5 Keys to Success with Amazon Advertising

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Amazon made its first appearance at the Search Marketing Expo (SMX) conference series in New York this week, marking a dramatic year for Amazon Marketing Services in particular. That’s in part because in its first appearance in a report from analytics firm Advertiser Perceptions, Amazon Advertising Platform was rated the most-used DSP – even more than Google’s DoubleClick.

Amazon Ad Principles

In a session on Tuesday (October 24), Colleen Aubrey, vice president of performance advertising at Amazon Marketing Services, pointed to Amazon’s notorious customer obsession principle and said that’s why Amazon Marketing Services prioritizes first the customer, then the advertiser and finally the publisher (which, today, is primarily Amazon itself, but also some external sites for display products).

That, in turn, is because if “you build a great experience for the customer, there’s an opportunity to generate great value for the advertiser,” Aubrey said.

Amazon has long focused its customer experience on price, selection and convenience, allowing the ecommerce giant to build what Aubrey called a “pretty engaged customer base.” Indeed, reports say Amazon Prime now has 90 million members in the US alone. And, per Amazon’s figures, 92% of shoppers who start their purchase journey on Amazon end up making their purchase through Amazon.

“Without an engaged customer base, the ability to offer [a] compelling [product] as an advertiser is not there,” Aubrey said.

Amazon Ad Products

Amazon started working on a CPC offering a decade ago and has since iterated with different ad products, including text-based ads.

“We learned brands struggled to drive discovery within the Amazon experience, which led to the creation of products going in the right direction in the Amazon Marketing Services portal,” Aubrey added.

Today, advertisers have a range of Amazon ad offerings to choose from, including Sponsored Products, Headline Search Ads and Stores. The latter launched a few months ago and allows brands to create curated shopping experiences on Amazon.

“It could fundamentally change the way customers shop on Amazon,” Aubrey said. “It introduced a branded shopping experience that hasn’t been a core part of the [Amazon] experience so far.”

Aubrey called out Big Dot of Happiness in particular, saying its Amazon Store allowed the party brand to solve the problem of consumers only buying a single product on Amazon whereas they purchased multiples from its website.

Makeup brand Maybelline is another with an Amazon Store with “lots of video to demonstrate new shades,” she added.

Stores are discoverable on the product detail page, by headline search ads and also by the URL

“We’re trying to enable an ad experience that drives discovery, engagement, consideration and purchase and with a Store, [brands] drive more loyalty and engagement on an ongoing basis,” Aubrey said.

At the same time, Aubrey warned that if advertisers’ product detail pages are bad, it’s a waste of money to drive traffic to them. That includes lack of production information, poor quality images and negative reviews.

“The whole purpose of the page is to drive conversions…it won’t work if the product is out of stock or if it’s a product customers don’t love,” she added.

In fact, Aubrey said Amazon will stop serving certain ads if a product is out of stock.

Amazon Ad Tools

In the meantime, Aubrey said Amazon is “working hard” to enable analytics so advertisers can see how customers travel through their Stores and track traffic and conversion rate.

In response to a question about whether Amazon has a Quality Score like Google, Aubrey said, “Yes and no,” adding, “Yes, we put a lot of emphasis on understanding the quality of advertising…no, we haven’t gotten to a point we feel really good at that so we can expose it to advertisers to take reasonable action. It’s an often-requested feature. We are aware of it and we’ve worked through several iterations.”

In addition, she said Amazon does not have a separate keyword tool like Google, but advertisers can ask for keyword recommendations and also integrate recommendations with the API.

“Some things we think differently about than other advertising solutions,” Aubrey said. “Some of that is around reflecting the profile of demand. That’s why we don’t give exact numbers, but you can expect iteration on tools.”

When it comes to voice-based ads, Aubrey said she had “nothing to talk about at this time.”

However, she added, “We are pleased with the way customers engage with Echo and how other brands are using the Alexa platform. It’s early days, there’s lots to learn. But the same way we focused on…the Amazon customer experience [for 20+ years], we’re taking time to invest in what is a great experience with voice interaction and devices. Once we know more, we will look at other opportunities in advertising.”

