup! You have two options here:

  • Set the same bid for each of the four Automatic Targeting groups (something I’ll cover shortly)
  • Set an individual bid for each of the four Automatic Targeting groups

Personally, I have seen better results by setting an individual bid for each of the four Automatic Targeting groups.

What are the four individual Automatic Targeting Groups?

If you click on the Set bids by targeting group button, as shown in the screenshot below, you will see the four targeting groups available:

Image: Under the Automatic Targeting heading, an arrow points to the selection labeled Set Bids by Target Group.

The four Automatic Targeting groups are:

  • Close Match: Targets search terms that are closely related to your advertised book
  • Loose Match: Targets search terms that are loosely related to your advertised book
  • Substitutes: Targets ASINs (i.e. other books) that are similar to your advertised book
  • Complements: Targets ASINs (i.e. other books) that are loosely related to your advertised book
Image: Under the Automatic Targeting heading, Set Bids by Target Group is selected, which reveals the targeting groups Close Match, Loose Match, Substitutes, and Complements. Also visible are Suggested Bid amounts, and Bid fields for each group.

As you can see from the screenshot above, Amazon provides us with some suggested bids based on the book we are advertising in this campaign. You can also turn off particular targeting groups; however, to begin with, I recommend keeping all the targeting groups turned on; you can turn off poor performing targeting groups once this campaign has been running for a few weeks or months and you have gathered enough statistically significant data.

I generally recommend bidding slightly higher on Close Match and Loose Match, with Close Match being the highest bid. And bidding a few cents lower on Substitutes and Complements, with Complements being the lowest bid.

My reasoning for this, in most cases, is because Complements will usually generate a lot of clicks, but you may not see a great conversion rate (i.e. clicks turning into sales and/or Page Reads). Whereas search terms (Close Match and Loose Match), tend to generate fewer clicks but have a higher conversion rate.

I recommend that you start your bids just above the lowest amount of the suggested bid range. For example, if the suggested bid range for the Close Match targeting group was $0.49–$1.38, I would bid around $0.54 for Close Match. I would then bid $0.01 lower for each of the other Targeting Groups; so, my bids would look like this:

Close Match: $0.54
Loose Match: $0.53
Substitutes: $0.52
Complements: $0.51

If, after 7 days, your campaign isn’t generating many/any clicks or impressions, I would recommend increasing the bids on each targeting group by 10% to see if that new bid is enough for the algorithm to start taking notice of your campaign.

Alternatively, you could try switching your bidding strategy from Dynamic bids – down only to Fixed bids, which will essentially prevent Amazon from lowering your bid.

TOP TIP: In some cases, if a book I am advertising doesn’t have much sales history (i.e. it is ranked poorly and hasn’t sold many copies over the past 3–6 months), I would start this Automatic Targeting Campaign using the Fixed Bids bidding strategy from day 1.

Step 7: Once you have set your bids for each targeting group, if you continue scrolling down the page, you will see two final sections:

  • Negative Keyword Targeting
  • Negative Product Targeting

This is something I recommend you leave alone for now; once the campaign has been running for 1–2 weeks, then you can come in and start adding negative keywords and ASINs based on real world data.

If this is your first taste of Amazon Ads, you just don’t know what will and won’t convert into sales and/or page reads. So I have found that not restricting the algorithm from day 1 of an Automatic Targeting campaign yields better long-term results and performance.

Step 8: The final step of setting up your Automatic Targeting campaign is to review all the information you have entered and once you’re happy, click the yellow Launch Campaign button at the top or bottom of the page.

Image: Under the optional Negative Keyword Targeting heading, an arrow points to the yellow Launch Campaign button.

Part 3: How to track the performance of your Amazon Ads

Your campaigns will be up and running once Amazon have reviewed and approved them, which can take up to 72 hours, but usually, I find that campaigns are approved within 24 hours.

I recommend letting the campaigns run for at least 7 days before you touch them again. If you can wait 14 days, great, you will have collected even more useful data. 14 days is my preferred time period to let new campaigns run before I do any sort of optimization or tracking, as the data just isn’t stable enough before then.

In particular, if your books are in Kindle Unlimited, page reads that are attributable to your Amazon Ads can take up to 14 days to be recorded in your Amazon Ads dashboard, so if you make changes to your campaigns too often, you will be optimizing without seeing the full picture, so you could be doing more harm than good.

Tracking your Amazon Ads

Performance tracking of your Amazon Ads is crucial for success; if you aren’t tracking, there’s no way of knowing what is and isn’t working.

