Updated: Oct 5, 2020
It goes without saying that if you want more visibility in search results, you need to run ads on common search terms that people use to describe and find products like yours. Since you are competing with many similar products on Amazon, your goal is to bid competitively so you can show up as often and as high as possible in search results.
These days ‘higher’ refers to ‘sponsored ads’ since that is what Amazon chooses to show buyers first. Most purchases happen on page 1, and even more of them happen at the top of the search results page.
It’s a no-brainer then to bid on as many relevant keywords as possible. But should you be bidding on the keywords that you literally own - your branded keywords? Let’s try to define what branded keywords are.
Unicorn Kidz sells children’s clothing, and one of their product lines is unicorn-themed hoodies called a UniHood. In their case, “Unicorn Kidz" and “UniHood” are both branded keywords. Theoretically speaking, no other company has that name or that product on Amazon.
Unicorn Kidz runs sponsored product ads to attract people looking for cute children’s clothing. What happens when repeat buyers specifically search for their product name, brand name, or a common misspelling of their brand (say Unicorn Kids). Since advertising on Amazon is based on a pay per click model, does it make sense for Unicorn Kidz to run ads on their branded keywords when organic traffic is free?
Ad strategies for branded keywords
While this looks like a decision to prevent wasteful spending, it’s more than just that.
We put together 4 possible approaches that Unicorn Kidz might take, and studied the reasons, merits and demerits of using each. Here they are:
Bid high on branded keywords
Bid low on branded keywords
Don’t bid on branded keywords
Add branded keywords as negative exact match keywords
Let’s discuss these in some detail.
Approach 1: Bid high on your branded keywords
Every sale and conversion trains the Amazon algorithm about relevancy. Amazon learns that UniHoods is relevant to the Unicorn Kidz store. Over time, branded keywords train Amazon’s algorithms to send traffic your way. If that is true then one would think that you need not bid on branded keywords, because you are getting organic traffic anyway. However, there may be competitors, who steal some of the traffic looking for your branded keyword. You should avoid that if you can. The best way to find out if that is happening is to open an incognito window and search for your branded keywords. Do any competitor ads show up? If they do, then bidding on your branded keywords is actually a good idea. How much depends on your testing. Set up experiments and measure to come to your own conclusions about how much to bid.
Approach 2: Bid low on branded keywords
Even if there is very little competition for your branded keywords, you might want to set up ads to bid low on your keywords - say 2 cents a click. This is a small amount, but the benefits are far greater. Not only will you show up for organic search results but also for sponsored ads. This means you have doubled your real estate on a crowded search results page. Well worth it.
Approach 3: Don’t bid on branded keywords
If you are fairly confident that people who look for your brand will find it, you may decide to not bid on your branded keywords at all. This approach will save you pay-per-click spend, but you will not be able to avoid losing marketshare to competing or similar products.
Approach 4: Add branded keywords as negative exact match keywords
This approach is for brands that do not want to pay for clicks that lead to their products since they have a strong organic presence. For example, if Unicorn Kidz decides that they would rather not waste any clicks on loyal, targeted traffic, they might think of making “Unicorn Kids" a negative exact keyword in all of their campaigns. This will stop the bleeding right away. However, we have a suspicion that keywords marked as negative keywords will train Amazon’s algorithm to believe that this keyword is not relevant for the brand. In fact, we have anecdotal evidence to believe that words marked as negative keywords, if found on listings, will be not be indexed. This is dangerous, as you run the risk of slowly losing your brand authority with your most identifiable words.
Amazon's ranking and PPC algorithm can be a bit of a black box and any recommendation could be tricky. However, we strongly believe that keywords marked as negative will train Amazon’s algorithm to slow down relevant "referral" traffic coming from similar product that Amazon associates with yours. This is especially true of Auto campaigns that have now opened up to more than just keyword targets with Close Match, Loose Match, Complements and Substitutes.
Our recommendation is to start with approach 2 - bidding low on your branded keywords to gain greater real estate on search results as a strategy to play defensive.
If you find that competition is outbidding you on your own keywords (which, by the way, is totally acceptable by advertising platforms in general), you might want to slowly increase your bid value to retain your brand leadership. We do not recommend approach 3 or 4, as these can weaken rather than strengthen your brand.
Did this post spark your curiosity or trigger a question? Comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear from you!
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