Nov 7 2018
Basis Technologies

Why Your Amazon Ad Tactics Aren't Selling (and What to Do Instead)


One of the best ways to widen your audience, increase your perceived expertise or generate profits for your business is to advertise on Amazon. The eCommerce giant is is now the third largest advertising platform in terms of ad revenue, placing it squarely behind tech behemoths Google and Facebook. For brands, this development is a powerful signal that they’ll have little room to ignore Amazon as a viable revenue generator going forward. That means brands will need to hone and refine their Amazon ad tactics to stay relevant and competitive.

What will you need to make your Amazon ads stand out? A lot. And chances are strong that you’re doing it all wrong. Most companies who sign up to market products on Amazon soon discover that they don’t know how to create ads, write copy or bid effectively. This is true even for businesses that have large budgets and knowledgeable teams on the case. So, it’s time to fix that.

Build Business and Profits for Real: Your New Amazon Ad Tactics Marketing Plan

Before anything else, you’ll need to reevaluate the very foundation of your Amazon ad tactics marketing plan. Among other things, you should be thinking about are the size of your keyword list, the range of your ad types, how to optimize your copy, the in-copy sales words you should be using, and how to analyze your ads. You should also be thinking about how to use Google AdWords outside the Amazon ad tactics marketing platform to drive people to your company's products or services.

And in addition to a thorough understanding of how to effectively leverage Amazon ad tactics in your marketing – as well as AdWords and other useful marketing tools off-platform -- you’ll also need a solid grasp of the mistakes you’re making in your Amazon marketing approach, and how to fix them.

Your Description Copy Is Too Dense

Copywriting is far more difficult than many people assume. Lots of folks can write well. Many others can write decently, while others can string an effective sentence together – enough to impress in the boardroom or breakroom.

But to write well and to create compelling copy are entirely two different things.

Chances are you already have a copywriter or two on staff, but if they're not used to writing Amazon descriptions, it's time for a refresher. The truth is, writing website copy or long-from content optimized for search engines is not the same as writing a good description. Similarly, even if your ad staff knows how to write great PPC creative, that doesn't mean they're well versed in descriptions that sell. In the end, both PPC and SEO have the same goal as Amazon – using words to create an emotional experience and get readers to click – so you should be able to parlay those skills into writing descriptions. This, however, doesn’t happen without practice.

The goal of an Amazon description (and all copy) is simply to move the reader from one line to the next. This is the powerful advice offered by Joseph Sugarman, one of the top copywriters in the world, in his esteemed Adweek Copywriting Handbook, a veritable Bible for the copywriting world.

Among other things, Sugarman offers actionable tips on tweaking words so that they create an emotional experience within the prospective reader -- an experience that takes them from one line to another. It’s the type of experience that creates closeness between you (the copywriter/author) and them (the browser/consumer), one that will eventually lead to moving the reader down the funnel, and eventually, a sale.

If you’re still not sure how to make this happen, that’s okay. Try this formula for writing good descriptions on Amazon, and consider a course on selling ads, such as Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula. And practice, of course.

On a final note regarding your description copy, it’s important you don’t go on too long. Around 500 words is the max for good Amazon description copy. That’s because, even if you manage to pull a prospective reader through that many words, you probably can’t keep them on the page for much longer. Eventually, it’s time to make the sale. Check out that description formula for the best way to do so.

You’re Not Using the Right Words in Your Ad Copy

If your company wants to sell products on Amazon, you need to use the right words. Your marketing department ideally has experience writing short, punchy ads, which will translate well to Amazon's restrictive ad environment.

That said, you still need to turn that browser/surfer into a reader. So how do you do that?  You use the right keywords in your ad copy.

Again, copy makes a big difference overall, but sometimes all it takes is a single word to hook that person. Some of the most effective include:

  • Download: This signals to the person’s brain that they can get the reward right away if they just click the button. This is a powerful word to use because it prompts the consumer to take action right away. If they walk away or “think about it,” your chances of making a sale plummet, so whenever possible, you want to motivate them right away.

  • Get: This has all the same benefits as “download,” except that it’s shorter. Since the body of each Amazon ad limits you severely (only 150 characters to motivate the sale), sometimes you need that space.

  • Now: People don’t like to think of themselves as sheep, but we are. When we read the word “now,” we tend to follow its emotional mandate and take action. This is especially powerful when paired with “because.”

  • Instantly: Instantly carries a lot of the same connotations of “now,” except that instead of driving action, it’s very useful for making a promise. For example, you could use it to tell someone “Read it and get all the tools you need to start a powerful food blog instantly,” or “Download to discover the secrets other marketers are using instantly.”

  • Because: This is another great word to combine with the ones above. “Because” also makes a promise, and links two ideas together. It’s best to have the first sentence be a call to action and the second to be a promise, such as: “Pick up this book instantly, because you can’t afford to wait to learn these tricks.”

  • You: Ever passed a window and caught yourself staring at your reflection? We all love to think about ourselves: how something affects us, how something helps us, what something promises us. When you use “you” in your copy, you’re leveraging this basic human tendency to your own benefit. Bonus: it combines very well with all of the above words.

Now, don’t feel as though your ad copy has to contain all of these. Choose two or three to use strategically. Also, remember that you have much more space in your description (unlimited, basically), so you can always use them in there.