As I’m sure you are aware by now, orders and page reads of your books can come from Keywords or ASINs, so that is what we are going to be tracking—which individual keywords or ASINs have generated orders and/or page reads.

To make this as simple and straightforward as possible for you, I have provided you with a Tracking Sheet inside the Amazon Ads Targeting and Tracking Tool, which you can download for free by clicking here.

Inside this tool you will find a sheet called Proven Targets (original, I know!), which looks like this:

Image: Proven Targets tab of a spreadsheet. Columns are labeled Proven ASINs, Proven Keywords, ASIN Scraping, and Keyword Scraping.

This is where you will be tracking which keywords and ASINs have generated orders and/or page reads. You don’t need to track the performance of keywords and ASINs that don’t generate any orders or page reads—I will be showing you how to identify these and what to do with them, later on in this article.

TOP TIP: If you are spending less than $100 per day on Amazon Ads, I recommend that you complete the tracking process I am about to walk you through once every 2–4 weeks (i.e. once or twice per month). If you are spending more than $100 per day on Amazon Ads, I recommend you complete the tracking process once every 1–2 weeks.

The more money you spend on Amazon Ads, the more data you are going to be collecting. You don’t want to be wasting ad spend on keywords and ASINs that are costing you money but aren’t generating orders or page reads.

You also need to allow your Amazon Ads enough time to collect statistically significant data; if you’re spending $10 per day for example, it’s going to take 2–4 weeks at least to generate enough data to make informed decisions on. Whereas, if you’re spending $100 per day, you could potentially be collecting data 10 times faster!

How to use the Tracking Tool

Once you’ve downloaded the Amazon Ads Targeting and Tracking Tool, you will be able to edit the spreadsheet to a format that works for you; you may find that you want to add in additional columns, or even remove some columns—and please feel free to do so!

The important thing is to track performance and not get caught up in prettifying your spreadsheet! You also don’t want the tracking process to become so long-winded that you lose the enthusiasm for doing it regularly.

Your writing needs to be your priority, but managing your Amazon Ads is also an important task that needs to be completed in order for you to start or continue making a living from your writing. With the right approach and process to managing your Amazon Ads, with 1–2 hours per week you can have an optimized Amazon Ads account that is generating profitable sales for you day in, day out.

All that being said, let’s dive into how to track the performance of your Amazon Ads.

Step 1: Download your Search Term Reports from your Amazon Ads dashboard, by clicking on the Reports option in the lefthand menu (highlighted below).

Image: Screenshot of Amazon Ads dashboard. An arrow points to the Reports icon at the left of the screen.

Step 2: Next, you’ll come to a screen where all your past reports will be stored. If you haven’t created an Amazon Ads report before, this screen will be blank; the only option you will see will be the yellow Create Report button at the top left of your screen. So, go ahead and click the Create Report button, highlighted in the screenshot below.

Image: Screenshot of Amazon Ads Reports screen. An arrow points to the yellow Create Report button.

Step 3: The next step is to configure what information you want to download into your report. The main report you will be looking at when optimizing your Amazon Ads is called the Search Term Report, which details all the search terms and ASINs that have generated clicks, orders and page reads of your advertised books.

On the New Report page, you will see a few different options and settings, as you can see in the screenshot below.

Image: The New Report screen. Under the Configuration heading are settings labeled Report Category, Report Type, Time Unit, and Report Period. Under the Reporting Settings heading are settings labeled Name, Delivery Recipients, and Delivery Scheduled Time.

Here’s how I recommend you set things up in the configuration section:

  • Report Category: Sponsored Products (default)
  • Report Type: Search Term (default)
  • Time Unit: Summary (default)
  • Report Period: Set a custom period going as far back as possible (which for Amazon Ads reports is 65 days), by choosing the relevant dates on the calendar, as you can see below.
Image: The Report Period interface, showing the ability to choose dates on a calendar, or from pre-existing choices including Today, Yesterday, Week to Date, Last Week, Month to Date, Last Month, Last 7 Days, and Last 30 Days.

Moving onto the reporting settings section:

Name: I like to use the following naming convention, but feel free to come up with your own naming convention for your search term reports:

SP Search Term Report [Past 65 Days] – [TODAY’S DATE]

Delivery: I tend to leave this section as default. You can choose to send the report to one or more email addresses—and that could be yourself.

The other option you have here is to change the scheduled time your report will run:

  • Now
  • Future
  • Recurring

If you want to download the report immediately, simply select the Now option. If you’re not planning on working on your Amazon Ads tracking right now, but you have a day later in the week perhaps that you are planning on working on the account, then you can select Future and choose the date that works for you.

