Complete Guide to Amazon Headline Search Ads + 7 Optimization Tips

Headline Search Ads (now known as Sponsored Brands) are the first thing a shopper encounters when searching for products on Amazon’s Marketplace.

Although these top funnel banner ads are simple to set up, many advertisers forget to implement strategic optimizations that are key for driving traffic and conversions.

Here’s an advertiser’s guide on how Headline Search ads work and 7 optimization strategies that you can leverage to boost their performance.

 

What Are Amazon Headline Search Ads (HSAs)?

Amazon Headline Search Ads are keyword-driven banner ads that run along the very top of Amazon’s search results page.

 

headline search ads sponsored brands example amazon

 

They are above-the-fold and are the first thing an Amazon shopper will encounter when searching for products — a golden commodity for advertisers.

They provide advertisers the ability to capture search intent and go after specific searches with a combination of a graphic and a text-based ad.

Retailers can drive traffic from their Headline Search ad to their:

  • Amazon Branded Page (EBC, A+, Stores)
  • Best-selling products
  • A custom URL (on Amazon)

 

Amazon Headline Search Ads feature:

  • Up to 3 ASINS
  • A brand logo
  • A custom headline

 

How do they work?

Amazon Sellers and Vendors can create Headline Search advertising campaigns within AMS or Seller Central.

These ads are based on keyword-driven targeting where advertisers place bids on product keywords, charged on cost-per-click (CPC) basis.

amazon headline search ads amazon sponsored brands ads

 

Amazon Headline Search Ads CPC Cost

The cost-per-click for each ad depends on the keyword you are bidding on; traffic and CPCs vary for different keywords.

According to Amazon, your “campaign budget is the total amount you are willing to spend for a single campaign.”

You will only pay for clicks on your ads, not impressions.

Note: the ACoS for Headline Search Ads is typically a little higher than other ad formats.

 

How to Create a Headline Search Ad Campaign

Setting up a new Headline Search Ad campaign can be completed by following these steps within Seller Central or AMS.

  1. Click on Campaign Manager.
  2. Select Headline Search Ads.
  3. Click Create Campaign.
  4. Select ad landing page.
  5. Set a campaign budget.
  6. Add keywords and bids.
  7. Add an image and headline.

 

amazon headline search ads sponsored brands

 

7 Ways To Boost The Conversions of Your Amazon Headline Search Ads

There are several strategies you can put in place to increase the performance of your Amazon Headline Search Ads.

 

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.

 

amazon headline search ads sponsored brands amazon store

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 Headline Search 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

-Courtney Macfarlane, Marketplace Channel Analyst at CPC Strategy

 

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. Refine Your Keywords With Data From Sponsored Products Campaigns

Another way to optimize your Headline Search ad campaigns is to harvest additional keywords from your auto campaigns and leverage keyword conversion data from your Sponsored Products campaigns.

 

Harvest Keywords From Auto Campaigns

When was the last time you harvested new keywords from your auto campaigns to inform keyword targeting of your HSAs?

Many advertisers will leverage auto campaign data but often fall into the trap of a “set-it-and-forget-it” mentality.

A regular keyword harvesting strategy is important for staying on top of what shoppers are searching for to plan your keyword targeting accordingly.

 

amazon keyword tool

 

You should continually analyze customer search term data to make strategic decisions on which products and keywords to bid higher or lower on.

“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 HSA campaigns.”

 

Use Sponsored Products Search Term Reports To Find Keywords That Convert

The difference between sponsored products and HSAs is that with sponsored products, you can see which search term produced your ad or led to 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.

“On HSA 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.

 

amazon keywords amazon headline search ads sponsored brands

 

What a Quality Keyword Looks 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 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.”

 

revlon lipstick amazon headline search ads sponsored brands ad

 

However, some businesses may be willing to pay more than 30% ACoS if they want their products to display for a non-branded search.

It all depends on whether your objectives are growth-based or performance-based.

“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.”

Keep in mind, the ACoS for Sponsored Brands is typically higher than other ad formats, such as Sponsored Products.

 

4. Optimize Ad Copy With Search Intent

With Headline Search Ads (Sponsored Brands), you are given 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.

 

amazon headline search ads sponsored brands

 

“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

Amazon’s Headline Search ads 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:

  • Headline
  • Image
  • 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.”

Best practices for testing your Headline Search ads 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.

 

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.

 

6. Leverage Reporting Data

You can find the clicks, spend, sales, and ACoS of your Headline Search ad campaigns within your campaign reports.

If you want to drive the most out of your Headline Search campaigns, you’ll want to monitor this data closely to evaluate performance and make adjustments accordingly.

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 that it’s costing you weekly 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 (AKA Headline Search ads) to the left column and bottom of the page.

Advertisers were by default enrolled into all of these placements with using an automatic bidding option.

 

This update resulted in a significant increase in impressions and a dramatic increase in advertising cost of sale.

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).

The solution to not displaying below the fold:

If you don’t want your Headline Search 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.

  1. Open your campaign settings for your Sponsored Brands campaign.
  2. Select automated bidding and change to manual.
  3. You can now decrease your bids for all placements below the SERP.
  4. Decrease bids by 99% if you don’t want your ad to display in the alternative placements.

 

amazon headline search ads sponsored bands example

Some bottom placements feature a single image rather than the standard brand logo followed by three product images. Source: OGEE Skincare Amazon

“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.”

 


Want to learn more about boosting your retail performance through Amazon advertising?

Q4 Amazon Ad Strategy: AdDiego Panel Experts Share Best Practices

Headline Search Ads in Seller Central Now Available to 3Ps

Optimize & Analyze AMS Campaigns with CPC Strategy’s Proprietary CAPx Technology

Why the Increase in Impressions for Sponsored Brands Campaigns? [And How to Fix It]

The Amazon Marketing Services Guide

Everything You Need To Know About Amazon Sponsored Products

The Best Amazon Keyword Tool

 

About the AuthorGreg graduated from CSU Sacramento with a degree in International Relations. After teaching English in Istanbul, he returned to California to pursue writing about tech and digital marketing. See all posts by this author here.