How to audit your PPC campaigns on Amazon
PPC campaigns are never perfect. Building out your theory, tweaking performance on the go and making sure that you have levers at your disposal to make changes is complex — something is bound to fall through the cracks. The irony is that the closer you get to a campaign and the longer you work on it, the more likely you are to miss something. There is even a phrase for it: “inattentional blindness” or “Gorillas in the Midst” — worth a look.
Avoiding tunnel vision is why it’s so critical to occasionally step back and audit your campaign. Taking the time to audit your efforts, even if your account is performing well, is a necessity. A thorough audit will typically always reveal something helpful to improve performance. Even periodically doing a quick PPC check can catch small issues before they become big issues.
However, you do need a longer period of stability and rigorous analysis to get the best results. If you have recently changed your approach, you could be auditing based on incomplete information or you’ll be trying to compare apples with oranges.
The essential time to audit is when you’re having performance issues. But even without a minor crisis to galvanize action, you should have specific periods set to audit your PPC campaigns, especially if they’ve been managed by the same person or team for a long time. By doing this, your PPC audit will highlight areas of focus to measure the success of your PPC strategy and indicate the level of KPIs to improve it.
It’s also important to remember that Amazon is continually releasing new features. You need to regularly review your campaigns and those updates to make sure your campaigns are performing to their best potential.
What does an audit look at?
One of the key elements to decide first is the best timeframe needed to analyze relevant data and get meaningful results. For example, beware of looking at a weekly or daily conversion data and making changes based on solely that information. There’s a good chance that the data isn’t statistically relevant. At the very least, you probably want to look at 3-months’ worth of data. However, this still runs the risk of making decisions based on seasonally skewed results. If possible, your best choice is to look at a year’s worth of data when doing a general audit.
A PPC account audit will identify issues that don’t conform to best practices. At a high level, there are three key areas of focus: campaign structure, keyword/search term selection, and conversion tracking. You then also need to consider your goals and the lifecycle of your products — i.e. post product launch and longer-term, sustainable strategies. Lastly, consider your advertising methodology and use these three main areas to analyse how your ad strategy is performing against your goals for the brand/product.
There is always a balance in structuring campaigns between ease and complexity. A low maintenance campaign structure may make things simple, but you should be looking at a structure that will enable the same ease while monitoring potentially thousands of keywords per product. An audit should be able to tell you whether, by using automation tools, you can get the best of both. It should also investigate: what kinds of campaigns are running? What kind of targeting is being used? Do naming conventions make sense?
Ad groups are an important part of your PPC campaign. However, there is no real best practice when it comes to how you group your products. Some people use variations within a single ad group. Others set up separate ad groups for different product lines. What is important is that you are able to subcategorize your different products within a logical structure. This is key to making sure you are able to target ads and optimize outcomes.
Keyword/search term selection
More and more, Amazon resembles a product search engine. You need to understand your goals for your products and ensure the search terms you are advertising on are relevant to reaching those goals. The sort of answers that an audit would provide are: what match types are we using? Are there duplicate keywords throughout? Is there a negative keyword strategy in place? Are you balancing your ads across branded vs non-branded search terms?
When auditing keywords, you’ll need to review the match types. If most of the terms are broad match, some expansion for increased ROI could be completed by adding modified broad, phrase, and exact match terms. If the account is relying predominantly on broad match, is there a logical negative keyword strategy in place to weed out irrelevant traffic? Are bids set too high or low to produce results or maintain goals?
Amazon’s number one concern is sales — sales should be your priority as well. Conversion rates is the biggest indicator of your product listing’s success (or failure). Conversion rates helps you rank higher for your potential keywords on Amazon. Your audit should show what is currently being tracked and how it is being tracked, and highlight where it can be improved.
The next stage in the audit process is a deep dive to highlight the percentage of keywords that are converting, non-converting and poorly converting, separated by match type. In addition, you need to measure your match type effectiveness, campaign balance and wasted ad spend, and compare it to best practice.
Potential missed opportunities
Conversion search term analysis focuses on already converting search terms that have the potential to get more sales by increasing the number of impressions or improving the current conversion rate for a given search term. One of the typical tactics as a result of the audit is to look to migrate some of these search terms to an “exact” match
The audit should also ensure that you’re making the most of your potential match types. Especially when considering techniques such as Search Term Optimization. Let’s look at the match types in a bit more detail.
