Why You Need Negative Keywords for Amazon Advertising

Nick Yee, PPC Specialist

Amazon has continued its dominance, moving up to the third-largest advertising platform behind Google and Bing. In 2018, Amazon reported $10 billion in revenue in advertising. This puts them right behind Google and Facebook in terms of advertising dollars spent. If you are new to Amazon Advertising, it’s great to know the basics first, before showing you how to optimize your spending more efficiently.

After understanding the fundamentals of Amazon Advertising, it is crucial to know how to spend your advertising budget more efficiently. One of the best ways to do that is by using negative keywords. Negative keywords should be on the top of your list. But first, you need to know what they are, why you need them, when you should use them, and how to build them.

So, What Are Negative Keywords?

Negative keywords on Amazon work similarly to how they do in Google Ads or Bing Ads. They prevent your ad from showing up on the Amazon results page when users search for those keywords. For example, let’s say you are only selling laptops. Search queries that could come up are laptop backpack, laptop batteries, PC headset, Norton security, etc.

Graphic illustrating an example of negative phrase and negative exact for laptops

There are two different types of negative keyword match types on Amazon:

Phrase – Adding this will prevent your ad from showing when the search query contains the same sequence or close variation of your search term.
Exact – Any search term that exactly matches your negative keyword or a close variation of it.

The Importance of Using Negative Keywords

Negative keywords help narrow your targeting down to show up for relevant searches. And since you have to pay every time someone clicks your ad, you want to make sure that person would be interested in buying your product. Here are a few reasons why we suggest using negative keywords in your next campaign:

  • They can help increase relevant clicks and reduce your overall cost from unwanted clicks.
  • Amazon will expose you to a wide range of traffic if you have broad match keywords. Broad match (refer back to the basics of Amazon Advertising) will show your ad when the search term contains all the keyword terms in any order. It can also include the plural form of the keyword, related searches, and other variations that are close to the keyword.
  • Negative keywords can help save your budget from being depleted early on in the day because you can prevent showing your ad from irrelevant shoppers. And, when you run out of your budget, your ad will stop showing.
  • It can help lower your ACoS (advertising cost of sales). This is the metric you should care about the most because ACoS is calculated by ad spend over revenue.

When Should You Use Negative Keywords?

The short answer is all the time. All Sponsored Product Ads campaigns should utilize negative keywords in some capacity.

This is especially true in Automatic campaigns where negative keywords are your main line of defense and your only direct targeting control. Automatic campaigns allow Amazon to bid on keywords (within your budget) on what they find relevant based on three things:

  • Keywords that match your product category
  • Related products
  • Your product description

Trusting Amazon’s AI to bid on keywords and spend your budget for you may sound scary. In my experience, Amazon does a pretty good job in this area. However, Amazon can get it wrong sometimes, so you’ll need to sift through the search term report and add negative keywords to your automatic campaign.

How to Find Negative Keywords

There are several useful tools (free and paid) and best practices you can follow, which will help build your negative keyword list.

Search Term Report

Amazon has a search term report that shows you all the search queries that triggered your ads.

Explanation on how to create a search term report

Start searching the report by looking for any searches that are blatantly not related to what you are selling. For example, if the customer is looking for a reusable water bottle and an ad shows up for a Brita water pitcher, then you would add Brita as a negative keyword.

However, not all negative keywords are going to be obvious. Take the time to dive deeper into your search term report. These two metrics should be a good indicator that your ad is not relevant to what the customer is searching for.

Negative Keyword Research Tools

Instead of being reactive to the search queries being searched first, how about being proactive and get ahead of the negative keywords before they even have a chance to see your ad? There are three tools listed below that you could use:

Seller Labs Scope
Karooya Negative Keyword Tool
Wordstream Negative Keyword Tool

Note: Wordstream offers a free trial of their product. Seller Labs Scope and Karooya are paid tools, but Karooya provides a free option to advertisers with an ad spend of less than $3,000 per month.

Best Practices

Negative keyword tools can be great, but they don’t know your product like you do. So instead of relying on research tools, here are some best practices to follow when looking at your search term report.

Look for a high number of impressions (1000 or more impressions) and less than 1% CTR. This will tell you that your ad is coming up for this search but is irrelevant to the customer because of how little it’s being clicked on.

You can also look for a high number of clicks (100 or more) and no conversions. This indicates that they clicked on your ad but didn’t buy for many reasons such as price or no prime shipping or low customer reviews.

If you see a search term that is an ASIN number (ex. b019o14q00), this means the customer clicked on this product but then, within that product page, clicked on your product. Unfortunately, this is a manual process, and you would have to search one ASIN at a time in the search bar and see what product it is. You can exclude ASIN in your negative keyword list for products that you don’t want to be associated with yours.

Final Thoughts

It is important to know where and how efficiently you’re spending your advertising dollars. Amazon advertising provides the metrics and tools necessary to set you up for success; you just have to go out and execute on them.

Negative keywords are one of your biggest lines of defense when it comes to showing your ad to relevant customers. It can help decrease your spending and improve your ACoS. Or if your campaigns rely heavily on broad match and automatic campaigns. Regardless, there isn’t a reason not to use negative keywords.

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