I Wonder… (AMS Ads)

Yesterday I got so frustrated with what I was seeing on one of my AMS ads where I turned the Broad category match back on for “successful” keywords that I was seriously considering writing that stupid Amazon executive team email address to be like, “you have to be smarter than this.”

Let me tell you what I’m talking about.

I had an ad running for my book Access for Beginners which is an introduction to Microsoft Access. I don’t get clever with categories so it is in computer or business-related categories, maybe an education category. But all appropriate fits for what it is.

Here are some of the search terms that people used and then clicked on the ad in the last thirty days, most of which matched on the broad search term “how to use access”:

-amazon jobs work from home

-american culture

– basic sign language book

-books on increasing access

-commercial general liability coverage guide

-content and devices in my account


-digital music downloads

-etiquette lessons


-home maintenance book

-hotel housekeeping

-how to find accessible lodging

-huffington post


The list goes on. But you and I sitting here looking at the phrase I’m paying for “how to use access” and knowing it’s for a computer book or a business book or maybe under education can see pretty easily that craigslist and etiquette and insurance and hotel housekeeping are completely, profoundly irrelevant.

So irrelevant that I can’t even anticipate them and use negative keywords to prevent this from happening. (I did already have negative keywords around things like accessibility.)

My AMS ads spend is down tremendously from its peak because I refuse to pay for that kind of crap matches. And I was going to write one of those emails that was like, “please, for the love of God, you are a better company than this, fix it.”

But then I walked my dog this morning. And I got to thinking. And I realized that, yes, Amazon is a better company than this.

Which means they must be making money off of this.

So then I asked myself how? Why are bad matches like this profitable to them?

And I realized that it’s probably because it drives up the cost per click. If they really took into account the product being advertised and layered that onto the keywords I chose then I’d be competing with other individuals advertising books on Microsoft Access.

That’s a pretty small group of people. Even if I bid high, with the way they determine click cost I’d be paying a pretty modest click cost, most likely. (Which I should add, used to be the case.)

But by throwing the net as wide as they can, they put my bid up against people looking for books on how to speak Welsh (another click I had this month) and all the others listed above. That drives up the click cost because to even win the right to be shown I have to have outbid all of those other little niche categories, too.

Of course, people also have to click on those ads for this to work, right? Amazon doesn’t earn money unless someone clicks.

But the clicks are happening. Because I only see those crap results when someone clicks on my ad.

Is it frustrated customers who know those are paid ads and want to make someone pay for a shit result that wasted their time?

Or is it bot traffic that Amazon fails to catch or fails to reverse because allowing a certain amount of it makes them a pretty profit?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that those clicks certainly aren’t leading to sales. Whatever it is that drives people to click on those poorly-targeted ads cost me about $30 on that ad over the course of a month. Add that up across all Amazon advertisers and multiple ads, and that’s a tidy little extra bump in revenue.

(This, by the way, was an ad that was still marginally profitable despite that crap. And unfortunately part of that profit was on that very keyword.)

I don’t mind paying to advertise on Amazon. I’m a no one, I need to advertise somewhere and doing so on the largest bookselling site in the world makes sense to me.

But I do mind paying to advertise on a system that is potentially built to be deliberately inefficient enough to double my costs.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s just pure incompetence. Or not paying attention to niche portions of their ecosystem.

I’d like to give that benefit of the doubt.

But I think it’s probably bad KPIs and the short-sighted pursuit of profit while missing the fact that this can only happen if either customers are fed up with bad ads or bots aren’t being properly controlled for, both of which are unhealthy long-term.

Author: M.L. Humphrey

M.L. Humphrey is an author who has been published under a variety of pen names and across a variety of subjects and genres. You can contact M.L. at mlhumphreywriter [at] gmail.com.

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