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Anatomy of the New Automatic Campaign

Updated: Mar 13, 2023

Updated: Oct, 2020

If you've been advertising on Amazon for a while, you've probably noticed that Amazon changed the structure of their Automatic campaigns in November 2018. And if you didn't know this, don't worry, this post will catch you up on what you need to know and how this change affects you. Read on.

Automatic vs. Manual Campaigns

One of the basic differences between Automatic and Manual campaigns on Amazon is that the former matches buyer search terms to your ads automatically without the need for any targeting inputs from you, while the latter requires you to specify targets manually for the algorithm to match search terms to your ads.

Well now, the scope of the term targets has been expanded from implying only keywords to implying both keywords and products. Both Manual and Automatic campaigns can now target ASINs in addition to just keywords. Examples include competitor ASINs, complementary ASINs, loosely related keywords and closely related keywords.

New Automatic Campaigns - What's Changed?

Any auto campaigns that you created pre-November 2018, are now marked as "legacy" by Amazon in all their reporting. Any new auto campaigns you created post-November 2018 simply default to the new type. Your previously created campaigns continue to function as before, with no need for any change from your side.

While the new auto campaign is structurally very different, it shares the common goal of casting a wide net to help buyers algorithmically discover your products. Just know that even if you wanted to, you cannot convert one campaign type to the other.

Is the New Auto Campaign Better for Advertisers?

The short answer is "Yes!" These campaigns offer way more granularity of targeting and reporting. Specifically, their targets are broken down further into "Automatic Targeting Groups."

Here's the anatomy of the new auto-campaign. There are 4 targeting groups: Close match, Loose match, Complements and Substitutes. The first two, "Close match" and "Loose match," target keywords, whereas the next tw "Compliments" or "Substitutes" target products.

'Close match' and 'Loose match' targeting groups represent the degree of closeness to keywords found on your listing. So if you sell dog beds, a close match search term could be "bed for pug" while a loose match term could be "cat bed" Having a well written listing goes a long way in impacting the effectiveness of this targeting group, because ultimately, Amazon's algorithms will pick seed keywords from your listing.

Products that the algorithm deem as similar or competing with yours are matched through the 'Substitutes' targeting group, whereas products that complement your product could get matched through the 'Complements' group. An example of a complement from our dog bed example could be a dog bowl.

The good thing about this new structure is that each target group can be individually enabled or disabled. They can each have separate bids, as well as separate reporting of impressions, clicks, sales, ACoS and more.

5 Creative Uses for the New Auto Campaign

More access to granular data is always a good thing. It helps you make better strategic choices that can impact the bottom line. We've listed 5 creative ways to take advantage of the increased access to auto campaign data.

1. Take charge of your spend across automatic targets groups

One of the characteristics of AI based algorithms is that they will respond more favorably to early data points, rewarding those targets that had early movement in the form of impressions, clicks, or sales with even greater exposure, and hence, an opportunity to perform.

If you give your campaign a few weeks to run, you should see data rolling in on impressions, clicks, spend, orders and ACoS. Notice how in the screenshot below the "Complements" targeting group got zero impressions over a 30-day period, whereas the other groups did get clicks and sales.

If for some reason, the algorithm did not cause any movement or worse, caused the wrong kind of movement, you can always go in and tweak the individual bids for each target group.

2. Disable poorly performing targeting groups

You could even choose to entirely disable poorly performing targeting groups in order to stop the bleeding, and indirectly channel your budget to spend more on better performing ones.

If you are analyzing campaigns at scale, we recommend downloading the Sponsored Products Targeting Report (note: this is not the same as the Search Term report) and look for underperforming targeting groups under the "Targeting" column. Alternatively, you could save time by using a PPC Automation Tool like our very own PPC Ninja.

Sponsored Products Targeting Report
Sponsored Products Targeting Report

3. Exclusively target a group (there's a caveat)

Let's say you want Amazon to exclusively focus on a specific targeting group like 'Complements'. You could set up a campaign with the singular purpose of collecting data about complementary ASINs that led to your products, and potentially use this information to design manual campaigns with Product Attribute Targeting. You can easily do this by disabling all the targeting groups other than the one you want. Clean, uncontaminated data!

The caveat here is that Amazon might still go ahead and match keywords for products or vice versa. This is annoying behavior but there does not seem to be a way around it.

If you use a software tool like PPC Ninja, you can actually see which buyer searches matched to your target groups. This information is NOT available in any of Amazon's reports as of September 2019.

loose match targeting Amazon auto campaigns

4. Harvest new keywords

The search term report continues to provide data on keywords and ASINs that brought buyers to your listing. However, the only way to get a further breakdown of a buyer search terms matched through Close Match or Loose Match is through an API based search.

This is something that PPC Ninja's Amazon PPC Software already provides.

Targeting Search Terms

5. Block poorly performing keywords and product targets

Luckily, Amazon allows negative keyword targeting on Auto campaigns for keywords. This functionality is unchanged from its previous implementation. However the ability to block off negative ASIN targets can only be done programmatically via the advertising API.


The new auto-campaigns are the way forward if you want well optimized auto campaigns. While we do not recommend pausing any of your legacy auto-campaigns that are doing well, it does make sense to set up new ones for poorly performing auto campaigns. Take advantage of more data and better targeting that Amazon is providing!

Interested in our Amazon PPC Consultancy services? We offer flexible, short term engagements on an ASIN or task basis. Find out more about our micro services pricing here.

Did this post spark your curiosity or trigger a question? Comment below or email us at We'd love to hear from you!

Amazon PPC can be complex, but once you master it, you are going to have fun! PPC Ninja is now offering a FREE 6-week PPC Mastermind to all Amazon sellers. If your monthly ad sales are above 500 USD, we invite you to join us on this 6-week deep dive into Amazon PPC. Click here for details.

Watch this video for a detailed explanation of the 4 Auto Targeting Groups:

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