Until then, here are five ways brands can succeed with existing Amazon ad products:

  1. Start with Sponsored Products.

Per Aubrey, this is a relatively simple way to get started and to learn about how advertising works in an Amazon shopping environment. Brands can advertise one or all of their products and access recommended keywords and bids to get started and to learn about what the demand curve looks like and whether they can meet their ROI goals. Aubrey said Amazon also has auto targeting with keywords that are a fit for a brand’s products.

“If you’re looking to dip your toe in the water and understand the opportunity and how it could change your demand profile at Amazon, it’s a good way to get started. You should see quick results.”

  1. Get into Headline Search and Product Display Ads.

These products encompass more use cases and help keep a brand top of mind, including the ability to cross-sell and upsell, Aubrey said.

  1. Enable Bid+.

When advertisers enable this feature, they allow Amazon to increase their bids by up to 50% to win impressions in a top placement based on what Amazon observes their downstream conversion looks like.

“Advertisers with new products and who want to bid on getting maximum share of voice know this placement will convert very well, so they enable Bid+ — which increases their bids to get more impressions at the top of the page relative to expected conversion and ad spend should stay stable,” Aubrey said.

What’s more, she said advertisers can see end-to-end within the shopping experience – from the way a consumer first sees a brand to the way they interact and make decisions, like adding to a cart or wish list.

“It gives you the full spectrum of inputs to make decisions about how to invest your marketing dollars,” she added.

  1. Optimize for Always-On.

These products are contextually targeted, so Amazon will only serve ads when there is specifically expressed intent.

“Ads will ebb and flow with expressed demand from customers, but if you don’t use Always On, there will be demand from customers you’ll miss. You can set a daily budget and you can…set a specific period and budget.

  1. And, finally, build an Amazon Store for all the benefits noted above.



Understanding Intent: Stop selling. Start helping.

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Acronym CMO Mike Grehan recaps his recent presentation at MediaPost’s Search Insider Summit.

Fifteen years ago, the former Chief Scientist at a search engine called Alta Vista, authored a scholarly paper with the title: A taxonomy of web search. His name is Andrei Broder, he’s currently Distinguished Scientist at Google, and his seminal work has been cited in the information retrieval research community thousands of times.

The nature of the research was based around trying to determine the “intent” behind an end user query. For instance, if an end user back then typed the words “digital camera” into the search box, the search engine could find any amount of content about digital cameras. But specifically, what do you mean? Do you want to buy one, or sell one, or repair one? If the search engine algorithm can determine the “intent” behind the query, then the result set will be so much more relevant, and have a greater ability to satisfy the information need.

Broder’s original work placed query intent into three categories: Informational, Navigational, Transactional. More recently, a similar framework of discerning intent has been developed by Google Digital Marketing Evangelist, Avinash Kaushik. Kaushik buckets it this way: See, Think, Do. This is a framework we have successfully adopted at Acronym and it has proven to be hugely beneficial to clients in several ways.

By starting with a content gap analysis, we’re able to discover exactly where clients are underrepresented with good quality, relevant, and (more importantly) useful content. Following that, content mapping allows for extra thought to the actual “content experience.” With federated search results (or “universal search” as it’s commonly known in the industry), sometimes a simple image can be more immediate and more useful than a web page. Or a thirty second video clip may be better than a text based result.

More often than not, it’s no surprise to discover that a client may have access to huge amounts of content designed for the “do” (transactional or checkout) stage, but very little early stage content on the path to purchase. And yet, “see” and “think” stages are ideal for creating much earlier brand affinity.

Dr. Robert Heath has a worldwide reputation as an expert in the role of emotion and attention in the field of brand communication. In 2001, he developed the Low Attention Processing Model of advertising. His book “Seducing the Subconscious – The psychology of Emotional Influence in Advertising received widespread international acclaim when it was published in 2012. I’ve personally believed, for a long time, that high impact in-your-face advertising messages may work well later on the path to purchase, where it’s likely that a brand connection already exists.  But there is no doubt in my mind that Heath’s slow burn, low level, passive attention model is the perfect scientific approach for early stage marketing communications.

