How to Set Up Amazon PPC From Launch: A 2020 Guide

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It’s been a very hot summer for all Amazonians out there. And it’s not all about the weather! seems to have nearly doubled its current retail market share over their projections for 2020 (which was at 12% already).

And what does that mean for us, good Sellers and Managers? That the fire is hot, and we must act! So let’s not waste time and get straight to business.

How do we set up and launch Amazon PPC? Let’s break it down into reasonable chunks and explore.

Your Business Goal


Something a seasoned Seller always remembers, while a less experienced one may overlook, is WHAT specifically you want to happen to the product. And that depends on its current selling position. Here are some examples of such goals:

  • Try selling a new product in a new segment and see how it goes
  • Boost existing product to gain more sales and start claiming new BSR levels with it
  • Temporarily boost your sales over a short, high-demand season like Prime Day, Cyber Monday, or Mother’s Day
  • Compete for the top position, as buyers purchase heavily from the first tiers of page 1 and ignore the rest of the search
  • To overthrow the existing Best Seller and take their position instead

All these are perfectly viable goals - and are quite different in terms of how you would set up the campaign: you can play safe or play hard with your PPC budget, keywords, and bids. A solid understanding of where you want your product to end up has a lot to do with HOW you’re gonna get it there. And of course, it is best to figure that out from the very start.

Your Product’s Nature And Your Competition Levels


It is very seldom that a seller sells its product on in a blue ocean environment. So… most likely the nature of your competition and your product itself will determine what kind of PPC Campaign you need to set up. Let's look at different but typical market situations and what they entail for PPC:

1. Competition is high and there are few strong competitors who rule the market

This is probably the most difficult starting position for a successful PPC launch from scratch.

When harvesting keywords for this PPC campaign, you will need to pay close attention to the keywords your competitors use in their product titles and in the bullets. Because they’ve probably already done their homework. So feel free to utilize their hottest keywords and be sure that your own customers also use them when searching for your product. 

Go bold and copy them into your own campaign as 1st tier keywords. With a high level of confidence, you could put them into exact match types. And set the highest possible bids for them (equal to or higher than what Seller Central recommends you at the setup stage).

Your 2nd tier of keywords for this scenario will be those with fewer search impressions but are more specific (the so-called “long-tail keywords”). These will not generate as many sales as top-performing ones, but they can still do their part to snatch you a few extra orders. And at a good ACoS. And it is from these that you actually get a chance to become Best Seller, given the competition.

In a nutshell: put emphasis on competition research, bid high on their keywords, and try finding long-tail ones for backup.

2. Your competition is high but there are lots of weak competitors

This is likely the case if you’re in a market with goods either too cheap to brand or too different to group together. Either way, getting to the top and showing these products high for any given keyword is easier than in the 1st scenario. But! The sheer number of ways (i.e. different search terms) people name your product makes it difficult to pinpoint any specific keywords as a sales locomotive.

At first, anyway.

Therefore, at the set up of such a campaign, you’ll need to get as wide with your keywords as possible. Possibly even use a few broad ones for the first month or so. Your goal is to gather enough search report data and determine the most popular search terms to work with later.

And you will probably want to start with small bids, raising them VERY gradually (like starting with $0.11 and incrementing $0.02-0.05 at a time).

This approach will pay off with time, as you should eventually end up screening the less effective targeting options and arriving at a pool of more and more relevant keywords that proved to be effective first-hand!

Also, this is probably the only scenario where we noticed Sponsored ads that were run on subcategories and automated Campaigns to actually work. They appear to be capable of selling with a decent ACoS and adding to product’s sales substantially. Who would’ve thought?

In a nutshell: get as many workable keywords as possible and start narrowing them down gradually into a few well-selling ones. Use the opportunity Amazon’s algorithm presents you with to hook up a few extra sales with automated targeting. With this many weak competitors, every extra BSR digit counts!

3. Your product is reasonably established, but it needs a boost to get to a new level of sales (e.g. before a high season)

First, I’ll always advise all my clients to run PPC campaigns for any seasonal product at all times.

Some seasonal products sell surprisingly well even during low season (e.g. Halloween products in May), for one. But more importantly, it also helps you kick-start your high-season promotions and obtain a higher BSR right before the demand spikes with less effort and spending.

But let’s assume you did not - and at the moment, your campaign isn't there yet. And now you need to set it up or launch again. Well, brace yourself, ‘cause it’s 2020 - and it’s gonna get expensive!

A PPC campaign that is used to sharply boost sales is a bad place for experiments. Amazon’s algorithm fully absorbs an ASIN’s new sales levels, stimulated by a launched PPC campaign (and calibrates the BSR respectively) in about 3-4 weeks from the start.

This means that for 3-4 weeks, you will need to burn through your PPC budget intensively, and you’ll only have 2-3 iterations (every week) to adjust your campaign in the process. So make sure you’re well prepared and ready beforehand:

  • Know all best performing keywords for your sub-category and your product specifically. Use them in the exact form to achieve maximum control over top spend.
  • Make sure (although you should anyways) that these top keywords are somewhere on your product’s listing: the title, the bullet points, or the backend keywords. And that you have 4-5 high quality and informative pics of your product. And at least 10 reviews with at least 4.3 stars average.
  • Gather all competing and complementary ASINs that you can target for extra sales via a special ASIN-based campaign.
  • Set all bids at the higher end of Amazon’s recommended bid fork. Ideally, 1.5x higher - so that you can compete for the top of Page 1 positions (at least money-wise).
  • Leave only the best selling of your product variation for this ad and disable ads for the rest of them.