You’re Not Using Enough Ads

Most likely you already know that succeeding with ads is a volume game. If you don’t run enough ads, you don’t gather enough data. If you don’t gather enough data, you can’t tell which approaches are working and which aren’t. And if you can’t tell what’s working, you can’t replicate the successes and ditch the failures.

Plainly put, when you run a few ads here and a few there and “hope for the best,” you’re likely crippling yourself. You may as well not try, because your company will not see the bottom-line increases you're looking for, and will not reach the wider audience you need to build your brand.

Here’s what you need to do instead: Make proper use of, all of Amazon’s marketing tools then give your sales a boost by driving external as well as internal traffic to your books.

Amazon has three types of ads:

  • Sponsored products, which leverage the power of bidding on keywords, just like many traditional PPC ads

  • Product display interest ads, which match your product’s  interests to similar interests to try to attract readers in the same niche

  • Product display product ads, which match your book with products that might work well with yours

We explain each of these ads in more depth here, and each has its own set of benefits. Sponsored product ads allow you to create massive keyword lists, then bid on them, targeted up to a thousand in a single ad.

Product display interest and product display product ads, on the other hand, let you add a significant number of categories or products, respectively, so you can always target a wide swath of shopper interests.

Each of these ads has countless different combinations of factors, so it’s important to run enough of them so you can test those factors effectively. Like any other marketing platform, Amazon’s marketing service is impossible to game from the get-go. Your only hope is to run ad after ad, tweaking and adjusting as you go along until you find an approach that works best.

You're Changing Too Many Variables in Tandem

Make sure when you adjust your ads and re-run them that you’re not changing too many variables at once. Any researcher will tell you that you can only change one variable at a time without confusing your results.

One example: If you have a successful ad and want to make it more successful, you should run it again in tandem with ads that adjust the price both up and down, to see if you can maximize your ROI. You could also adjust the copy on the assumption that the keywords are bringing the benefits, to see if you can get even greater sales volumes.

What you should not do is change price, copy, headline, interests, and everything else all at once.

Keep in mind that Amazon ads aren’t the only type. Many people use Facebook and AdWords marketing to drive readers to their Amazon sites, on the assumption that lots of potential readers live on the web and on social but aren't on Amazon regularly. This is absolutely true, and once you’re good at running Amazon ads, you can branch out to those as well. Alternatively, if you're already well-versed in PPC and social ads, you can translate those skills to Amazon.

Either way, focus right now on mastering your Amazon game. You need to use enough ads, enough of a variety of ads, in enough different formations, that you can make serious sales and justify continuing to spend company dollars this way. If you're a publishing company already spending lots of ad dollars on Amazon, prepare for a bit of a hit in your ROI while you figure this out, but don't shy away: As long as you put in the time, Amazon works.

You’re Targeting Only One or a Few Keywords

Sponsored product ads depend heavily on using the right keywords. Some people leave it there, though, bidding on 10 great keywords and hoping for the best. The problem is that those 10 words should more accurately be called 10 “really really popular words for which you’ll never win the bid against other, bigger companies.”

Instead of trying to win bids on the most popular keywords, it’s smarter to build huge keyword lists that contain lots of longtail search terms. Naturally, you’ll never be able to come up with so many on your own, which is where Publisher Rocket comes in.

This impressive piece of software costs only about $100 and delivers enormous keyword-scraping power right to your fingertips. It interfaces with Amazon’s search engine to find the most popular words and phrases people are already searching right on Amazon. It will then organize them, categorize them and deliver the relevant data to you when you search for it. To use KDP Rocket effectively, you need only:

  1. Buy the software

  2. Enter a search term that relates to your product into the keyword search window

  3. Copy and paste the returned keywords into an Excel document

  4. Clean up the list to remove forbidden characters (any punctuation other than dashes or apostrophes, hidden spaces, etc.), which you can test by entering keywords into a sponsored ad window – Amazon will tell you which are forbidden so you can clean them up

  5. Sort the list to remove duplicates

  6. Start bidding!

You’re Not Analyzing Your Ads Effectively

You can do all of the above correctly, however, and still not get very far if you don’t know what to make of your ad results. Analysis is imperative, because it tells you what’s working and what isn’t – in other words, where you should spend more money and where you’re simply wasting it.

At the end of the day, though, lots of businesses simply don’t have the bandwidth or headspace to do copious in-depth analysis. Instead, they struggle through half-hearted advertising campaigns, trying and failing to run the numbers in such a way as to come up with meaningful metrics on which to base new campaigns.

Sound familiar? If so, you’re in good company. Many businesses have at some point tried their hand at PPC marketing, only to find they can’t make head nor tail of it. Even large companies with considerable marketing departments struggle to make their ads elicit sustainable ROI.

The problem is twofold: 1) You immediately drown in data, and become so overwhelmed you don’t know how to proceed, and 2) Because you don’t know how to proceed, you often end up just throwing ads at the system and hope something sells. As with most endeavors, this approach rarely works, and the exacting nature of Amazon marketing ads is no exception -- which is why so many people give up altogether.


Creating a sustainable Amazon ad tactics strategy takes a lot of honing and refining, as well as copious trial and error. But few tactics are as effective as powerful ad copy. Whether it’s reaching users with efficient, streamlined descriptions, strong calls to action, or well-placed keywords, your ad content is an extension of your voice that will be key to either connecting with customers or losing an opportunity. By learning to effectively use the right words to amplify your message, you will not only help spark consumer interest but be able to keep it throughout the entire customer journey.