muddy_bootOn the heels of announcing that Amazon Sponsored Ads were responsible for a 100% increase in sales for 3rd party merchants during Q4, Amazon just threw sellers a curveball.

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On both February 2 and 11, 2016,  Amazon made changes to Sponsored Ad Phrase Match & Exact Match relevancy that significantly reduced ad performance and sales.

This change caused ad impressions to all but disappear for many sellers running campaigns set up with phrase and exact match types.

These effects seemed to roll out in stages however, as not all out students and clients (many whom have seen a 2000+ % increase in sales with Amazon Sponsored Product Ads in the past year) immediately experienced a drop in impressions or sales.

However, the effect of this change has been widespread.

To make matters worse, Amazon didn’t notify 3rd party merchants of these changes. The first “notification” sellers received was a drastic drop in ad impresesions and sales.

And while Ad changes are without notification are nothing new, one has to wonder why Amazon would take a wildly successful program that’s generated millions of dollars in sales and revenue for both Amazon and their 3rd party merchants, and muck it up?

While only Amazon knows the answer to that question…

As 3rd party merchants we need to turn our focus to how to handle these changes.

After the changes were made,  On Feb 11, Amazon responded with this email to their advertisers:

Dear Advertiser,

On February 2nd, Sponsored Products made changes to exact and phrase match type functionality. As a result of this change, advertisers using phrase and exact match may have seen a decline in traffic starting on February 2nd.

Because some advertisers experienced a larger than expected change in traffic, we are actively evaluating the results of this change and taking the necessary steps to remedy the situation.

Thank you for your patience as we continue to address this issue.

The Sponsored Products Team”

Amazon Seller Support Released then following statement:

” We acknowledge the fact that the change in Match Type has impacted our sellers campaigns (both auto and manual).

Because some advertisers experienced a larger than expected change in traffic, we are actively evaluating the results of this change and taking the necessary steps to remedy the situation. There is no action required to be taken from your end for this issue.

The impact has been more than what was expected and as a result the change is being rolled back.

Once complete, exact and phrase match will operate as they did before and we expect traffic to increase again for our advertisers using phrase and exact. The process of rolling back is going to take few days, but we will inform you all when the change has been been rolled back through an official mail to all the sellers.

We endeavor to provide the best service and aim to contribute in the best way to fulfill all the needs of our valued sellers.  If there is anything else we can do to make things easier for you and to salvage what has up to now been a valued relationship, please let us know.”

The upshot of this is that it appears that Amazon is going to revert the changes and all will be back to normal.

But will it? 

Until the dust settles and the changes are reverted, you won’t know for sure if everything is back to “normal

That’s why now is not the time to overhaul your Sponsored Ads strategy.

However, there are some best practices that you should be using with your Sponsored Product Ads both now and moving forward.

Here are 5 Best Practices to Maintain Your Ad Performance (and sales) During This Transition (and Moving Forward)

1. Make this simple tweak to boost impressions while Amazon transitions back to Phrase Match and Exact Match relevance.

If you aren’t using Broad Match in your Ad campaigns, assigning Broad Match to your keyword phrases will help to give your products more visibility right now.

But keep in mind that Broad Match is more likely to show your ads to buyers who are not interested in your specific product (as it casts a much wider net), so while your impressions will likely go up, your clicks and sales may not be high.

You’ll know whether or not assigning Broad Match Keywords to your campaign is working by reviewing your ad reports…

2. Review your Amazon Sponsored Product Ads reports. Sponsored Ads are not a “set it and forget it” ad program (no ad program is). You have to pay very close attention to your ad reports on a weekly basis!

This is the most dangerous mistake that I see sellers make when running Sponsored Ads. They set up a campaign and let it roll open ended without ever looking at the ad performance reports!

That’s a great way to waste hundreds or thousands of dollars on ads that bring you no results!

Schedule time for you (or your team) to review your ad performance weekly and make adjustments based on those results.

3. Remove non-performing keywords from your ads. Amazon Sponsored Ads charges you every time a customer clicks on your ad. You’re not charged for impressions (an impression is each time the ad is shown). So if you have a lot of clicks on your ad but no sales, you’re losing money! 

Each week based on your ad reports, remove the keywords/keyword phrases that are racking up a high click-spend but aren’t getting any sales.

But before you do that, make sure you do Step 4!

4. Optimize your Amazon product page for SALES. If buyers are clicking on your ad, but NOT buying there is likely a problem with your page that is causing them not to buy.

Review your page for these issues:

  • A misleading product title
  • Poor product images
  • Not enough product images
  • Skimpy Feature Bullets that don’t do the job of selling your product
  • The product is priced wrong

If your page is not optimized for sales, you won’t turn those ad clicks into sales!

Learn more about how to optimize your product page here.

5. Know your keywords. Knowing what keywords buyers are searching for to find your products and what ad keywords are converting sales for your product is critical to your selling success on Amazon.

Mastering your keyword skills and knowledge is not a “nice to have” it’s a must have to keep your business ahead of the competitive curve.

While this is time-consuming and does present a a learning curve for most sellers, it’s time well invested.

  • Use Amazon’s suggested search to identify multiple top searched keyword phrases that buyers are using to search for your products.
  • Optimize your product page with the keywords that perform in your ads

And finally, continue to run Amazon Sponsored Product Ads. I expect that Amazon will get these issues fixed.

Hands down, Amazon Sponsored Product Ads is the #1 most effective tool for increasing your sales on Amazon.

You do have to know how to use this powerful tool however. And unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t provide any in-depth, strategic training on how to use the Sponsored Ads program.

That’s why, I recently put together the most in-depth, step-by-step training on the marketplace on how to effectively use Amazon Sponsored Product Ads..aspa

While this recent hiccup to the ads program is not good, pay-for-play advertising is here to stay, and needs to become a mainstay of your Amazon selling strategy.

If you have questions about the Sponsored Ads program or need help with your current campaigns, pop your question in the comments below and let’s get your Sponsored Ads on track!

-Lisa