If you’re using Amazon Advertising to sell your products online, then you’ll already know that every good Amazon selling strategy is based on one critical component: finding high quality potential buyers who are searching for products just like yours.
And for Amazon PPC campaigns, like Sponsored Brands and Sponsored Products, the way that works is through keywords. Sellers enter keywords into their advertising campaigns. Then, Amazon compares those keywords with user search queries to determine relevance. If an ad is relevant – and the bid is right – it’ll be displayed to the shopper.
Keywords are important to the entire Amazon experience. Why? Because they ensure that Amazon ads get shown to the right people; to those most likely to convert. But here’s a question to ask yourself: what’s preventing Amazon ads from being shown to the wrong people? Or to put it another way, to those least likely to convert?
A mistake that many sellers make is that they drive all their efforts into targeting the right people, overlooking the fact that they also need to know who *not* to target.
That’s where negative keywords come into play.
What are Negative Keywords?
Negative keywords on Amazon are a form of campaign targeting. But instead of instructing Amazon which audiences to target, it tells the platform which audiences shouldn’t see a particular advert.
Negative keywords can be set up in Seller Central, enabling sellers to exclude specific search terms from their PPC campaigns. They are typically used to prevent ads from being shown to users who are searching for products with a similar name, but which have no association with your product.
Negative Keywords vs. Regular Keywords
To better explore the difference between positive keywords and negative keywords, let’s look at a basic example. Imagine you’re a brand that sells wine glasses. The word ‘glasses’, of course, will naturally be an important keyword, as any customer searching for a vessel from which to drink wine out of will likely search for ‘glasses’.
But at the same time, a user looking for water glasses may also search for ‘glasses’. And a user searching for spectacles may also enter ‘glasses’ as a search query. So straight away, we have a situation where it’s clear that some ads are going to be displayed to users who have demonstrated absolutely zero interest in the product.
Sellers are left with a very wide pool of low quality leads. And in advertising, that’s not what we want; we want a smaller pool of higher quality leads who are more likely to buy. This means that less effort and resources are being wasted on those not interested.
So, in this example, ‘glasses’ could be added to the campaign as a positive keyword because we would want to attract anyone searching for that term. But ‘reading glasses’ and ‘water glasses’ could be added as negative keywords. This would then mean our wine glasses advert will not show up for these shoppers looking which are very clearly irrelevant.
There are several benefits of using negative keywords in Amazon. These include:
Many campaigns set up in Amazon come with a lot of ‘fat’ around the edges. While the target audience may be defined, it’s not refined, which means it’s not fully optimised to drive the best outcomes. Negative keywords trim the fat; they help to narrow the focus down as much as possible to ensure that every campaign is targeting only the highest quality audiences who are most likely to purchase.
Reduce ad spend
One of the biggest money sinks in Amazon advertising is paying for clicks that are never going to result in a sale. PPC advertising is often considered to be a cost effective option because sellers only pay when an ad is clicked, but if none of those clicks are driving conversions, then it’s money down the drain. Negative keywords help reduce wasted ad spend by cutting down on the number of ‘useless’ clicks.
Negative keywords ensure that ads are being displayed only to the most relevant audiences, which can increase that ad’s clickthrough rate. An improved CTR has many benefits in Amazon, being one of the primary metrics that Amazon looks for when determining the performance of a particular ad campaign. The more people that click, the higher Amazon ranks that ad in terms of its overall performance.
Improve conversion rate
As ads are being shown only to the most relevant audiences, conversion rate should naturally increase when using negative keywords. That’s because the number of irrelevant visitors on the product listing page should be greatly reduced. As with clickthrough rate, conversion rate is a powerful performance metric for Amazon, and it’s one of the main areas where sellers should be striving to improve to generate better results.
