Using Negative ASIN for Amazon PPC: Does It Work?

amazon ppc negative asins auto campaigns

We hear a lot of crazy things about Amazon PPC. With all of the gurus and “experts” giving their two cents about PPC strategies, there’s no shortage of crazy ideas out there. However, we have caught wind of a theory that leads straight back to the mothership, Amazon, concerning negative ASINs in auto campaigns. 

The Theory about Negative ASINs

Two weeks ago, we talked to a seller who was asking a common question about auto campaigns.

“I went to my auto campaign, punched in a negative ASIN, and I’m still appearing for that ASIN. Can you negative ASIN in auto campaigns?”  

Anonymous Amazon Seller

Seems pretty straightforward, right? It’s been the consensus opinion in the Amazon PPC community that you can’t negative ASIN in an auto campaign, but the story doesn’t stop there.

This seller had also reached out to Amazon to see what they had to say about the issue, and their response caught us off-guard.

Here’s what Amazon had to say about negative exact ASINs in auto campaigns.

ASIN targeting is essentially a cluster of keywords in product titles and descriptions that Amazon indexes and then sorts products based on similar keywords and phrases to determine if products are similar.

Based on this response from an Amazon representative, it would be possible to add negative keywords by negatively phrasing parts of the product description or the product’s brand name and prevent your ad from appearing with those products.

If true, this would change the way we look at negative keywords in Amazon PPC. But is it true?

What We Know to be True about Negative ASINs

To clear up any confusion, negative ASINs do not work in an auto campaign. The Amazon representative the seller talked to is wrong. Amazon changes frequently and maybe the advertising platform is supposed to allow for more options when it comes to negative keywords, but in reality it doesn’t. 

Can you still add negative ASINs to auto campaigns, even though it doesn’t work? Yes. However, when you add a negative ASIN, all you’re doing is preventing your product from appearing alongside that ASIN when the actual ASIN is put in the search bar. Nobody shopping on Amazon knows what ASINs are, and even if they do they’re not going to search for a specific one.

It is possible to add a negative ASIN, it just won’t do anything in an auto campaign. You don’t want to do this.

The only place you can have negative ASINs is in a product targeting ad group in a manual sponsored product campaign. When you create a product targeting ad group in a manual campaign, blocking a specific ASIN is very straightforward. In fact, you can only enter ASINs or brands into this field.

What makes the Amazon rep’s statement confusing is that, following their explanation, you should be able to block any brand in an auto campaign. Let’s say you’re selling mason jars and you want to block your ad from appearing next to Ball mason jars. If we use the answer given by the rep as our guide, you should be able to block the word “ball” but it’s impossible to know if you’re blocking Ball mason jar ASINs or every listing with the word “ball” in the product title or description.

Negative ASINs only work in product targeting ad group in a manual sponsored products campaign.

What if you put a negative on the word “ball” and someone just searches for “mason jars?” Would your product show up next to a Ball Mason Jar even though the search term didn’t contain the blocked brand name?

We put these theories to the test and found out the answers to these questions!

Testing the Theory

To test this theory, we took an auto campaign and found some unprofitable ASIN targets. Instead of adding the ASINs as negative keywords, we took the keywords from the titles of these ASINs and added them as negative phrase-match keywords. 

Do Negative ASINs in Auto Campaigns Work?

After adding a keyword from the title of a product as a negative, we learned that the impressions from that ASIN were not blocked! Even though we negative-phrased the keyword, it still didn’t work – disproving the theory from Amazon’s representative.

Blocking Brand Names

Does a negative-phrase work with blocking brands? If you’re trying to negate any impressions from your competitors products, being able to block a brand would be huge. Let’s say Nike wants to block all of the impressions from Adidas ASINs, that would be a game-changer. But is it possible? It’s not.

We tested this theory for fourteen days, and we still got impressions for the brand name.

A Lack of Consensus

We also talked to numerous Amazon consultants and other PPC experts and their opinions were varied. No one really knows how this works, but it’s a very rare case. For the vast majority of clicks, we know exactly where they came from and how to build an optimization strategy around them.

Amazon advertising changes all of the time, and it’s very important to identify these fringe cases where the answer isn’t always clear but finding the answer could potentially make a huge difference.

Going Forward

Amazon PPC is always evolving, and as the platform changes it becomes impossible for one person to know how everything works. As is evidenced by this case, even Amazon’s reps aren’t 100% sure how each aspect of Amazon advertising works.

One knit-pick we have with Amazon PPC is a lack of transparency when it comes to knowing exactly how certain parts of the platform work. With Google and Facebook advertising, there’s plenty of documentation about every feature, ensuring that sellers know exactly what to expect. 

With Amazon, we hope that more insight will be shared on certain features and we won’t have to rely on anecdotal evidence or our own tests to know what really happens. 

Key Takeaways

Negative-phrasing a keyword is not going to block ASIN impressions in an auto campaign. Amazon advertising moves so quickly that even PPC experts and Amazon representatives still don’t know everything about the platform. 

In the future, we’d love to see clearer documentation about each feature and aspect of Amazon PPC. I can hear you saying, “so we still don’t know for sure?” We don’t know exactly how everything works, for some aspects of Amazon PPC. However, optimizing your campaigns will solve any problem you’re thinking would be remedied by a negative ASIN in your auto-campaign.

Discover Us on our PPC Den Podcast

If you enjoy supplementing your long reads with audio, we cover this topic on our podcast as well. 

Listen to it in the episode below or find us on your favorite streaming platform, like Apple, Google, Spotify, and more!

  • 1:10 Intro
  • 2:25 A quick recap of episode 82  
  • 6:20 Testing negative ASINs in auto campaigns
  • 7:30 Takeaway #1: Can you block ASINs from appearing?
  • 9:30 Takeaway #2: Can you block certain brands?
  • 11:55 Takeaway #3: A wide array of opinions and strategies
  • 21:00 Closing thoughts
  • 24:25 UPDATE on Takeaway #2

Watch Mike & Stephen on YouTube

If you enjoy supplementing your long reads with video, well, hot diggity dog, you’re in luck! We cover this topic on our YouTube channel too. 

Watch it below and please don’t forget to ‘like’ and subscribe.

Our other articles you might like

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Subscribe to Our Badger Newsletter!

Stay Up-to-Date with the Best PPC Tips & Strategies and Updates to Our App

Fantastic! Your special Facebook Group invitation is on its way to your inbox. We can’t wait to see you in The Badger Den.

newsletter love