Sponsored Product Ads: Automatic vs. Manual Campaigns in Seller Central

As I sit in my burrow, drinking coffee and furiously writing this blog post for all the Badgers out there, I think about three things my readers might be asking:

  1. It is insanely difficult to write anything with claws, how is The Badger so good at it?
  2. How does the badger get coffee? What coffee shops in Austin even allow badgers to order coffee?
  3. I thought this blog post was about Sponsored Product Campaigns inside Seller Central. How do I even use automatic and manual campaigns to sell my products?

Yes, I have to trim my claws in a way that allows me to deliver these great blog posts to Amazon sellers. Austin keeps it weird and allows any creature to indulge in the city’s caffeine culture, plus I’m really good at blending in. Lastly, I will tell you all about the complexities of Automatic and Manual campaigns when setting up Sponsored Product ads in Seller Central.

Caption: When you see this page, you’re given the option of choosing a manual or automatic campaign, the campaign name, the daily budget, and the start and end date.

What Similarities do Manual and Automatic Campaigns Share?

One second grasshopper; in order to become a PPC pro, you must first know the basics of Sponsored Product Ads. To get started, revisit my previous blog post on Sponsored Products.

The Buy Box:

Keep in mind that everything on Amazon is a competition. Multiple sellers can be selling the same product, but only one can control the buy box. For your Sponsored Product ads to appear to shoppers, you must win the buy box first. The buy box is what begins the checkout process and is located on the product detail page. Amazon says “Excelling in all areas that deliver an outstanding customer experience is the best way to achieve Buy Box eligibility and win the Buy Box.” Long story short: keep a competitive price, keep your product fully stocked, offer great shipping options, and excel in customer service.

Organizing Your Product Campaigns:

The goal of grouping strategically is to maximize visibility.

The ways to do this is to:

  • A/B test
  • Organize your products by attributes
  • Take into account the grouping factors

(We will talk about all of the above in a later post!)

Here’s an example of what sellers see when creating an ad group. Amazon will then let you select any of your products put into an ad group.


Automatic and manual campaigns have the same KPI: Advertising Cost of Sales

To decide how much profit you will be making off your advertising, you’ll want to calculate your ACoS using this formula:

ACoS = Ad Spend / Sales

So what’s a good ACoS? Well, that depends on your goals for your product, but generally, you’re trying to get your ACoS percentage the lowest possible. For example, say your ACoS comes back at 25%. You’re spending 25 cents to make one dollar off of sales. ACoS is complex and I will get deeper into it eventually, until then check out this article on ACoS from 3Q Digital.

Automatic Campaigns in Amazon Seller Central

How Automatic Campaigns Work:

Sellers select their budget and let Amazon go to work and automatically find keywords. Amazon looks for keywords that match your product’s category, related products, and keywords in your product’s descriptions.

Benefits of Automatic Campaigns:

  • Great for PPC beginners because of the easy setup.
  • You get to skip the hassle of entering keyword bids and have more time to read my blog.
  • If you run an automatic campaign, Amazon will collect data for you to apply to future campaigns. Amazon tracks clicks and spends, usually taking 2 to 4 days to process. It may take up to 2 to 4 weeks to gather enough data to see which campaigns are doing well.
  • Automatic campaigns allow for experimentation without putting that much effort in.
  • They allow you to show up for long-tail research you may have never guessed people would search for.
This is an example of long-tail research someone might type in.

Drawbacks of Automatic Campaigns:

  • As you may have guessed, letting Amazon automatically choose the keywords you will bid on gives you less control compared to the manual campaign structure.
    • Automatic campaigns do bid on relevant terms, but relevant doesn’t always mean profitable
    • There will be irrelevant terms Automatic campaigns will bid money on
  • Same bid for high converting, low converting, and no converting keywords
  • You can risk showing up for irrelevant terms
If a customer were to type in “headphones for badgers” some unlikely things might pop up, like this set of Wisconsin Badgers headphones and a shirt. This is an example of an irrelevant term automatic campaigns might be bidding on.

Manual Campaigns

How Manual Campaigns Work:

Manual campaigns are also set up in the campaign manager within Seller Central. With a manual campaign, sellers handpick keywords they want to bid on. Sellers can choose broad, phrase match, or exact keywords when bidding to fine tune where their ad spending goes. When setting up your manual campaign, remember to keep your keywords in the 20 to 40 range and not go overboard with more than 500 keywords. If you choose more than 500 keywords, there’s no way all of those are going to match with your product and you’ll be wasting ad money.

Benefits of Manual Campaigns:

  • Great for PPC experts who have time to set up manual campaigns.
  • You can maximize your sales volume and perfect your ACoS.
  • Bidding on keywords manually allows for more precise targeting and could lead to more sales if you are successful
  • It’s easy to reduce bids or pause low-performing words.
  • Amazon suggests bids next to every keyword you wish to bid on, making it easier for the seller.
  • Have keyword ideas you want to test? Manual campaigns help you do that.

Drawbacks of Manual Campaigns:

  • Manually choosing every keyword to bid on takes tons of effort and time.
  • You could lose money if you do not put that much effort and time into keyword research.

So Which Campaign Type is Better?

Automatic campaigns aren’t better than manual and manual campaigns aren’t better than automatic. I personally recommend that you use both manual and automatic campaign types for your Sponsored Product ads. Use the data collected from your automatic campaigns and punch them into your manual campaigns to increase your sales.

The Amazon marketplace is an ever-changing, flowing store with trends and new products being introduced. To be an Amazon seller you must be constantly keeping up with your ad bids and experimenting to see what works. If you find success, don’t get complacent and stop optimizing your ad campaigns.

If you want a quick reference guide, check out our infographic comparing manual and automatic campaigns. For more PPC optimization tips and Ad Badger news, sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this post and check back for more posts I produce in the Badger’s Burrow!


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