Google has an excellent tool that anyone can use to get an indication of just how much more content is being consumed by the end user at the early stages compared to the “checkout” transactional stage. Use it to create a cool infographic showing what percentage of content across channels – organic, generic paid search, branded paid search, display, social, and email –  is being consumed on the path to purchase

For so long in the search marketing community, we’ve chained ourselves to specific keywords or phrases. In fact, the search industry economy has been built around the relative value of the keyword. And yet, so frequently, the result set following a query at any given search engine, will consist of content experiences that don’t even include the keywords used in the query. A simple example of this would be a search for the term “fish tank” that results in content featuring tropical fish aquariums. A truly relevant and useful result indeed, but no mention of “fish tank” anywhere.

With machine learning techniques and AI filtering into marketing, particularly in search, we’re more focused on concepts and topics, as opposed to specific keywords.  Machine learning allows search engines such as Google to understand so much more about end user behavior, and the intent behind that behavior. But there’s also a lot of hype around advances in artificial intelligence. To get a better feel of exactly where a company such as Google stands, with its many world leading experts in AI, you can watch a short video they created which captures the technology moment perfectly.

Of course, you can’t talk about artificial intelligence in search without the subject of digital assistants and speech based search coming up. Concierge search is a term I use when discussing the role of digital assistants. The future of how we interface with the burgeoning number of electronic devices in our daily lives may be leaning towards all talk. But that doesn’t mean it’s all search when we’re communicating wants and needs to Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Google Now and other human sounding entities embedded in everything from smartphones to salad choppers. In fact, most of these interactions tend to be more about getting service than search results.

The analogy of the concierge stems from the amount of travelling I do. For instance, if I stay in a hotel on Union Square in San Francisco that I’ve stayed in many times before and know the area well, I may ask the concierge to book a table for four at my favorite steakhouse across the street. That’s service. But if I’m staying in an area I don’t know so well, in a hotel I haven’t stayed in before, I may tell the concierge that I have four guests for dinner, and ask if he could recommend good steakhouses in the area. That’s search. My friend Lisa Lacy at The Drum wrote a good column about this here

I do believe that there is general shift in the industry towards the “content experience analyst” a role that is more focused on identifying and fulfilling content gaps going forward. The mission is to provide a more useful experience and more extensive visibility and touch points on the end user path to purchase.

Of course, going back to the headline of this recap, I don’t suggest that there’s something wrong with selling online. It’s more a case of knowing when to do it, and exactly how to do it. A little help goes a long way to moving the potential customer more smoothly towards the checkout than the barking, interruptive advertising that we’re so used to tuning out, not in.




Intrigue Summit NYC Review: Why Human to Human Marketing Should be Your Top Priority

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By Aleks Shklyar

H2H_295x175In a place where all marketing work can often become siloed, it is important to broaden one’s horizons and try to see things from new points of view. I have been in SEO for a few years now, and staying on top of all the news in the world of digital marketing has been my priority. This past week, I made it out to the Intrigue Summit in New York City organized by Salesgasm. A big focus was on helping marketing and sales professionals learn about how they can nurture skills that may not fall directly under their responsibilities (including SEO). Seeing the other side’s perspective was reassuring in the sense that marketers are finally realizing that basic understanding of SEO is a requirement. However, a takeaway that rang true for all digital marketers, regardless of the specific role they held, was the concept of marketing “human-to-human” and understanding user intent.

        Keynote speaker, Terrence Richardson, Head of Investment Bank Marketing for HSBC Americas, pointed out that keeping the customer at the center of your attention is key. In his presentation, we were taken through the 6-step process he relies on for his marketing initiatives. Soon, we began to realize that valuable insight can be gained by turning directly to customers and asking them what they think. That insight should be leveraged when creating new ideas and content. In doing so, you can keep user intent and the buyer journey in mind. While this applies to marketing across the board, it is especially important to remember for all of us in the realm of SEO. Although keywords will undoubtedly always provide a good preview of the next big opportunity, understanding the searcher’s needs should ultimately define your strategy and content.

