The 5 W’s – and 1 H – of Amazon Ads Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are a powerful lever to pull in order to hit your Amazon Advertising goals. Check out the who, what, where, when, why, and how of using negative keywords to their fullest.

What Are Negative Keywords?

Adding negative keywords to a campaign or ad group alerts Amazon Ads that it shouldn’t show your ad when someone searches on those terms. There are two match types for negative keywords: negative phrase match and negative exact match. Negative phrase match uses the keyword or string of keywords in any order as a negative. Negative exact match uses the keyword or string of keywords exactly as written. For example, negative phrase match for “water bottle” will also catch “bottle water” as a negative keyword, where negative exact match will only match on “water bottle.”

Who Uses Negative Keywords?

The answer to that should be, “Everyone.” Yet we still see quite a few accounts that aren’t taking advantage of negative keywords. All Amazon advertisers should be using negative keywords to one degree or another.

Why Use Negative Keywords?

Negative keywords enable tighter campaign control. For example, negative keywords can be added to:

  • Refine a campaign. Negative keywords help to drill down and only target those shoppers within the channel of the campaign.
  • Target more relevant shoppers. Negative keywords help by restricting who sees the campaign ads.
  • Limit advertising spend. When margins are tight or budgets are lean, negative keywords help by restricting what searches ads appear on. Cutting out high-spending terms, terms that don’t convert, or fringe terms can help to keep budgets in line.

When Are Negative Keywords Used?

Knowing when to use negative keywords is a critical skill for proper campaign management. The simple answer is that negative keywords should be used when the data tells you to. Most advertisers make the common mistake of adding a search term that they assume should be a negative, rather than looking for confirmation from the data. Look for the markers listed in the “Why” section to confirm you are adding valid negative keywords – otherwise you could be eliminating something shoppers identify your product with but you may not feel fits your brand.

For example, a shopper searches for “plastic water bottle,” but you sell glass water bottles. If your ad shows for “plastic water bottle,” your first thought may be to add “plastic” as a negative phrase match keyword. Check the data first! Look at the click-through rate or the conversion rate. If there are no conversions over a significant timeframe, you can safely add “plastic” as a negative keyword. If it does convert, however, do you really care that people started searching for a plastic water bottle but ended up purchasing your glass one? It’s still a conversion.

Negative keywords can also be used for your campaign goals and structure. Perhaps you want to monitor your campaign traffic very closely to identify closely related products. In this case, you’d use negative keywords as traffic directors – literally. Break out your products into your desired ad groups and use the negatives to be sure traffic going into those ad groups is tightly refined.

Back to the water bottle: Say you have one style with three colors, red, blue, and yellow. You want to know what ads resonate best with shoppers based on the color of the water bottle. Create your campaign for the style, ad group by color, then add the negatives of the other colors at the ad group level. The red ad group would have “blue” and “yellow” as negatives, and so on.

Where Can Negative Keywords Be Used?

Depending on the advertising platform that is being used, the application of negative keywords can vary. For Seller Central, negative keywords can be added at the campaign level or at the ad group level for all campaign types except Sponsored Display campaigns. At the campaign level, a negative keyword applies to all ad groups within the campaign. Adding a negative keyword at the ad group level only applies to the ad group the it was added to.

For the Ad Console for Vendors, negative keywords can only be added to manually targeted Sponsored Product campaigns and Sponsored Brand campaigns at the campaign level.

How to Add Negative Keywords?

Adding negative keywords is simple. The process is the same for both Seller Central and the Vendor-facing Ad Console. The only difference between the two is which campaigns negative keywords can be added to.

For Seller Central, it’s as simple as selecting a campaign, clicking over to the Negative Keywords tab, entering the identified negative keywords, choosing the match type and then saving those keywords.

The process is the same in the Ad Console, however, negative keywords cannot be added to automatically targeting Sponsored Product campaigns or Sponsored Display.

Negative keywords are an essential element of any Amazon Ad campaign. Using them to restrict spend enables smarter clicks and stronger conversion rates. If you’re not taking advantage of negative keywords, start today.

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