Amazon Sponsored Brands Ads (formerly Headline Search Ads) are one of Amazon’s flagship ad types that can feature brand imagery, messaging, and a product carousel to engage people at the beginning of their shopping journey.
Amazon has expanded the functionality of Sponsored Brands to include new targeting options, placements, as well as dynamic optimizations for ASINs that are displayed within the ad itself.
Here’s how Sponsored Brands work, their new features, how to set them up, and seven ways to optimize your campaign performance.
Amazon Sponsored Brands (formerly Headline Search Ads) are banner ads that include a brand’s logo, message, and products in Amazon’s search results.
These ads have historically been keyword-based and placed across the top of the search results, making them valuable for reaching shoppers early on in the buyer’s journey.
Sponsored Brands are an effective way to build top-funnel awareness by allowing your brand to show your offering for specific shopper search queries. They can be used to drive shoppers to a specific product category, a product listing, or your Store on Amazon.
Amazon Sponsored Brands Cost
Sponsored Brands are paid for on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis, meaning you pay only for clicks on your ad, not impressions.
Your cost can vary depending on the keywords, products, or categories you are targeting.
Setting up a new Headline Search Ad campaign can be completed by following these steps within Seller Central or AMS.
- Click on Campaign Manager
- Select Sponsored Brands
- Click Create Campaign
- Select ad landing page
- Set a campaign budget
- Add keywords and bids
- Add an image and headline
Over the last year, we’ve seen Amazon make significant functionality updates to Sponsored Brands campaigns, including new placements, creative editing features, and more.
In 2020, Amazon made the following updates to Sponsored Brands:
- Expanded Sponsored Brands placements to include product detail pages
- Creative editing feature released that allow advertisers to edit Sponsored Brands creative in Campaign Manager
- Sponsored Brands shopper language preferences released, allowing brands to create and manage multi-language content
In 2019, Amazon made the following updates to Sponsored Brands:
- Additional placements alongside the bottom and sides of the search results page (August 2018)
- Dynamic ASIN optimizations that display ASINs based on what Amazon predicts will lead to a conversion (August 2019)
- Expanded targeting strategies to include negative keywords, category, and ASIN targeting (Ongoing)
For more updates that Amazon made in 2020, skim our post.
Sponsored Brands spend grew a staggering 47% year over year for the quarter
The increase represents a significant rebound from the 27% spend growth seen in Q4 2019. Sales attributed to the format grew even faster at 57%.
“Sponsored Brands spend growth slowed modestly to end the quarter, but still grew a robust 37% the final week of the quarter.”
– Andy Taylor, Director of Research at Tinuiti
“The median advertiser targeting both Sponsored Products and Sponsored Brands averaged 17% as much daily spend on Sponsored Brands as Sponsored Products between January 1 and March 20, but that figure rose to over 20% to end the quarter.”
“The share of Sponsored Brands impressions coming from the top of search results picked up for a time, going from an average daily value of 36% the first two months of the year to 42% in March,” says Taylor.
“However, things seemed to return to pre-March levels at the end of Q1, with top-of-search placements accounting for 35% of impressions the last day of the quarter – the same figure observed the first day of January.
1. Segment Branded vs. Non-branded Searches
One of the key strategies when using Amazon Headline Search Ads is to match keyword intent with the landing page that you are driving traffic to.
If someone searches “Burton snowboarding gear”―it makes sense to drive traffic to a Burton branded storefront page.
Judging by the search query, the shopper knows they want “Burton” branded gear, but they don’t know exactly what type of gear they want.
In contrast, a search for “Burton snowboarding boots” shows more specific intent.
For shoppers further down the funnel, with more specific search intent, you should send them to a customized URL that only shows them “Best Selling” Burton boots.
“If a shopper is looking for a specific product, make sure your Sponsored Brands ad gets them to that product. If it’s broad, it’s best to get them to page with a greater selection to help them make their decision.”
– Courtney Macfarlane, Senior Marketplace Channel Analyst at Tinuiti
The golden rule here is to reduce friction for your shoppers by putting the most relevant products in front of them based on their keywords.
“It’s also a best practice to segment branded and non-branded keywords for more granular keyword data,” says Macfarlane.
“Branded searches typically have a higher intent and lower ACoS. Mixing them with non-branded campaigns may prevent you from seeing the true performance of your branded and non-branded campaigns.”
2. Find the Right Keywords
Another way to optimize your Sponsored Brands ad campaigns is to harvest additional keywords from your auto campaigns and leverage keyword conversion data from your Sponsored Products campaigns.
Keyword Harvesting & the Amazon Search Term Report
Many advertisers will leverage auto campaign data but often fall into the trap of a “set-it-and-forget-it” mentality.
“It’s a best practice to always have an auto Sponsored Products campaigns for keyword harvesting,” says Macfarlane. “I take the winners from that auto campaign and move them into the manual SP and Sponsored Brands campaigns.”
The difference between sponsored products and HSAs is that with sponsored products, you can see which search term produced your ad or led to a conversion.