        The deep understanding of the buyer journey resurfaced throughout many other panels. When discussing social media marketing, Irina Rivers, Director of Social Media at GroupM, explains that ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ are not the greatest metric to focus on when assessing the impact of your social efforts on the bottom line. As the rest of the social panel agreed, the takeaway was that getting social likes at an astonishing rate is not something that would necessarily lead to conversions. In fact, social interactions are a good barometer for consumer reactions to branded content and relationship building—not making sales. Attribution metrics, including conversions online or off-site or via mobile, can help marketers better understand what actions consumers are taking after being exposed to their advertising. These conversions can be direct sales for B2C marketers or high-value actions demonstrating intent for B2B marketing. As social media is a consumer touchpoint at different stages of the consumer journey, social media marketing is an integral component of overall marketing strategy.

Unlike social media, SEO strategy can fall virtually anywhere within buyer journey. While many will focus on the bottom line, nurturing potential customers by using content, can later turn them into actual customers. Neglecting that market, or failing to realize it exists, can leave many SEO’s puzzled about their conversion rates. As with social engagements, sometimes just being there is important, and those visits and page views that seemingly amount to nothing can do wonders for your brand image and build the trust that will pay dividends down the line.

Coming back full circle, Intrigue Summit was an important confirmation that humans are at the end of every engagement whether you’re in SEO, social media, B2C, B2B, or any other form of marketing. As digital marketers, we need to constantly be reminded that human interaction with our brands will ultimately define our success. Of course, an assessment of ROI can provide guidance into what works and what doesn’t. Certainly, wasting time on campaigns that generate no exposure or traffic cannot be sustained for long. But, understating the user journey, their intent, and how you can provide value at each step is crucial in SEO and all of today’s marketing.


*Special thanks to Irina Rivers for help editing and Terrence Richardson for reviewing this column.

Do you agree that Human-to-Human Marketing is the next frontier? Or is it merely a buzzword of the year? [email protected] or comment below. And let’s be friendly humans and follow each other on Twitter and LinkedIn!


Acronym’s Top 5 Moments at C3 2017

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  1. VIP Event
    On February 28th, Acronym hosted a VIP networking event for those in town for C3 who were invited to the Acronym office in the Empire State Building. The night was concluded by heading up for a spectacular view from the top:
  2. Winning a Searchie for Most Innovative
    Announced at C3, Acronym is ecstatic and honored to have received a Searchie from Conductor in the Most Innovated category, check this guy out:
  3. Mike’s Breakout Session
    Acronym CMO, Mike Grehan partnered with SAP’s Crispin Sheridan to talk about creating content around customer intent in their session titled ‘Building Brand Affinity.’
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  4. Closing Keynote Panel
    Industry experts joined Mike Grehan as he lead the closing keynote of C3. Collaborating with Stanley Black & Decker’s Angie Benamati, SAP’s Crispin Sheridan, and Conductor’s Patrick Reinhart, Mike moderated the discussion regarding the impact of voice assistants on the future of search. Read more about the keynote in this Drum article. Image-1
  5. Conductor Searchlight “Legends” In The House
    Two of our team members completed the test during C3 and received Conductor’s Legend Searchlight Certification, Conductor sweetened the deal with these fancy medals:









Acronym at Conductor’s C3 Conference

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C3_295x175Acronym is thrilled to be a Platinum Sponsor at Conductor’s C3 conference taking place on March 1-2. Bang in the middle of Manhattan, at the New World Stages, the premier marketing conference will have hundreds of global marketers in attendance, from prominent and emerging companies. As a strategic partner, Acronym will be present on-site to demonstrate how we work with Conductor and to share innovations. C3 provides a space to spark innovation, share insights, and swap stories by providing three different tracks: Strategic SEO, Content Marketing Intelligence, and Digital Marketing Leaders.

