Hacking the Amazon Ad System

by | Jun 8, 2017 | Amazon Updates & Marketing Tips, Book Marketing Basics

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Many of you have probably seen (and maybe even tried) Amazon’s ad system, via their Amazon Marketing Services (AMS). And I’ve even heard from a few authors that have tried it, albeit it not successfully.

Ads, whether Google, Facebook, Twitter, or AMS, follow a general rule. (And we’ll cover that in this piece.) Additionally, there’s Amazon’s own, special spin, which we’ll discuss as well. So let’s dig in.

And seriously, while I’m happy to share my tips, this is a lot to learn in one sitting, I’m still learning as the Amazon machine constantly evolves, so if you’re seriously about incorporating Amazon ads into your book promotion, please contact me and we’ll discuss how we can work this important strategy into a book marketing campaign.

What Kind of Ads Can You Create?

Within the Amazon ad system, there are two types of ads you can create for books: Sponsored Product Ads and Product Display Ads.

Sponsored ads show up like the two screenshots below:

Hacking Amazon's Ad System | AMarketingExpert.com

Hacking Amazon's Ad System | AMarketingExpert.com

So they can appear in searches, or on the book’s sales page, in a row at the bottom.

Product Display Ads, on the other hand, show up on the right side of a book’s sales page.

Hacking Amazon's Ad System | AMarketingExpert.com

So which ad is better? Well for my research, I have seen better results with Sponsored Ads. And I think this is largely because of the way they show up in searches and the flexibility you have with keywords. We’ll go over this in a minute.

Setting Up Your Ads

First off, let’s start with some do’s and don’ts for the ad system. If you’ve ever set up ads via Google AdWords, you know that Google’s suggestions are often pretty darned good. In most cases when I run ads, I will use their suggestions. With Amazon I’m not really inclined to do that. In fact, I would almost tell you to ignore Amazon’s suggestions altogether. However, unlike Google Ads where you could do a set of, let’s say fifty keywords, with Amazon you need much, much more.

For Amazon ads to work effectively, you need to consider between 300 and 400 keywords. But before you give up, stay with me. Because this isn’t as hard as you might think. B

One of the biggest issues authors face, when finding keywords for their book page, or their Amazon ads, is that they pick words that really have very little search momentum. Or, conversely, the keywords are far too competitive. Like “contemporary romance” for a romance novel.

The other thing to consider is the how. And as we’ve talked about, consumers search based on their needs. So, if you have a book on gluten intolerance, your consumer may search on “Wheat allergies,” because they’re coming at this from their pain points, not yours.

Phrases and Search Terms

The first step in this process are the phrases and search terms. I recommend that you start with a list of existing search terms your readers might input into the Amazon search bar, to get to the books they’re looking for. As a reminder, start with the Kindle store so you get better results. And if you’re on Chrome, go “incognito” as I always recommend for Amazon keyword search. Because you don’t want your Amazon results affected by prior purchases.

With the help of Amazon’s intuitive search, you’ll start to pull up keyword suggestions, which I’ve written more about on this post, as you start to type in your keyword. Let’s say you have a paranormal, time travel, romance. You could start by typing in the word, “paranormal” – when you do, you’ll see this box pop up.

Take note of the search phrases and jot them down. This is the first series of keywords you’ll want to use. However, keep in mind that you’ll only want to use relevant keywords. So if your book isn’t a paranormal gay romance, you won’t want to include that term.

Hacking Amazon's Ad System | AMarketingExpert.com

How to boost your keyword search

Another way to search, is to pop in your keyword and the term “and” or start digging through the alphabet. So for example, you can type in romance a, b, c and so on through the alphabet. Remember that Amazon is showing you these because people have searched them. So going through the alphabet like this, could help you find keywords that you hadn’t thought of. Note: you can do this for fiction and non-fiction, to help expand your reach.

Hacking Amazon's Ad System | AMarketingExpert.com


Hacking Amazon's Ad System | AMarketingExpert.com

Fiction keywords

For fiction, in most every case, readers will search based on book type. So “mystery thriller,” “sci-fi fantasy,” or “paranormal romance.” But for non-fiction, consumers will always search on their specific need. So let’s say you have a book about small business. Starting or growing, or creative ways to get your business started. You may start by typing in “small business” into the search bar, when you do, this intuitive search starts to populate:

Hacking Amazon's Ad System | AMarketingExpert.com

Related Book Titles and Author Names

Once you have a solid list of search terms, I’d suggest 25-50 then I want you to go in and plug these into Amazon and take note of the books that come up on the first page. Unlike your Amazon Book Page Optimization, you won’t need to bother with sales rank. We are just trying to populate a lot of popular books and authors in your same genre. So take note of the author, book title and series title, if any. Also note that you can’t use special characters in AMS ads, so save yourself some time by not using hyphens, colons, or quotes because the ads system won’t accept it.

When you include book titles, I tend to like to stay away from one word titles, because I’ve not personally seen good CPC (cost per click) on these. For example like: Hot or Smokin’ or something nebulous like that, is probably too broad. And although it’s common in romance, it won’t get you a good kickback in search. Or worse, it’ll cost you a lot of money and very little in sales.