Or, what I like to do after downloading the initial search term report of a new client account immediately, is set up a Recurring report, once per month, sometimes once per week if it is a high spending account.

The reason being that Amazon only keeps data for the past 65 days, so if you don’t have a report scheduled or you don’t create a report manually, data from 66 days ago will be lost forever, so it’s just good practice to setup a recurring search term report, even if you don’t intend on using that data straight away; it’s there when you need it.

For the time being, however, just select Now for the Scheduled Time.

Image: Under the Reporting Settings heading, an arrow points to the setting for Scheduled Time: Now.

And finally, the last step here is to click the yellow Run Report button in the top right corner of your screen, as highlighted below.

Image: An arrow points to the yellow Run Report button at top right of the New Report screen.

You’ll then be taken to a screen that shows your report is Processing. You can exit this page by clicking the little Reports icon in the left hand menu to return to the main Reports page. You will now see the report you’ve just generated at the top of the list, as you can see in the screenshot below.

Image: Screenshot of Amazon Ads Reports screen. At the top of the list of reports is the most recent one to be created. Data headings include Status, Last Run, Download, Next Run, and Report Name.

Your reports are generated as an Excel spreadsheet that you can open in either Excel or Google Sheets, or your preferred spreadsheet software.

Personally, I prefer using Google Sheets to review reports, so that’s what I’ll be using in this article, but most spreadsheet software offers the same basic functions I am going to be using here.

Step 4: Once you have opened up your report in your spreadsheet software of choice, it will look something like this (pretty daunting, I know!):

Image: Screenshot of the Search Term Report spreadsheet.

There’s a lot of data in your reports, but we don’t need all of it, which is why I delete some columns within the spreadsheet. The columns I delete are:

  • Start Date
  • End Date
  • Portfolio Name
  • Currency
  • Total Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS)
  • 14 Day Total Units (#)
  • 14 Day Conversion Rate

Don’t worry about the 14 Day term used in the column titles; the numbers in these columns are referring to the date range you selected when you were setting the report up in your Amazon Ads dashboard (Step 3 of this section).

Another thing I do in the reports is rename a few of the column titles to make the spreadsheet a little less busy and overwhelming. For example, I change the column titled Total Advertising Cost of Sales (ACOS) to just ACOS. And Cost Per Click (CPC) I change to CPC. Feel free to do the same with your reports if it helps.

Step 5: The next step is to sort the data by Orders, which will tell us which search terms and/or ASINs have generated the most orders of our advertised books.

To do this, simply click in the top left corner of your spreadsheet to select every cell in the sheet. Then, if you’re using Google Sheets, click on the Data option in the top menu, choose Sort Range and finally, click on Advanced Range Sorting Options.

Image: Screenshot of the Google Sheets' Data menu. An arrow points to Advanced Range Sorting Options.

In the pop-up box that appears, tick the Data has a header row option and from the drop-down box, select Orders.

Image: Screenshot of the Google Sheets' Advanced Range Sorting Options dialog. Under the Sort By heading, an arrow points to the option labeled Orders.

Finally, select Z–A (rather than A–Z) and click the green Sort button. You will then see that all the data in your spreadsheet has been sorted into Orders, with the highest number at the top.

Image: Screenshot of the Google Sheets' Advanced Range Sorting Options dialog. Under the Sort By heading, an arrow points to the option labeled Z to A.

Step 6: What we need to do now is find all the search terms/ASINs that have generated two or more orders. If your books are in Kindle Unlimited, you can run through this same process, but sort the data by KENP Royalties and/or KENP Read, instead of Orders.

If a search term or ASIN has only generated one order, it could be a fluke! We ideally need more data than one order to be sure a search term or ASIN can be considered proven. Some advertisers prefer to select terms/ASINs with three or more orders, so feel free to use your own thresholds for what you consider to be a proven search term/ASIN.

In the report example below, this account I’m managing has 205 terms/ASINs that have generated two or more sales over the past 65 days. Some terms/ASINs have generated 40, 50 or more orders in that time frame.

Image: Screenshot of the Search Term Report spreadsheet. Three columns labeled Spend, Sales and Orders are highlighted.

What I’m also looking for at this stage is Spend vs Sales and/or KENP Royalties (Sales and Spend columns highlighted above) and making sure the profit numbers are looking good.

If a search term or ASIN has generated a lot of orders/page reads, but has spent far more than it has earned, then that target either needs eliminating, or the bid on that target needs to be reduced to make it more profitable.

