Seller Performance Solutions
The Best Amazon Ads Launch Strategy with Laura McCaul
February 2, 2023
PPC has always been the go-to strategy for launching products, but many sellers are hesitant to invest in it, instead opting for black hat tactics that inevitably put your account at risk. With the availability of new reports and data from Amazon in brand metrics, brand analytics, and search query performance, it has become easier for sellers to understand their position in a category, their conversion rates, and where they can compete. In this episode, Chris and Leah talk with Laura McCaul on the best strategy for using PPC ads to rank higher, convert faster, & get more eyeballs on your product.
[00:00:07] Leah: Hello Amazon Sellers, welcome to this episode of Seller Performance Solutions. I am Leah McHugh, and I am here as always with the ecommercechris, Chris McCabe, and today we are also speaking with Laura McCaul of Sponsored Profit. Hi Laura. 

[00:00:25] Laura: Hi. 

[00:00:25] Chris: Hey Laura.

[00:00:26] Laura: Happy New Year. 

[00:00:27] Leah: Happy New Year. Thanks for joining us. So we had had a really interesting conversation. I wanna say like a while ago now, a few months ago about, you know, Chris and I are always harping on people kind of wasting money on black hat tactics to get reviews or to rank as quickly as possible using some maybe not so great tactics to trick Amazon into thinking that their pro products are popular and you had said they could easily spend that same money on ads and one get a better result. And two, it's a result that Amazon's never going to penalize you for or take away from you. 

[00:01:04] Laura: Correct. 

[00:01:05] Chris: And I had a second part to that comment, which is just when did this change? Amazon made more data available, I wanna say six months ago.

You would know the month better than I would, but that seems to have been the impetus and the driving point forward with the host strategy that you were talking about. So when was the fundamental shift or change in your view? 

[00:01:27] Laura: Yeah, good question. And yeah, thanks. Thanks for having me.

 So we that we can talk about this because I think it's really important just to kind of backtrack a little bit just on what Leah said first in terms of, you know, how sellers, how do they now launch products in a compliant way. Because, number one, as a PPC agency, we've always used PPP C to launch products and to rank products. Right? 

 That's always been the compliant way to launch products. It's just in years gone by there were other methods that you've just mentioned that kind of gamed the system a little bit, that kind of tricked the algorithm. And so, to part answer your question, Chris, around, I think it was October 2021, when those really big changes in terms of service, came down the line in respect to rebates and search, find, buy and all that kind of stuff. I think that's when the fear and the panic kind of set in for sellers in terms of, well, how do we launch products now going forward? And so, again, as a PPC agency, PPC has always been our go-to launch strategy.

It's just perhaps the appetite or the openness of sellers to kind of embrace that has taken a little bit of time to catch up. And it's always bemused us a little bit that when it comes to launching products, sellers wouldn't give a second thought to spending a bunch of money on giveaways and essentially giving away thousands of units of inventory, but have a conversation with a ppc agency and talk about investing in ads. And it's like, Ooh, no, I don't want to do that. It's just like, but there is another way you can do this. And it's totally legit. But in terms of when I guess our launch strategy and essentially now it's become our growth strategy sort of really took a further kind of leap forward, was your right Chris, sort of towards the backend of last year when Amazon started making a bunch of new reports and data available to us in brand metrics, in brand analytics, search query performance. And so what that has kind of given us is it's given us more granular level data that really allows us to see where does a fit in terms of its true position in a category from a brand perspective and then we have reports that in search query performance that shows us, how do products convert on specific search terms compared to competing ASINs. There's the search term impression report that shows well what percentage share of impressions does a particular product have for a particular search term. So all of a sudden now you can see are we leaving money on the table or have we kind of maxed out our ad sales with these search terms, we convert great, we sell a premium product. Well, let's look at the data.

The data would suggest actually, you know, on certain search terms, you don't compete or you don't rather convert that well, we've always had unit session percentage as a metric. But we know that that's not really kind of true conversion. It's based on the number of sessions. So again, there's more data available now that really kind of gives us a more accurate reflection on conversion.

And then as I said, even on the brand side of things, we can kind of see, well, you know, what percentage of the market does a brand have or what percentage or that it's the purchase percentile, where do you sit in terms of, paid and organic sales? You're in the bottom 10 percentile or the top 90th percentile so all of a sudden now we've got all this data that just gives us some very objective data to kind of really pinpoint, okay, where do we sit and more importantly, where can we compete? 

[00:05:42] Chris: Where can you go? I mean, we are seeing more contacts from sellers. I have noticed more queries coming through our site about this in the last couple of months and it just made me think how many people are aware of it. You see all kinds of things posted on LinkedIn about this topic, but how much of it is real for lack of a better word. Do you think there's a lot of noise out there ever since they provided more data?