Auto: Auto campaigns make PPC ads easier, but they reduce control. However, they can help discover long-tail keywords (or search terms) that you may have never guessed people would search for. Search terms in this category are typically used for researching new keywords and competitor ASINs that convert. Once there’s a single conversion, terms should be moved to “exact match” to ensure you’re optimizing at the search term level. You should also move the ASIN to ‘product targeting’ in order to make sure you are targeting that converting keyword on the right product.
Broad Match: This is like Auto match, but you’re responsible for entering the keyword instead of it being automatically generated. A typical scenario to check for would be whether a broad match campaign is migrating converting-terms to the “exact” match type for a more targeted approach.
A broad search term can contain keywords or synonyms in any order. To take a keyword example like “vegan protein”, eligible search terms would include “vegan protein”, “vegan protein bar”, and “protein for vegans”. Invalid search terms include “vegan food” or “vegan meat substitute”.
Phrase Match: Using phrase match can help reach more shoppers, while still allowing for optimized targeting. This will eliminate customer search terms that insert terms between the words in your phrase. To continue with the “vegan protein” example, eligible search terms include “quality vegan protein”, “cheap vegan protein for men”, and “vegan protein bar”. Invalid search terms include “vegan substitute protein” or “protein for vegans”.
Exact Match: the jewel in the crown and main driver of your ad spend. This allows more control as you can optimize at a search term level rather than a keyword bucket of search terms as is the case with Auto, Broad or Phrase. In the “vegan protein” example, eligible search terms include “vegan protein” and “vegan proteins”. Ineligible search terms would include anything else. This allows you to target your ad spend on a granular level. It requires more manual inputs, but maximizes outcomes when done right.
Duplicated search terms for the same ASIN with the same match types can cannibalize your ad budget. Check that you’re not negating a recently migrated term that’s now an exact match in the auto, broad, and phrase match types as you can end up with multiple metrics on the same exact search term. That’s why it’s considered best practice to remove any duplication to avoid this.
You should also analyze whether you’re spending your allocated daily budget. If you’re underspending, you could be missing out on incremental sales opportunities. If you are spending on the wrong products, you could also be missing opportunities.
The Pareto principle operates in many areas of business, and PPC ads is one of them. If you don’t know, the Pareto principle is the observation that, often, 20% of actions reap 80% of the results. When it comes to PPC, that simply highlights that you’ll have a few best selling products that generate a disproportionate amount of your sales.
If you can identify your over-performing products, you can concentrate ad spend and increase the efficiency of your budget. That does not mean you should neglect your other PPC campaigns, it is simply something to consider when prioritizing which products to push — particularly if there are overlapping keywords. It’s also a critical part of optimizing your Amazon ACoS strategy, something else that should play a central role in any Amazon PPC audit.
Overarching review of data processes
The value of granular ad-spend control and the need to regularly review performance within an ad campaign brings up larger questions about how you interact with your Amazon customer data. This actually expands far beyond the scope of a simple PPC audit — however, it’s something worth considering when reviewing performance.
Increasingly, business (and ecommerce specifically) hinges on understanding data. As Amazon makes more and more of its customer data available to 3P Sellers in particular, getting ahold of tools that will help you make sense of that data through automation is critical. If you want to learn more about how to make sense of your amazon customer data, we have an eBook just for you.
A solid data automation strategy will not only make it easier to understand your data and audit your PPC campaigns, it will give you more time to take action on those insights and deliver the outcomes you need. You can also gain valuable information on the customer lifetime value that will improve your decision-making when it comes to PPC ads.
The audit dilemma
The importance of auditing your PPC campaigns cannot be understated — spending in the wrong place and neglecting opportunities to prosper cannot be considered acceptable. But the ecommerce world changes constantly. PPC campaigns almost always carry ‘legacy baggage’ from changes in staffing or strategy as well as potentially coping with new innovations in the Amazon platform. Large campaigns are often unwieldy and hard to navigate. Important and advanced features are always in danger of becoming inconsistently adopted and configured.
If you’re are looking at a comprehensive check, and you should be, it may be better to outsource the project and get fresh eyes. It’s very easy to overlook the “basics” and assume you have everything set up correctly. It would be wise to get professionals to do this for you, and to deploy technology to really dive into analytics that are needed to audit your PPC campaigns. This will provide an audit with real depth and result in actionable insights that will improve your current campaigns to drive your future success.