RPSB: Still The Best Keyword Research Strategy?

RPSB: Still The Best Keyword Research Strategy?

When it comes to Amazon PPC keyword research, is there a strategy that reigns supreme? 

The Badger believes there is. There exists a keyword research strategy that is elegant, low cost, and high data. In other words, it’s everything you need when performing keyword research.

It’s called RPSB, an acronym for Research, Peel, Stick, and Block, and these four steps are gold.

You may be familiar with the term and concept because this isn’t the strategy’s first time in the spotlight, but if this is news to you, fear not, we’ll review the fundamentals together.

We’ll also discuss revisions and popular edits of this strategy, like RPS, a one letter modification that drops the final step of the process, and you might be surprised how much weight that B carries. 

Like always, our goal is to keep you one step ahead of your Amazon PPC competitors. 

If you believe the adage “a penny saved is a penny earned” still rings true in the new decade, then you’ll want to know all about what we believe is the best Amazon PPC keyword research strategy.

Revisiting RPSB 

The Research- Peel- Stick- Block strategy ensures your budget is spent on winning search term conversions and not on unsuccessful search terms with bleak futures.

Refresher: you do not bid on the search terms that convert to sales. You bid on the keywords. Search terms are what customers type into the search bar.

When a customer’s search term and your keywords match, boom, your ad appears.

RPSB helps you find which keywords are worth your cash money. The heart of RPSB is search term graduation. 

When bidding on keywords, the goal is to appear in as many relevant searches as possible. There could be hundreds of thousands of variations of search terms that people may use to find your product, but you’ll only bid on a small pool of select keywords.

Search Terms vs Keyword
Example of search term variations vs select keywords

What you pay for that small pool of keywords should be reasonable and that’s what RPSB will help you achieve. 

RPSB – What is it?

  1. Research – Create an auto-campaign and study it.
  2. Peel – Find and extract the converting search terms. 
  3. Stick – Create a manual campaign and insert the converting search terms.
  4. Block – Add the converting search term as a negative exact match to the original research campaign.

RPSB is great– is what it is.

R is for Research.

Step one is all about testing and studying.

There are  keyword tools that will scan your account for ASINs and suggest possible keywords and, best case scenario, they may randomly stumble across the right keywords for you. Maybe they won’t.

In addition to being unpredictable, these tools cost more than the data in an auto-campaign.

badger-scientist (1)
Research is fun!

Our advice? Create an auto-campaign and compile at least two week’s worth of data to see what terms convert and what don’t. Focus on casting a very wide net for potential search terms. 

If possible, we like the idea of having two different auto-campaigns running, one keyword targeting and one ASIN-targeting.

The more data, the better. The most common problem with keyword research is that it’s difficult to optimize bids with low data. 

P is for Peel.

Now that you’ve compiled data, as much as you possibly could, you have a better idea of what works. You know what people type when they seek your product. 

Scan your search term report. Find the converting search terms and extract them, or in other words, peel them out as if they’re golden star stickers reflecting all your smart work.

You get a gold star! You get a gold star!

If you don’t see any conversions, an unfortunate if, either wait a few more days for more data to develop or revise and optimize your product pages. Make sure you have plenty of pictures, a detailed and well-edited product description, and perhaps a variety of pricing options.

You’ll know you have sufficient data to begin step three when your conversion rate hovers around 5%, or one in 20 clicks. This is the new average conversion rate for Amazon sellers and a good benchmark for gauging when to begin advertising.

S is for Stick.

Yay for data! Now let’s use it.

Create an exact match manual campaign and insert, or stick, the converting search terms into it.

Alternatively, you could also create a second ad group with a product phrase match keyword and stick the same converting search terms there. 

Again, I repeat: to refine your keyword strategy, be sure to stick the converting search terms as an exact match or a product target.

converting keyword

Things get wonky when you peel the converting search terms and stick them into a broad match campaign. 

The caveat to running broad phrase match on auto-campaigns is that you end up paying the average sticker price for every term a customer uses to find you, including the search queries that aren’t real breadwinners and the more competitive terms with higher CPCs, or cost per clicks.

This is not an ideal use of your cash money.

After you stick your search terms into the new campaign or ad group, bid on the specific keywords that work. 

Keywords that get conversions are more valuable than keywords that don’t and, by this logic, it is worth it to bid the appropriate amount for that specific keyword.

Some people may throw their search terms in a manual campaign and opt to apply the suggested bid, and this gives plenty of solid data on a 30 day report that could be used to calculate RPC, or revenue per click.

The best formula for calculating your initial bid is multiplying your RPC by your target ACOS percentage. This will give you your unique target CPC. 

If math words jumble you, the formula itself looks like this:


If that’s an insufficient amount of information for how to calculate bids, please see this post about how to bid on Amazon PPC campaigns or this post on calculating bid strategy.

Once keyword bidding makes sense, proceed to the final step of RPSB.

B is for Block.

Step four requires you return to the source campaign, where the converting search terms originated, and add those search terms as a negative-exact match within the original research campaign.

Blocking allows a seller to funnel search terms where they want them, quarantine spend on keywords, and isolate them so impressions don’t get stolen from elsewhere.

negative exact match

Your bid on a broad match keyword can qualify your ad for potentially hundreds of different search terms, some that are hyper-relevant to your product with extremely high conversion rates, and others that are maybe not-so-relevant and will never convert at all.