Acronym’s CMO, Mike Grehan will be heading a breakout session with SAP’s Crispin Sheridan in the Content Marketing Intelligence track. This part of the C3 agenda will help participants understand how to create authentic customer connections, explore ways to gain valuable insight into customer intent, and inspire engagement-driving content campaigns. The breakout session, titled, Building Brand Affinity: Creating Content Around Customer Intent, will take place at 10:05AM on Day 2 of the C3 conference. Here’s how he describes the session:

[x_blockquote type=”center”]Ideally, in a personal selling situation, you’ll hear the words: “Can I help you?” Or, some kind of variation on that theme to start a conversation. And yet, online where we have so many opportunities to start a conversation that way, we often choose to stampede into a potential customer’s life, effectively shouting: “10% off if you buy within the next 5 nanoseconds!” Or, some kind of variation on that theme.

The sad truth is, most marketing and sales teams have tons of content for late stage offers and negotiations that they force into the process way too early. And yet so little to start a conversation much earlier on the path to purchase. Don’t start your relationship and brand building activities with the price of everything: start with the value. Don’t wait until, the last minute to communicate with potential customers, be there in the early stages to provide help, not hype, to create that longer-lasting brand affinity.[/x_blockquote]

The culmination of this leading event will be a star-studded keynote panel moderated by Mike. Recognized industry professionals will discuss the intricacies of the often-disjointed path to purchase across devices and the growth of speech based search. With Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, Siri, Cortana, and more, speech recognition is gaining momentum. A newer obstacle in search marketing, as speech based search increases in accuracy, it can become the primary way we interact with computers. The brilliant panelists joining Mike in this finale will include Forrester’s Collin Colburn, Stanley Black and Decker’s Angie Benamati, and Microsoft’s Geoff Colon.

Acronym Asia Focus – ClickZ Live, Singapore

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A lot of business was done. A lot of fun was had. Acronym’s mini Asia tour as sponsors of ClickZ Live took in Hong Kong, Bangkok and finished in Singapore. And what a convenient place to have the final Asia event, as Singapore is Acronym’s second home. It also provided a great opportunity for me to sit down with David Shen, who runs our Asia business, and discuss the various subtleties and differences of search marketing in Asia compared to the US market.

As for the final conference in the series, it was a fabulous turnout of leading brands and agencies from the region. One standout session was presented by Jason Oke, Regional Managing Director, Red Fuse Communications / WPP Team Colgate-Palmolive. “At least you’re not toothpaste” is a sort of standing joke within WPP, as Jason explained. And then he went on to explain that they had made an amazing discovery: In social media, toothpaste is actually a popular subject.

It’s a common thing to imagine that ordinary consumer packaged goods (CPG), such as toothpaste and shampoo, are hardly likely to stand out in social media terms in the same way as luxury goods, rock stars and sports stars might. And yet, as Oke went on to say, when they did a social media audit to listen and find out if toothpaste and shampoo were getting attention, there was a whole lot of activity going on. In particular, the number of images with a “Colgate smile” tag.

I was blown away when he also casually announced that Colgate is actually the #1 brand in the universe, beating even Coca Cola. Which probably explains why WPP tapped into ALL of its divisions and resources to form Red Fuse Communications, an agency dedicated specifically to this one client, Colgate/Palmolive.

Fellow Geordie (you’ll have to Google that 🙂 Chris reed gave an excellent presentation, too. He explained how to make your company’s LinkedIn page stand out from the rest. He provided some excellent examples of companies getting it right. As well, of course, as those making a complete ass-end of it. I wondered what he was insinuating when he asked me if I’d seen Acronym’s LinkedIn page recently… Moving on…

mikeg-knote-singaporeI presented my final keynote session in the series, “Left To Our Own Devices: A State Of Digital Address”. It was kind of a walk through the various stages of digital, mainly from a search perspective. Now, we’re constantly connected to multiple devices: phones, tablets, game consoles, connected TVs, and more.