“You can see that your broad keyword ‘lipstick’ led to a sale based on the search term for ‘lip balm’ for your Sponsored Products campaigns,” says Macfarlane.
“In Sponsored Brands reporting you can see that the broad keyword ‘lipstick’ has a sale, but you can’t see the customer search term that triggered that keyword.”
Savvy Amazon merchants can work around this by leveraging keyword data from their Sponsored Products campaigns, which shows which keywords led to a sale.
You can find this information by downloading your Amazon Search Term Report.
What do quality keywords look like?
When you analyze your Search Term Report in Sponsored Products, you want to look at the raw data. The report will include a variety of metrics (per ASIN if you segmented your report as mentioned above) but the most telling data will be found in:
- Order Numbers: The total number of converted orders per keyword/search term per ASIN.
- Product Sales: The total number of product sales per keyword/search term per ASIN.
- Clicks: The total number of clicks per keyword/search term per ASIN.
3. Optimize Bids According to ACoS and Business Objectives
Once you know which keywords lead to conversions, you should optimize bids based on advertising cost of sale (ACoS) on a product-by-product basis.
“On a weekly basis we adjust bids based on the ACoS and profit margin for the product(s) being featured in a Headline Search ad,” says Macfarlane.
“For example, if I’m running ads ‘lipsticks’ and my lipstick products can’t go above an ACoS of 30%, I have to take that into consideration when determining how aggressive I want to bid.”
However, some businesses may be willing to pay more than 30% ACoS if they want their products to display for a non-branded search.
“If you are more performance-based, you’ll bid down on high ACoS keywords and higher on low ACoS keywords,” says Macfarlane.
“If you are more growth & brand awareness-focused, you may be willing to eat a higher ACoS to ensure your Headline Search ad displays for a specific keyword.”
4. Optimize Ad Copy With Search Intent
Sponsored Brands gives you one subject line to connect with your customers — so choose your words wisely.
The headline and text in your ad copy should match the keywords that are the MOST important for your product — for relevancy and click through.
“That’s why it’s important to have relevant keywords that closely relate to what the person is searching for,” says Macfarlane.
“For branded campaigns, I always try to give it a little bit of character. Try to incorporate the brand’s tagline or a unique selling prop. If a brand’s products are organic, include ‘organic’ in the copy.”
5. Test Multiple Combinations
Sponsored Brands require multiple assets, so it’s worth A/B testing different combinations to determine which impacts performance the best.
You can adjust and test all of the following:
- Number of featured ASINs
- Order of ASINs
- ASIN selection
- Custom landing page selection
“It’s worth testing your creative; you can show your brand logo or a product image,’ says Macfarlane.
“Unless you’re a well-recognized brand, we find that product images usually perform better with non-branded searches.”
It’s also worth noting that Amazon Headline Search ads display differently depending on placement and device type. For example, mobile HSAs only display one picture — so advertisers need to decide whether they want that one image to display their brand logo or one of their products.
Best practices for testing your Sponsored Brands according to Amazon:
- Set-up multiple campaigns to run simultaneously.
- Change one variable at a time.
- Run the test for at least 2 weeks.
- Identify winning criteria based on your business goal and the test set-up.
6. Leverage Reporting Data
You can find the clicks, spend, sales, and ACoS of your Sponsored Brands ad campaigns within your campaign reports.
Use this reporting to analyze Detail Page Views (DPV) and click-through rate (CTR) to determine if shoppers are getting past your custom landing page or not.
“It’s important to not only monitor this reporting on a weekly basis but also on a 30-day basis to get a better gauge of performance,” says Macfarlane.
“For example, if a keyword isn’t performing well this week and it only costs five dollars, you might keep it in your targeting.”
“However, if you look back 30 days or longer and see it’s costing you with no results, you’ll know that adjustments are needed.”
Monitor keyword data, keyword-driven conversions from your Sponsored Products campaigns, and don’t forget that there’s a 48-hour attribution lag when adjusting bids.
7. Prioritize Bids for Placements Above The Fold
Amazon recently expanded the placements of Sponsored Brands to the left column and bottom of the page.
Advertisers were by default enrolled into all of these placements using an automatic bidding option.
The new placements are below the fold can have lower CTRs and thus may cause your advertising costs to rise (lower CTRs can signal to Amazon that your ads are less relevant).
How to display Sponsored Brands above the fold
If you don’t want your Sponsored Brands ads to display in the placements below the fold (i.e., you only want to show in the original banner that runs across the top of the SERP), then there’s a simple workaround.
- Open your campaign settings for your Sponsored Brands campaign.
- Select automated bidding and change to manual.
- You can now decrease your bids for all placements below the SERP.
- Decrease bids by 99% if you don’t want your ad to display in the alternative placements.
“The second to the bottom placement can only show one image, so you’ll need to decide whether to make that image a logo or a product image,” says Macfarlane.
“If the customer is searching for a specific brand, it’s usually best to make sure they see your brand logo. If it’s product-specific, make sure you have the product image.”