You’re ready to start advertising on Amazon. One of the first decisions you will have to make is which Amazon Ads campaign type will you use: automatic or manual campaigns. Automatic might be the easier choice if you’re looking to get started right away, but will it help you meet all of your business goals on Amazon — and across platforms?
Here’s a quick pros and cons list, before we dig into the details of automatic and manual campaigns.
Amazon Ads Campaign Types: Pros and Cons
Easy to Set Up
Identify Search Terms
Limited Bid Adjustments
No Direct Keyword Targeting
More Precise Targeting
Easier to Direct Spend
Requires a Lot of Information
Amazon Automatic Campaign Pros
PRO: Easy Setup
You don’t need a lot of information (other than inventory data) or time to get started with automatic campaigns.
The most time-consuming part of automatic campaign setup is the campaign build. This is especially true if you follow best practice and have a very limited number of products (or even a single product) per ad group.
Unless you have access to the Amazon Ads API—and the technical know-how to use it—you’ll have to add your product or products one at a time. That time adds up fast! That being said—automatic campaigns usually still take less time than manual campaigns to set up, as we’ll see later.
PRO: Identify Search Terms and Products
If you aren’t sure which search terms will be profitable for you on Amazon, automatic campaigns help you uncover which keywords and placements to bid on.
Again—this is where narrow or single-product targeting is especially important. With this type of campaign structure, you get the best possible idea of which keywords or placements are the most profitable for which products.
This makes it easy to apply these insights to manual campaigns on Amazon or even across channels (more on that later!)
Amazon Automatic Campaign Targeting Cons
CON: No Direct Keyword Targeting
Amazon decides where to serve product ads for automatic campaigns. You will not be able to add keywords or phrases to target directly. This is why narrow segmentation of ad groups on Amazon is so important. If an ad group contains a very specific segment of products or even just one product, it’s much easier to determine which keywords and products are driving sales, and why.
For example: let’s say you initially set up an automatic campaign with just one ad group, targeting all products of one brand, from rackets to tennis shoes to nets. After thirty days, you see the ad group is spending heavily, but without many sales. What you don’t know is why – which products aren’t resonating with Amazon customers? You also don’t know how to fix it, because lowering bids for the entire group will risk the performance of all of your other items.
With a narrow segment or single-product structure, you gain important performance insights. In the example above, if you had put just one tennis racket in the ad group, you’d know specifically that you’re spending too much to advertise that item. You can safely lower bids without risking the performance of the other items in your inventory.
Automatic campaigns generally serve for relevant terms – but nothing’s perfect. While some keywords might be highly targeted and driving conversion, others might miss the mark. Note that you cannot reduce bids just for some keywords – only for the ad group as a whole.
Automatic Campaign Targeting: Product Placement & Keywords
Do you get to choose your placements with automatic campaigns? You guessed it! Amazon does it for you. The best-case scenario – your ad serves on a highly-relevant product. The worst-case scenario – it serves on an irrelevant and unrelated product and doesn’t drive sales.
For example: You are selling a tennis racket. Your product might serve on product pages for similar rackets, or for competitors’ rackets. It might also appear next to tennis shoes or a badminton racket. While these last two listings are related to your item, they might not be the best placements to serve on.
CON: Limited Bid Adjustments
As we discussed above, you can only set bids for automatic campaigns at the ad group level. However, you do have the ability to set bids for each ad group according to whether the placement is a Close Match, Complement, Loose Match, or Substitutes for each product. Whether a given keyword is a close match, complement, loose match, or substitute is determined by Amazon, but you can set bids for each of these groups.
For example: You might set close match to $1.75, complements to $1.50, loose match to $1.00, and substitutes to $0.50.
We actually ran an experiment where we segmented campaigns according to match type. See how this unique strategy can help your business in our whitepaper: Discovering A New Amazon Campaign Structure.
Ecommerce Site Triples Amazon Revenue with Omnitail
Amazon Manual Campaign Targeting Pros
PRO: More Precise Targeting
Unlike automatic campaigns, you can choose exactly where your ads show on Amazon. Unless you have broad match keywords enabled, you run very little risk of having your ads run on terms that are totally unrelated to the product.
Manual campaigns also allow you to target competitor products. For example, an ad group for “Omnitail Tennis Racket” might contain “Nike Tennis Racket”. This would allow the product to show alongside the competitors’ product. ASINs associated with Nike tennis rackets can also be included in the ad group targeting for more direct targeting
PRO: Easier to Direct Spend
For manual campaigns, you can adjust bids at either the ad group level or at the individual keyword level. Like with targeting, if you are on top of your keyword data, you can benefit from using manual campaigns. If you know your top performing keywords, you can increase bids for those keywords that drive sales, and lower bids for weak keywords.
For example: if you sell tennis equipment, you could put a $1.50 bid adjustment on the keyword “Omnitail Tennis Racket” (since it is performing well), and only a $0.25 bid adjustment on the keyword “ProTennis Racket” (since you see it is performing poorly).
Amazon Manual Campaign Targeting Cons
CON: Time-Consuming Setup
Like automatic campaigns, we recommend a very narrow or single-product campaign structure for manual campaigns. As you can imagine, this becomes very time-consuming when you throw keywords into the mix. You first need to build an ad group for each product or segment, then determine where is the best to target.
CON: Requires a Lot of Information
In addition to your product listings, you’ll need a list of keywords and the ASINs of competitor products you’d like to target. You can stick to keywords – but we’ve found competitor product pages to be highly valuable placements and we very much recommend targeting them as well.
If you have a strong understanding of which keywords are successful and which aren’t – then manual campaigns are a good match for you! If not – you’ll need to do a significant amount of keyword research to make manual targeting successful.
Regardless, with manual campaigns you need to stay on top of which keywords are top performers. You also need to update them regularly – or you might miss out on search trends or other opportunities that automatic campaigns factor into strategy automatically.
Both automatic and manual campaigns provide valuable cross-channel insights.
Automatic campaigns can give you a solid list of keywords that are successful on Amazon. The keywords you pull from automatic campaigns can also be useful for targeting in manual campaigns. In the same vein, unsuccessful search terms from automatic campaigns are helpful additions to negative keyword lists on Amazon as well as on Google Shopping.
While both campaign types can provide insights, they can also benefit from data from outside of Amazon. For example, keyword research from Google Shopping or paid search campaigns is a great starting point for keyword targeting on Amazon!
So Which Amazon Ads Campaign Type Should You Choose?
Automatic and Manual Campaigns both have their pros and cons. It’s not fair to say one is better than the other – it just depends on your business needs and capabilities. As a blanket statement – if you need to save on time, automatic campaigns are probably the way to you. Alternatively, if you have the time and want to invest in highly specific, and targeted campaigns the manual is your best bet.
But what if you don’t have the time, AND you want highly targeted ads? You want the best of both worlds!