No one likes to spend on advertising where it doesn’t help you sell your own product. Or worse, it goes to help others in promoting theirs.
This usually doesn’t happen in conventional marketing and promotions.
However, it is pretty common in the digital world, especially on Amazon due to negative keywords.
Negative keywords are essentially those search words and phrases that you don’t want to spend your PPC budget on. However, there is more to negative keywords than this simple definition. Case in point: how to use them.
Then, there are many other things one needs to know. For instance, what factors make any keyword negative? What are exact and phrase matches? How to do negative keyword research, and how can targeting those keywords improve your PPC results?
You will get to know about all these and many aspects of negative keywords in this article.
So, without any further delay, let's start our discussion.
E-commerce shopping is primarily carried out through search terms, and a product can be represented by a range of search words and phrases. For instance, an e-commerce search engine can relate a “wooden upholstered dining chair” to a bunch of keyword searches like “wooden chair”, “dining chair”, “upholstered chair”.
Looking at those possible search connections, you can see “dining chair” doesn’t necessarily mean “wooden upholstered chair”. Similarly, a “wooden chair” is not always a “dining chair”. This means a search term that apparently looks related to a product may not represent it in its true sense and context.
So, if a person is looking for dining chairs in metal and searches the term "dining chairs", they are less likely to click on an ad for a “wooden upholstered dining chair”. Even if they thoughtlessly click on the listing, they will close it down after realizing that this is not the product they are looking for.
So, a seller selling “wooden upholstered dining chair” who has set the PPC ad group for the keyword “dining chairs” or opted for auto-targeting will get their PPC budget spent on a click that is never going to convert.
In the given context, “dining chairs” becomes a negative keyword for a "wooden upholstered dining chair”.
However, the seller can get around this issue by selecting “dining chairs" or similar terms that might not show a shopper's "search intent" (for wooden upholstered dining chairs) as negative keywords.
Let’s understand the dynamics of negative keywords through an actual example.
We search for "wooden chairs” and get some of these results. Look at the two sponsored ads highlighted in the above image. The first one is a camping folding chair, and the second sponsored listing is essentially a stool/footrest. Common sense suggests that people using the search query “wooden chairs” are not looking for those two particular chair types.
What will happen if any of those shoppers forgetfully click on these sponsored listings?
They will close it immediately as soon as they realize that they have opened the wrong product page. Since it is a sponsored PPC ad, their aimless click will be registered against a particular CPC cost with no conversion whatsoever.
To sum it up, we can say that the search query “wooden chairs” is a negative keyword for the listings iClimb Ultralight Low Beach Concert Camping Folding Chair and Voikinfo Leather Footstool. By choosing “wooden chairs” as a negative keyword, the sellers of these two listings can ensure that their products don’t appear for this search query.
The existence of Amazon negative keywords implies that there are "positive keywords" as well. Simply put, positive keywords are your regular keywords for which you want your listing to appear in the search results during your PPC ad campaigns. For the above example, you can say “camping folding chair” or “outdoor chair” is the positive keyword for iClimb Ultralight Low Beach Concert Camping Folding Chair. On the other hand, “wooden chair” and “dining chair” are possible negative keywords for the same product.
Identifying and targeting negative keywords is critical for your PPC marketing campaigns for multiple reasons. It helps you stop the bleeding of your ad expense on unwanted keywords, prevent keyword cannibalization, and maintain organic ranking for relevant search queries.
Let’s see how targeting negative keywords play out to help you with all of that
From the examples we’ve discussed above, it is quite clear that if you don’t keep track of negative keywords, a lot of your ad budget can go into promoting your listing for non-relevant search queries. This will result in a high Advertising Cost of Sales (ACoS) with a meager Return on Advertising Spend (RoAS).
Having a soaring ACoS and plummeting RoAS is not a good sign for those operating with a limited ad budget. Subsequently, this poor PPC performance will eat into your profits and reduce your margins. In short, not taking negative keywords into account can lead to an underwhelming listing performance.
Keyword cannibalization occurs when your ad campaigns, groups, and products are competing against each other for the same set of keywords. Unfortunately, this face-off often proves to be counterproductive for both sets of ads. However, you can get around this issue by removing the overlapping keywords from the ad campaigns/groups through negative keyword targeting.
If you don’t identify and target negative keywords in your PPC campaigns, it eventually also impacts the organic ranking of your listing. As mentioned earlier, sponsored listings with negative keywords experience very low CTR (Click-Thru Rate) and CR (Conversion Rate).
All these performance metrics are SEO signals for Amazon search algorithms to determine the rank of a product for different search queries. Therefore, listings with poor CTR and CVR are less likely to appear above the fold or on top.
This scheme to use negative keywords is quite simple. First, you have to identify and find the negative keywords related to the niche and product you are dealing in. Then, you’ve to determine their status as negative keywords (exact or phrase match). Finally, you have to add them to your ad campaigns and groups.
The following sections will discuss these components in detail.
Finding negative keywords need a lot of groundwork. You need to know a product and niche inside out to determine the potential negative keywords. There are multiple methods that you can use together to find negative keywords for your Amazon listings.
