Using Amazon Negative Keywords Effectively in Amazon PPC

Rick Wong 30 September 2021

What is Amazon Negative Keywords?

Today, we’ll talk about Amazon negative keywords, which are one of the most underappreciated aspects of Amazon PPC.

To begin, let’s define what negative keywords is?

Negative keywords allow you to block a particular search term from triggering your advertisements when the customers include this negative keyword in Amazon’s search bar. Think of a black list of keywords in your Amazon PPC

Assume you’re selling chef knives on Amazon and are bidding on the term “chef knife.” Your ad can be placed into the Amazon PPC auction and be shown to the shoppers if the keyword ” chef knife” triggers the match type.

Even if a buyer searches for a “German chef knife,” your Japanese chef knife may come up. Because your keyword phrase “Chief knife” appears in their search.

In this case, it may be a good idea to include “German” or “Germany” as a negative keyword so that any consumer searching for “German” isn’t matched with your Japanese chef knives.

chef knives amazon

We add “German” as a negative because consumers expressly seeking German knives are less likely to buy our Japanese-made blades, and well often have statistics (Poor ACoS, Low CVR) to back up this claim before adding the negatives.

Not adding negative keywords is a pretty frequent problem in many Amazon PPC account, yet many simply ignore it and continue to waste their ad spend. It is a lot of times the lowest hanging fruit for account performance improvement

Negative keywords are a fantastic way to keep your advertising from being seen by those who aren’t directly interested in what you’re selling. Remember, the goal is to pay for clicks to customers who are most likely to purchase your product.

Broad, Phrase and Exact Amazon Match Types

Before we go into the specifics of Amazon negative keywords, it’s vital to have a firm grasp on Amazon PPC’s three main keyword match types (Exact, Phrase, and Broad).

baby towel matches types

Broad, phrase, and exact match types are available on the Amazon Sponsored Ads platform. Keyword match types are critical to understanding Amazon PPC because they affect how you target shopper search queries and the sort of audience to whom your advertisements will be triggered.

How can you expect Amazon’s algorithm to match your products to your ideal consumer if you don’t know how to organize your campaigns to direct impressions to the correct audience?

To make sense of this, let’s first gain a better grasp of the various match types.

The term “baby towel” will be used as an example to demonstrate how match types work. We’ll go through the various keyword match types available: exact, phrase, and broad.

If we use the term “baby towel” as an exact match, we’ll only show up for customer searches like:

  • baby towel
  • baby towels
  • baby towell (misspelling)

Now have a look at what occurs when we switch from exact to phrase match. When using phrase match, your ad might match with a shopper if the keyword phrase is within the consumer’s search query, but not exactly the same. As a result, we may now show up when people search for:

  • pink baby towel
  • baby towel for beach

See how we’ve broadened the scope of what we look for in ad auctions? Our ads may appear in searches that include the words “pink” or “beach” as qualifiers. We can also show up based on competitor brand searches.

We can also show up for other use scenarios. Our product may not be suitable for customers looking for a normal size towel or for a specific purpose towel such as for one for cleaning.

When we move from exact match to more lose match types, we can start to run into some relevancy concerns because we’re targeting a much larger set of keywords. Let’s take a look at how this situation plays out, for an even looser match type which is the broad match type.

In the situation with broad match type, your ads can match against any search query that is related to the keyword and in any order. Your keyword does not have to be contained inside the customer search term. As a result, broad match type now show up when people search for:

  • baby hooded towels
  • toddler towels
  • pink hooded towels for babies

We can appear for hundreds of thousands of consumer searches that may match our product by using broad match. However, depending on the initial keyword’s relevancy, these shoppers are less likely to be the target audience.

Overall, while choosing keywords and match types, keep in mind that as you cast a wider net and reach a larger audience with looser match types (phrase to broad), you forfeit targeting precision and your chances of getting the perfect consumer with every ad impression decrease. It’s preferable to think of it as a spectrum:

keyword Relevancy Match Type Spectrum

There is also no one “best” match type and leveraging all match types with different objectives is the essential skill. It is all about striking the balance between impression, relevance, and ROI, there lies the art.

Does that make sense? Now that we’ve covered match types, let’s return to negative keywords and how they fit into the picture.

Negative Exact and Negative Phase Keyword Match Types

Negative keywords are unmatched by customer search queries. In another word, it is in the same way as bidding for keywords (also called positive keywords) but in the opposite direction. These settings prevent shopper search queries from matching your ad.

A negative exact match type will hide the ad from shoppers who are looking for that exact term or near misspellings and plurals.

negative sci fi GIF

A negative phrase keyword, on the other hand, will prevent any shoppers whose searches term has the negative keywords within them. There are no negative broad match types.

Let’s look at several circumstances where Amazon negative keywords might be useful.

The main and most important reason to use negative keywords is to reduce your advertising costs by avoiding wasted ad spend on irrelevant searches terms that could otherwise be spent on keyword or ASIN targets with higher relevancy.

This is where things start to get interesting though and would require diligence.

How do you figure out which search terms are to be added as negative keywords? Is there a common threshold to trigger a negative keyword? What is considered a good or a bad search term?