IMPORTANT: The numbers in the sales column are based on the sales price of your book, not the royalty you receive from Amazon. So, if a sale is recorded at $2.99 in the sales column for example, you will actually receive around $2.04 of that (70% minus the Kindle delivery fee).

Step 7: Now that you have sorted your report by Orders, look at the Customer Search Term column and you will see which ASINs and/or terms have actually generated orders of your advertised books.

This column is gold! You may well find search terms that readers have searched for on Amazon that may have never crossed your mind—but they generated orders! These are the targets you really need to focus on by splitting them out into their own campaign. The same is true for the ASINs in the Customer Search Term column.

Every single book on Amazon has a unique ASIN (which stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number) and your Amazon Ads can appear on the product pages of these books in the Sponsored Products Carousel, as you can see in the screenshot below. Notice the little Sponsored tag; this is telling you that the books in this carousel are ads.

Image: Screenshot of the carousel titled Products Related to This Item. Just beneath that label is the word Sponsored in small type.

Once you’ve identified the search terms and/or ASINs that have generated two or more orders, you then need to copy and paste those targets into your Amazon Ads Targeting and Tracking Tool.

Paste the ASINs into the Proven ASINs column and the search terms into the Proven Keywords column.

If you have some search terms and/or ASINs that have generated one sale, you can copy and paste those from the report into the columns labelled ASIN Scraping and Keyword Scraping in the Amazon Ads Targeting and Tracking Tool.

With these targets, they aren’t 100% proven yet, because they have only generated one sale, but it can be worth putting these targets into their own campaigns and seeing if you can prove them out and giving them the opportunity to generate two or more sales. Alternatively, you can leave these targets alone and come back in 2–4 weeks time and see if they have managed to generate additional sales in their original campaign.

Here’s what your Amazon Ads Targeting and Tracking Tool might look like now:

Image: Proven Targets tab of a spreadsheet. Columns are labeled Proven ASINs, Proven Keywords, ASIN Scraping, and Keyword Scraping. Each column is populated, but the actual data is blurred out.

Step 7: The final step of this process is to take these Proven Targets and start new Campaigns that are specifically targeting them. Follow the steps we went through earlier in this article to set up these new campaigns using the keywords and ASINs in your Proven Targets sheet.

Here are the Proven Targets and Scraping campaigns I set up: 

  • [BOOK TITLE] | Proven Keywords [EXACT]
  • [BOOK TITLE] | Proven Keywords [PHRASE]
  • [BOOK TITLE] | Proven ASINs
  • [BOOK TITLE] | Keyword Scraping [EXACT]
  • [BOOK TITLE] | Keyword Scraping [PHRASE]
  • [BOOK TITLE] | ASIN Scraping

As you can see, I target proven keywords in both Exact Match and Phrase Match, because Exact Match will generate less search volume than Phrase Match, but when these search terms are triggered in the Exact Match Campaign, they will be highly likely to convert to an Order.

The Phrase Match campaign will be using the same Proven Keywords that are in the Exact Match Campaign, but will also allow for additional, new search terms to be discovered that we can, over time, move into the Exact Match Campaign.

The same is true with the Keyword Scraping campaigns for Exact Match and Phrase Match.

For the Proven Keyword and Proven ASIN campaigns, I am bidding fairly aggressively because I know that these targets are proven, so I’m confident in their ability to convert into orders of the books I am advertising.

So, rather than using the bidding strategy of Dynamic bids – down only, I am using Fixed bids, to make sure Amazon doesn’t mess with my bids and lower them if they feel a click is unlikely to result in a sale of the advertised book.

You can change your bidding strategy when you are setting up these new campaigns; you can also change your bidding strategy at any time in the future.

Image: Screenshot of the Campaign Biding Strategy window. An arrow points to the option labeled Fixed Bids. Other available options are Dynamic bids - down only, and Dynamic bids - up and down.

With the Keyword Scraping and ASIN Scraping campaigns, I’m not being as aggressive with the bids as I am in the Proven Keyword and Proven ASIN campaigns, simply because these targets haven’t proven themselves just yet. So I generally stick to the Dynamic bids – down only bidding strategy for the Scraping campaigns. However, by splitting these search terms and ASINs out into their own campaigns, the budget is shared more evenly than it is in an Automatic Targeting or Category Targeting campaign, where the budget could be shared across thousands of targets.

I recommend that you have no more than 50 ASINs in any of these Proven or Scraping campaigns. For keywords, I recommend that you keep the number to 30 or below, just so that each target has enough budget to work with.