First of all, you need to take the buyer’s point of view to determine negative keywords around your product. Again, let’s use the example mentioned above. If you sell folding camping chairs, you must understand that most potential buyers won’t search for this product through queries and keywords like “chairs”, “wooden chairs”, “metal chairs”, “upholstered chairs”, “dining chairs”, or “tufted chairs”.
Besides the exact match (folding camping chairs), they will either use “folding chairs” or “camping chairs”. Moreover, people looking for “outdoor chairs”, “patio chairs” might also be interested in folding camping chairs.
So, always think of the possible search queries that people will use to look for a product that you sell. This exercise can give you a decent list of both positive and negative keywords.
You can't identify all possible negative keywords by looking at the product from the buyer’s perspective. Many keywords apparently look rightly targeted, but in reality, they are only letting your PPC budget bleed on non-converting clicks. You have to identify all those keywords as well and tag them as negative keywords. You can do that by setting some PPC thresholds.
Cost Per Click (CPC), Click-Thru Rate (CTR), Advertising Cost of Sales (ACoS), Return on Advertising Spend (RoAS) — these are some PPC metrics that let you determine how your campaigns are doing. You can find all such and many other performance metrics in your advertising report (Dashboard→ Reports→ Advertising Reports).
This negative keywords deep search via advertising report needs more than one iteration. You will start with a list of keywords for your PPC campaigns. After a while, the performance of those keywords will appear in the latest advertising report. Then, you will check that report and see the performance of individual keywords. Finally, you will label the keywords that remain below the set threshold as negative and discard them from your subsequent PPC iterations.
You need to classify keywords into three groups.
The Excel report you will download from Seller Central will provide you with the CTR and Spend on every keyword. You need to look at the column 7 Day Total Sales ($) for determining conversions. Low sales amount means low conversions.
This is an excerpt from an advertising report of a white door draft stopper. You have to only focus on these nine columns to get the data required to classify keywords in the three categories mentioned above. In this example, you can see that the keyword “draft stopper” has a high CTR but with non-existent sales (low conversions), making it a potential negative keyword.
What’s considered high or low CTR, spend, and 7-day total sales will depend on your past performance and the niche/product you are operating in. Therefore, the performance threshold will differ from product to product and seller to seller.
A good keyword research tool also plays a vital role in shortlisting negative keywords. You must have an intuitive keyword tool at your disposal to gain more insight than what Amazon’s search term report provides. For instance, there are keyword tools that let you find out the average PPC bid, monthly revenue of top listings, and competitors’ position for a given keyword. You can use all this information in conjunction with advertising report findings to further sort out positive and negative keywords.
Suppose you identify a negative keyword by the method mentioned above. However, your keyword tool tells you that the given keywords have a low average PPC bid with a reasonable monthly revenue figure. Also, your competitor is holding one of the top positions for that keyword. In that case, you may want to give that keyword another shot in the next PPC campaign.
The second component of negative keyword targeting is identifying the match type for the entries of the negative keyword list you’ve compiled. Before understanding how negative keyword matching works, let’s have a quick overview of exact, phrase, and broad matches on Amazon.
It is important to mention here that you can only add exact and phrase matches to your campaigns when it comes to negative keywords. There is no option to add broad matches.
Here, we’ll try to understand how negative keywords exact and phrase matches work with the product iClimb Ultralight Low Beach Concert Camping Folding Chair.
When you label a keyword as a negative exact match, you essentially tell Amazon not to show the ad for the query that exactly matches the keyword (exceptions for slight misspells and plurals). So, if you choose “wooden dining chairs” as a negative keyword exact match, iClimb Ultralight Low Beach Concert Camping Folding Chair won’t appear as a sponsored ad for that particular search query.
The following chart makes it easier to understand how negative exact matches work.
When you label a keyword as a negative phrase match, you direct Amazon to now show your listing as a sponsored ad for any search phrase that has that keyword in the same sequence. So, for instance, if you choose “wooden dining chairs” as a negative phrase, iClimb Ultralight Low Beach Concert Camping Folding Chair won’t appear as a sponsored ad for any query with these three words in the same sequence.
Look at the following chart to understand how phrase matches work for negative keywords.
This is the third and last part of using negative keywords on Amazon. You have to add negative keywords to your ad campaigns/groups on the Seller Central to ensure they don’t get an undue slice of your PPC budget. The steps to add negative keywords on Amazon are as follows.
Enter the negative keyword, select its match type (exact or phrase), and add it. Then, repeat the steps for the second keyword and so on. Once you add all the negative keywords for the given ad group, click on Save.
This negative keyword targeting upgrade will make sure that your PPC budget doesn’t use up on non-relevant keywords in ad groups set on automatic targeting.
We hope that this article helps you fully grasp the idea of negative keywords and how to use them. Targeting negative keywords is critical for spending your PPC budget wisely and for optimal advertising return. In addition, the keyword exclusion that comes with negative keyword targeting also paints a clearer picture of how your listing is performing for its best keywords. This can eventually make it easier for you to decide whether you should continue with the given listing or hunt for any other product.
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