And some of it's accurate and some of it's not, some of it's a service trying to capitalize on it and some of it is isn't? And do you think sellers are confused about what the opportunities really are? 

[00:06:28] Laura: Oh gosh. A lot to unpack there. I think ultimately, yes. I think there is a lot of talk around how accurate is that data. So obviously I I watch and listen to all the podcasts in and around Amazon PPC and the Amazon space in general. I would still go with some data is better than no data and we still have to test stuff, like nothing is bulletproof.

But in terms of sellers, I still think the majority of sellers are unaware that this amount of data and information is available. I think that the clue is definitely in the names of these reports and the names of the dashboards. They have brand in them. 

 So this is really now Amazon again, pushing forward to become a platform of brands to offer customers the best possible customer experience, it's a branded experience and Amazon's still giving brands, private label brands, an opportunity to really set up their store on the platform and they're making all of this data available to help you level up your sales. I know Amazon PPC can kind of be the villain of the piece and I know sellers like to hate on PPC agencies and probably for good reason in some respects. But I mean, ultimately, and I'd like to get your take on this, Amazon has now become a paid to play platform.

[00:07:55] Chris: We don't hear a lot of hatred of PPC. I think people understand that ads spend, I mean, call it whatever you want, necessary evil. Call it the rules of the game. I mean, this is a key function of being a seller and being a business owner.

So we haven't heard too much complaining. I don't know Leah can speak to that, 

[00:08:21] Leah: If you hire the wrong person for anything to do with your business, there are gonna be complaints. I think in general, people are fine with spending money on ads.

[00:08:29] Laura: Yeah. Maybe you're right. I mean, at this point, we got thick skin and we take the rough with the smooth, but I mean, I think yeah, of course it's a cost of doing business and if we just kind of pull back a little bit and look at what's happening on Amazon, Amazon is simply maturing as an advertising platform just like Facebook. They're just like Google did, right? And what happens, these platforms start out with great organic reach, more people come onto the platform. Competition starts to increase though, the platform starts to kind of pull back on that organic reach and all of a sudden now we have paid placements and then it becomes an advertising platform, first and foremost.

I think, in terms of what this means for, for Amazon PPC, there's still a lot of opportunity for Amazon PPC I know that there does seem to be like a bit of a mad scramble to do all sorts of stuff off Amazon and I've got nothing against off Amazon traffic.

But, Amazon still Has so much built in demand it's just how do we tap into it? It's just the rules of the game have changed a little bit. It's gotten more complex, it's gotten more expensive and so what that means, again, to kind of come back to the whole branding piece, perhaps, whereas before sellers didn't have to pay too much attention to their profit margins or to their reviews or to these kind of things. This stuff now makes you viable or not viable. And so because of that, how we see Amazon PPC changing is really now it's moved from just a means to drive pay traffic. But also now as a means to drive rank so you can grow your overall business. 

 And advertising isn't, and it's never been about just advertising one product. It's about growing your business in a profitable way. It's just as Amazon has become or rather, ads have become more expensive and the platform has become more competitive. It's just become a little bit more difficult to do, but it's not impossible.

 But it just means the strategies that worked, six months ago, 12 months ago, and certainly anything beyond that. They just don't work or certainly don't work as well, and so we just have to, I think look at Amazon PPC a little bit differently.

We have to adjust our strategy accordingly, but we also need to start making the most that we can of all this additional data, because this is really, there's two things I think that are really critical, making the most of this additional data to make even better decisions because you need to spend those ad dollars wisely and so you need to make sure spending them on the right things in the right places at the right time. So that's one part. The other part which is equally important and again, is something that came out of last year, is Amazon experiments and the ability to split test and to always be kind of cranking up the conversion, because again, when clicks were really cheap, conversion was maybe something that, again, sellers and brand owners didn't pay a lot of attention to it. It's always been the low hanging fruit. It's always been the one thing that every 1% improvement in iteration you can make means that's an extra percentage of traffic that you weren't getting before, but now you're getting for the same spend. So I think now with Amazon experiments, always be testing, always be trying to improve your click through rate and to improve your conversion because, again that just means you're gonna get more out of your ad dollars and ultimately get more for your money. 

[00:12:14] Chris: We're always preaching about don't just marry yourself to one approach without paying attention to how times change. I mean this is a frequent subject on this podcast whether it's about appealed strategy for reinstating from a suspension or what you're talking about or many other things. 