Once you start - DO NOT STOP this type of campaign. I consider ACoS at 40%-50% or even 60% as reasonable. Why? ‘Cause it’s like flying on an afterburner - it’ll have an effect on your BSR much faster, but you MUST keep your PPC sales the same or increasing, otherwise, BSR will respond by lowering your score (it favours more stable sales and sales only).

If all is executed right - this PPC boosting manoeuvre can dramatically increase your overall (PPC and organic) search result position for targeted keywords.

And this is exactly how you want to enter any high season with a seasonal product. Or how to get revenge on a current Best Seller who took this title from you last week. Actually, you may wanna combine this PPC boost with lightning deals and discounts… but that is a bit outside today’s scope.

Things You Need To Control From The Start

The bulk of your work in setting up a PPC campaign (once you’ve confirmed your business goal and your market scenario) - will be about:

  • finding correct keywords and other targeting assets
  • grouping them
  • setting a reasonable starting bid

Let's look at each area of control.

Setting the correct bid

Seller Central is surprisingly good at suggesting the right bids: for every keyword or targeting option, it'll suggest you some big fork (lower and upper level) that corresponds to lower and upper 2% of all Sellers’ bids for this particular targeting asset (e.g. a keyword).

Depending on your strategy, you either start small with the lower number - or go higher and multiply it x1.5 to get a maximum boost.


Grouping is fairly simple too. I suggest you combine all effective keywords by their nature into a separate campaign with a corresponding pool on negative keywords. Like this:

  • Top-performing “exact match form” keywords with high bids
  • A few “broad match” relevant keywords on low bids + all the top-performing keywords as negative phrase match types - to catch any relevant searches that you might have missed out on with top-performing keywords
  • Brand-related keywords in exact and (a separate group) in broad match types. This is to make sure they do not interfere with the statistics of natural keywords. Brand keywords tend to perform well for established brands and drive sales at really low ACoS, so you want to control them separately. Competing brands can be used as keywords, but assign them to yet another ad group for better control (if not a separate campaign).
  • ASIN and Category targeting campaign
  • Automated targeting campaign. This one is used a bit like “broad match campaign,” but with even lower bids. And use the pool of phrase type keywords and ASINs for negative targeting to make sure this one does not interfere with the above campaigns on any level.

Finding the keywords


The first place to go would obviously be Amazon’s suggested keywords (in the campaign set up menu) and Amazon’s search results themselves. Just type in a VERY relevant search term and observe your top of page 1 competitors. There’s a good chance these guys are doing something right with their keywords, so you would be wise to start by following their suit.

Look for them in the product title. Scan the bullet points. Glance at the description. Heck, even dive into the product review and see how their own buyers refer to the product. It all counts.

Then there are free tools like Google. Try typing in the discover (so-called “seed”) keywords in the search console - and see what alternative search terms Google might suggest for you.

Google Ads Keyword Planner is another great free tool for that (it works even if you don't run any ads via your Google Ads account). Just remember: Google is NOT Amazon. Google is about information (and so are many of its search terms), while Amazon is mostly about sales. So account for the difference.

Also, you can “call a friend.” There is a number of good Amazon search term discovery tools that can find the most relevant variations of relevant keywords based on your ASIN, or you can input a few keywords of your own.

They will show you the keywords, their impressions (per month searches on, their average bid, level of competition in Sponsored Ads, and whatnot. I do encourage all who want to do the keywords research themselves to use these services and leverage their help.

Or, if you are short on time and you want to be done with this efficiently and quickly… you can go to a high-level, flexible, and time-tested Amazon PPC campaign structure like Profit Whales Zero-to-Hero.

All you need is your product ASIN, your brand name, and a few relevant keywords, and the service will do the rest. I’ll:

  • scan your top competitors listing
  • run a keyword search,
  • find target ASINs and competing brands,
  • come up with a starter pack of negative keywords,
  • allocate starting bids (depending on the relevancy of every specific targeting asset)
  • combine all the above into a structured set of ad groups and PPC campaigns

All the above is done quickly (typically over a couple of hours). And voila! You’ll end up with a structured, ready-to-fire PPC campaign that contains 300-500 relevant keywords. A great boon for any Seller or PPC manager (who for whatever reason) doesn’t have enough time to run profound keyword search themselves!

And that about sums it up.

In 2020, Amazon is a bigger and meaner jungle than ever before. The competition is fierce, and there will be more to come. So keep it cool. Follow your logic. See how my advice fits your specific product. And then let the data guide your further decisions.

As always - good hunting, fellow Amazonians!

About the Author

Ihor Dubovetskyi is CEO at Profit Whales - Amazon Advertising Automation Software powered by Science and Data with the mission to build long-term relationships with sellers and brands on Amazon Marketplace

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