Bidding the same amount on both these possibilities isn’t ideal. That is why we want to graduate the relevant, converting search term to become an exact match keyword of itself. 

The final step of blocking the search term from the broad match by using a negative-exact keyword ensures that all search traffic will be directed to the new exact match keyword instead of being cannibalized by the broad match keyword.

This is perhaps the most important step of RPSB, yet this is the step that many people don’t do.

You’ll learn more about the importance of B soon, but first let’s review the new popular variant of this Amazon PPC keyword research strategy: RPS.

RPS – The Second Best Amazon Keyword Strategy?

RPS, or Research- Peel- Stick, is a popular variant strategy of RPSB. Its key difference is that negative-exact matches are not blocked in the discovery campaign or ad group.

This strategy is popular among Amazon sellers who are afraid that adding negative-exact matches to their research campaign will cause their precious data to wither away.

They’re afraid that taking something away from something that is working will cause the well of success to dry or that it will stall progress and then take too long to rebuild momentum.

It’s important to note that some people do claim to have success with the RPS strategy, but to the Badger, it sounds like conspiracy theory PPC

We’ve heard people say that performance doesn’t carry equally when transitioning from an auto-campaign to a manual campaign, but we have no personal experience with this.

We suggest anyone in that boat double-check their CPCs for discrepancies because the problem is likely there.

A seller could also stall progress by implementing a big blocking session before accumulating sufficient data which would block search terms that would have converted had the seller waited for more data first.

Allow me to sound like a broken record: the more data, the better.

Unfortunately, unlike Facebook which might list a relevancy score for an ad or Google that might list a quality score for different PPC campaigns, Amazon doesn’t tell sellers why something does or does not work.

While RPS has fans, we think it’s an underdeveloped and potentially costly strategy.

RPSB 2.0

Now that you are fully refreshed on the fundamentals of RSPB  and you’re familiar with the popular variant keyword research strategy,  RPS, let’s accelerate your potential.

We procured a few updates to RPSB, including updates for how to determine when a search term is ready for graduation and also what to do (or really what to not do) with product targeting. 

To not exclude our RPS-fans from success gains, we strategized a plan of action for them too.

Let’s get jiggy with it.

New Rules for Conversions

We used to say that a search term with at least one sale attributed to it was ready for keyword graduation, but we have since changed our minds. 

Sometimes a term converts by pure coincidence. Be sure to eyeball your converting terms to see if odd anomalies stand out.

Our new technique is to wait for at least two conversions to derive from a search term before graduating it to a keyword because this implies there’s an audience searching and finding this item.

More new criteria for keyword graduation to add validity to your RPSB strategy:

  • Has this search term had at least 10 clicks in the last 30 days? Look at everything that has a conversion and ten clicks in 30 days. 
  • Does this search term have at least 50 impressions?

This approach reduces how many search terms you converge into your manual campaigns in the S step, the Sticking step, and it guarantees you have high quality keywords.

Product Targeting May Take a Seat

The difference between winning and losing is all in the details. We found a detail that’ll help you win.

Okay, so you know how auto campaigns target both search terms that are relevant to your product as well as other actual products? For auto-product targeting, Amazon lets you set your bids on either “complements” or “substitutes” as auto targets.

Unfortunately, one of the most frustrating features, or a lacking feature, in Amazon PPC is the inability to add a negative-ASIN to an auto ad group. 

Well, it was unfortunate until we found a solution.

Solution: Drop auto-product targeting. Pick up category targeting.

Turn off all substitutions and complements in your product targeting and instead take a category targeting approach in a manual ad group and bid on an entire category, unrefined, because this will give ASIN impressions in manual product targeting ad groups where you could add negative-ASIN to your blocking abilities.

Maybe you can’t negative-ASIN in an auto ad group, but you can add a negative-ASIN in a manual category targeting ad group. This allows those ASIN to receive all the same benefits of search term graduation.

Anyone performing Amazon PPC keyword research can utilize this pro-tip.

Revising RPS… by Adding Back the B, but Later

If you consider yourself an RPS fan, we see you. We hear you. We respect you. We like you. We high five you. We’ll gladly share our snacks with you. 

That said, we think your technique is lacking just a pinch of B!

We suggest incorporating the B anyway but postponing when you introduce it.

rps vs rpsb

Pause blocking until your ad group has had sufficient time to ramp up, allow the data come, and then drop the negative-exact in the source ad group or research campaign. 

This enables your ad group to generate momentum and search term diversity, and it’s better than not blocking at all because it creates search term isolation

Think of search term diversity as behaving like a shotgun, in that it hits many areas at once and is very “wild, wild West,” and think of search term isolation, the B step, as performing more like a sniper rifle, in that it hits one specific area with extreme control and accuracy.

Blocking is important and will save you cash money, just make sure your timing is ready for it by ensuring you have sufficient starting data.

Maybe that isn’t the revision you wanted, RPS fan, but we suggest it because we care about you.

The Badger is telepathically hugging you in consolement now. He believes you can do it.

The Future Looks Bright

In conclusion, RPSB is still the best Amazon PPC keyword research strategy in existence.

Having research based ad groups allows you to bid the right amount for all the things that convert and will lower CPC on all research based ad groups too. Enough said.

Agree? Disagree? Please comment below what you think!

Badger out.


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

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