You can go as deep as two pages on the Amazon search and keep jotting down names and book titles. Once you have this list, click on the individual books and check the “Also boughts” (which is the banner that runs across the bottom of the book on the book detail page) and start doing the same with these, too. Getting into your readers’ funnel – meaning targeting books and author that are most popular is your powerful tool, so don’t shortcut this. This entire process could take you up to two hours, but likely you won’t have to redo this entire effort again.

The goal here is to find books in your genre that are selling well and use that author and book title as part of your keywords. Unlike the KDP dashboard, where using author names and book titles is not permitted, with AMS ads it’s totally ok to do this.

Speaking of other authors, you can leverage their success in other ways too with some smart networking. Here are 5 simple tips for building your fan base with some lucrative collaboration.

Another Way to Find More Books and Authors

Once you have more keywords, and no doubt by now you’re at 100 or even more, you can head on over to the Amazon Bestsellers lists.

And here is the bestseller list, which you can access by going to: https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers/zgbs/ref=zg_bs_unv_kstore_0_154606011_2.

Then I recommend that you scroll to Kindle Store and start your search there.

Hacking Amazon's Ad System | AMarketingExpert.com

Now you can dig through and find any titles you missed, because there could be a lot here you didn’t see on the original keyword search. I will sometimes go as deep as the top 60 books, because that’s some pretty good momentum.

Other Keyword Ideas

You aren’t limited to using keywords only.  Meaning, you can also use author names and book titles. So, you may also want to consider including any hot movie tie-ins to your book, or things that are in the news, like celebrities, politicians, or world events. Depending on how this trends, it may not have a long-term effect on your keywords. And by this, I mean if you add in a movie title that tanks, you may not see a big bump beyond the movie release date.

Setting up Your Amazon Ads

To get started on AMS ads, head on over to the AMS dashboard here: https://ams.amazon.com/ you’ll log in with your Amazon account details and it’ll take you through the Amazon ad set up.

Hacking Amazon's Ad System | AMarketingExpert.com

Once there, it’ll give you the option to select the type of campaign you want:

Hacking Amazon's Ad System | AMarketingExpert.com

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to select Sponsored Products. Once there, it’ll give you the option to grab one of your books. Next, a screen will appear asking for campaign name, daily budget and whether you want to end the ad campaign at a certain date, or within a date range. It will also ask you if you want automatic or manual targeting. Again, I would never go with the Amazon suggested keywords because in almost every case they won’t be great.

Hacking Amazon's Ad System | AMarketingExpert.com

Once you have entered your keywords into the system, hit save and start to write your ad. If you’re doing ads based on keyword segments, you’ll want to use those keywords in the ad itself. If you aren’t and are not sure where to start, do a search on Amazon in your genre. And you’ll start to see what kinds of ads seem to get your attention in terms of Sponsored Posts. The ads are all pretty short in terms of verbiage so you don’t have a lot of room to work with anyway.

Ad Budget and CPC

To start out, I recommend that you start with a $10 a day daily budget and .25 cost per click (CPC). And you can raise and lower this, as you see certain keywords working and others falling off. One thing that I will say about AMS ads is that I would watch them carefully. You aren’t going to go broke doing these, unless your daily budget is too high. But, I do see a lot of fluctuation in ads so I’d recommend watching them, and adjusting your bids as you see particular words that are giving you more traction.

Boosting Your AMS campaigns

In testing I’ve done, I’ve found that doing ads on books that aren’t included in the Kindle Unlimited program don’t do as well as those books that are KDP Select. Why? Because a lot of readers in Kindle Unlimited are getting book recommendations from these ads. And, though you may not see it in direct book sales, you’ll definitely see it in page reads in Kindle Unlimited.

The other thing I recommend is having a print version of the book you are running the ad on. Even if you aren’t selling any print books, to speak of, having a print version of the book will help with overall visibility and your ads will do better. I’ve tested both fiction and non-fiction books with and without print and, hands down, print always helps boost your ad exposure.

Books that are in a series tend to increase the exposure of your overall sales. And it could also be books that follow a similar theme instead of a specific series. So, for example, let’s say you write about saving money, starting a business, or parenting. Having multiple books out, even if you are only running ads on one of them, will help with your overall exposure. And the potential is there to increase book sales for other books, because you’re bringing more readers to your stuff.

Another way to boost your Amazon ads, is by adding the ad keywords to your book page. And you can do this via your book description. Or also, you can include enhanced content via Amazon Author Central. If you can include a keyword or two in your subtitle, even better. Keep in mind that your Amazon page is spidered, much like your website. And so having ad keywords there is not only a great idea, but it’s mandatory to get good bounce from your ads.

Here are more critical tips for ensuring you’re using all your sales opportunities on Author Central, they’re free, so why not give it a shot?


So, You Want to Sell More Books on Amazon? We Can Help!

A lot of companies offer Amazon Optimization – but we do it better.

Because we don’t do it the way Amazon instructs you to do it – the way other companies and publishers do it – because we don’t follow instructions, we deliver results with:

  • Manual research, no apps or aggregators
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  • Better searchability and better rankings. Period.

Get started here:  www.sellmorebooksonamazon.com

Resources and Downloads

How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon – 2020 Updated Edition!: Learn how to turn Amazon into your 24/7 sales machine!


  1. dog stylE

    Thanks for finally talking about >Hacking Amazon’s Ad System | Author Marketing Experts, Inc.

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