Isolated ad campaigns
For sellers running multiple Amazon PPC campaigns, negative keywords can help to isolate these campaigns to prevent multiple ads from showing up for the same user searches and competing against each other for traffic. It means that each search should only display one internal ad, giving that ad as much traffic as possible. When every ad has its own ‘niche’, it becomes easier to track performance and metrics.
Higher product ranking
Amazon’s A9 ranking algorithm is notoriously complex. But what we do know is that aspects such as clickthrough rate and conversion rate both play a part in determining how a product ranks in the SERPs in comparison to similar products. With negative keywords helping to boost both CTR and conversions, it’s possible that products begin to rise in the organic ranks to further improve product visibility.
Prevent keyword cannibalisation
During the bidding process for Amazon PPC campaigns, an auction takes place. This not only takes place between your keywords and keywords from other brands, but between keywords for your own separate internal campaigns, too. When you have too many similar keywords spread out across your campaigns, this can be problematic – you’re bidding against yourself! Prevent this with negative keywords.
As you may already know, when using positive keywords, there are three match types you can choose from: broad match keywords, phrase match keywords, and exact match keywords. Negative keywords work with some of these match types:
Broad match keywords match with searches that relate to your keyword, so they don’t actually have to include the precise term or phrase itself. In Amazon, negative keywords cannot be used with broad match settings, so this isn’t something you’ll need to worry about when setting up your negative keywords in Seller Central.
Phrase match keywords include the search term but may not be exactly the same. Negative phrase match keywords in Amazon will exclude searches containing phrases in the same order but may show for searches with the phrases in an alternative order, or for searches containing extra terms not part of the keyword.
The final match type is exact match, which means the keyword and search term are exactly the same. Negative exact match keywords mean that for an ad not to be shown in relation to a specific search, the search query must contain the exact same words, in the exact same order, with no additional words or phrases.
Campaign Level vs. Ad Group Level
When adding negative keywords into Seller Central, there are two ways that it can be done: keywords can be added either at campaign level, or at ad group level.
Adding negative keywords at campaign level means that the keyword will apply to every ad within that campaign. This is the best option to choose when you are sure that you do not want any of your ads showing up for particular searches.
Going back to the glasses example, there will never be a situation in which a seller offering wine glasses will want to display any ad to a user searching for reading glasses. In this case, negative keywords should be added at campaign level for best results.
Adding negative keywords at ad group level means that the keyword will apply only to ads within that specific ad group and will not affect other ads within the campaign. This option is best when you want to ensure you are directing the right traffic to the right ad groups. For example, if you sold a wider range of drinkware beyond wine glasses, you could add negative keywords at ad group level to ensure that users looking for ‘water glasses’ were not shown irrelevant ads for wine glasses.
Finding the Right Negative Keywords
Every negative keyword journey begins the same way: by building a list of negative keywords to be implemented across the campaign. And, just as with positive keywords, there’s a science to selecting the best performing terms and phrases.
Initially, identifying the best negative keywords starts in much the same way as identifying regular keywords: with research. By examining real user data in online keyword research tools, you can quickly and easily see which suggested terms aren’t relevant to your business; look for anything that doesn’t apply to you.
It’s also worth conducting searches on both Amazon and Google to get some more information. Both platforms will show what their algorithms believe to be the most relevant results, so if you see anything that doesn’t align with your product or your brand, note it down as a possible contender to go in your negative keyword list.
At this point, you can turn to your own campaigns to generate useful data. By running Amazon keyword reports, you can see which of your keywords are actually working against you, rather than for you, and add them to your negative list.
A Search Term report is something that can be downloaded directly from your Amazon Advertising account. It shows you what user search queries are triggering your ads, and how those users are responding – or not responding – to those ads.
To access this report, simply select ‘Report’ in the Seller Central dashboard and choose the Search Terms report. You can generate this type of report for any Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands, or Sponsored Brands Video campaign you are running.
