How Amazon Product Targeting in Manual Campaigns Really Works

Back in the day, circa 2010 AD, match type’s didn’t exist. Amazon would essentially sort your product and automatically determine where it showed up. These were the dark ages of Amazon PPC. 

After this humble beginning, Amazon rolled out keywords and product targeting. These new features led everyone to believe that keyword targeting was for searches and product targeting was for targeting specific listings. 

Guess what? We were all wrong.

The Truth About Product Targeting

It’s important to realize that product targeting is different from product page placements and ad placements in general. 

Let’s say you have two manual campaigns:

  • Campaign 1: Only has product targeting
  • Campaign 2: Only has keyword targeting

The interesting thing is that both of these campaigns will have impressions on search and product pages. That means keyword targeting can place your ad on product pages and product targeting can place your ad on the search page.

This makes sense because product page placements came around before product targeting.

If you’re targeting a keyword then all of the ads populated on the search result will correlate to the keyword. Pretty simple stuff.

amazon ppc product targeting
Here's where you'll decide whether to target keywords or products.

What we didn’t realize about product targeting is that the same principles for keyword targeting carry over and apply to product targeting. How is this possible? ASIN targeting. Instead of targeting a keyword, product targeting follows a specific ASIN and your ad will show up next to that ASIN in keyword results pages and product pages.  

Even if a user searches for a keyword that you would never imagine targeting, if your product targeting ad follows an ASIN that shows up for that search your product will also appear.

ASIN targeting helps you hunt down your competition's products.

Product Targeting Ad Groups

There is no such thing as a product targeting campaign. Product targeting happens at the ad group level. Why? In a campaign, having negative ASINs isn’t possible. In order to set negative ASINs for product targeting, you have to create a product targeting ad group.

With your auto-campaigns, you can’t throw in a negative ASIN to block your product from following that ASIN just like you can’t set negative ASINs in keyword targeting campaigns.

In a manual campaign, when creating an ad group you can choose between product targeting and keyword targeting. An ad group can’t have product targeting and keyword targeting. You have to choose.

In a manual campaign you can have both ad group types within the campaign. A negative keyword can be added to the campaign that will apply to every ad group, but you can only do this for search terms.

Another caveat is that Sponsored Brands campaigns don’t have ad groups, so Sponsored Brands campaigns must only have either product targeting or keyword targeting. 

The Weird Thing About Auto-Campaigns

We just stressed that an ad group needs to be either a product targeting or a keyword targeting ad group, but that doesn’t apply for auto-campaigns.

With an auto-campaign you can have an ad group with product targeting AND keyword targeting. On a search term report for an auto-campaign, you will see both search terms and ASINs. The ASINs are coming from complements/substitutes and search terms on the report come from close-match and loose-match targets.

However, while both targeting types can be used in an auto-campaign, negative targeting for auto-campaigns still only applies to keyword targeting. 

So how do you use this information and actually create the right campaigns and ad groups?

We recommend that sellers treat complements and substitutes as dead when it comes to auto-campaigns. Only let your auto-campaigns target close-match and loose-match search terms. 

To deal with ASIN targeting, create a manual campaign that targets categories that would be complements and substitutes for your product. Do some RPSB with your results, and you should be set.

Another Exception to the Rule

Another quirk when it comes to product targeting is that the rules don’t apply to Sponsored Display ads. Sponsored Display ads, or display ads, appear anywhere on Amazon’s network, so audience targeting replaces keywords.

When these ads appear on Amazon, they show up under the buy-box and have a gray background to set it apart from other ads.

For product targeting, you are targeting this “spot” and paying for your ad to appear below the buy-box or below the bullet points on a listing.

Bulk Operations and Product Targeting

Bulk operations for keywords are super easy, but ASINs are a little different. For ASINs there are some formatting changes that you’ll have to do when adding ASINs to bulk operations.

If you just put the ASIN in the target section of the spreadsheet, you will get an error when uploading because the target section is *usually* for keywords.

When adding ASINs to your bulk operations file, you’ll have to put the right stuff in the Product ID, Target, and Match Type boxes.

  • Product ID: ASIN = “The specific ASIN you are targeting”
  • Target: ASIN = “The specific ASIN you are targeting”
  • Match Type: Targeting Expression
    • For a negative ASIN: Negative Targeting Expression

In addition, you can’t create a product targeting ad groups in bulk operations. If you are creating a new campaign in a bulk operations file, you can pick between keyword or product targeting. For ad groups, this choice doesn’t exist and the ad groups must be created manually in Amazon.

Key Takeaways

This has been a very deep dive into product targeting, to say the least. Just remember these golden rules of product targeting:

  • Product targeting is not ad placements
  • Product targeting takes place at the ad group level
  • Auto-campaigns are confusing, but you can solve the puzzle!
  • Sponsored Display ads behave differently than normal ads
  • Bulk operations and ASIN targeting requires a few tweaks but is possible

Go forth, Badger Nation, and conquer your competition with your superior knowledge of product targeting.

Discover Us on our PPC Den Podcast

If you enjoy supplementing your long reads with audio, we cover this topic on our podcast as well. 

Listen to it in the episode below or find us on your favorite streaming platform, like Apple, Google, Spotify, and more!

  • 0:00 We scrapped the intro
  • 3:00 The truth about product targeting
  • 12:15 A product targeting campaign doesn’t exist
  • 16:10 The weird thing about auto-campaigns
  • 20:20 Sponsored Display and product targeting
  • 23:10 Bulk operations and product targeting
  • 27:00 Closing thoughts

Watch Mike & Stephen on YouTube

If you enjoy supplementing your long reads with video, well, hot diggity dog, you’re in luck! We cover this topic on our YouTube channel too. 

Watch it below and please don’t forget to ‘like’ and subscribe.

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