So, if you have lots of Keywords or ASINs to target, you will need to setup multiple campaigns and name them accordingly, for example:

  • [BOOK TITLE] | Proven Keywords [EXACT] – Batch 1

While we are on the topic of budgets, I always use budgets of $50 or more per day with these Proven and Scraping campaigns, because these targets have proven themselves already in the Proven Keywords/ASINs campaigns, or you’re looking for them to prove themselves in the Scraping campaigns. These aren’t the campaigns where you want to be throttling the budgets!

Once you have got these new campaigns up and running, let them run for at least one week before making any changes; if you can, let them run for two weeks to gather even more data.

As you are using Fixed bids with the Proven ASIN and Proven Keyword campaigns, however, it’s worth checking in on the campaigns once a day, even if you aren’t going to be touching them, just to make sure that ad spend isn’t spiraling out of control, because with the Fixed bids bidding strategy, you are generally going to be spending your budget much more quickly than when you are using Dynamic bids – down only.

Part 4: An introduction to Amazon Ads optimization

Optimizing Amazon Ads is a critical part of seeing success with this platform; without it, you run the high risk of spending a lot of money and not seeing much in the way of results or return on that money.

If I were to go into all the different ways of optimizing Amazon Ads, this article would be ten times longer than it already is! So, instead, I’m going to give you the fundamentals of Amazon Ads optimization, that will help you trim wasted ad spend and really focus on what is working inside your account.

Trimming wasted ad spend

The lowest-hanging fruit when it comes to Amazon Ads optimization is stopping your ads from spending money on search terms and ASINs that aren’t converting into orders and/or page reads.

One way to find this data is by looking through your Search Term Reports, as we went through earlier in this article. Instead of sorting the data in the spreadsheet by orders, however, you sort the data by clicks, as shown in the screenshot below.

Image: Screenshot of the Search Term Report spreadsheet. The column labeled Clicks is highlighted.

If there are terms and/or ASINs that have generated 10–15+ clicks, but haven’t generated a single order or any page reads, then that is a target I would add as a Negative Keyword or Negative Product Target (which I will show you how to do shortly).

We work with tight margins when selling books, so unless you have a long series of books, or a big back catalog of books, you can’t afford to be wasting money on clicks that aren’t converting into orders and/or page reads.

If 10–15 or more people have clicked on your ad when it has been shown to them for a particular search term or on a particular book product page, chances are that it’s not a good target for your book, so there’s no need to waste more money on it.

We do need to generate a reasonable number of clicks to be able to tell whether a search term or ASIN is going to be a good target for our books, which is why I like to see at least 10–15 clicks before making a decision; less than this and we don’t really have statistically significant data to work with.

To discover this data inside your Amazon Ads account, rather than your Search Term Reports, you will need to go into the Search Terms data of a particular Campaign, which will be at the Campaign level or the Ad Group level, depending on how you set up your campaigns.

(Note: If you set your campaigns up using the Standard Ad option (the method I walked you through in this article), your search terms will be at the Ad Group level. If you set your ads up using the Custom Text option, your search terms will be at the campaign level.)

The Search Terms option in your Amazon Ads account will show you very similar data to what is in your Search Term Reports, but you can only look at one campaign at a time, whereas in your Search Term Reports, you are looking at the data for your entire account.

Image: screenshot of Amazon Ads Account dashboard, with arrow pointing to a heading labeled Search Terms in the menu at the left of the window.

Let’s dive into trimming the wasted ad spend of a particular campaign.

Step 1: In the Search Terms option inside of a particular campaign in your Amazon Ads account, sort the data by Clicks, with the highest number of clicks at the top. You may have to click the Clicks column twice to bring the highest number of clicks to the top!

As you can see in the screenshot below, there is one ASIN here that has had 28 clicks, but zero orders and zero page reads. This is a prime candidate for negative targeting. It has spent $16.95 on this single ASIN but with absolutely no return on that investment—apart from figuring out that this is a bad target!

Image: screenshot of Amazon Ads Account dashboard. The ASIN that's highlighted shows 69,870 impressions, 28 clicks, a click through rate of 0.04 percent, $16.95 in spend, a cost per click of 61 cents, but no orders or KENP pages read.

Another telltale sign that this is a bad target is the very low click-through rate (CTR). It is sitting at 0.04%, which is telling me that the readers looking at this ASIN are not a good fit for the book I am advertising; in this case, my wife’s book!