As the Internet continues to grow exponentially and wearables become more commonplace, people are becoming even more connected to things that are connected to other things. And they randomly speak commands and queries into objects, large and small. I finished with a few thoughts on where it’s all going next.

I’ll be making the presentation available to download in our next edition.

Client, colleague and long-time friend Crispin Sheridan dazzled the audience (as usual) with a fabulous insight into multi-channel attribution modeling.

So many other great presentations, covering everything from search to social, display, email and analytics. Definitely a great finisher to this year’s live events for Acronym.

shen-viningAnd we did have a lot of fun at all three events with our “Summer Selfie” competition, which we were able to hold all the way from August to December as the weather was summer-like in each country at each event. It was simple way to win a bottle of bubbly (five winners at each event). All you had to do was don a pair of Acronym’s very cool, orange colored shades and take a selfie and Tweet it.

And the winners are…



Thanks to the Acronym team in New York and Singapore for working so well together and making these events so much fun and so successful. Looking forward to more of the same in 2015!


Acronym Sponsors & Keynotes Inaugural ClickZ Live Conference in Bangkok

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David Shen reviews “Left To Our Own Devices: A State of Digital Address” – the conference session that cranked the audience up and got things started


Acronym has had a thriving business in Asia since the launch of our Singapore office in 2006. And this year we’ve been reaching further into other regional markets. As part of our strategy, we signed up as Gold Sponsor for three of the ClickZ Live conferences in the Asia region (Hong Kong, Bangkok & Singapore). This gave us a great opportunity to meet with major international brands, and also with other vendors and agencies.


Our very own Mike Grehan presented the keynote that had the audience Tweeting factoids and one-liners throughout. Taking us way back to 1945, Grehan explained the dawning of the age of the “hypertext thinkers,” describing a classic essay by Professor Vannevar Bush called “As We May Think,” which appeared in The Atlantic Magazine almost 70 years ago. From there, he walked us through the invention of the Internet, followed by the invention of the World Wide Web, and rapidly into the launch of Google in 1998. All inspired by “hypertext thinkers.”

Shortly into the session, he was describing how search ranking was originally driven by text analysis and then, largely, by hyperlink analysis (Google being the first search engine to be very open about the importance of links in their ranking algorithm, PageRank). What made the audience really sit up was when he went on to explain that although text and link analysis are still pretty strong signals within the many ranking factors used by search engines, in fact the strongest signals are now attributed to end user data.

As Mike has previously explained, there’s far more going on under the hood at search engines that provide huge clues to intent and also to preferences in media consumption. The message for developing content around intent, was very clear.

Dave Evans - ciscoBringing it all together, Mike explained, in-depth, the differences between the Internet and the World Wide Web and how some may not realize that they are two different things. He said these days, it’s possible to spend an entire day on the Internet, using apps on various devices, without even needing to go near the World Wide Web. This segued perfectly into a very informative video presentation by Cisco’s Chief Futurist, Dave Evans, on the Internet of everything.

Perhaps nobody else in the digital marketing sector has written more about the connected consumer than Mike himself, and the video confirmed exactly what he said in the past about the impact this new “Internet of everything” will have and how it will once again transform the way that we do business and marketing.

Wrapping up the presentation, Mike gave a great story on the history of big data, which he tracked back to the 15th century. But, perhaps one of the more memorable moments to the audience was the very last slide, where Mike introduced the latest digital technology for the bathroom. We’ve heard of smart phones and smart TVs, but Mike introduced us to a smart toilet!

All round, a very informative trek from the beginning of the hypertext age, through search into content marketing and eventually the future of connected marketing. Mike is widely regarded as one the original pioneers in the industry and if you get a chance to see him speak, I certainly recommend you do.


DavidHSBased in Singapore, David leads Acronym Asia and is responsible for revenue generation, operations management, and business strategy. He identifies and develops strategic partnerships and oversees the company’s sales and marketing activities across Asia.

His Client experience includes Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Singapore Airlines, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels, Aberdeen Asset Management, Polycom, Cisco, HP, Avaya, and Motorola.