[00:12:30] Leah: I had a quick question. Or actually two questions about using your host strategy as a launch strategy. Question number one, is a lot of, I would say one of the more prevalent launch strategies that we see sellers talking about is having to lower your price to basically less than cost in order to get your rank up there in the first place, and then you can slowly raise your prices. Is that something that you are doing as part of the host strategy or this that isn't necessary to do ? 

[00:12:57] Laura: I think it depends. I think certainly with new products, getting that initial visibility is really key. The conversion it is a key way to achieve that and so of course, launching with a price that is, it's like lost leaders, isn't it? It's like when you go to the pharmacy or something and you see the new products at the end of the aisle, right? I mean, they're launching them at a super competitive price because they kind of just wanna get some sales and to get some feedback from the market.

So with new products, obviously if we can be super competitive on price or if we can use coupons or promotions to help. That obviously kind of gives the product a little bit more juice. And again, amazon isn't gonna have an issue with that in terms of, kind of ongoing, like how do we rank for keywords for existing products?

You know, again, depending on the keyword, depending on the strategy, it shouldn't always be required because what we're doing is we're being very targeted on those search terms, based on the fact that we now have the data that says, we know we can convert better than the competition on this search term , which means we're gonna pay a lower cost per click. We're gonna convert and stick and therefore, price adjustment doesn't necessarily even come into that conversation. But certainly for new products to kind of get that initial love from the algorithm. Sure, it won't harm. But it's not a long-term strategy. You gotta make money. 

[00:14:26] Leah: Well, yeah. You can't have it below cost forever. And that actually leads very well into my second question. In terms of launching a product with this strategy, how long does it take to get that necessary data on the new product to then start ranking on the first page?

[00:14:42] Laura: Yeah, It's always how long's a piece of string because it depends on the product and it depends on the category. So, at the moment, most of the testing that we've done has been with established products. And we're getting established products to page one in as little as three days.

[00:14:59] Leah: Okay. Wow, that's awesome. 

[00:15:00] Chris: The three days is what caught my attention when Leah and I first talked about talking with you today.

[00:15:06] Leah: It's hard to catch Chris's attention with ads talk. 

[00:15:09] Chris: Because I'm not a natural fit for an ads conversation. Usually we're talking with people about their listing gets suspended and how much they have to spend on ads to recover sales rank because sometimes they appealed it a few times before they approach us and like they lost time and money that way. And then the more time goes on they have to recoup sales rank by upping their ad spend, which is a wonderful conversation for another day. But when I heard the three days.

I was like, I guess my first thought was does everyone know this? Or only a couple of us.

[00:15:41] Laura: Sometimes it's easy to kind of operate your business in a little bit of a kind of bubble in a vacuum. So we started out, obviously with out existing clients and we always start out in a very kind of small way when we start testing and, and this is going back, I think the keywords that are as far back as like page seven. That's where we've got that in three days. And if it's page two, three or four, it can be faster. So yeah. But here's the the challenge with all the new data. So it's a little bit of a double edged sword as Amazon can be.

So we've got all this data, but it's all in disparate places. So pulling the data and analyzing the data and then ultimately making the decisions. because the data we're looking at is, we're looking at conversion, we're looking at cost per clicks, we're looking at sales volume to to rank.

So we're pulling together all this different data. We've built our own tech, we have done from day one and the advantage is, is that when we see opportunities like this, we're like, okay, what do we need to do to kind of update the tool to be able to help us with this specific task or strategy?

And so, perhaps that's what's allowed us at least to kind of take a little bit of a jump on this IS that we've made some adjustments to our tool to be able to pull all this data together so then we can very quickly identify our high opportunity search terms and then it's just a matter of reallocating budget.

 But it's finding those search terms, cutting through that data. That's kind of the tricky part. But then as soon as we've got the, the search terms, and here's the interesting thing, it's taken that kind of 80-20 approach to what we do and when you've got those search terms that you can convert on, that you are profitable on, that is driving volume.

It works very quickly and the difference it can make to your overall revenue, it moves the needle quite quickly. But it's pulling all that data together. So initially it was done manually and then we made some updates to our tool to help us do that. And that's what's given us a bit of a lead on it. 

[00:17:49] Leah: Awesome. That's amazing. So if people wanna reach out to you, what is the best way to reach you, Laura?

Probably the best way to reach me is on LinkedIn or alternatively You can schedule a call with me on the website.

So yeah, the website or LinkedIn. 

Okay, great. And we'll put both of those links in the show notes. 

[00:18:08] Chris: Thanks again, Laura, for joining us. Thanks everyone for listening to Seller Performance Solutions, throughout this year into next, we're going to have other guests with other wonderful tips and strategies like this. stay tuned. We'll talk to you next time.