Your Amazon PPC Needs Negatives. Here’s Why

In our time in the jungles of Amazon PPC, we’ve encountered campaign managers who follow all kinds of different philosophies.

We’ve even encountered some Amazon PPC-ers who — you’ll want to be sitting down for this — don’t use negatives at all.


Yes, believe it or not, there are some people out there who don’t use negative keywords in their campaigns, and if you’re one of them, then welcome to your intervention. 

What some people will do in lieu of adding a keyword as a negative is keep that keyword in their campaign but bid the smallest possible amount on it. This is a bad move because rather than staying neutral on that keyword, they’re actually sending Amazon a negative message. When they stay in the auction for a non-converting keyword, that keyword’s historical data still factors into their ad’s performance as a whole. Amazon picks up on the fact that their ad doesn’t have as good a CTR or CVR, and Amazon will keep that in mind when determining which ads to favor. 

Plus, keeping keywords without the intention of utilizing them clutters your data, increasing the difficulty of finding needed valuable insights.

We’ve found that many Amazon sellers who avoid negatives like the plague weren’t always that way. A lot of people who don’t use negative keywords have had a bad experience with them in the past. They’re scared that they’ll end up telling Amazon something that isn’t true and damaging their top-performing keywords in the process. However, when we know the difference between different types of negatives and we know where and when to use each type, they become a lot less scary.


Know Your Negatives

In order to use negatives the right way, you need to know when to use each type. The three types are negative exact, negative phrase, and negative targeting.

Roughly 95% of the time, you’ll want to add a non-converting keyword as a negative exact. Negative exact leaves no wiggle room. It tells Amazon, “add this and only this as a negative.” 

One major slip-up people often make, especially when using automation to add negatives, is adding keywords as negative phrases instead of negative exacts.


a negative phrase that could block converting searches in sponsored product campaigns

This is one example of a negative phrase that should be a negative exact.

If you’re not careful, negative phrase matches can be the monkey’s paw of negative targeting– if you put a word or phrase in a negative phrase match, you’re marking ALL phrases with that word or phrase in it as negatives as well. For example, if you add “running shoes” as a negative phrase, you’re also adding “men’s running shoes,” “track running shoes,” etc. This can cause you to accidentally wipe out keywords and keyphrases that were performing well.

When there are subcategories of your type of product that don’t apply to your product specifically, use negative phrases. For example, if you’re selling running shoes that aren’t designed to be used on trails, you can add “trail” as a negative phrase so that your ad doesn’t pop up on searches related to trail running.

a negative exact and a negative phrase added to an Amazon sponsored products campaign.

Consider the consequences before you add something as a negative phrase. Always ask yourself, “What am I accomplishing by adding this as a negative phrase that I couldn’t do by adding it as a negative exact?”

Finally, because everyone loves a good trilogy, there is the third type of negative: negative product targeting, also known as negative ASINs. This is essentially a type of negative exact reserved specifically for ASINs or brands where you don’t want your ad to appear.

a list of available negative product targets in a sponsored product campaign


Research-Based Targeting Methods

Let’s take a quick detour and look at four different forms of targeting: broad match, phrase match, category targeting, and automatic targeting.

The one thing these all have in common is that they allow your ad to show up for a wide variety of search terms. We call them research-based targeting because their broadness makes them perfect for the “research” part of RPSB.

Broad match keywords allow you to cast a wide net in terms of what search terms trigger your ad to appear. Your ad has a chance of showing up whenever an Amazon shopper uses a search term that has your keyword or the words in your keyphrase anywhere in it.

a sponsored product amazon ppc campaign with exact, phrase, and broad targeting.Phrase match keywords work in the opposite way than negative phrase. If you bid on a keyword for phrase match, you’re effectively bidding on every phrase that contains that keyword. For example, if you bid on “running shoes” as a phrase match keyword, you’re also by extension bidding on all keywords that include “running shoes.”

Category targeting has you pick a specific category or subcategory– say, Automotive Parts– and your ad then shows up for all ASINs inside that category.

an amazon ppc campaign using category targeting


When you use automatic targeting, Amazon selects keywords that it considers relevant for your product, then shows your ad for those keywords.

Four automatic targeting groups in a sponsored product campaign.


The Positives of Negatives

You may be wondering, “what does all of this information about targeting have to do with negatives?” When you use these forms of targeting, you’re bidding the same amount on every keyword or ASIN that applies to them. Once you have some data on what delivers and what doesn’t, you can pick and choose what to keep in your campaign. This is where negatives can really come in handy.

For starters, negatives help you reduce your ACOS and your wasted ad spend. When you look through your search term report and see keywords with clicks and no orders, you’ll be able to cross those off your list of keywords by adding them to your stash of negatives.

Negative keywords and negative targeting also improve your ROAS. By nixing keywords that aren’t giving you conversions, you have that much more money to spend on keywords that do convert, making them even stronger.

clicks with orders vs without orders in amazon campaign

Take a look at this campaign. If this seller were to take out some of the keywords responsible for all those clicks without orders, they’d have that much more ad spend to dedicate to converting keywords. Plus, they’d boost their conversion rate as well!

Negatives also help improve your CTR. When you’re looking at a keyword that’s less open, you can make a decision whether to keep moving forward with that keyword based on its CTR. Plus, Amazon looooves ads with high CTRs, so you’re sending a good signal to Amazon as well.

This leads right into yet another good reason to use negatives (although this is just a hunch): it might improve your Account Quality Score. Amazon wants to make money on as many clicks as they possibly can. By adding keywords with low CTR as negatives and upping your account’s CTR as a whole, you’re sending Amazon a signal that people like clicking on your ads, causing Amazon to favor your ads more.

One more reason negative keywords and negative targeting are great for your Amazon PPC campaigns is that they help organize your campaigns, making sure all of your keywords are only where they belong.


Some Amazon PPC sellers avoid using negatives out of fear of collateral damage, but by avoiding using them, they’re doing more harm than good. When used correctly and carefully, negative keywords and negative targeting are nothing to fear.

After you’ve gathered keyword data from your research-based targeting, it’s time to send in the negatives. They help your ads by getting rid of unprofitable and non-performing keywords so you can focus on the ones that deliver results.

No matter what the condition of your campaign, negatives can make it even better. There are tons of good reasons to add negative keywords to your campaigns, from lowering your ACOS to increasing your CTR. 

Negative keywords and negative targeting can give your Amazon PPC campaigns a major facelift and save you serious ad spend. We hope that these tips will help you wield negatives with confidence!


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