With 69,870 impressions, this single target has been sucking up a lot of the budget for this particular campaign, so by negating it, there will be more budget to spread around other potential targets that could convert better into orders and page reads.

Since you can see the titles of the books in this report, if there are any that stand out as completely irrelevant to your books, but are spending money with no return on ad spend, then these should be negated straight away too, because they are unlikely to ever convert for you. I would do this even if a particular ASIN has generated less than 10–15 clicks; sometimes we have to put ourselves in the reader’s shoes and if something feels off, we should act. Don’t rely on the data alone; use your intuition as a human and as a reader.

Step 2: Now we have found our first target to negate, copy the ASIN of that target to your clipboard and click on the Negative Targeting option in the left hand menu.

Image: screenshot of Amazon Ads Account dashboard, with arrow pointing to a heading labeled Negative Targeting in the menu at the left of the window.

Step 3: From here, you can see we have two options for Negative Targeting:

  • Negative Keywords
  • Negative Products
Image: screenshot of the Negative Targeting screen, with arrows pointing to headings labeled Negative Keywords and Negative Products.

When negating particular ASINs, as we are about to do now, we need to choose Negative Products, not Negative Keywords.

Then click the yellow Add Negative Product Targets button and a new window will appear.

Image: screenshot of the Negative Products screen. An arrow points to the yellow Add Negative Product Targets button.

Step 4: You can then paste the ASIN into the search bar, highlighted below and click Enter/Return on your keyboard. Or you can click the Enter List tab if you have multiple ASINs that you want to negate from this campaign.

Image: screenshot of the Add Negative Product Targets dialog box. Arrows point to the search field where an ASIN has been entered, and to the option labeled Exclude next to the book in the search results.

From there, you can click the little Exclude button (also highlighted above) and this ASIN will appear in the right hand column of the window.

You can now add additional ASINs you want to negate, or if you’re finished, click the yellow Add Negative Product Targets button in the bottom right hand corner of this window.

Image: screenshot of the Add Negative Product Targets dialog box. An arrow points to the yellow Add Negative Product Targets button.

Your Negative Product Targets will now appear on your screen and you can add additional Negative Product Targets at any time by following the process we have just been through.

Step 5: Once you have negated all the required ASINs, it’s time to negate the irrelevant or non-converting keywords.

To do this, head on back to your Search Terms screen by clicking the Search Terms option in the left hand menu and make sure that the data is sorted by Clicks once again.

What we are looking for here is keywords that have had 10–15 or more clicks but no orders or page reads, as we did with the ASINs. You should also look out for search terms that are irrelevant to your book. For example, if you write Fantasy Romance and this campaign is spending money on search terms related to Urban Fantasy, you may want to negate it straight away to reduce any wasted ad spend on that search term moving forwards because it is unlikely to ever convert into orders and/or page reads.

We shouldn’t become attached to particular search terms or keywords, even if we feel they are relevant to our books. If the data is telling us that we have generated lots of clicks on a particular keyword but it hasn’t generated any orders or page reads, then we should think about either negating that search term, or perhaps just lowering the bid on it, so that any orders and/or page reads that come from it, do so at a more profitable level.

Let’s put some context around all of this theory with an example.

In this Search Terms screenshot below, I have highlighted a search term that is irrelevant to the book I am advertising here. That search term is spicy fantasy romance novels.

Image: screenshot of the Search Terms screen. The term Spicy Fantasy Romance Novels is highlighted.

My wife’s books, although they are fantasy romance, are definitely not considered spicy! So this is a search term I want to negate. To do that, I’m going to copy the search term to my clipboard and head on back to the Negative Targeting screen.

Step 6: From here, click the yellow Add Negative Keywords button and a new window will appear on the screen.

Image: screenshot of the Negative Keywords screen. An arrow points to the yellow Add Negative Keywords button.

Step 7: Paste the search term into the text box that appears, making sure that Negative Exact is selected, not Negative Phrase.

Image: screenshot of the Add Negative Keywords dialog box. An arrow points to the option labeled Match Type: Negative Exact.

An important note on Negative Match Types

There are two types of Negative Match Types to choose from when negating search terms:

  • Negative Exact
  • Negative Phrase

With Negative Exact, you are negating just that one single search term; in this example, the search term we are negating is spicy fantasy romance novels. So anytime somebody searches for this search term, my ads will not be shown and therefore, I will not waste money on them.

However, if somebody searched for spicy fantasy romance books, then my ad could potentially be shown and clicked, because the search term I negated included the word novels and not books, so Amazon sees these as two completely different search terms.

