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Trim the Fat from Advertising on Amazon with Negative Keywords

  • Ecommerce
  • February 11, 2016 | Marcus DeHart

One way of optimizing advertising on Amazon is by gradually increasing your bids on the effective keywords. Effective keywords will typically have a low advertising cost of sales (ACoS) -- the amount you pay for clicks is low in comparison to the sales you get from those clicks. My strategy for doing this consists of two-parts. First, use a campaign with automatic targeting to identify effective keywords and migrate them to a campaign with manual targeting where you can bid on individual keywords. Second, use advanced match types, such as phrase match and exact match to fine-tune the most effective keywords.

Now I’d like to take a look at the other end of the spectrum. What do you do about those keywords that have a high ACoS? A high ACoS indicates that you’re getting a lot of clicks on your ads, but you’re not getting a lot of sales. (A high ACoS could also indicate that you’re bidding way too much on your keywords, so it doesn’t hurt to double-check your bids on keywords with high ACoS.) The solution to these expensive keywords is to create negative keywords.

Negative Keywords

A negative keyword works like a filter. When you create a negative keyword, you prevent any bids on search terms entered by shoppers that match that keyword. Negative keywords can be added to specific ad groups or entire campaigns to cover multiple ad groups. You can use them on both campaigns with automatic targeting and manual targeting. You can also set them up using phrase match or exact match to be more precise with your targeting.

Let’s take a look at an instance where you might need a negative keyword. In the screen shot below, a shopper has searched for a "10ft pole," hoping to find a kite pole that can extend up to ten feet. The shopper notices the ad in the right column for the “Shakespeare Two-Piece Ugly Stik…” and clicks it, not realizing that it’s a fishing rod. Once they realize their error, they click the back button, but you still pay for the click. If this happens often, you’ll see a lot of clicks and very few, if any, sales.


You haven’t bid on the keyword “10ft pole,” but you have bid on the keyword “pole” using a broad match. So any search that includes the word “pole” will enter your ad in the bidding auction. Your keyword “pole” is an effective keyword with a modest to low ACoS, so you don’t want to get rid of it. Instead, you add the phrase “10ft pole” as a negative keyword.

If you enter the negative keyword as a phrase match, any search that includes the phrase “10ft pole” will be blocked from auction. This would include the search term “fishing rod, 10ft pole” but not “10ft fishing pole.” Usually it’s better to use an exact match type with negative keywords. That way only the offending keyword entered exactly as you define it will be blocked from auction.

Create Negative Keywords

Once you’ve identified keywords with high ACoS, you can add them to your campaigns through Campaign Manager. Click the name of your campaign and then click the Campaign Settings tab. Click “Negative keywords” and enter your list of keywords you want to exclude from auction. Then select the match type and click the “Add these keywords” button.


If you just want the negative keywords to apply to a single ad group, drill down to that ad group, click the “Keywords” tab, and click “Negative keywords.” You’ll find the same options for entering keywords and applying a match type.



Bidding on Negative Keywords

Don’t be silly. Why would you bid on a negative keyword? You’re making a decision to not participate in an auction. What would you be bidding on? There’s no additional cost and you can add up to 10,000 negative keywords in each campaign and in each ad group. So, not only will it drive down the cost of clicks, it won’t cost you anything to do it, except maybe the time it takes to identify and enter the keywords, which can also be done using bulk operations. Learn more about how to Manage Amazon Ads Efficiently with Bulk Operations.

Avalara Author
Marcus DeHart
Avalara Author Marcus DeHart