Keywords that make good contenders for the negative keyword list include:
High spend non-converters
Take a close look at the keywords in your campaign that are costing you the most but failing to drive results that off-set those costs. You could be targeting very competitive keywords, for example, which require higher bids, but don’t do much to drive traffic or conversions. In these instances, moving these non-converting keywords to your negative list can ensure you’re no longer bidding on those terms.
High click non-converters
Some keywords in your campaign may be great at attracting potential customers and gaining clicks yet may still fail to generate conversions. This is often due to the fact that customers have an idea in their head about what they expect to see when they click through. If they don’t see it, then they’ll move on. Therefore, if a search query is showing a poor conversion rate, don’t pay for them to trigger your ads.
Low CTR non-converters
Sometimes, ads may not be motivating users to click, and one of the biggest reasons for that is that there’s a disconnect between what a user expects to see in the SERPs based on their search queries, and the types of ads that are displayed. It typically means that the search term has very little – if anything – to do with the keyword. These low CTR non-converters are an obvious choice for the negative keyword list.
However, it’s important to remember that there are a few exceptions to the rule. Top-of-the-funnel keywords, for example, may not be doing much in terms of conversions, but they can be massively beneficial in terms of visibility. So, if visibility is a higher priority goal than conversions, consider keeping a few of these keywords to ensure you’re still getting the sort of exposure you need to grow and develop.
Another exception is competitor keywords. There may be some keywords that aren’t quite relevant to your business but are proving themselves to be powerful ways to engage with your competitors’ customers. Again, it can be useful to keep these terms as positive keywords if you’re hoping to gain a larger portion of the market.
Adding Negative Keywords in Seller Central
You can add negative keywords into your campaigns easily through your Amazon Seller Central interface. Simply log in to your account and select the campaign that you wish to add negative keywords for. If adding negative keywords at ad group level, you will also need to select the ad group you want to apply your keywords to.
The process is simple:
- Select the ‘Negative keywords’ tab in the campaign settings
- Select your chosen match type (either negative exact or negative phrase)
- Enter all your desired negative keywords, up to a maximum of 1000
- Confirm your keywords by clicking ‘Add Keywords’.
Don’t forget to save your new settings before exiting the campaign page.
Moving Broad Match Bids to Exact Match Bids
As it stands today, broad match campaigns are very popular because they expose brands to larger pools of audiences. And in terms of visibility, that’s certainly a good thing. But being visible to audiences X, Y, and Z ultimately achieves nothing if it’s only actually audience X that’s interested in the product. Ultimately, brands are wasting money making themselves visible to audiences that don’t have any intention to buy.
In an ideal world, brands wouldn’t be running broad match campaigns at all. In an ideal world, every brand would be running exact match campaigns exclusively, meaning that users would search for *this*, and be presented with exactly what they were looking for. They’d click through, and they’d buy. Every time. It’s the dream.
While negative keywords may not be a ‘magic’ solution, they’re instrumental in helping to refine targeting, trim the fat, and spark a shift away from broad match.
To facilitate a move towards highly targeted exact match campaigns, sellers should be looking to identify the highest value terms within the campaign and give these terms the power to achieve more. This would mean removing the term from the broad match campaign, adding it as a negative keyword for that campaign, and using it to launch a new exact match campaign that is more highly targeted.
The benefits of this approach are clear. Sellers can continue to run ‘discovery’ broad match campaigns, which is a great way to identify potential new keywords, while also running highly targeted campaigns that produce a much better ROAS.
Most sellers naturally focus on targeting the right customers. And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t make that their firm focus? After all, targeting the right people is the key to maximising sales volumes and revenue. But as we all know, being successful on Amazon doesn’t just mean selling… It means selling while keeping advertising spend to a minimum. That doesn’t come through targeting the right people, it comes from not targeting the wrong people.
Getting started with negative keywords is simple. For further support and guidance, get in touch with the ClearAds team today. We can help you to optimise your Amazon campaigns to ensure they’re delivering the best possible outcomes and returns, whatever your campaign size or objectives.