If I wanted to negate any search term with the word spicy in it, I would simply enter spicy into the text box pictured above and select Negative Phrase instead of Negative Exact. This way, my ads will not be triggered when someone is searching for anything that includes the word spicy in their search term.

Negative Match Types are very important to understand; if you get them wrong they can completely destroy a campaign. For example, if you negated the word books or novels as a Negative Phrase Match, your ads wouldn’t show for any search terms with the word books or novels in them. And a lot of readers use the words books or novels when searching for their next read.

If you set a Negative Exact Match for the word books or novels, then your ads would still be shown to readers if they search for fantasy novels for example. Your ads wouldn’t be shown, however, if the reader searched the singular word books or novels.

Once you have added in the search terms you want to negate, click the grey Add Keywords button and then click the yellow Save button.

Image: screenshot of the Add Negative Keywords dialog box. Arrows point to the grey Add Keywords buttons, and to the yellow Save button.

The process we have been through here of negating keywords and ASINs should be something you do with every campaign in your account (apart from campaigns where you are targeting Exact Match Keywords only) at least once per month. If you are spending a considerable amount on Amazon Ads, however, I recommend you do this once every 1–2 weeks.

If you prefer working with spreadsheets, then you can use the Search Term Reports to figure out where your wasted ad spend is and add the required Negative Keywords and/or ASINs to the relevant campaigns/ad groups.

Without this task being completed regularly, you run the very high risk of wasting a lot of money on search terms and ASINs that are unprofitable for you.

Over time, by negating irrelevant keywords and ASINs, Amazon will start to learn more and more about your books and campaigns will gradually start to perform better and more profitably.

Bid optimization

This topic could be a book in and of itself! So, I’m going to cover the bare bones of this for you so that you walk away with a basic understanding of how to optimize your bids on keywords and ASINs.

In simple terms, if a keyword or ASIN that you are targeting isn’t generating enough impressions (i.e. being seen by readers), then you should look to increase your bid on that particular target.

If a keyword or ASIN that you are targeting is generating clicks, but no sales, then you could either negate that target, or you could simply reduce the bid on it so that when it does convert into orders and/or page reads, it does so more profitably.

Then we have the middle ground to cover…

What if a keyword or ASIN that you are targeting has generated orders and/or page reads, but is doing so at a loss?

My advice here is to reduce the bid on that particular target until you bring it under control, as it clearly converts, but is not doing so at a sustainable level.

By reducing the bid on this keyword or ASIN, you will receive less clicks, but the clicks that do come through will do so at a lower cost, and the conversions will become more profitable for you because of that lower cost per click (CPC).

Let’s bring some context to this with a real-world example.

The screenshot below is for a Sponsored Brands Ad I am running for my wife’s books. The four columns I am most interested in when optimizing bids are:

  • Keyword Bid
  • Spend
  • CPC
  • Sales

(Note: Page reads aren’t attributable in Sponsored Brands Ads at the time of writing this article. When optimizing bids for a Sponsored Products campaign, I am also looking at the KENP Royalties for a particular keyword or ASIN.)

Image: screenshot showing a list of current ads with details. Columns labeled Keyword Bid, Spend, CPC, and Sales are highlighted.

As you can see, the CPC I am paying is much lower than the bid I am putting forward into the Amazon Ads auction. This is because the keywords I am targeting, Amazon sees as highly relevant to the books I am advertising.

The amount you are willing to pay for a single click with Amazon Ads (i.e your bid) certainly is important, but what is perhaps even more important is how relevant the keywords or ASINs you are targeting are to the book you are advertising.

Relevancy plays a huge role in Amazon Ads because Amazon wants to provide its customers with the best experience possible. It does that by showing relevant products to them based on what they are searching for, as well as their browsing and purchasing history and habits.

This also has a knock-on effect, that Amazon shows people products that they are more likely to purchase, therefore making Amazon more money, as well as authors.

Looking at the screenshot below, I have spent $12.37 on this single keyword, but it has only generated one order at $3.99, so clearly, this is a candidate for reducing the bid.

Image: screenshot of ad details. The highlighted ad has a Keyword Bid of 79 cents, total Spend of $12.37, a cost per click of 46 cents, and total Sales of $3.99.

I am currently bidding $0.79 on this keyword, but am only paying $0.46 per click. So, in order to make this a more profitable keyword for me, I need to reduce my bid to below the cost per click I am currently paying.