Negative keyword optimization may appear straightforward in certain cases, such as the one we just discussed. However, evaluating whether or not a certain keyword will bring in the right kind of shoppers to your listing can be difficult. For example, should the keyword “kitchen knife” be included as a negative keyword if you are selling the chef knife? Sometimes the decision can be made be looking at the data.

The data we’re talking about comes in the form of a Search Term Report in your Advertising Console account. This displays what consumer queries are being shown as an impression for your Amazon PPC campaigns.

To download your Search Report. Go to the side nav and choose “Report” in your Amazon ad console.

Amazon ads search term report

Once in the Report Screen, click “Create report”

Amazon ads search term report

Select the report type “Search Term”, click “Run report”. You create a search term report for the following ad types:

Amazon ads search term report

Download the report, and examine which search terms that are not reaching your performance objectives or poor KPIs (ACoS, CVR, CTR) by using filters in Excel or any other spreadsheet program. These search terms with poor metrics will be the candidates to be added as negative keywords.

If you’re utilizing amazon PPC management software like SellerMetrics to assist with adding negative keywords at scale, you can simply define a metric-based rule to suggest negative keyword additions, which the software can either apply automatically or present to you for human review. More on that later

Let’s use chef knives as an example again, and let’s say we’ve gone from selling chef knives to now selling butcher knives as a new product, and we’ve set up two manual campaigns. The first has exact match keywords, whereas the second has broad match keywords.

The problem is that both of these campaigns include phrases that may match our knife products to customers searching for “Japanese steel butcher knives.” In this case, adding “ Japanese steel butcher knives ” as an exact match negative keyword in the broad campaign would be a smart idea.

The idea is to keep a tighter grip on which campaigns are generating ad impressions for which customer queries in order to isolate your account’s search terms. This allows us to have more control over an account’s performance.

If you want to keep your advertising account organized and performing well, you’ll need to have a structured negative keyword strategy.

Add Negative Keyword in Campaign or Adgroup Level?

Negative keywords for Amazon can be applied to both campaign and ad group levels. The scope of their impact is determined by the level at which they are added.

When you add a negative keyword to an ad group, it just appears in that ad group; but, when you add a negative keyword to a campaign, it’s effective for every ad group in that campaign.

Adding a negative keyword to a campaign may have a significant influence on the campaign’s impression and its related ad groups. When adding negative keywords into the campaign level, you must be very selective.

The best practice is to add a negative exact match at the ad group level for the majority of the negative keywords. This guarantees that the scope of what is blacklisted is narrow and specific. There is some situation where we use negatives phrase match and/or on a campaign level, but those are cases where we know for sure we don’t want to be appearing for, a good example of this is gender-specific items.

How can SellerMetrics help?

As mentioned you can use the Amazon search term reports to optimize your campaigns by adding and negating search terms. But you can see that doing this manually is inefficient and prone to errors.

This is an especially tedious process when you are operating multiple marketplaces and advertising accounts.

We at SellerMetrics can either streamline this process or automate it entirely. Let’s see how it works!

1. Set the Rules

You can do this in the Automation Settings screen in SellerMetrics under “Search Term Rules” or “Negative Keyword Rules” columns.

SellerMetrics Automation Settings

2. Enter Rules Settings (Search Term Rules)

Here you will add settings to trigger search terms within a campaign. You will also tell the system the campaigns/ad group combo you want the search terms to be added to as a new keyword and enter what order threshold would trigger the search term.

Below are the settings to enter:

  • Name of the Rule (used to call the rule being created)
  • Destination Campaign (can select one to many)
  • Destination Ad Group (from the campaign selected, can select one to many)
  • Order/Max ACoS Threshold (tell system only grab search terms that satisfies the threshold)
  • Target Type (Keywords or ASINs)
  • Match Type and Bids

3. Add Search Terms as Keywords into Destination Campaigns

After adding the search term rules, the triggered search terms will show up on another screen for you to push the new keywords into the destination campaign with one click.

As mention earlier search term turns into a keyword in a campaign during this optimization. This is exactly how it is done!

4. Enter Rules Settings (Negative Rules)

Here you will add settings to trigger fo search terms to negate/blacklist within a campaign. You will also tell the system the campaigns/ad group combo you want the search terms to be added as a negative target and enter what click threshold with 0 order that would trigger. Below are the settings to enter:

  • Name of the Rule (used to call the rule being created)
  • Destination Campaign (can select one to many)
  • Destination Ad Group (from the campaign selected, can select one to many)
  • Click Threshold (tell system only grab search terms that satisfies the threshold)
  • Automate (enabled the system to add search terms automatically)
  • Target Type (Keywords or ASINs)
  • Match Type (negative exact or negative phrase)

5. Add Search Terms as Negative Targets/Keywords into Destination Campaigns/Ad Group

After adding the negative keyword rules, the triggered search terms will show up on another screen for you to push the new keywords to the negative list into the destination campaign/ad group with one click.

If you have questions or insights to share, please feel free to post them via the comments section. Please also consider joining our Facebook Group where we discuss any questions you may have about running an Amazon business.

We are SellerMetrics, our Amazon PPC Software helps Amazon sellers, brands, KDP Authors and agencies navigate Amazon Advertising PPC via bid automation, bulk manual bid changes, and analytics.




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