Initially, I like to go at least 10% below the current cost per click when I am reducing bids to make sure that I am going to be reducing my costs and have the best chance of improving profitability. I don’t like dropping the bid drastically because this could cannibalize results.

TOP TIP: Best practice with Amazon Ads is small, regular changes, rather than huge, irregular changes; this applies to bids, bidding strategy, adding keywords/ASINs, etc.

Don’t come into your Amazon Ads account with a cannonball! Instead, come in and tweak things a little, wait and measure the impact of those changes. If you change too much all at once and results improve or decline, you will likely have no idea what it was that caused those changes in performance.

To change the bid, simply click in the text box in the bid column, edit the bid and then click the yellow Save button.

Image: screenshot of ad details. The Keyword Bid which had previously been 79 cents has now been changed to 41 cents.

With keywords that aren’t generating any or many impressions and therefore clicks, I increase the bid by 10%–20%, let it run for 5–7 days and then measure the results to see if there has been an increase in impressions and clicks.

If there hasn’t been an uptick in impressions and clicks, I increase the bid again by another 10%–20% and let things run for another 5–7 days, until I find the sweet spot of a bid that generates impressions and clicks, but also delivers orders and/or page reads profitably.

We covered this earlier in the article, but it’s worth covering again. When deciding how much you should be bidding, a good rule of thumb is to bid within the Suggested Bid range shown for each keyword or ASIN you are targeting.

You will see a column in your dashboard, similar to the one highlighted below, where Amazon is showing you a range of how much other authors are paying to receive clicks on the same keywords that you are targeting. The Suggested Bid range is in light grey, whereas the Suggested Bid itself is in dark grey.

Image: screenshot showing a list of current ads with details. The Suggested Bid column is highlighted. For each Ad, there is a Suggested Bid Range (for example, between 94 cents and $1.41) and a Suggested Bid (for example, $1.40). Next to each is a button labeled Apply, which if clicked would populate the Suggested Bid into the Keyword Bid field.

I do find that the Suggested Bids aren’t always overly accurate, but they are a good rule of thumb to follow if you have no idea how much you should be bidding. There are calculations you can use to figure out your maximum CPC, but initially, my advice is to use the Suggested Bid range.

With keywords related to your brand, such as your author name and your book titles, you will generally find that you pay much less per click than the Suggested Bid ranges. This comes back to relevancy. You are clearly the most relevant advertiser for your own author name and book titles, so Amazon rewards you with lower costs for each click.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this section, bid optimization is a topic that could fill an entire book! I have only scratched the surface of it in this article, but hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what bid optimization entails and how critical it is to your success with Amazon Ads.

Bid optimization is something that should be done regularly, just as trimming wasted ad spend should be a regular task when managing your Amazon Ads.

Parting advice

Just as with any form of advertising or marketing, Amazon Ads is not a magic bullet. You need a solid foundation in place first before spending a dime on advertising.

Amazon Ads are there to send relevant traffic to your books, but if your book product page on Amazon isn’t well constructed, or it has poor reviews and a sub-par book description, you are unlikely to see good results from your Amazon Ads.

Another critical point to mention here is that your book covers play an integral role with Amazon Ads, because they form the creative of your ad itself in the search results, and in the Sponsored Products carousel on product pages.

A poor book cover is unlikely to grab the attention of readers, so you run the risk of receiving little to no clicks on your Amazon Ads. Or if people do click, they see your book cover in a bigger format on your book product page, and don’t like the look of it and it doesn’t clearly signify the type of book they were looking for, they are unlikely to purchase your book.

Thank you for taking the time to read all the way to this point. Amazon Ads do take consistent work to refine, optimize and scale to a point where they are reliably and profitably generating orders and page reads of your books. Typically, depending on your ad spend, you should expect to be working on your Amazon Ads diligently every week, for at least 3–6 months, before you start seeing some real traction and momentum. There are of course exceptions to this, but in the main, Amazon Ads is a marathon, not a sprint.

My philosophy is that it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey you take to get there that really counts and what you learn along the way; not only about what you are doing (in this case, Amazon Ads), but also learning about yourself and your books. What you discover may surprise you.

I wish you all the best with your Amazon Ads and, ultimately, your career as an author.


Matt Holmes

Matt Holmes is a book advertising specialist managing Amazon Ads and Facebook Ads for self-published authors, helping them bring their work into the world. Matt is also the author of three books, written under the pen name Matthew J Holmes, that help authors take their first steps into advertising. He lives in the UK with his author wife, Lori, their twin boys, Jacob and Caleb and not forgetting their two dogs, Freya and Loki.

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